Comments: 15
Shakespeare definitely believed that internal strife makes a country weak -- he's foreshadowing it in RII and then elaborating on it in the two H-IV plays, and he definitely also lays it out in King John -- and in Julius Caesar (and to a certain extent, in other plays, such as Coriolanus and H-VI, Part 1). All of these plays, in one way or another, also drive home the idea that revolutions invariably end up eating their children.

Great catch on the sceptered isle theme vs. commodity (down to the "this -- this" rhythm, in fact).

He does something similar in H-IV, Part 2 vs. H-V: in both plays, the king emphasizes that the business of government doesn't allow the king to sleep and rest; only in H-IV, Part 2 it's the aging king who has essentially been ground down by the weight of the crown he has usurped, whereas in H-V it's the young, outwardly vigorous king who is beginning to discover the burdens of government (and uses this example to highlight what now distinguishes him from the common man, however much he would still like to be on a level with his subjects, and however little he believes that "majesty" deserves any sort of special adulation in his own right).

And yeah, for those reasons alone -- and for many others -- I do think Brooke entirely missed the point if he declared Shakespeare's histories "worthless".

I've got the Arkangel "King John", too, btw ... it was one of the first productions from the series I acquired! :) I definitely agree with the recommendation, both for the audiobook itself and as a companion to reading the play.
There's been a very long running academic discussion of whether/how Shakespeare addressed the question of what makes a "good" King in the history plays and what conclusions can be drawn. I'm not buying Brooke's blanket negaive assessment - the Henry V trilogy has an enormous amount to say to the attentive listener/watcher/reader and I can't believe any serious critic is genuinely blind to all of it.
BrokenTune 3 years ago
@TA: "utterly worthless". Let's say I came away from Brooke's book with the impression that he was a bit of a tosser.

@TA & Arbie:

Anyway, I still have have all of the Henry IVs and V to look forward to, and Cymbeline, and a proper read of Julius Caesar. Obviously, HIV and JC will be swiftly followed by an evening with popcorn and the dvds of the Donmar Warehouse productions. :)

I'm really looking forward to all of them for exactly that question of how Shakespeare addresses the issue of the burden of the crown. I thought the glimpses we see in RII were fab but I am aware that the later Henrys are the ones to watch out for.
Yep. And the "ceremony" speech in Henry V ("What infinite heart's-ease must kings neglect, that private men enjoy!"). The Agincourt battle speech (St. Crispin's Day) is getting quoted and cited to death, but if I were to pinpoint my one favorite moment (or soliloquy) in H-V, it would be this one, not the St. Crispin's Day speech.
HV - my favourites are by the Chorus. "A muse of fire"!
Check out the Ken Brannagh HV - it's great.
I love the Kenneth Branagh Henry V -- own it and have watched it countless times. And who could possibly beat Derek Jacobi as the chorus in the "Muse of Fire" speech? :)
Yep - Jacobi was tremendous. I had the great good fortune to see him on stage as Uncle Vanya, many years ago, now. I remember his face slowly turning purple as Vanya got angry and finally blew his stack in one scene. Amazing.
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Right, so the Branagh version is worth watching? I'll take note of that.
BrokenTune 3 years ago
But, I'd probably end up watching it for Jacobi anyway. I mean, who am I kidding?
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Btw, thank you both for chiming in on the Will's World posts and updates. It's a fun project but it definitely makes it even better when people in the know add some pointers.
Well, I remember greatly enjoying you and TA interacting with me when I was working on my Complete Works and elsewhere!
@Arbie: That "Uncle Vanya" must have been amazing.

@BT: The Branagh H-V is definitely worth it -- and incidentally, not only for Jacobi but also for Branagh himself, who was still very "unspoiled" at the time, and in a way is the perfect embodiment of the young king. -- There's something else I really like about that movie, though, and that's the production values, because the movie really shows war for the dirty thing it really is. Unlike in the Olivier Henry V (which is from the middle of WWII and is one giant propaganda and "boost the morale" piece), in Branagh's movie there is absolutely no doubt about the fact that there is absolutely *nothing* glorious about war.

Oh, and Branagh also brings in the "back story", so to speak (in a similar way as the first scenes from McKellen's RIII, which are taken from H-VI, Part 3). You get to meet Falstaff ... in the pivotal scene between him and Prince Hal.
I've seen several productions of Chekhov plays but Uncle Vanya is the most memorable buy a long stretch.
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Is it the Jacobi Vanya that is memorable or Vanya as a play in general?

I've not seen Vanya performed, only The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, and Three Sisters. Tho, they all kinda blend into one for me.
Because of Jacobi's performance. As plays, all those I've seen were equally good, really.