William Shakespeare's Henry IV

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Part I was written in 1597. This history play had begun to

appear on the London stage around a decade before. The play gained

such an enormous popularity, that Shakespeare produced a sequel to it

- Henry IV - Part II . These two plays were very much amusing to the

public, having many of the same characters, and are therefore usually

discussed together by the critics.

Shakespeare mainly tried basing most of his characters on real people,

and later adapting them to their role. This happened with Falstaff

himself, but it is said that Falstaff is "the child of Shakespeare's

creative imagination, and, like most children of most fathers, must

have given Shakespeare considerable trouble and great joy."(1)

Falstaff is a character based on a real person, who goes by the name

of Sir John Oldcastle, and this can also be concluded from scene ii of

Act I, when Henry, Prince of Wales, who is the King's son puns:

"As the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle;" (A.I.ii.41) (2)

Sir John Oldcastle's wife's descendant, William, Lord Cobham, who was

Lord Chamberlain of England, was putting pressure on Shakespeare,

telling him to change the name, as it was seemed to be offensive to

his family. One book states the following:

"In the epilogue to Part II of Henry IV, Shakespeare underlines the

alteration by denying any connection between Oldcastle and Falstaff -

For Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man.

So Oldcastle became Falstaff, by what exact process we do not know."


The Queen herself was very fond of Falstaff, and requested from

Shakespeare that he writes another play set around this, and other

comic charatcters from Henry IV, and adjust them to a contemporary

late-Elizabethan setting. She wished him to show Falstaff in love, and

this resulted in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Even though Henry, Prince of Wales, the King's son, who throughout the

play is referred to as Hal, is the hero of this history play, Sir John
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