Henry IV, Part 2
Clarendon Press, 1998 - 287 pages
This book again pits a rebellion within the State and that master of misrule, Falstaff, against the maturing of Prince Hal. Alternating scenes between bawdy tavern and regal court, between revelry and politics, Shakespeare probes at the sources, uses, and responsibilities of power as an old king dies and a young king must choose between a ruler's solemn duty and a merry but dissipated friend, Falstaff. The play represents Shakespeare at the peak of his maturity in writing historical drama and comedy. This edition offers a fully modernized text of one of Shakespeare's most fascinating plays. Henry IV, Part 2 is the only play in the canon whose structure almost exactly mirrors that of its predecessor, and thereby affords unique perspectives on Shakespeare's art and craft. Far from being the impoverished country cousin of an illustrious work, Part 2 introduces unforgettable new characters like Pistol and Shallow, and memorable minor players such as Doll Tearsheet and the reluctant Goucestershire recruits. Above all, it gives us more Falstaff. Although he is now politically distanced from Hal, he looms larger than ever as a mischievous figure who never ceases to fascinate with his unique blend of native wit, inventiveness, and corruption. Through a radical reconsideration of the play's text(s) and date, it is argued here for the first time that the character of Falstaff was called Oldcastle in Part 2 as well as in Part 1, and that it was the vetting of Part 2 for the 1596-7 Christmas performances at Court which led to the change of name in both plays. This edition moreover takes the view that the Folio-only passages in the play reflect the text of the original prompt-book.
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