Navigating Digital Text, Performance, & Historical Resources
Henry V was published in five editions before 1642.
On August 4, 1600, a provisional registration for subsequent printing, called a “staying entry,” for “HENRY the FFIFT: / a booke” was noted on a flyleaf in the Stationers’ Register, the log book belonging to the trade guild in charge of regulating printers and publishers. Then, on August 14, 1600, the printing and publishing rights to “The historye of Henry vth wth the battell of Agencourt” were transferred to Thomas Pavier.
The first quarto edition of Henry V (Q1) was printed in 1600 by Thomas Creede for Thomas Millington (fig. 1). Then, in 1602 the second quarto edition (Q2) was printed, again by Thomas Creede, but this time for Pavier (fig. 2). A third edition was printed in 1619 (Q3, with a false date of 1608) by William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier (fig. 3).
Deriving from the same base text as Q1, Q3 (1619) is notable for the false date of “1608” on its title page. Pavier wished to publish a collection of plays either by Shakespeare or attributed to Shakespeare. Despite having the rights to print and publish Henry V, Pavier did not own the rights to most of the other plays. Therefore Pavier pre-dated some of these quartos, including Henry V, in order to give buyers the impression that these quartos came from existing stock and were now being furnished for sale.
The First Folio edition (F1), on which most modern editions, stage and screen adaptations are based, was printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount in 1623 (figs. 4 and 5). The First Folio was followed in 1632 by the Second Folio edition (F2), printed by Thomas Cotes for Robert Allot (fig. 6).
Until 2016, it was widely accepted that Henry V was written sometime between March and July of 1599, because of the Chorus’s opening to F1 5.1. That Chorus compares King Henry’s triumphant return to England after victory at Agincourt to a contemporary matter in England:
Were now the Generall of our gracious Empresse,
As in good time he may, from Ireland comming,
Bringing Rebellion broached on his Sword;
How many would the peacefull Citie quit,
To welcome him?
The “Generall” referred to in the above passage is widely believed to be Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, who in 1596 during the Anglo-Spanish War had emerged victorious in a military campaign at the Spanish city of Cádiz. Essex was appointed lieutenant and governor-general of Ireland on March 25, 1599, and on April 15 of that same year he landed in Dublin in order to quash an Irish rebellion. By July, however, it was already obvious that Essex’s mission would be a failure – and on September 6 and 7 he negotiated a truce with the Irish, much to the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth I.
This precise dating of 1599, however, has recently been called into question. In 2016, excavation of the remains of the Curtain playhouse in Shoreditch, where Shakespeare's company would have played, revealed that the theatre was rectangular, not the “wooden O” as the Chorus famously proclaims in the Prologue. Therefore there are now questions as to whether the Chorus was a later addition to the play-text, after the Lord Chamberlain’s Men had moved to the Globe Theatre in mid-1599. Nevertheless, it is possible that the play, with the Chorus included, was written in 1599, but that the Chorus was merely omitted at the time of the printing of Q1, as prologues, epilogues, songs and other para-textual material were arguably detachable from the play-text dialogue and were thus not always included in the final printing of the play.