Henry VI Part 1

Role Call:

  • King Henry VI
  • Duke of Gloster, Henry’s uncle and protector
  • Duke of Bedford, Henry’s uncle and regent of France
  • Henry Beaufort, Henry’s great uncle and Bishop of Winchester (later Cardinal)
  • John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset (later Duke)
  • Richard Plantagenet (later Duke of York)
  • Lord Talbot
  • John Talbot, his son
  • Earl of Suffolk
  • Charles, Dauphin (later King of France)
  • Reignier, Duke of Anjou and Titular King of Naples
  • Duke of Burgundy
  • Duke of Ancon
  • Bastard of Orleans
  • Margaret, daughter of Reignier (later marries Henry)
  • Joan La Pucelle a.k.a. Joan of Arc

The Play’s the Thing: The play opens with a bunch of dukes, earls, and such mourning the corpse of Henry V. And let’s face it, I’m sad too, because without the awesomeness of Hal, this play will be a sad, sad thing. Amongst the dukes are Bedford and Gloster, who have to listen to three successive messengers bringing bad news from France. The army is being slaughtered, some of the cities are recognizing Charles as King, and Lord Talbot is having his butt kicked by the French. Bedford heads off to prep aid for the army, Gloster heads to the Tower to check munitions and proclaim Henry king, and after everyone’s left, Winchester mutters about his plot to get in good with the king so he can get more power. Meanwhile, in France, Charles, Alencon, and Reignier are trying to soundly beat the English but despite being vastly outnumbered and wounded, the English won’t back down. Then the Bastard shows up with news of a maiden that can tell them what to do and help them to victory. Enter Joan of Arc. She and Charles chat, swordfight, and he deems her legit. She then tells the French to keep fighting. Back in London, Gloster and Winchester have a showdown outside the tower with their men fighting for who should be the legit protector of the king. Back in France, the English lose some men. Talbot briefly faces off with Joan, who runs off, and the English ultimately retreat to the trenches. Charles gives the credit for the French’s victory to Joan.

Talbot and some men scale the walls of the town and successfully beat back the French causing Charles, Joan, and their cronies to get out of Dodge. Talbot receives a message that some French lady wants to meet him so head’s off. Said French lady is trying to set a trap for Talbot but he outwits her by breaking out an army when she tries to take him hostage and she’s super impressed. Over in England, we get an entire scene devoted to men choosing sides of white and red roses as metaphor for the larger political conflict. What’s most important to know is Somerset is the red rose and Richard Plantagenet (who will be York in short order) is the white rose. There’s then a scene with Plantaganet and Mortimer, the gist of which is that Mortimer dies (not really important) and that Plantagenet is going to pursue being restored to his title (important).

In Act III we finally get to see Henry. But first we have Gloster and Winchester bickering about the whole altercation in front of the Tower. Henry attempts to make peace, but then gets news that Winchester and Gloster’s men are openly fighting in London’s streets by throwing rocks because they’ve been prohibited to bear arms. Henry gets the two sides to declare a truce. And then he restores Richard Plantagenet to his title, Duke of York. Then everyone heads off to France. In France, Joan is leading a disguised party of men into a town held by Talbot. There’s a lot of trash talking  between the two sides and more fighting. The French manage a major coup by convincing the Duke of Burgundy, who has been fighting for the English, to switch sides and fight for his native France. In Paris, Henry meets Talbot and gives him props for all the stuff he’s done.

Henry is having the Governor of Paris swear loyalty to him. Talbot shows up with the news of Burgundy’s change in allegiance and Henry sends him off to fight the French. Two men allied with Somerset and York get into an altercation in front of the King. Henry tries to make peace but puts on the symbol of a red rose (not the smartest move). Talbot is having his ass handed to him and sends a messenger to ask for the aid promised by York and Somerset. York gets the message but says he can’t help because Somerset is dragging his feet in giving York some horsemen. Somerset likewise says he can’t help but that York should totally do it. Basically, their petty feud leads to the death of Talbot and Talbot’s son, who shows up to help his father and refuses to leave the battle even though Talbot knows they’re going to lose.

Henry’s back in London and is being told that the Pope wants England and France to declare peace with each other. Henry is being offered the Duke of Armagnac’s daughter as part of the peace treaty and although he’s young, he agrees. In France, we learn the Parisians are revolting and allying with Charles. The French then receive word that the English are about to attack. Shakespeare shows where he stands on Joan of Arc by having her converse with fiends and offering them her soul to let the French win, but the fiends refuse. York captures Joan. Suffolk has captured Margaret, Reignier’s daughter, but falls in love with her, despite the fact he’s married. He comes up with the brilliant plan of courting her for Henry and tells her and her father that he’ll get her married to the King. The English prep to burn Joan at the stake. The Cardinal arranges peace between Charles and Henry, and Charles swears loyalty to Henry as his regent in France, with plans to revolt as soon as he likes. Suffolk then tells Henry all about the hotness of Margaret and Henry agrees to marry her, against Gloster’s advice who reminds him he’s already betrothed to someone else. The play closes with Suffolk chortling that he’s going to have sway over the king and the new queen and ultimately England.

Heroes and Villains: Believe me guys, no one in this play is that awesome. But if I have to pick, it would be Lord Talbot, who manages to be a pretty impressive military leader and foils the weakest kidnapping attempt ever.

Speech to Know: Nothing super outstanding this time around. I miss Hal. He always had good speeches.

View from the Pit: This play is rather unimpressive. Henry VI compared with Henry V is basically a cardboard cut-out with just as much depth. Now this is partly due to the fact that he’s a teenager, but when the eponymous character doesn’t show up until the third act, it doesn’t bode well for his character development. While there’s lots of political maneuvering and plenty of foundation being laid for the later conflict between Somerset and York, it’s not the most riveting stuff to read. The play is mostly notable for Talbot and for the inclusion of Joan of Arc. I found the latter particularly interesting to see how Shakespeare characterized this historical figure. She really is an ambiguous character until the late scene in which she consorts with fiends, at which point we learn which side Shakespeare is definitely on.

No film review this week, so I’ll be back next Sunday with Part 2, where we’ll hopefully get some more interesting characters. Or at least some awesome sword fights.

Film Review – Henry V (1989)

File:Henry v post.jpg

It’s my favourite time here on the blog, which means only one thing: a film adaptation with Kenneth Branagh! Expect plenty of gushing, especially as it was his directorial debut and it’s really awesome. And that’s saying something for a Shakespeare film from 1989. Take a look at the trailer below and then on to the review.

Cast highlights include Kenneth Branagh (of course) as Henry V and Emma Thompson as Katharine. I’ll talk about their combined awesomeness later. Other actors of note include Judi Dench as Hostess Quickly and a very young (like mid-teens) Christian Bale as Boy (I skipped this character in the play review. He’s not super interesting in the play but Branagh makes him a sympathetic character in the film).

The costume design is quite lovely (it even won an Oscar in 1990) and the sets are simple, understated, and entirely passable for a real castle. Also worth noting is the score, which has that really great cinematic feel a film like this needs. So on to the highlights of the film itself.

First thing worth noting is that Branagh has actually included the Chorus in this film. However, rather than a small group of actors, we have a single actor in plain modern dress addressing the camera. While it might seem an odd choice to keep these scenes in, it works really well, partially because of how they’re shot, partially because of how amazing the actor playing the chorus is, and partially (in my biased opinion) because Kenneth Branagh makes everything awesome. I highly recommend you check out the prologue to see what I mean.

Chorus, Henry V

The extremely awesome Chorus.

The score isn’t the only cinematic thing going on in this film. Branagh unabashedly uses some highly dramatic shots to really make the film more impressive. From his first entrance as Henry V which is all about the impressive power walk (which is only made slightly less impressive by the amount of eyeliner he’s wearing in the following shots) to the scene where he delivers the line of “Once more unto the breach” backlit by an explosion while sitting on a rearing white horse, Branagh brings the drama. There are also some truly beautiful shots such as the wide angle when he negotiates with the governor of Harfleur, sitting on his horse in a patch of moonlight.

Branagh also proves his brilliance as a screenplay adapter, as he includes flashbacks in the film to give us brief shots of Falstaff (played by Hagrid!) and Henry in his wilder days and using small sections of scenes from Henry IV Part 1. He’s also cut down the scenes for Bardolph and co. as well as Fluellen (played by Bilbo – the not Martin Freeman one), and instead gives the greater focus to Henry V and the narrative of a man proving himself as a king.

Agincourt, Henry V

Battle is gross

Perhaps the best aspect of this film is how well it does at actually including battle scenes. Unlike the other history plays I’ve watched up to now, there’s no skirting around the battle scenes. Instead, the battle of Agincourt gets a solid 10-15 minutes of screen time in which Branagh does an admirable job of capturing the chaos and horrific grossness of battle. This is also the moment where young Christian Bale does his best work by (SPOILER ALERT) playing a very sad corpse. (END SPOILER)

Boy, Henry V

Sniff for young Christian Bale.

However, my favourite scene is at the end when Henry comes to court Katharine. Not only do I like it because Henry is a thorough charmer and Kenneth Branagh is brilliant at pulling off his self-conscious and slightly inept attempt to win her, but I also like it because there is the amazing duo of Kenneth Branagh and the lovely Emma Thompson on screen together at the same time. While he does far more talking than she does, their chemistry is still amazing. Man, I love watching these two.

Henry V and Katharine


So unsurprisingly, another Kenneth Branagh adaptation that I really liked. I swear the BBC just needs to chain him to a director’s chair, get him to direct the complete works of Shakespeare, and the film review portion of this blog would be SO  much more fun for me. I’ll be back on Sunday when we move into the first part of a trilogy with Henry VI Part 1.

Henry V

No role call this week because knowing who’s who isn’t that big a deal. Really, you just need to know Henry.

The Play’s the ThingThe play opens with a Chorus apologizing to the audience that such a great story that really covers a lot of time and country has to be shrunk down to fit into a limited time and the limits of a theatre. The play proper opens with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely discussing that while Henry was super dissipated in his youth, now that he’s ascended to the throne he’s become a model king who’s totally awesome at everything. Henry meets with the Archbishop and Bishop to discuss the legitimacy of his claim to the throne of France which they say is a fair one. Henry then meets with the French ambassador whose been sent from the Dauphin to basically insult Henry and tell him that someone with a past like his doesn’t have a chance of being King in France. Henry tells the ambassador that the Dauphin’s going to regret his message and then makes plans to take troops to France. The Chorus show up to let us know that Henry has assembled an army but that France has managed to pay off three lords to try and kill Henry before he even gets to France. Also, they let us know that any time the King’s on stage, the setting is Southampton and that the rest of the time the setting is still London.

In London, we get treated to a scene of Bardolph, Nym, Pistol, and Hostess Quickly, which you’ll remember as cronies of Falstaff. We learn Pistol has married the Hostess and that somewhere off stage, Falstaff is ill in her tavern. Meanwhile, Henry is meeting with the three men who are plotting to kill him. He considers the case of a plebe that insulted Henry while the plebe was drunk. The three conspirators all want Henry to take the hard line approach. When Henry reveals that he knows about their plans to kill him, they ask for mercy, and he turns their position around on them, takes the hard line, and sends them off to be executed. Back in London, we learn that Falstaff has died. Over in France, the King and the Dauphin are discussing Henry’s approaching army. While the Dauphin is convinced France can beat him back, the King is more cautious and reminds the Dauphin of the success Edward the Black Prince had when he attacked France for England. The ambassador for Henry then shows up and tells the King to hand over the throne to Henry or suffer the consequences. The Dauphin swears he’ll make Henry rue the day but the King defers a response for a day. The Chorus then shows up to give us a verbal montage of Henry sailing over to France and marching his army to attack the town of Harfleur. We also learn that the King of France offered Henry his daughter Katharine, a substantial dowry, and some lesser dukedoms to get Henry to back off, but he refused.

King Henry and his troops attack Harfleur. Then there’s some scenes with lesser soldiers, which don’t add much except making fun of the Welsh and Irish. Henry then meets with the Governor of Harfleur and after making a speech where he threatens all of the citizenry, the Governor surrenders to Henry. Elsewhere in France, we get a scene (in French) of Katharine having her maid, Alice, teach her some English. Meanwhile, the King of France is still trying to defeat Henry and is convinced he can do so. Henry meets the ambassador from the King of France who threatens him. Henry tells him that the English army is suffering from mass illness and they just want to march to Calais but they’ll turn and fight if they have to. The French troops are prepping for battle near Agincourt and the Dauphin is eager to get out so he can defeat Henry as the French have a superior number of troops. The Chorus then come out to set the stage for both sides prepping for battle in the dark of night and hinting that while the French are in better shape, things aren’t going to go very well for them.

In prepping for battle, Henry decides to disguise himself as a plebe and go out among the troops to get their temperature. They’re not thrilled at the idea of dying but they’re pretty loyal to Henry. Over in the French camp, the Dauphin and company are mounting their horses and prepping to attack. On the English side, some of Henry’s lords are worrying about their odds and wishing they had more men with them. However, Henry is satisfied with their numbers as it will prove a more heroic story if they win. The ambassador from France shows up and tells Henry that if he’ll pay a ransom for himself, the King will let him leave the country safely but Henry turns him down. There’s then several scenes of battle at the end of which we learn that the English have kicked some serious ass and wiped the floor with the French while losing very few men themselves. Henry, as a good king, gives the credit for the victory to God. We then  have the Chorus once more, who tell us all about Henry’s triumphant return to England, the arrival of an ambassador from France to set up peace terms, and Henry’s return to France to settle them.

We get a scene between some soldiers that’s pretty useless as it’s just one forcing the other to eat some leeks. We then get one of most impressive courtship scenes I’ve come across yet in Shakespeare where Henry tries to convince Katharine to marry him while dealing with the language barrier. Let’s just say, he’s thoroughly charming and could charm the pants off any girl. Katharine finally agrees, the King of France and Henry ratify their peace agreement, and Henry and Katharine head off to prep for the wedding. We get one final appearance from the Chorus who talk briefly about the general awesomeness of Henry V and then give us a teaser for the next set of plays by mentioning Henry VI.

Speech to Know: Henry has many rockin’ speeches in this play, and I’m particularly fond of his courtship speeches in the final act. However, his speeches during the battle scenes are ones that are far more familiar.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.
Disguise  fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide;
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height! – On, on, you noble English,
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! –
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought,
And sheath’d their swords for lack of argument: –
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those who you call’d fathers did beget you!
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war! – And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding: which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge
Cry – God for Harry! England! and Saint George!” (III.i)

Honourable mention to the following sentence:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother” (IV.iii)

View from the Pit: I’m pretty fond of the character of Henry V so having an entire play dedicated to him made me pretty happy. And I was not disappointed. Henry gets plenty of stage time and is awesome in every second. Whether he’s being an impressive politician, a kick-ass military leader, or a man courting a wife, he does it all with flair. While the play itself comes across as a bit episodic, the Chorus help smooth out with their verbal equivalent to montages. I also have to admit I was just a tiny bit happy when Falstaff bit it, especially because I never once had to read any dialogue from him. Also, it’s a nice change to have one of the history plays not end with the death of the eponymous character, but instead with the promise of nuptials. Only so many funeral marches you can take in a row.

Henry IV Part 2

Role Call: Many of the same people from Part 1 are wandering around in this play, but just a refresher.

  • King Henry IV (referred to as King Henry)
  • Henry, Prince of Wales, later King Henry V (referred to as Hal)
  • Thomas, Duke of Clarence, Hal’s brother
  • Prince John of Lancaster, Hal’s brother
  • Prince Humphrey of Gloster, Hal’s brother
  • Earl of Warwick (on King Henry’s side)
  • Earl of Westmoreland (on King Henry’s side)
  • Earl of  Surrey (on King Henry’s side)
  • Lord Chief-Justice
  • Earl of Northumberland (rebel)
  • Scroop, Archbishop of York (rebel)
  • Lord Mowbray (rebel)
  • Lord Hastings (rebel)
  • Lord Bardolph (rebel)
  • Sir John Colevile (rebel)
  • Falstaff, Bardolph, Pistol, and Page (note that this is a different Bardolph)
  • Poins and Peto (aids to Hal)
  • Lady Northumberland
  • Lady Percy
  • Mistress Quickly, hostess of a tavern in Eastcheap
  • Doll Tearsheet

The Play’s the Thing: Part 2 starts with an Induction from Rumour personified who talks about how rumours are flying about the recent battle between King Henry and Hotspur about who’s alive and who’s dead. There’s also a rumour flying that King Henry is wounded or ill. The play proper begins with Northumberland getting various news reports about the recent battle and eventually getting the news that Hotspur, his son, is dead. He gets super enraged and decides that he’ll go after King Henry himself as his forces are currently stretched thin between battles in England, Wales, and France. He’s advised to meet with the Archbishop of York whose set himself against King Henry and given a religious rubber stamp to the rebel’s cause. Meanwhile, Falstaff is back in London, up to his old tricks, and getting in trouble with the Chief-Justice for his exploits (specifically the heist from Part 1) but gets out of them because he’s supposed to head up a group of troops and head north soon.

Falstaff then gets in trouble with the Hostess for not paying his debts at her tavern but he manages to charm her out of prosecuting them. The group of people he’s with then receive news that King Henry is back. Hal is back in London too and wandering around his old stomping grounds when he runs into Bardolph. They chat about the nonsense Falstaff is up to and Hal and Poins decide to disguise themselves as “drawers” (essentially wait staff in the tavern) to mess around with Falstaff. Meanwhile, Northumberland is hanging out with his wife and Hotspur’s widow who both urge him to get revenge for Hotspur’s death. In the tavern, Falstaff and his cronies are getting hammered when Hal and Poins show up in disguise. Hal hears Falstaff insult him, they reveal themselves to Falstaff who once again attempts to bluster his way out of what he’s said. Hal receives words his father is back in London and there’s pressing news from the fronts for him to read. Falstaff is then summoned to court.

King Henry is ill and suffering from insomnia. He then receives word about Northumberland and the archbishop’s rebellion and gathering of troops. Meanwhile, Falstaff spends some time picking some men for his new troop. Several of the men (who are the strongest and best options) offer to pay him off to not pick them. He selects the men who didn’t offer him bribes.

In a forest in Yorkshire, the Archbishop of York, Hastings, and Mowbray are discussing that the forces acting on behalf of King Henry are just over the hill when Westmoreland shows up to fetch them to discuss their grievances with Prince John who will try and end their dispute without battle. The rebels agree and go to meet Prince John who asks what their grievances are. They tell him and John promises to amend them and tells them to disband their army and he’ll do likewise. The rebels do as their told and then discover John has crossed them and he arrests them for treason and sends his army to chase after the rebels army. After the army’s chased down and captured the important peeps, Prince John sends a messenger on ahead with news of his victory to his father who is very ill now. King Henry is talking with Prince Humphrey and the Duke of Clarence about Hal. He advises Clarence that he is his brother’s favourite and so he should do his best to keep Hal in check when he becomes king. Westmoreland than shows up with the good news about Prince John’s victory, which causes the King to faint. The brothers speculate that he won’t live long and King Henry is moved to a bed. Hal shows up, talks to his father’s unconscious form (whom he thinks might be dead), and afterwards he and King Henry bond over the fact that Hal truly does love him and wants to be the best king possible.

In Gloucestershire, Falstaff is hanging out with some of his pals feasting and getting drunk. In Westminster, we learn that King Henry has died. The Chief-Justice is worried about his job as Hal has never been a friend of his. Hal’s brothers are also very concerned about the kind of king their brother will make. Hal shows up and is obviously mourning the death of his father. He surprises everyone by making up with the Chief-Justice and leaving him in his post. Back with Falstaff, he receives word that Hal has ascended to the throne and heads off in a mad dash to London to cash in on his connections with the new king. We see the Hostess and Doll getting arrested (it’s not really that important but it happens). Falstaff then sees Hal in the street and is ignored by him. One of Hal’s followers tells Falstaff that he needs to right his ways and until then he can’t come near Hal, as per Hal’s orders. Prince John is impressed with his brother’s reform and foretells that England will be fighting in France in the near future. The play ends with an epilogue from a dancer apologizing for the play and teasing for the events of Henry V, which might just have Falstaff in it.

Speech to Know: King Henry gives a decent speech in the third act where we begin to see the guilt of taking the throne has begun to weigh on him heavily.

“O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee.
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum’d chambers of the great,
Under high canopies of costly state,
And lull’d with sounds of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile
In loathsome beds, and leav’st the kingly couch
A watch-case or a common ‘larum bell?
Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
Seal up the ship-boy’s eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge,
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them
With deafening clamour in the slippery shrouds,
That, with the hurly, death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” III.i

View from the Pit: I have to admit that Henry IV Part 2 was a letdown after the first part. I didn’t particularly like it. I didn’t hate it or anything, but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the first part. Part of this is because King Henry and Hal just don’t have that much page time in this play and they’re the characters I enjoy most. Instead, we get a lot of the rebels and Falstaff. And I have to confess something that may earn me the wrath of many. I know Falstaff is considered by many to be Shakespeare’s greatest comic creation but I find him really boring/annoying. Yes his puns are funny and the jokes about his fatness are entertaining for a bit, they wear thin (no pun intended) very quickly. I’m just more interested in the political maneuverings and battles than Falstaff’s efforts to get out of his latest verbal blunder, and we get far more of the latter than the former in this play. For once, I actually felt Shakespeare did need to apologize for the play as it didn’t live up to the bar set in the first part.

I’ve luckily been saved from having to watch a film adaptation this week as my library doesn’t have a copy of Henry IV Part 2. So I’ll see you next week, reader, when I tackle Henry V and we find out just what kind of king Hal turns out to be.

Film Review – Henry IV Part 1 (1979)

Once again, the universe loves me, but not quite enough. In looking up some details for the film I watched this week, I discovered that there will be a new Henry IV (Parts 1 and 2) coming out some time this year with Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons. And I am super excited. But unfortunately, it’s not out yet so I instead had to resort to my old friend, The Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare series.

The film starts with a brief recap of what happened during Richard II and then dives straight into the play proper. We still have the same actor playing Henry IV, but there’s a different actor playing Falstaff than in Merry Wives of Windsor. Prince Henry suffers from a horrible haircut and the actor playing Hotspur has super curly hair that could use a bit of hair product (and I say this as someone with curly hair). The surprise actor for me was that Worcester is played by the actor that’s Mr. Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances (a brilliant British comedy you should definitely check out if you don’t know it).

The costumes are not too notable although King Henry does get stuck in one ridiculous hat early on in the film. Also, the plumage on King Henry, Prince Henry, and Prince Henry’s helmets during the battle at the end of the film are epic. Sadly, they don’t actually wear the helmets that much. But there is full on body armour so there’s some decent clanking going on. Also, Lady Percy is given some anachronistic eye make up (at least I don’t think Hotspur’s wife should be trying to perfect the smoky eye).

Speaking of Lady Percy, the scenes between her and Hotspur are absolutely adorable and I actually enjoyed watching them (gasp!). The two actors bring the banter and the pair of them are quite charming to the point where I felt sorry for Lady Percy knowing that Hotspur was going to die.

But let’s get to the real party, the battle scenes. Because there actually are some! Even when it’s just people talking on the field, there’s sounds of battle in the background and at least a couple people in the background pretending to fight. However, the swords don’t make the right sounds when they clash. They sound like fake swords when they hit each other rather than the sound you’d expect from heavy swords. Despite that flaw, the swordfight between Prince Henry and Hotspur is still pretty good although they include a bit of wrestling in there as well, which can’t be comfortable when you’re wearing a suit of armor (real or not).

The final verdict is that the film is better than some in this series but still not up to the par of what I’d expect from a regular film. On Sunday I’ll be resolving the cliffhanger when I review Henry IV Part 2.

Henry IV Part 1

Role Call: There are four different Henrys in this place, so you’ll definitely want to refer back to this list.

  • King Henry IV (referred to as King Henry)
  • Henry, Prince of Wales, King Henry’s son (referred to as Prince Henry)
  • Prince John of Lancaster, King Henry’s son
  • Earl of Westmoreland
  • Sir Walter Blunt
  • Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester (referred to as Worcester)
  • Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (referred to as Northumberland)
  • Henry Percy, Northumberland’s son (referred to as Hotspur)
  • Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March
  • Scroop, Archbishop of York
  • Archibald, Earl of Douglas (referred to as Douglas)
  • Owen Glendower
  • Sir Richard Vernon
  • Sir John Falstaff
  • Poins
  • Gadshill
  • Peto
  • Bardolph
  • Lady Percy, Hotspur’s wife and Mortimer’s sister
  • Lady Mortimer, Mortimer’s wife and Glendower’s daughter
  • Mrs. Quickly, hostess of a tavern in Eastcheap
  • Various other dudes that fetch and carry but don’t matter much

The Play’s the Thing: King Henry is chatting with his lords about how he promised to go to the Crusades a year ago, but hasn’t been able to muster the necessary troops and money plus now he has to deal with a brewing rebellion being led by Hotspur. While King Henry isn’t thrilled with the likely rebellion, he does envy Northumberland his son, Hotspur, who is a great soldier and King Henry’s idea of a man. His own son, Prince Henry, is a bit of a disappointment. We then get a scene of Prince Henry hanging out with his drinking buddy Falstaff (whom you’ll remember from The Merry Wives of Windsor, although this play came first). Prince Henry, Falstaff, and some of his other cronies are planning some highway robbery. Prince Henry and Poins then plan a prank where they’ll ditch the rest of their group, let them do the heist, and then sneak up on their gang, steal the money from them, and make fun of Falstaff afterwards. Back at the palace, King Henry is meeting with Hotspur, who has refused to turn over the hostages he has taken during war (hostages basically equal money from the ransoms the other side would pay). Hotspur is not a fan of King Henry and is particularly affronted as King Henry has refused to ransom Mortimer, who was taken hostage. After King Henry leaves, Hotspur, his father, Northumberland, and his uncle, Worcester, begin to plot against King Henry, which they feel fine about because King Henry wrongfully deposed King Richard.

Prince Henry and Poins successfully carry out their prank on Falstaff and co. Meanwhile, Hotspur is getting all riled up and preparing to take down King Henry. He chats with his wife (who is spunky and pretty awesome) about his plans to leave and then tells her she’ll be following a day behind him but doesn’t tell her where. Back at the tavern, Prince Henry and Poins have some fun at the expense of the serving boy until Falstaff shows up. They then have Falstaff tell them about the heist and Falstaff inflates the number of men who attacked him over the course of the story from two to eleven. Prince Henry then tells Falstaff that it was he and Poins who attacked Falstaff. Falstaff blusters that he knew it all along but didn’t want to injure the heir apparent. Henry then receives notice that he needs to appear at court in the morning as Hotspur’s rebellion is starting to come to a head. He and Falstaff then role play, Prince Henry’s approach to his meeting with King Henry. The Sheriff then shows up looking for the thieves but Henry covers for them.

Hotspur has a meeting with his fellow rebels and gets exasperated with Glendower who has built up a mythology around himself that he’s a super warrior as illustrated by the portents at his birth. Then Hotspur and Mortimer’s wives show up and Hotspur banters some more with his wife before heading off to battle. At the palace in London, King Henry is meeting with Prince Henry and giving him a serious lecture about Prince Henry’s poor behaviour. King Henry tells Prince Henry that his behaviour is too much like King Richard’s which played a big role in Richard being deposed so easily. King Henry also pulls out the sibling card and says Prince John has been behaving far more like an heir should than Prince Henry has. Prince Henry swears he’ll right his ways and prove it in the coming battle with Hotspur. A messenger than shows up with news about the coming battle and the movement of Hotspur and his allies. King Henry makes some orders about who will lead which battle group and everyone heads off. Back at the tavern, Falstaff is accusing the hostess of having someone on her staff steal his wallet but no one’s buying that he had anything of worth in it. Prince Henry then shows up and gives Falstaff a commission as the leader of a marching group.

Hotspur meets with Worcester and Douglas to discuss strategy and receives news that his father is ill and won’t be able to lead his group of men and doesn’t feel he can delegate to someone else as it’s for a rebellion against King Henry. While Hotspur and co. are a little concerned about their odds they decide to fight anyway, especially as King Henry is already on the move to meet them in battle. Falstaff is marching with his company towards the assembly point and grumbling about what a rag-tag group he’s leading. He bumps into Prince Henry who ribs him about the state of his men and they head off to the King’s camp. Hotspur is trying to convince his allies to attack the King right away at night but then an emissary from King Henry. Hotspur goes on a rant about King Henry deposing King Richard and refusing to ransom Mortimer and then says he’ll give a definite answer in the morning. There’s then a scene with the Archbishop the gist being that Hotspur doesn’t have enough troops to really be able to take on King Henry.

Worcester goes to visit King Henry who offers the rebels pardon if they’ll just forget the whole battle. Worcester goes back to the rebel camp and decides to not tell Hotspur about the offered pardon and instead tells him that King Henry has told him they’ll meet in battle. We then get excursions and fighting ON STAGE. Douglas meets Blunt who is disguised as King Henry. Douglas kills Blunt and is exulting over killing the King until Hotspur shows up, bursts his bubble, and says there are many people disguised as the King. In another, Falstaff and Prince Henry meet up and chat and Prince Henry gives Falstaff some booze. King Henry, Prince Henry, Prince John, and Westmoreland meet up and King Henry tries to convince Prince Henry to withdraw as he’s wounded. King Henry is left alone for a bit and meets Douglas who seriously threatens King Henry’s life until Prince Henry comes back who scares off Douglas. King Henry is grateful and glad to see that rumours that Prince Henry wanted to kill his father was false. The King heads off to a meeting point. Prince Henry then meets Hotspur and fights with him. Douglas comes back and fights with Falstaff who pretends to be dead so Douglas will leave. Prince Henry kills Hotspur, mourns the loss of such a great man, and is saddened to see the apparently dead Falstaff. Falstaff pops back up after Prince Henry leaves, stabs Hotspur in the leg to make sure he’s dead and claim his death as his own. Prince Henry and Prince John come back, are surprised to see Falstaff still alive, and Prince Henry decides to let Falstaff have the glory of Hotspur’s death if he really wants. King Henry hands over some captured rebels to Prince Henry who passes them right on to Prince John. King Henry and Prince Henry then head towards to Wales to battle Glendower and the Earl of March. CLIFFHANGER.

Heroes and Villains: Prince Henry is definitely my favourite character in this play as he’s the perfect example of the redeemed bad boy. Also, his scenes with Falstaff are funny and proto-bromance.

Insults with Style:

  • “mad mustachio purple-hued malt-worms” (II.i)
  • “whoreson caterpillars” (II.ii)
  • “bacon-fed knaves” (II.ii)
  • “clay-brained guts” (II.ii)


  • “give the devil his due” (I.ii)
  • “sink or swim” (I.iii)
  • “the game’s a-foot” (I.iii)
  • “the better part of valour is discretion” (V.iv)

Speech to Know: Prince Henry’s speech after he kills Hotspur is a wonderful tribute to an opponent to an enemy he highly respected.

“For worms, brave Percy: fare thee well, great heart!
Ill-weav’d ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of vilest earth
Is room enough: – this earth that bears thee dead
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.
If thou wert sensible of courtesy,
I should not make so dear a show of zeal: –
But let my favours hide thy mangled face;
And, even in thy behalf, I’ll thank myself
For doing these fair rites of tenderness.
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to heaven!
They ignominy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remember’d in thy epitaph!” (V.iv)

The View from the Pit: I studied Henry IV Part 1 during my Shakespeare class in undergrad and enjoyed it. Once you get past the confusing number of Henrys, it’s a play that has a little bit of everything. There’s the comedic bits with Falstaff and Prince Henry with their heist and at the tavern. There’s the political maneuvering and passion of Hotspur and his fellow rebels. There is King Henry who is defending his ill-gained crown and dealing with a son who has fallen into the behaviours that allowed King Henry to depose King Richard. And there’s a lot of sword swinging going on which makes for some nice action sequences. But at the heart of the play is Prince Henry’s transition from the dissipated and disappointing heir-apparent to a powerful and loyal warrior for his father’s cause (and his own).

A Not Film Review – The Winter’s Tale (1981)

I lied to you, fair reader. I do not have a film review for this week. I did not get around to watching the film this week. And because I had renewed the film twice, I couldn’t renew it again. So I will instead provide you with pictures and you can insert the usual comments about any film from The Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare series. Just imagine snarky comments about mediocre acting, bad sets, and extremely static/awkward camera work.

Aren’t you just inspired to rush out and watch this film? Me neither.

It’ll be back to business as usual on Sunday, when I’ll be reviewing Henry IV Part 1.