Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Edmund Taft

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part Two has too often been neglected in comparison with its predecessor, Henry IV, Part One, or its successor, Henry V. In the latter half of the twentieth century, major productions of the drama have been performed only in conjunction with Part One1, and often with Henry V, Richard II, and other plays added in a Tillyardian cycle.

Although this trend has benefitted audiences who see the characters of Henry IV, Hal, and Falstaff develop over the course of several plays, it has tended to obscure one of the major themes of Part Two, that of "necessity." In this play, Shakespeare examines the validity of necessity as a motive for both political and personal actions, and in so doing, comments upon the political processes which also rule our modern world.

The character of Falstaff also suffers from such treatment. Viewing or reading Part One, most audiences and readers fall in love with Falstaff, that merry, larger than life knight who likes to have fun with his beloved Prince Hal. In Part Two, however, despite the minimal lapse of play time between the two dramas, Falstaff has aged and lost something of his innocence. Corrupted by the decaying kingdom around him, he, too, becomes ruled by his personal necessity.


Shakespeare, William – 1564-1616 – King Henry IV. –Part 2 – Criticism and interpretation.

Henry – IV, -- King of England, -- 1367-1413 – In literature.