Friday, February 26, 2010

Hank Cinq

King Henry the Fifth
by William Shakespeare (1599)

What fun. Between the chorus setting the scenes and Henry whipping his outnumbered army into a frenzy, the play is chock-full of memorable lines, stirring words, emotional nutrients and moral fiber.
As I'm putting this down here, I realize there's a bit of a correlation between the chorus constantly apologizing for having inadequate materials on stage and begging the audience to "piece out our imperfections with your thoughts" and Henry asking his outnumbered army to go "once more into the breach, dear friends, once more."
Also, because it's a(n) historical play, the outcome (I'm guessing) was known to the audience, so the play is really all about the spectacle, and it doesn't fall short.
Thumbs up.


M. said...

I love Henry V! I like the correlation you pointed out. I've always read the chorus' apologies as being only mock serious, mainly because Shakespeare is the sort of author who knows both exactly how good he is and that he's going to pull it off in five acts despite the play's epic scope (well, epic location-wise anyway). We're talking about the same guy who casually wrote parts of the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet in sonnet form, after all.

The play also does this interesting thing where it justifies Henry V's order to execute the prisoners (more or less a war crime back then) by adding in that extra detail about the baggage train being murdered. Not that that makes his St. Crispin's Day speech any less great, though.

If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend Branagh's movie adaptation of the play. Among other things, it casts Derek Jacobi as the chorus, which is brilliant since Jacobi is best known for his BBC performance in the titular role of Richard II. It also casts a painfully young Christian Bale as Falstaff's page, so there's that, too (his performance would've been greatly improved if he'd done it in his Batman voice, but anymore I think that about almost all of Bale's performances).