As Henry's throne is threatened by rebel forces, England is divided. The characters reflect these oppositions, with Hal and Hotspur vying for position, and Falstaff leading Hal away from his father and towards excess. During Shakespeare's lifetime Henry IV, Part I was his most reprinted play, and it remains enormously popular with theatregoers and readers. Falstaff still towers among Shakespeare's comic inventions as he did in the late 1590s. David Bevington's introduction discusses the play in both performance and criticism from Shakespeare's time to our own, illustrating the variety of interpretations of which the text is capable. He analyses the play's richly textured language in a detailed commentary on individual words and phrases and clearly explains its historical background.