The Henry IV Part 1 play is set in early fifteenth-century England during the reign of King Henry IV. The scenes move rapidly from one location to another. The action begins at the royal court. Subsequent scenes are set mainly in the Blue Boar tavern in Eastcheap, London. Some are set in Gads Hill, Kent, some at Hotspur’s castle, some at the Archdeacon’s house in Bangor and at the Archbishop of York’s palace. The final battle takes place at Shrewsbury.
Date written: 1597
Genre classification: Henry 1V, Part 1 is a History Play
Main characters in Henry IV Part 1: Henry IV is the King of England. He has two sons – Prince Henry, Prince of Wales, known to everyone as Hal, the heir to the throne, and Prince John of Lancaster.
The Earl of Westmoreland is a loyal member of the court, a general, and adviser to the King. Sir Walter Blunt is a loyal servant to the king, carrying messages and dying bravely on the battlefield.
Henry Percy, known to all as Hotspur, is the young rebel leader, killed by Hal towards the end of the play. His father is The Earl of Northumberland. The Earl of Worcester is Hotspur’s uncle. He is the villain of the play and ends up being executed. Kate, Lady Percy, is Hotspur’s wife.
Edmund Mortimer is Kate’s brother, brother-in-law of Hotsput. He is married to Lady Mortimer, the daughter of the Welsh Owen Glendower, a sworn enemy of the King. Richard Vernon is a supporter of Hotspur. Douglas is the leader of the Scots and a supporter of Hotspur.
Sir John Falstaff is a fat knight, a professional robber who spends his time with Hal in the inn, eating and drinking. Funny, vulgar and corrupt, and excellent company, he is one of the most well-known and popular comic characters in English literature. See a full list of characters in Henry IV Part 1.
Themes in Henry IV Part 1: The main idea explored in the play is honour. It runs through the play and is expressed through the character and actions of every character in the play. It is Hal’s sense of honour that finally causes him to give up his dissolute life and join the King to fight against and defeat the rebels.
Another theme is kingship and what it means, raising questions about what it is to be a good king. Rebellion and its consequences is explored in the play.