The History of Henry IV

Shakespeare’s Library -  History

#8 John Hayward, The History of Henry IV (“1599” but printed in 1638)

The title of this book is somewhat misleading: it is mostly an account of the life and death of King Richard II, detailing his downfall and overthrow by Henry Bolingbroke, who seized the throne and was crowned as King Henry IV. The historian John Hayward unwisely dedicated the book to the earl of Essex, who led an infamous rebellion against Queen Elizabeth in 1601–after a command performance of Shakespeare’s play Richard II. Due to the perceived parallels between the reigns of Richard II and Elizabeth, the book was immediately suppressed by the Elizabethan government, and Hayward was locked in the Tower until the Queen died in 1603. It was first published by John Wolfe in 1599, but this copy is one of a number of subsequent reprints that used a false imprint. Bibliographical evidence shows that this edition was printed three decades later, in 1638. The false imprint was a convenient way to avoid any trouble with the authorities, and may also have appealed to readers who wanted to experience the thrill of reading an infamously banned book.

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