Henry IV, Part 1, culminates in the battle of Shrewsbury between the king's army and rebels seeking his crown. The dispute begins when Hotspur, the son of Northumberland, breaks with the king over the fate of his brother-in-law, Mortimer, a Welsh prisoner. Hotspur, Northumberland, and Hotspur's uncle Worcester plan to take the throne, later allying with Mortimer and a Welsh leader, Glendower.
As that conflict develops, Prince Hal—Henry IV's son and heir—carouses in a tavern and plots to trick the roguish Sir John Falstaff and his henchmen, who are planning a highway robbery. Hal and a companion will rob them of their loot—then wait for Falstaff's lying boasts. The trick succeeds, but Prince Hal is summoned to war.
In the war, Hal saves his father’s life and then kills Hotspur, actions that help to redeem his bad reputation. Falstaff, meanwhile, cheats his soldiers, whom he leads to slaughter, and takes credit for Hotspur’s death.
Early printed texts
Henry IV, Part 1 was first published in a quarto in 1598. There is only an 8-page fragment of a single copy of its first printing (Q0, now held at and digitized by the Folger), although complete copies of an edition printed later the same year (Q1) survive. Q1 is the basis for the five quartos that follow—this was a very popular play. The play was included in the 1623 First Folio in a text that was based on Q5, although it introduced act and scene divisions and changed some stage directions. Most modern editions, including the Folger edition, follow Q1 for their text.
Picturing Henry IV, Part 1
As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to 1 Henry IV is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.
More images of 1 Henry IV can be found in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)