The third play in William Shakespeare’s second tetralogy, King Henry IV, Part II is based on Raphael Holinshed’s The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (c. 1577) and on an anonymous Elizabethan drama, The Famous Victories of Henry V (pb. c. 1598). It offers a collection of well-rounded characters for whose creation Shakespeare made slender use of his sources. The drama resolves the conflict, carried over from King Henry IV, Part I, between the king and rebellious nobles. In its essence, this conflict is one of local versus national rule. The second play also continues the character development of Prince Hal as an ideal future king. The denial of characters’ expectations, marked by sudden dramatic reversals, represents a unifying motif of the drama.
Retaining the main plot of the rebellion and the subplot involving Falstaff and his companions from Henry IV, Part I, the drama limits action in favor of rhetoric. To the panoply of characters surrounding the king from Henry IV, Part I, Shakespeare adds the astute and farsighted Warwick as an adviser and the upright chief justice as another father figure for Prince Hal. Additions also enhance the subplot involving Falstaff. He is furnished, in Henry IV, Part II, with a spirited young boy as a page, with the histrionic, swaggering Pistol, and with the sharp-tongued Doll Tearsheet. In a further strand of the subplot, Justice Shallow,...
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