- Series: Dover Thrift Editions
- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications (April 14, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486295842
- ISBN-13: 978-0486295848
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Henry IV, Part I (Dover Thrift Editions) (Pt. 1)
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"A quite wonderful idea... So blindingly obvious, I can't understand why nobody had thought of it before. I will certainly use the texts myself" Peter Hall" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This edition offers a strongly theatrical perspective on the origins of The First Part of King Henry IV and the history of its interpretation. In their introduction the editors clarify the play's surprising, de-centred dramatic structure, questioning the recent assumption that the drama focuses on the education of Prince Hal. They call attention to the effects of civil war upon a broad range of relationships. Falstaff's unpredictable vitality is explored, together with important contemporary values of honour, friendship, festivity and reformation --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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). The fascinating article "Historical Background: Sir John Falstaff and Sir John Oldcastle" adds a religious dimension to the play that I had not previously noted.
The Bedford Shakespeare Series provides an excellent study text (edited by Barbara Hodgdon) titled "The First Part of King Henry the Fourth". It is a little more expensive, is about 400 pages, and provides a broad range of source and context documentation. It would be excellent for an upper level course in Shakespeare. The context documentation is fascinating and informative; it ranges from the Holinshed Chronicles to Elizabethan writing on Civic Order to detailed cultural studies of London's diverse populous. Other chapters address the OldCastle controversy and the "Education of a Prince".
I also like the Norton Critical edition (edited by James Sanderson), "Henry the Fourth, Part 1", particularly for its extensive collection of literary criticism. The essays are divided into two parts: 1) the theme, characters, structure, and style of the play and 2) a wide variety of interpretation directed toward that roguish character, Sir John Falstaff.
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.