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1 Henry IV: Play History

1 Henry IV was probably composed in 1597, when Shakespeare was 33 years old. Unlike many of Shakespeare's other plays, there is no record of any performances of 1 Henry IV in the sixteenth century. But the names of Hotspur, Hal, and Falstaff do appear often in documents of the time, which is a clear indication that the play was produced for the English stage and loved by English audiences. Even the great writer Ben Jonson comments on the fatness of Falstaff in his Every Man out of his Humour in 1599. An actor named John Lowin played Falstaff during the early seventeenth century, and he was likely a member of Shakespeare's acting company from 1603. Falstaff was so popular that when the Puritan government banned the playhouses, a drama dedicated to Shakespeare's rotund character called The Bouncing Knight was performed in secret throughout England. After the restoration of the king in 1660, 1 Henry IV was one of the first plays to be staged. Samuel Pepys records in his diary many performances of this drama, and he himself had conflicting opinions about it. In 1660 he reported that he did not like the play, but, upon seeing a production in 1661, he wrote that he found it a very good play indeed.

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. 1 Henry IV: Play History Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


Council, Norman. When honour's at the stake: ideas of honour in Shakespeare's plays. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1973.
Desai, R.W. Falstaff: A Study of his Role in Shakespeare's History Plays. Delhi: Doaba House, 1976.
Paris, Bernard J. Character as a Subversive Force in Shakespeare. Ontario: Associated Press, 1991.
Shalvi, Alice. The Relationship of Renaissance Concepts of Honour to Shakespeare's Problem Plays. Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1972.


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