The play was entered on the Stationers' Registers, under date of February 25, 1597–8, thus: “Andrew Wisse]: a booke intitled the Historye of Henry the iiiith, with his battaile at Shrewsburye against Henry Hottspurre of the Northe with the conceipted Mirth of Sir John Falstaffe.” In the same year a quarto edition appeared with the title-page as follows:
The | History of | Henrie the | Fovrth; | With the battell at Shrewsburie, | betweene the King and Lord | Henry Percy, surnamed Henrie Hotspur of | the North. | With the humorous conceits of Sir | John Falstalffe. | at london, | Printed by P. S. for Andrew Wise, dwelling | in Paules Churchyard, at the signe of | the Angell. 1598.
On the 27th of June, 1603, three “Enterludes or plays” were entered on the Stationers’ Registers to “Math. Lawe,” one of which was “Henry the 4;” and four quarto editions were brought out by Lawe—in 1604, 1608, 1613, and 1622. The play, as it appears in F. 1 (1623), seems to have been printed from a partially corrected copy of the quarto of 1613 (Q. 4).
Lawe seems to have parted with his interest in the play to one Sheares, who issued another quarto edition in 1632; and yet another was published in 1639.
The play must have been written before 1598, as it is mentioned by Meres in that year; and the critics all put the date either in 1596 or 1597, the majority of the more recent ones favouring the latter year, which, on the whole, is the more probable.