Okay, I know I promised this post yesterday, but I didn’t get around to finishing Henry V until now. This story wasn’t a complete stranger to me like the past three in The Hollow Crown series, so I had an easier time following the plot. And actually, I didn’t have a problem understanding the language either–except for those times when there was very quickly spoken French and my rudimentary high school French couldn’t keep up.
This version opens with Henry V’s funeral. As I’ve been waiting for this particular episode, I’ve been reading about Henry V and his French queen Catherine. Henry, after his military victories, died at 35 from dysentery. He missed becoming king of France by two months, leaving his infant son as the king of two countries. France soon returned to the control of the French royal family, aided by Joan of Arc. England went into the turmoil of the Wars of the Roses. The queen Catherine took up with a Welshman named Own Tudor and became an ancestor of the Tudor dynasty.
So that’s the history. Personally, I think there’s a lot of potential there for fanfiction and alternative history stories.
Once we get into the story, we see that the prince Hal of Henry IV has turned into a serious, competent king. He invades France, starting with the port of Harfleur. And thus comes one of the famous speeches in this play, “Once more unto the breach.”
This is Tom Hiddleston, who plays Henry V, doing a version of it during press rounds for The Avengers.
The English lay siege to Harfleur, then take the town after Henry makes some pretty brutal threats towards its citizens. Then they march to Agincourt. In the meanwhile, his army is getting sick and dying.
Then the battle comes. The French outnumber them. Thus comes the “St. Crispin’s Day” speech. I was pleasantly surprised at the way it was delivered in this version. He wasn’t on a horse shouting at his whole army–you know, the motivational pre-battle speech that is so obligatory in movies that it’s a cliche–but speaking to his commanders and friends.
Agincourt was shorter than I thought it would be, as a scene. Anyway, the English win and we proceed to treaty negotiations. A big part of that is Henry’s marriage to the French princess Catherine. While the French king goes off to settle the treaty, Henry flirts with Catherine. I thought the scene was cute—kind of a return of the fun Prince Hal–but there is an awareness within me that Catherine was chattel.
Then we cut back to the king’s funeral.
I enjoyed the voiceover of the Chorus, particularly the last speech. It was fun to see recurring characters, though I did wonder where the king’s brothers were in all this–in real life, several of them were at Agincourt. Here, they’re not mentioned at all.
I really enjoyed this series. I feel all edumacated. I got to watch the current crush act brilliantly. I have new English voices in my head.