In Henry the Fourth part 1 we find Prince Hal, King Henry IV's heir, consorting with Falstaff and other brigands. All the while Henry Percy, known as Hotspur, is leading a rebellion. Prince Hal rises to the occasion, redeems himself on the battlefield, kills Hotspur but lets his friend Falstaff take the credit. But the rebellion isn't put down...
This is a sequel, plain and simple. The plot is virtually the same as that of Henry IV part 1: the errant son isn't living up to his father's expectations and to his responsibilities as heir to the throne. He consorts with friends of dubious character, but then in time he fights to put down the rebellion against his father. Shakespeare does take us to King Henry IV's death and shows us Prince Hal become King Henry V, thus concluding the story. But the sequel feels unnecessary, after all if Prince Hal redeemed himself in part 1, where is the dramatic motive to have him do so again in part 2?
But this is a Shakespeare sequel. The end in part 1 was good natured and Falstaff remained friends with the prince. The prince and the king have reconciled, but the king's advisers still suspect the prince. The Lord High Justice in particular, being fond of law and order, is not too happy at the thought of serving a king with a possibly criminal past.
All ends well though. The Lord High Justice is of course nervous upon Henry V's accession, but the king wisely keeps him in his position. Having served his father so well, to the point of courting his own displeasure and risking his life in order to uphold the law, Henry V predicts he will serve his new king with the same integrity.
And then for good measure, Henry V finally and fully repudiates Falstaff and his band. "I know thee not old man" answers Henry V to a stunned Falstaff who had expected Hal's rise to make his fortune. But no, he is cast aside along with Prince Hal's youth.
Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
Note: Amazon wouldn't let me review the Pelican edition of HIVp2 because I already reviewed that edition of HIVp1. Apparently, it considers the two parts of this play to be a set. Oh well.