The Chronicle History of Henry the Fifth

Henry the Fifth was first published in 1600, in a version quite unlike the play as usually read or performed today. It was half the length of the text printed in the 1623 First Folio, and omitted distinctive components such as the speeches of the Chorus between the Acts. It also rearranged some scenes, and cut a number of characters.

For many years, scholars took the view that this was a 'bad quarto', a pirated rendering of the play put into print to capitalise on its stage popularity. It was presumed to have been produced by 'memorial reconstruction', with one or more of the actors who had performed in a production recalling their and others' lines for someone to write down. Recently, though, it has been argued that this quarto edition was printed from an abbreviation of the text fully authorised by Shakespeare's theatre company, and better reflecting the shape and composition of the play as it was first performed.

This is a copy of the Third Quarto, which was based on the First Quarto text. On the titlepage it gives its publication date as 1608, but this is false - the edition was in fact printed for the bookseller Thomas Pavier in 1619, as one in a series of Shakespeare plays he published that year. Pavier may have disguised the date of publication in an attempt to circumvent an order obtained by Shakespeare's company that prohibited the publication of his plays without their permission.

The titlepage of this copy carries the initials 'E.C.' - it once belonged to Edward Capell, a noted 18th century editor of Shakespeare.


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Further Study

This copy is in the University of Edinburgh library, shelfmark JA 3716. For the textual history of the play, see Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery, eds, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (Oxford, 1987), and Andrew Gurr, ed., The First Quarto of King Henry V (Cambridge, 2000).