HENRY V by William Shakespeare
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Bevington, Welsh and Greenwald SHAKESPEARE: Script, Stage, Screen Chapter 13
Hal as Superhero, Statesman, Manipulator and Lover. In this play, the slacker Prince Hal completes his education as politician-prince. This play is also the culmination of the eight history plays...The chorus is able to paint word pictures of the action and battles which the play documents...In doing so, he shows the public Henry (inspiring) and the private Henry (internal doubt). The play has twice been adapted into classic films Laurence Olivier’s sunny, stylistic daring patriotic pagaent in 1944 Kenneth Branagh’s muddy, close-in, war-is-hell adaptation in 1989
Both films suggest that Shakespeare interpretations reflect “the age and body of the time”
Unlike other works in the canon, HENRY V can be dated accurately as it contains a direct and explicit reference to contemporary events (In Act V, CHORUS compares Henry’s heroic arrival in London to the return of Essex in 1599) Also the reference to the ‘wooden O’ seems a clear reference to the new Globe Theatre in Southwark
The play is filled with contradictory voices--Henry can be viewed as a patriot prince “the mirror of a Christian king” or a Complex Manipulator...George Bernard Shaw deplored Henry V as a prig and imperialist warmonger, an assessment shared by William Butler Yeats
The cast of characters spans many social classes and national origins--The English Clergy, the trusted nobles, regional captains and commoners. On the French side are King Charles VI, his Queen Isabel, their son, the Dauphin, princess Katharine, the Constable and noble envoy Montjoy. Sections of the play are in French
• An anonymous play, THE
VICTORIES OF KING HENRY V (c. 1588)
A follow-up with Falstaff was promised in the epilogue to Henry IV, Part Two (1598) • In the 16th century, Henry V
was widely viewed as a genuine hero along with Richard the Lionheart, Edward III, and his son, The Black Prince. This play enhanced his reputation
The actual Henry V succeeded his father in 1413 and died in 1422 after his triumph at Agincourt in 1415...He married Katharine in 1420...His son was 5-months old when Henry died of dysentery...The crowning of the child king, Henry VI led to the War of the Roses During his brief life, Henry V twice raised armies to do battle with France
Many historians deemed the Battle at Agincourt a foolhardy and irresponsible campaign, these lesser elements are borne out in the following episodes of the play - The lengthy justification of the Archbishop of
Canterbury over Salic law - Henry’s threats against the French - The poignant reminisces of Falstaff by his comrade Bardolphe - The skepticism of Henry’s common soldiers and the parodies of honor (Pistol and Le Fer)
The English Chronicles and English Myth • Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587) • Hall’s Union (1542) • Daniels First Four Books
The two clerics commend young King Henry as a superb
rhetoritician Language is one of the plays themes as Henry V forges his public identity as King with God’s Blessing (I.2.230-3) When the play ends, Chorus with “full mouth” proclaims him King of both England and France Shakespeare uses blank verse for the English aristocrats, earthy prose for Pistol, Nym and other commoners In two scenes, Katharine haltingly learns English and speaks both English and French
Henry uses political rhetoric most memorably in the play, for example… The rhetort to the French ambassador over the tennis balls (1.2.259-296) “Once more into the breach...” (3.1.1-34) His soliloquy on the burdens of Kingship (4.1.228-282) The emotional rhetoric of the St. Crispin’s Day speech His adoption of the rhetoric of the “blunt soldier” in wooing Katharine
• The celebratory mood of the play is tempered by an exploration of royal limits • He does present a complex and balanced portrait of a monarch who behaves according the Renaissance notions (the “good” side of Machiavelli’s descriptions of the Prince)
• With the Welsh, Scots, Irish and English captains, Henry engages in nation-building
piety is another theme explored by the play...Henry’s piety is shown as complex and at times contradictory
The Chorus The Battle Scenes The English v. The French
Ian McKellan as Henry V, 1963
See pages 488-496
In the Elizabethan Era, it was a topical play. After the Restoration, there are mentions of the work, but in certain sections, not all by Shakespeare. Popular adaptations were by Colley Cibber and Charles Molloy. Shakespeare’s version of the play was restored in 1738.
Colley Cibber as Pistol
Productions featured spectacle and
a restored text Feb 1738, it was performed four
times David Garrick played Chorus in 1747 and 1748 Kemble’s famous production (popular from 1789-1848) omitted Chorus Macready restored the Chorus in his 1839 staging Charles Kean’s 1859 production featured great spectacle...he also cast his wife as the Chorus
William Poel challenged spectacular
productions with his productions at the Elizabethan Stage Society Since Poel, modern productions have veered toward the anti-illusionistic and toward the poetic John Martin-Harvey’s 1916 production was in the “Elizabethan manner” William Bridges-Adams attempted Elizabethan authenticity again in 1920 Olivier’s patriotic film is based upon a 1937 production at the Old Vic directed by Tyrone Guthrie
Anthony Quayle’s production at Stratford (1951) was a culmination of the Richard II, Henry IV cycle Adrian Noble’s 1984 production at the RSC starred Branagh and influenced the film
Michael Bogdanov’s production for the English Shakespeare Company (1986) was very modern in style
Richard Olivier’s production for the opening of the restored Globe (1997) played up the comedy
On film and video
Directed by David Giles with David Gwillim as Henry
Michael Pennington as Henry in THE HENRY
TRILOGY “The War of the Roses” Henry IV, Part One Henry IV, Part Two Henry V
Video adaptation of Bogdanov’s 1986 production
SHAKESPEARE’S “An Age of Kings” was produced by the BBC as a television beginning in 1960. It is available today as a set of 5 DVDs. It spans more than a hundred years from the reign of Richard II (1377-1399) to the defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1458.
In this version of HENRY V, Judi Dench played the role of Princess Katherine and Robert Hardy was Henry V. Sean Connery played Hotspur in the Henry IV sections of the broadcast.
The Hollow Crown is a lavish new series of filmed adaptations of four of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays; Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V. The films tell the rise and fall of three Kings and how their destiny shaped English history. Richard II (Ben Whishaw) is a vain, self-indulgent man who rules with little regard for his people’s welfare. He is ultimately overthrown by his cousin Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), who ascends the throne as Henry IV (Jeremy Irons). Henry IV’s reign is marred by his own guilt over Richard’s death, civil war, and the gnawing fear that his son Hal (Tom Hiddleston) is a total wastrel unworthy of the throne. When Hal comes to the throne as Henry V he is left to bury the ghosts of his father’s past while fighting both the French forces as well as his own inner demons.
Henry IV’s reign is marred by his own guilt over Richard’s death, civil war, and the gnawing fear that his son Hal (Tom Hiddleston) is a total wastrel unworthy of the throne. When Hal comes to the throne as Henry V he is left to bury the ghosts of his father’s past while fighting both the French forces as well as his own inner demons.