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Henry IV: Part Two

by William Shakespeare

ISBN 0451522532 / 9780451522535 / 0-451-52253-2
Publisher Signet Classics
Language English
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Book summary

Written in 1598, hard on the heels of the massive popular success of Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two takes up where the first part finished, and completes Shakespeare's portrayal of the troubled reign of Henry IV. Rebellion has apparently been quelled, but dissension still permeates the country, and Henry is disillusioned, sick and dying. After the pace and comedy of Part One., Part Two is a much more subdued and gloomy affair. The tone is set by the early appearance of Falstaff, who relishes the possibilities of easy picking in the face of more civil unrest with his sinister quip that "I will turn diseases to commodity".

The drama focuses on Henry IV's difficult relationship with his son Prince Hal, and the latter's gradual emergence as a charismatic sovereign. In the process he sheds his image as a prodigal wastrel dramatised in the first half of Part One, assuming the title of King Henry V in the closing scenes of Part Two. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the whole play remains Henry's cold-blooded rejection of Falstaff, his surrogate father for much of Part One. "I know thee not, old man" he tells the crushed Falstaff as he assumes the royal crown, preparing the audience for the type of monarch they will see in Shakeseare's subsequent dramatisation of English history, Henry V. --Jerry Brotton [via]