Henry IV Part 1

Fast Facts

  • Henry IV was the first ever English King who spoke English as his first language. This was probably due to the fact that he was a usurping King and not raised as an immediate heir to the throne.

  • While the character of Falstaff is Shakespeare’s own creation, he is believed to be based on a real-life figure, Sir John Oldcastle. In fact, Shakespeare had originally called the character Sir John Oldcastle, but changed it before the play as registered, supposedly because Oldcastle’s family who were prominent in politics and society, objected.

  • Falstaff is believed to have been a favourite character of Queen Elizabeth I, so much so that it is rumoured that she insisted Shakespeare write Falstaff a play of his own, the result of which is The Merry Wives of Windsor.

  • The play’s action falls within a period of history known as The War of The Roses in which the English houses of Tudor and Lancaster fought over the throne. Shakespeare’s plays that span the period include Henry VI Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry V and Richard III.

  • Gus Van Sant’s 1991 film My Own Private Idaho, starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, is loosely based on the play.

  • Sherlock Holmes’ famous catchcry “The game’s afoot!”, was in fact inspired by Northumberland’s line from the play “Before the game is afoot, thou still let'st slip” (Act 1, Scene 3). Shakespeare also used the term in Henry V.