Niviene (niviene) wrote,

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Ring in the New Year w/ Shakespeare!

Finally finished watching BBC’s The Hollow Crown on DVD which I started late on Dec 31, 2014. The British TV series features Shakespeare’s history plays : Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 & II, Henry V. I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s plays back in high school but I don’t recall reading the Henry IV ones though. I do remember very limited parts of Richard II and most of Henry V including the more well-known speeches “Once more unto the breach” & “Saint Crispin’s day” which most people know I think.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture;
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!'


By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

The films starred Ben Whishaw (Richard II), Jeremy Irons (Henry IV) and Tom Hiddleston (Henry IV & V) respectively; each amazing in their parts.

Wishaw’s King Richard is tragic - a Christ like figure doomed from the start and to which Mr. Wishaw unfolded before us beautifully. Still about half way through the movie the religious references to Jesus does become a bit much and one wonders what the director was thinking. It was pushed in the audience faces where it didn’t need to as the dialogue itself lends us Christ references all too well. Wishaw’s performance was riveting enough for anyone to get it - we didn’t need added visual ques from the clothes, to the props to the crucifix shape of his body in his coffin. By the end of Richard II you do begin to feel sorry for this broken King on the verge of losing everything. I kept thinking of one lyric in a JCSS musical in the song Christ & Pilate “Who is this broken man, cluttering up my hallway? “

Henry IV Parts I & II almost seems mistitled only because I found it to be more about Prince Hal than King Henry IV but who am I to question the 17th Earl of Oxford aka Mr. Shakespeare! Jeremy Irons brought a wonderful realism to the role of a king thwarting not only skirmishes and uprisings within his kingdom but also those who helped him the crown by less than honest means. To top it all off he is disillusioned with his wayward son who has shunned his title as well as court life. Joe Armstrong plays Henry Percy/sir Harry Hotspur, many will remember the actor from the BBC tv series Robin Hood as Alan A Dale. He was the most memorable of the group of rebels at odds with a king his family helped put in power. Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Prince Hal provides great insight into the irresponsibility and immaturity of the prince is at this time. You almost feel sorry for him especially when the audience is privy to Falstaff's false friendship and ultimate betrayal. I really disliked Falstaff and rightly so because Simon Russell Beale did a wonderful job showing the duplicity of his nature. In addition, I can't fully appreciate the character. Falstaf's humour isn't funny to me. I think it's because I can't identify with the jokes and shenanigans. I see him as rather pathetic character instead of the 'comic releif' I'm sure Shakespeare intended for his contemporaries and audiences.

In Henry V a more serious tone is taken. Hiddleston reprises the role and you couldn't have asked for a better actor to bring Henry V to life. The opening scene – Hal’s funeral - threw me off initially. Thereafter I’m transported into an enthralling story of a King on the brink of war. Prince Hal’s story arc continues to where he comes into his own; maturing to take on the responsibilities of being King and that of a soldier about participate in the Battle of Agincourt for the control of France. I already liked Prince Hall but watching his journey to a courageous, kind, humble and wise King - I fall completely in love with the character. Henry’s awkwardness in trying to court Kate who doesn’t speak much English is enchanting to watch and so beautifully executed on screen.

but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the
moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it
shines bright and never changes, but keeps his
course truly. If thou would have such a one, take
me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier,
take a king. And what sayest thou then to my love?

(the lines remind me of my favourite Heather Dale song “Take me as I am” btw - it's always about a king)

There wasn’t enough scenes were with Katharine and Henry as far as I was concerned. The most heart wrenching moment - the death of Henry and the end Chorus, in particular the last line:

In little room confining mighty men,
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.
Small time, but in that small most greatly lived
This star of England: Fortune made his sword;
By which the world's best garden be achieved,
And of it left his son imperial lord.
Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crown'd King
Of France and England, did this king succeed;
Whose state so many had the managing,
That they lost France and made his England bleed

Oh Henry....

I hear that BBC plans to do another series The Hollow Crown: War of the Roses with Richard III and Henry VI plays. Can't wait for that! In the meantime, I plan to binge watch the first all over again and on many occasions!​

Thank you BBC for making 2015 New Year so enjoyable!
Tags: shakespeare
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