Henry IV, Part 2 continues the story of Henry IV, Part 1. Northumberland learns that his son Hotspur is dead, and he rejoins the remaining rebels. When Hotspur’s widow convinces Northumberland to withdraw, the rebels are then led by the archbishop of York and Lords Mowbray and Hastings, who muster at York to confront the king's forces.
Sir John Falstaff, meanwhile, glories in the reputation he has gained by falsely claiming to have killed Hotspur, and he uses his wit and cunning to escape charges by the Lord Chief Justice. Prince Hal and his companion Poins disguise themselves to observe Falstaff, and they hear him insult them both. After they confront him, Prince Hal and Falstaff must return to the wars. The king’s army is again victorious, but more through deceit and false promises than through valor.
With the rebellion over, Prince Hal attends his dying father. Hal becomes Henry V, reassures the Lord Chief Justice, and turns away Falstaff, who had expected royal favor.
Early printed texts
Henry IV, Part 2 was first published in 1600 in a quarto that has survived in two different versions. The first (Qa) is missing the scene that we know as 3.1; the second (Qb) includes it. The play was not printed again until its inclusion in the 1623 First Folio (F1). The F1 text has significant differences from the earlier quartos, including substantial additional passages concerning figures in the rebels’ party, the deletion of oaths, and some differences in punctuation, syntax, and stage directions. Modern editors have not come to a consensus about the reason for these differences or about how to handle them today, although most editions provide some sort of combination of Q and F1. The Folger edition is based on the Q text (preferring Qa where possible) and including F1 where Q seems defective. Language that appears only in Q is indicated with square brackets; language that appears only in F1 is marked off with pointed brackets.
Picturing Henry IV, Part 2
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 2 Henry IV is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.
More images of 2 Henry IV can be seen 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.)