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  • Title: Henry IV, Part 1: Textual Introduction
  • Author: Rosemary Gaby
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-371-7

    Copyright Rosemary Gaby. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Rosemary Gaby
    Peer Reviewed

    Henry IV, Part 1: Textual Introduction

    1Early printings

    Henry IV, Part 1 was printed in 1598, within two years of its first performance. It was an unusual move for Shakespeare’s company to sell such a popular play so quickly; the acting companies generally kept box-office successes to themselves for as long as possible. The publication probably had something to do with the Oldcastle controversy (see "Performance History: Early Performances"), confirming as it does that the names Oldcastle, Harvey, and Russell had been permanently changed to Falstaff, Peto and Bardolph. Early single-play editions of Shakespeare’s works were printed in "quarto" form. These were small, relatively economical publications. Instead of gathering together several sheets of paper folded only once, as in the larger "folio" format, quartos were made up from individual sheets which were folded twice to provide four "leaves" (eight pages). The earliest surviving complete quarto of Henry IV, Part 1 is referred to by most editors as Q1.

    The title page of Q1 tells us that it was printed by Peter Short for Andrew Wise in 1598. Wise had established his rights to the play by listing it in the Stationer’s Register on February 25th the same year. Surprisingly, however, it appears that Q1 was not the first printed version of Henry IV, Part 1 and that two editions were printed within a very short space of time. In the 1860s a single sheet containing eight pages of the play was found in the binding of another book (William Thomas's Rules of the Italian Grammar). This sheet, now held in the Folger Library, has become known as Q0, and it contains part of the dialogue between Northumberland, Hotspur and Worcester in 1.3 (TLN 525 - TLN 632) and all of 2.1 and 2.2 (the Carriers' scene and the Gad's Hill Robbery, TLN 633 - TLN 847). Q0 and Q1 were printed from the same stock of type -- type which included the unusual ligature "oo" -- so it is clear that they were both printed in Peter Short's printing house. It is generally agreed that Q0 was the earlier text and that Q1 was directly printed from Q0 (see Hinman viii). Q1 corrects some obvious errors in Q0 and takes the money-saving step of crowding an extra line into every page. Paper was expensive and the printers could more easily estimate how to fit the play onto ten sheets on their second attempt.

    Comparison of Q0 and Q1 has shown that the compositors in Peter Short’s printing house took great care in setting up their type. The word "fat," in Poins’s line "How the fat rogue roared" (TLN 346) is omitted in Q1, but otherwise Q0 is reproduced with remarkable accuracy (diplomatic transcriptions of both Q0 and Q1 are provided on this site). There are three known surviving copies of Q1: one held by the British Library ("Garrick," the source for the ISE facsimile), one held by Trinity College, Cambridge ("Capell"), and one in the Huntington Library ("Devonshire"). In Shakespeare's day corrections made during the print run of a play would be preserved on some sheets, but uncorrected sheets would still be used. Close comparison of the three copies of Q1 reveals only four minor variants: corrections to punctuation and spacing at TLN 1255, TLN 1373, TLN 1572 and TLN 2541. Running titles also differ on a couple of pages (immediately before TLN 1566 and TLN 1688).

    There are around 250 minor differences between Q0 and Q1, mainly regarding spelling and punctuation preferences, so it seems that they were set by different compositors. Scholars disagree about how many compositors set the type for Q1, but Susan Zimmerman's close study of features like capitalization, punctuation, speech prefixes and spelling preferences suggests that it was most likely set by a single compositor. Despite his efforts to save space, the compositor for Q1 expanded several speech prefixes from Q0 ("Pr." for example is mostly regularized to "Prin."), and he makes sensible corrections: Hotspur's "I am whip" becomes "I am whipt," "exceedingly well, aimd" becomes "exceedingly well aimd," and "out fortunes" becomes "our fortunes." One error the compositor for Q1 did not pick up, however, is the missing speech prefix for Hotspur which should appear before "By heaven me thinks it were an easy leap" (corrected in editions after 1613). Interestingly in Q1 this line appears in the middle of a page as part of a speech given to Northumberland, but in Q0 it appears at the top of the page. As this is the first page of the fragment it is possible that the error occurred because of a faulty catchword (used by printers to check that their text followed on to the next page correctly). On the sixth page of the fragment (Ciiiv) the catchword is "Peace" rather than the speech prefix "Pr.," even though the following page starts with "Pr."; so the compositor did make this slip at least one other time.

    5In Elizabethan and Jacobean times each new press run of a book required that the individual pieces of type be set up all over again. This was tedious and often pressured work and obviously there was a great deal of room for error. Printers preferred, whenever possible, to work from an already printed copy. Henry IV, Part 1 was printed several times: including Q2 in 1599, Q3 in 1604, Q4 in 1608, Q5 in 1613, Q6 in 1622 and the First Folio (F) in 1623. Since each of the quartos was based upon the previous edition, and F shows evidence that it was set from a copy of Q5, each takes us further away from the play first handed over to Andrew Wise. Q2’s title page claims that it is "Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare" but it overlooks several obvious errors and introduces a few new ones, so it is generally agreed that its changes reflect the printing house, not the author.

    The folio edition is a slightly different case. F removes some of the play’s profanities, reflecting changes in what was allowed to be said on stage since the "Act to Restrain Abuses of Players" of 1606, and it introduces act and scene divisions to the play. These changes may reflect the understanding that the folio editors, Shakespeare's theatre colleagues, John Heminge and Henry Condell, had of how the play had been produced on the Jacobean stage. F also adds some colloquial elision, rewrites some stage directions, substitutes the spelling "Bardolph" for Bardol(l), and persuasively addresses a few textual puzzles. Readings like F’s "President" (precedent) instead of "present" at TLN 995, and "cantle" instead of "scantle" at TLN 1628 are convincing. Editors agree that F derives from an annotated copy of Q5, but they tend to grant F more or less authority depending on their theories about what those annotations are based on. Some have argued that they draw upon a literary transcript of the company's "prompt-book" (see Wells and Taylor 329-32) but others conclude that consultation of some kind of prompt copy is unlikely because F's stage directions are too confusing (see Kastan 115). One glaring mistake in F is the inclusion of Poins in the entry directions at the beginning of 1.2. This may have happened because Falstaff's exclamation on seeing Poins at TLN 214 looks like a speech prefix in Q4 and Q5. F also replicates Q1's erroneous entry for Westmorland at the beginning of 5.1. Such errors suggest that preparation of F did not involve reference to a copy of the play that had been used in the theatre. Alice Walker has shown that F does restore several Q1 readings, so despite its errors F does reflect some effort to present an accurate edition. Its changes merit consideration case by case, but Q0 and Q1 remain the most authoritative versions of the play.

    One other early version of the play has survived and is held in the Folger Library: the Dering manuscript of 1622. This manuscript is a conflation of Henry IV, Part 1 andHenry IV, Part 2 for private performance, and provides interesting evidence of how the play could be adapted to different playing circumstances. It is not an authoritative text but it does contain a fortuitous reading that is adopted by most editors: Falstaff’s line, "convey my trustful queen," at TLN 1351, is changed to "convey my tristful queen." "Tristful" means "sorrowful" and continues Falstaff's joke about the laughing hostess’s "trickling tears" (TLN 1349).