“From his father’s usurpation of Richard II’s throne in 1399, when Henry was but twelve, he was active in the government of England. [...] Henry V came to the throne extensively experienced in politics, administration, and warfare: few kings have been so well trained for their job.” - Peter Saccio in Shakespeare’s English Kings
Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 are some of the least historically accurate of all of Shakespeare’s history, and that is saying something. This is largely due to the fact that he focused so much of the play on Prince Hal, the future Henry V. Shakespeare was working with what the Tudor chroniclers provided him, which was an inaccurate portrayal of the young prince. They painted Prince Hal as a lecherous youth that drank too much, was friends with the wrong sorts of people, and even committed a few crimes.
This picture, according to contemporary records of the time, is almost certainly wrong. From a very young age, Hal was participating in battles and leading armies. For years before his father’s death, he dominated the council and essentially ruled for a period of time. That is not to say that everything about Shakespeare was wrong. There was a certain amount of tension between father and son over Henry IV’s fear of being usurped by his own son.
In the end, we have a complicated picture of a complicated prince, so what exactly is wrong and right about Shakespeare’s portrayal? That is what Eli and I will be exploring today, so grab your sack and let’s spend some time with Prince Hal.
Shakespeare’s English Kings by Peter Saccio
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare by Isaac Asimov
Foundations: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd
This Realm of England Vol. 2 1399 to 1688 by Lacey Baldwin Smithrddddd
Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod
Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod