The first part of King Henry IV (Arden Shakespeare)
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Top Customer Reviews
Alan Cox is an excellent Hotspur, full of aggressive vitality. I doubt I could ever listen to another production of this play without mentally hearing Hotspur's lines the way Cox delivers them. His "O Harry, thou hast robbed me of my youth" is especially poignant. The argument between Hotspur and the Welsh warrior-poet Owen Glendower ("I say the earth did shake when I was born") is one of Shakespeare's most brilliant passages, and here it is handled well. The too-impatient Hotspur can't abide exaggeration of any kind - "mincing poetry", he calls it. The Welsh song sung by Glendower's daughter is completely enchanting - and as I may have mentioned in other Arkangel reviews, the music is one of the best reasons to hear these productions. As with Arkangel's 'Richard II', 'Henry IV Part One' has an excellent score.
this is one of shakespeare's best plays. the story of the rebellion is intriguing, and the adventures of hal and falstaff are laugh-out-loud hilarious. the culmination of the two stories in the final battle scene is wonderful. this is a fitting sequel to richard ii.
note that there are some historical inaccuracies and even outright inventions in this play. foremost is the character of falstaff who is pure invention (and genius). the story of hal's adventures stems from his reputation, enhanced by legend, as a playboy. falstaff was the perfect foil for a carousing prince. the biggest inaccuracy is hotspur's age. he was actually of the generation of henry iv, and not as young as he's depicted in the play. shakespeare made him younger to enhance, maybe even create, the rivalry with hal. there are other inaccuracies here, but better for the reader to consult 'shakespeare's kings', an excellent book by saccio that explains the history of the period and the discrepancies in the play.
As a matter of fact, it isn't unusual for Shakespeare's "histories" to be more interesting to the modern reader than either his comedies or his tragedies; they fit the modern style that doesn't insist that comedies must have everything work out well in the end, or that tragedies must be deadly serious with everyone dying at the end, as was the convention in Shakespeare's time. Thus, this book has a serious plot, real drama, and blood and destruction, yet still has many extremely funny scenes. And as Shakespearean plays go, it's a fairly easy read, although in places the footnotes are still neccessary. The only caveat I will make is that one needs to remember not to consider Shakespeare's histories particularly historical; they have about as much historical accuracy as the Disney version of Pocahontas. Treat them as excellent stories based (very) loosely on history, and you'll do fine.
It's a real shame that the language has changed so much since Shakespeare was writing that his plays are no longer accessable to the masses, because that's who Shakespeare was writing for. Granted, there is enough seriousness to satisfy the intelligensia, but there is generally enough action and bawdy humor to satisfy any connouiseur of modern hit movies, if only they could understand it, and this book is no exception. Unfortunately, once you change the language, it's no longer Shakespeare, until and unless the rewriter can be found who has as much genius for the modern language as Shakespeare had for his own. I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting.
Surprisingly, Hal, Prince of Wales, (later Henry V) was not even mentioned in this verbose title although many would consider him to be the central character. This play is clearly the dramatization of a struggle for a kingdom, but it is equally the story of Hal's wild and reckless youthful adventures with Falstaff and other disreputable companions.
Shakespeare did not write his plays about English kings in chronological order, but these plays do have a historical unity. It is helpful (but not essential) to read the tetralogy Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and 2, and Henry V in chronological order. Whatever route you take, I highly recommend buying a companion copy of Peter Saccio's "Shakespeare's English Kings", an engaging look at how Shakespeare revised history to achieve dramatic effect.
A wide selection of Henry IV editions are available, including older editions in used bookstores. I am familiar with a few and have personal favorites:
The New Folger Library Shakespeare is my first choice among the inexpensive editions of Henry IV. "New" replaces the prior version in use for 35 years. It uses "facing page" format with scene summaries, explanations for rare and archaic words and expressions, and Elizabethan drawings located on the left page; the Henry IV text is on the right. I particularly liked the section on "Reading Shakespeare's Language in Henry IV" and Alexander Legget's literary analysis (save this until you have read the play).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I, like everybody else trying to sell this book at Amazon, read this because it was required for an English class at university. I'm better for having read it. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2011 by David Sabine
In Part One of Shakespeare's "Henry IV," the titular king tries to defend his throne from a rebel army led by the hotheaded Hotspur, who has a long list of grievances about the... Read morePublished on May 10 2004 by A.J.
the story of prince hal and his 'buddy' falstaff, continues in the second part of 'henry iv'. the last of the rebels are subdued and peace finally comes to england. Read morePublished on May 23 2003
Having just completed Henry IV Part I, I must say that I came away delighted and impressed with Shakespeare's genius once again. Read morePublished on Dec 10 2002 by Chris Salzer
Of all Shakespeare's histories, Henry IV, part I is the best. It is the first of three plays that examines the ascension of the great King Henry V. Read morePublished on Nov. 21 2001 by Karim Walker
Shakespeare's "Henry IV Part I" shows King Henry IV dealing with complex problems: England is in the midst of civil unrest, as the Percy family, angered by their... Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2000 by mp
Believe it or not, Shakespeare's funniest play will be found in the Histories section of your Complete Works. Read morePublished on March 18 2000 by Kenneth M.
This is one of the harder Shakespearean reads but if you do understand it, it is an interesting adventure with memorable characters and great quotes. Read morePublished on Oct. 22 1999 by Jason B.