Shakespeare, Shakespeare who doesn’t like Shakespeare? He was one of the most prominent poets, writers and actors of the sixteenth century.He wrote approximately 40 plays, 154 sonnets and various different works. It seems like everyone wants to experience Shakespeare’s world nowadays. Most of his plays have been performed on stage and made into films.There are over 420 feature films based on the writer’s plays. I found Kenneth Branagh and Richard Eyre to be my favourite directors of William Shakespeare’s work, having said that it’d be an unforgivable mistake not to mention Franco Zeffirelli’s, unbelievably fantastic, Hamlet (1990), for which he received two Oscars nominations.I was delighted when I heard that BBC Two decided to make a stunning new series ‘The Hollow Crown’ based on four of Shakespeare’s plays:Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 & 2 and Henry V.It’s a tale of three Kings,their rise and fall and how their lives and destiny shaped United Kingdom’s history.
Shakespeare’s Richard II was a cruel,vindictive and irresponsible king,who attained a semblance of greatness only after his fall from power.Ben Whishaw’s performance as King Richard II was mesmerizing.However, Richard Eyre’s (Iris, Note on a Scandal)adaptation of Henry IV Part 1 & 2 aroused my interests more.Probably because of Jeremy Irons (The House of the Spirits, The Borgias)and his outstanding understanding of Shakespeare’s world.I knew he would be a perfect Henry IV.
Henry IV (Jeremy Irons),after overthrowing Richard II, reigns England filled with civil war and fear that his elder son, Hal (Tom Hiddleston: Archipelago, Midnight in Paris)will not be able to rule the country after the King’s death.Prince Hal spends his time in idle pleasure with dissonant friends,among them roguish Sir John Falstaff(Simon Russell Beale: The Deep Blue Sea,My Week with Marilyn),a liar,crook and an opportunist.Together they get drunk,laugh at the King and simply misbehaved.Their relationship resemble that of ‘father and son’ until the Kingdom is threatened by rebellious forces.Henry IV gradually loses the support of the very men who went against Richard II, and a plot against him is being planned. It’d be Hotspur (Joe Armstrong: Land Girls, Robin Hood),an ambitious and fearless individual,who would lead the Army against Henry IV.Shakespeare gathered all his protagonists at Shrewsbury,where faith of the Kingdom would be decided.This is the time when Hal must abandon his reckless ways. He bravely faces the battle and kills his cousin Hotspur, giving him the victory over the Welsh rebels.
After awhile King Henry IV grows increasingly sick. He is still worried about what will happen when his wayward son becomes king. Prince Hal comes back to palace in London, where his father gives him a tongue-lashing, and Hal, in an elegant speech, vows that he will be a responsible king. King Henry IV comes to believe that his son can and will live out to his expectations. Henry IV forgives him and then dies. This scene was perfectly captured between Irons and Hiddleston. I couldn’t stop myself from sobbing.
After the rebels have been executed,Hal is formally crowned as King Henry V.Falstaff and his companions decide to come to London to greet him, unfortunately,the King rejects Falstaff telling him he must never come within 10 miles of the King or Court again. He can have a pension but the King will have nothing to do with him.Heartbroken Falstaff is escorted by Knights and lives the Court.Hal begins a great and compelling transformation from irresponsible reprobate to a noble ruler of men as King Henry V.
I have to admit that Henry IV Part 1 & 2 was filled with outstanding performances.I wasn’t able to point out any bad ones.I absolutely loved Simon Russell Beale’s character. He’s an interesting individual.Funny yet tragic.I was left emotionally drained after seeing the tavern scene,when Falstaff plays Hal and pleads to Prince not to leave him behind.Also the scene when Falstaff is rejected by newly crowed King Henry V affected me deeply.Emotional and superb performance from both Simon and Tom. Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston as father and son was the best combination I have ever seen. They were so convincing in their roles that you’d easily think they were father and son in real life! Jeremy Irons,well it’s Jeremy Irons: brilliant,mesmerizing and unforgettable portrait of Henry IV. The entire cast deserves an applause!I have to admit that the cinematography by Ben Smithard was beautiful. The film score by Stephen Warbeck also caught my attention.I think it was the most interesting adaptation of Henry IV Part 1 & 2 in a long time.
‘The Hollow Crown’ will be available on DVD in October 2012.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Picture courtesy of DEZMOND