We think of crappy sequels as beginning in the age of the blockbuster film (Jaws 2, really?), but there were ones even earlier. The Thin Man movies declined pretty precipitously after number two. And while there have been a few sequels that have eclipsed the original (The Empire Strikes Back, The New Testament), they are the exception, not the rule.
So what to make of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth?
Remember back when we were discussing the first tetralogy, and the order of composition? We thought that it might have been possible that The First Part of Henry the Sixth was actually written after the Second and Third Parts.
Here in this second tetralogy, though, because of the dates of production AND the narrative linking of the three plays we’ve read thus far, it’s pretty much a given that they were composed in their historical order. So, then Shakespeare KNEW he was writing a sequel when he wrote this month’s play. The title of last month’s play was
The History of Henry the Fourth; with the Battle at Shrewsbury between the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henry Hotspur of the North, with the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstaff.
And the original title of this month’s play was
The Second Part of Henry the Fourth; Concerning his death; and the Coronation of King Henry the Fifth.
So like Godfather Part Two, Shakespeare KNEW this was going to be a sequel when he wrote (or wrought it)…(not that I think this play outranks its predecessor in quality like the first two Corleone flicks do).
I want you to keep this in mind this month. Especially as we compare the two plays. When we consider structure. Expectations.
Just keep it in mind…