The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 1 (Preliminaries)

Update: My work here is done, people – I am retiring from blogging on this high note!

I did get a chance to watch BBC’s second installment of Shakespeare’s “history plays” last weekend – The Hollow Crown – but I went back and reread the play and I think that it is definitely an odd one. It is a play that is not primarily about Henry IV (read the play here). Most of it is about Henry V and Falstaff (and partially about Harry Percy and even less about the rebellion). My academic instinct tells me I must read what Harold Bloom thinks about it or something, but I’m too lazy to do a proper Shakespearean research paper here. Here are some quick amateur remarks then: Continue reading

The Hollow Crown (BBC, 2012): Richard II

BBC undertook to create four long film versions of Shakespeare’s “history plays” – Richard II, Henry IV (Part 1 and Part 2) and Henry V. The cast for each play is impressive, and judging by Richard II that already aired, they are all at the top of their game (even if it is  odd to see David Suchet aka Poirot play Duke of York and Patrick Stewart aka dude from Startrek play John of Gaunt).

Richard II was very good, I thought. It was slow and thoughtful, not overwhelming with narrative detail and sudden changes of characters that often confuses the viewer like myself (and looking up who is who in the play is too bothersome). It does however paint a rather strange picture of Richard II who in Shakespeare’s play, I think, it’s not a very likable character.  In this interpretation he comes across as a Jesus figure (which is either an attempt to redeem Richard II and every oppressive king or an attempt to portray Jesus as a kind of king who is unlike any other king etc etc ). Richard II does not care for either his supporters among the noble nor his people – he robs both in order to pursue his wars in Ireland. And yet when Bolingbrook takes over, makes him give up the crown and eventually causes his death (not directly but certainly not without some indirect encouragement), Richard is suddenly a martyr. A martyr for what?  Continue reading