Monday, March 14, 2011

Hanq Cinq

I've mentioned before that Hal from the Henry IV plays is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, possibly because he, like me, was a bit of a late bloomer; now, I won't say I went on, after sucking in early life, to win a battle for my country that is the equivalent of Hal's Victory at Agincourt (French for "Court of Teh [v]Agin[a]"), but I did run an extra 1/100th of a mile in my 6.91-mile run this morning so FUCK YOU, PEACHY ESCARGOT, JUST FUCK YOU!1!!1!1

As I wrote when I discussed the Henry IV plays, they are about Hal's coming of age, about his giving up of the selfish and hedonistic ways of his youth to become a man worthy of a kingdom. In 1HIV, he proves himself in battle against his counterpart, Hotspur; in 2HIV, he rejects Falstaff (and the sybaritic lifestyle he represents) entirely and, rather than take revenge upon the Chief Justice who had had him jailed for his youthful transgressions, Hal praises him for his impartiality and adherence to the rule of law as it pertains to all, both high and low.

Henry V is about Hal becoming the warrior king he had always had the potential to become. There is little humor in Henry V — Falstaff dies in it, but the death happens offstage and is merely reported and not dwelt upon. Henry V, while not entirely bereft of humor, is a far more serious drama because the stakes are much higher and the odds that need to be overcome are much greater. Some of Shakespeare's most rousing speeches are in this play, not the least of which is Henry's own St. Crispin's Day speech, in which he convinces his men that they should embrace the fact that they will face overwhelming odds at Agincourt come dawn because the glory of victory will be all the greater. That's a tough sell. Henry's men buy it, but, more important, so will you, the reader (or, if you're lucky enough to see a performance, you, the audience).

After reading the play then going back to read The Riverside Shakespeare's introduction to the play, I was taken aback by the fact that Herschel Baker, the introduction's author, opted to dwell on past "critical dissatisfaction" with the play. Hazlitt, Johnson and a few others take turns taking a dump on Henry V, mostly because of the character of Henry V. They are especially harsh regarding the play's ending. At the end of the play, when Henry woos the King of France's daughter (who speaks little English2), it certainly strains credulity, but I think a case could be made that Shakespeare hits the exact right note with the air of awkwardness and unbelievability of that scene. Henry, after all, is wooing the daughter of the French King, whose county He has just basically taken over; and the marriage (the actual, historical one) was more a Realpolitik consolidation-of-interests deal than a Love Match; yet Shakespeare attempts to sell it as a love match nonetheless, but doesn't sell it very well — intentionally? Who knows? Still, to my mind, the scene has a certain charm to it, and I caught how Branagh and Thompson did it and it is, in its way, touching, as Henry tries to win a heart without having command of the typical lover's words. Katherine does not speak the English language; Henry does not speak the language of love. Until he does.

That, I think, is the point of this scene, not its weakness.

1 He knows what he did!1!!1! As for the undoubtedly confused rest of you, let me put it this way: Tweets can HURT, you know!1! So don't be a hatah and a character Tweetsasinator.

2 One of the few humorous interludes in the play is the scene in which Katherine attempts to learn English from her attendant, Alice, but is embarrassed when the English she speaks ends up sounding like a French vulgarity. I'd tell you what, but I don't use vulgarities on this blog, especially not bilingual punning vulgarities.


  1. G-I just came across this pic this am; then, poof...your post appears...I think you'll get a laugh out of it. It's captioned "English--Why You Must Learn It" Hope the URL works.

  2. Thanks, G. Your nuttiness always make me smile. Sorry you have have been frustrated so much recently with the blog monster having EATED your comments.

    Again, I "select all," "copy," post comment, then "refresh" the comment page before I leave to make sure it is there. If my comment was eated, then I paste the original words into another try, trying also to not forget to "copy" that again in case the blog monster is REALLY hungry. Takes only an extra couple of seconds.
    Works every time!

  3. Oh, almost forgot...yes, go hug for you and one for me.

    At least, we're even in the comments division this time.

  4. Hey, G--Get your ass over to RBR's blog...before some other a$$hole gets there. I'm gonna let you be FIRST this'll know why I think you deserve to be first when yolu read it.
    Have a nice day, Ann
    PS--you can credit me if you want ;)