Samuel Daniel’s The First Four Books of the Civil Wars, published in 1595, is an important source for the play. Its Epilogue suggest it was written soon after Henry IV, Part 1, and no later than 1598, since Ben Jonson refers to the character Justice Shallow in his own 1599 play, Every Man Out of His Humour.
The play was first printed as a quarto in 1600, probably typeset from Shakespeare’s draft manuscripts, or a transcript of them. It was not printed again until the First Folio, which contains eight passages that are not in the quarto. Numerous other differences suggest that a manuscript source could have been used alongside the quarto when the First Folio version was being prepared.
‘My due from thee is this imperial crown,
Which, as immediate from thy place and blood,
Drives itself to me.’
Henry IV, Part 2, IV v
Brief synopsis of the play
Prince Hal has proved himself on the battlefield, but King Henry IV is ailing, and the threat of rebellion still simmers. Whereas Falstaff, up to his old tricks in the Boar’s Head Tavern, expects that his attachment to the prince will soon be richly rewarded, Hal contemplates the responsibilities of the Crown that is destined for him: his growing maturity pulls him away from his former mentor.