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Teaching Henry IV, Part 1

Resources from Folger Education

This page contains resources for teaching Henry IV, Part 1, a play that continues to inspire debate on what honor truly means.  Below you'll find links to Folger Education resources that include teaching tools, videos, and more.

Teaching Modules

Folger Education offers teaching modules on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as modules on introducing Shakespeare. Try the modules below, or, for more modules for  Henry IV, Part 1, visit the Teaching Modules Archive.


"Fathers and Sons"
In this lesson plan, you'll cover NCTE standards 3, 4, and 8. This lesson is designed as an introduction to the play; it encourages students to think about a major theme of the play and how it connects with their own lives.

Teaching Tools

The Folger edition of Henry IV, Part 1 includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play; background information on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times; notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day; and a scholarly assessment of the plays in light of today's interests and concerns.Request a desk copy of this edition from Simon & Schuster


Curriculum Guides lay out everything you need to teach this play for the first time: an introduction to the play, character connections, synopsis, teaching modules, suggested scenes for performance, fun facts, and familiar quotes.

Shakespeare Set Free, a groundbreaking curriculum on performance-based teaching, includes a unit on teaching Henry IV, Part 1 .


Other Resources

Seeing Shakespeare performed, or performing Shakespeare, can help students feel confident reading and understanding Shakespeare's language. To see performance-based education strategies for your classroom, check out our clips on YouTube here.


Colorful Character Connections offer an at-a-glance map of character relationships, an introduction to the plot, and important quotes to look and listen for.


Archived study guides from past Folger Theatre performances provide activities and discussion questions for students to consider before seeing a performance or as they rehearse scenes from this play.

Audio and Video

The Insider's Guide series, produced by Folger Education, combines scenes from the plays with interviews with theater artists and scholars and introduces the major characters and themes of some of Shakespeare's most popular plays.

Insider's Guide | Henry IV, Part 1

Casey Kaleba, Fight Director for Folger Theatre's 2008 production of Henry IV, Part  1, takes viewers behind the scenes to see what fighting style and sword type reveal about the plays' characters.


Behind the Scenes: Fight Director

The Folger exhibition Now Thrive the Armorers: Arms and Armor in Shakespeare focused on how real-world weapons and fighting techniques influenced many of Shakespeare’s plays, including the history plays.  This discussion of Richard II perfectly sets up the challenges faced by King Henry IV as the play opens.

Arms and Armor in Shakespeare podcast

Online Resources

Shakespeare's speech rhythms may be unfamiliar to students. Click here to watch Folger Education's acting troupe Bill's Buddies explain "Iambic Pentameter."

The Folger Exhibition, Now Thrive the Armorers: Arms and Armor in Shakespeare focused on how real-world military changes influenced many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Henry IV, Part 1. Click here to visit the exhibition online.


For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in Henry IV, Part 1:

  • unfamiliar words or words whose meanings have changed
  • unfamiliar word order
  • wordplay
  • implied stage action

From the opening scene of Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare creates a rich tapestry of words to create the worlds of the play. Some are unfamiliar because they are no longer used: jerkin, zounds, marry as a mild oath. Others have meanings that have changed: sullen for "dull," close is used where we would say "struggle,"  surprised for "captured," and "riot" where we would say "dissipation, loose living."

Some words are strange not because of changes in language over the centuries but because Shakespeare is using them to build a dramatic world that has its own space, time, history, and background mythology.  In Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare uses one set of words to construct Henry IV's court and the stately houses and courtly battleground confrontations, and he uses a second set to construct the lower-class world of thieves, vintners, hostesses, hostlers, and setters who frequent the taverns of Eastcheap and inns along "the London road."


In Henry IV, Part 1,Shakespeare often uses sentence structures that separate words that normally appear together. This is often done to create a particular speech rhythm, or emphasize a certain word. For example, Prince Hal separates subject and verb when he says “My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault, / Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes." King Henry uses the same construction in "The edge of war, like an ill-sheathéd knife, / No more shall cut his master."

In reading any of Shakespeare's plays, remember that you are reading a performance script, not a dialogue. Some stage directions are implied in the text, but much of the meaning is given by how the text is performed.

About the Play

Scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote Henry IV, Part I in 1596-97. It was published as a quarto in 1598.

To learn more, explore our Discover Shakespeare online resource, including the sections highlighted at right.

Henry IV, Part 1

Henry IV, Part 1

Henry IV, Part 1

Additional Information

15 Minute 1 Henry IV

Study Guide: 1 Henry IV

Henry IV, I Character Connections

From the Collection

Henry IV Photo Gallery

How To

Teaching Shakespeare series: Interpreting Character

Bill's Buddies: Living Iambie Pentameter

Bill's Buddies: Occupation Romeo

In The Shop

Folger Editions Paperback

Shakespeare Set Free Series

Learn More

Shakespeare's Life

Shakespeare's Theater

Shakespeare's Works

Discover Shakespeare

Related Items

Curriculum Guide


Swords and Shakespeare

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