|Just finished watching the HENRY V, the last of the Tom Hiddleston "Hollow Crown" sequence.
||[Oct. 13th, 2013|08:41 pm]
So, as most of you know, the BBC did a series called "The Hollow Crown", being filmed versions of RICHARD II, HENRY IV PART 1, HENRY IV PART 2, and HENRY V. The big draws of this were, first, that RICHARD II isn't performed that often, and there really aren't that many great film or television versions, and that the three HENRY plays would all be played by the same cast throughout, with Hiddleston as Prince Hal, later King Henry V.|
And I quite liked it, although I agree with the general feeling that Hiddleston's Hal is better than his King Henry, if that makes sense.
And it made me think about how I'd do it. And I think I know a take on it that would work, is supported by the text, and hasn't really been done that I've seen.
What if Prince Hal is basically a thug? He's played as a happy-go-lucky fool who then rises to the challenge when he becomes king, but what if he's a thug? What if his riotous younger days aren't basically happy, skippy, la-la-la drinking and whoring, but much more brutal -- street fights, muggings, brawling, blood? It's in the text -- "riotous", "brawling". What if we're looking at a mean, tough guy who has a sort of brutal charisma, and a hair trigger? I mean, he and his buddies are involved in mugging and robbing a bunch of pilgrims -- well, his buddies do, then he and one of his other friends mug them and steal the money back.
What happens with this -- establishing him as a violent thug -- is that a lot of the other scenes later work out better. There are a bunch of scenes in HENRY V which depend on other characters not being sure how Henry will react to things -- the Ambassador from France is genuinely worried that, when he delivers the mocking message from the Dauphin, Henry's going to kill him. When the soldier who has challenged Henry when Henry was in disguise finds out who he challenged, he's genuinely afraid that Henry will have him hanged. His ultimatum to Harfleur is, "Look, guys, you can surrender now, or we can break in and rape all the women, spit the babies on pikes, and smash everybody else's heads in with rocks, and I'm kind of hoping you go for Option 2" -- and it's believable.
And when Henry gets pissed off in the battle, he has everybody murder the French POWs. Not for any good reason; just because he's pissed off -- and the French attack on the baggage train is a response to that.
Basically, I guess I'm thinking that you could do something interesting by playing the Henry plays a bit more like the Godfather -- which is kind of the same plotline, isn't it? Except with Michael Corleone having to tone DOWN his brutality to take over.
Back when I was in college I read an essay about Henry V where the literary critic said much the same as you have here, except that your phrasing is much more entertaining. I remember that he noted a production of Henry IV Pt 1 where Hal gets the better of Hotspur with an underhanded street-fighting move, and wished for more of that.
Also, I would so watch your version. Twice if I could.
In this Hiddleston version, Hotspur gets Hal on the ground and disarmed and is about to deliver the killing blow, when Hal pulls out a holdout dagger and stabs Hotspur in the crotch, apparently severing the femoral artery.
Is that the sort of thing you're talking about?
Oooh, I look forward to seeing that! And I hope the critic whose name I can't remember lived to see it too!
I strongly commend the BBC Shakespeare's An Age of Kings to your attention. It's a 1960 production, released on DVD in 2009, of everything from Richard II to Richard III in order with a consistent cast, and its Hal/Henry V (Robert Hardy) is a sparkling Lymond-esque manipulator who can't stop playing games, even when it would be to his benefit; it does incredibly well at tying his younger days of fooling around in the pub with him being able to talk to the peasant soldiers in Henry V in ways none of the other nobles can.