Shakespeare Histories

Richard II

1595 – Shakespeare writes Richard II.

3 – The number of plays in Shakespeare's tetralogy. These plays deal with the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, making Richard II the first part of this tetralogy.

£700 – The price paid for the construction of James Burbidge's 'Theatre' in Shoreditch – the probable site of the first performance of Shakespeare's Richard II. Latterly Burbidge's Theatre, which was built in 1576, was subsequently dismantled and rebuilt in 1599 across the river Thames.

Did You Know?

Rather than continuing with the name the 'Theatre', the re-assembled playhouse built by Burbidge took on a new name that was to become ubiquitous to the performance of Shakespeare plays to the present day – namely 'The Globe'.

9 – The number of editions of the play to appear before 1642 – a date synonymous with the onsetr of the English Civil Wars.

29 August 1597 – The date on which Elizabethan bookseller Andrew Wise paid the Stationers Company for the licence to publish the play for public sale.


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Henry IV, Part I

1597 – The year Shakespeare is thought to have written Henry IV Part I.

1402/03 – The period covered by Henry IV Part I. This begins with Hotspur's battle at Homildon against the Douglas, and concludes with the rebel defeat at Shrewsbury in 1403.

1587 – The year Raphael Holinshed's the Third Volume of Chronicles are published. This publication, which itself drew upon Edward Hall's The Union, is thought to have been Shakespeare's main source of information for the play dealing with competing houses (or families) of Lancaster and York.

25 – The date, in February 1598, that Henry IV Part I was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company.

6 – The number of characters to become involved in swordfights - Douglas, Blunt, King Henry, Prince Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff.

1597 – The year Henry IV Part I was first performed. Whilst it proved extremely popular, this play gave rise to a serious controversy. This was due to the fact that the comic character Sir John Falstaff was originally named Sir John Oldcastle, a famous Lollard martyr. Chief amongst those to object this was the 10th Lord Cobham, Oldcastle's direct descendent.

II – The 'part' of Henry IV where Shakespeare, in response to the Oldcastle controversy, placed a disclaimer in his epilogue.

1599 – The year Henry IV Part I is first printed by the stationer Andrew Wise. The play was to prove extremely popular, and successive editions appeared in 1599, 1604, 1608, 1613, 1622, 1632, 1639, and 1692.

1600 – The earliest recorded performance which occurred on the afternoon of 6 March. Among the audience was the Flemish Ambassador, Ludovik Verreyken.

62 – The length, in lines, of the longest speech found in Henry IV Part I. This speech is given by the central character, Henry IV.


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Henry IV, Part II

1597/98 - Henry IV, Part II is written in this period.

1599 – Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson mentions Henry IV, Part II in his own play Every Man Out of His Humour.

1596-1597 – In the absence of any written record, it is thought that the earliest performance of Henry IV Part II occurred within this period, possibly alongside Henry IV Part I, during the winter season of these consecutive years.

1600 – A Quarto of Shakespeare's plays are printed, possibly from Shakespeare's foul papers. Foul Papers are working drafts produced by the author.

1623 – Henry IV Part II is published in the First folio. This folio includes 8 passages that had been omitted from the earlier quarto, and contains a number of variations in the text. This, it has been suggested, was due to having been printed from a manuscript intended for stage use.


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Henry V

1415 – The period covered in Henry V which deals with the events preceding, during, and after tha battle of Agincourt – a conflict that took place within the context of the Hundred Years War.

1599 – Shakespeare writes Henry V.

1605 – The earliest confirmed production of Henry V at the Court of James I, with the earliest unconfirmed production possibly taking place in 1599 at the newly built Globe Theatre.

1944 – The year in which Laurence Olivier's film drew upon the patriotic overtones of Shakespeare's play, for the purposes of boosting morale on the British Home Front. The film, which cost £475 to produce, resulted in an Academy Honorary Award for Olivier, and was a firm favourite at the box office.

25 – The date, in October, when Henry V gives his famous St Crisipin's Day speech to the English forces massed at Agincourt in Shakespeare's play. This speech was an integral part to the later 1944 screen adaptation of the film, which contained the famous line 'the fewer men, the greater share of honour'.

Read more facts about William Shakespeare plays


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