Don’t worry if you can’t make it to see both parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV – Part II works very nicely as a standalone piece of great theatre. However, if you want to know what happened in the previous ‘episode’ – read on…
[SPOILER ALERT if you’re coming to see Part I, obviously!]
“Let us not leave, till our own be one.”
Richard II is dead and King Henry IV is left tired and aged from a civil war which has wracked his beloved England when he is alerted to further troubles from rebel cells from Scotland and Wales. His prized military leader, Hotspur, with whom he constantly compares his idle son Harry, has overcome one of these coupes but is acting against normal protocol and so is summoned to explain himself.
The callous Prince Harry continues to frequent the seedier streets of London, spending most of his time drinking with highwaymen and criminals and, most closely, his friend and mentor Falstaff. A rather rotund but worldly and witty man, Falstaff indulges Harry’s ways, fabricating a rather fantastical existence.
The raucous party is cut short by a message for the Prince to return to his father concerning important civil matters. While Harry has been playing practical jokes, the King has uncovered a frightening plot to overthrow the crown by an alliance from the north, including his former allies, the Percies, of which the “gallant Hotspur” is one. Realising the severity of the situation, Harry vows his allegiance to his father and promises to prove his loyalties once more. Matters escalate and the country is yet again thrust into the throws of war.
In a dramatic battle at Shrewsbury, the rebel alliance is defeated. Harry has fought formidably whilst both defeating Hotspur and saving his father’s life. However, the battle may be won, but the war is not.
The second instalment promises to bring an explosive end to this epic historical saga.