Henry IV (Part I): Screening Review – A compelling work of art

The stories of kings and their kingdoms have always been insightful. William Shakespeare gives us a look into the past with Henry IV. Divided into two parts, this play tackles the upheaval of England and the rule of Henry IV. But the best part about this play is Falstaff. The rotund, corpulent, comic and witty Sir John Falstaff is the true focus of this play. You will be lost in the verses and marvel at the humor that Shakespeare weaves.
 
Directed by Gregory Doran, Henry IV (Part I) takes place after the deposition of Richard II. You are shown how uneasy the crown lies upon his head. He is haunted by the ghost of Richard II. Henry IV is portrayed as a shadow of his former self. Thrown into the mix is the Prince of Wales, Hal, and his merry band of men. We are shown how quickly disloyalty and treason spread. While Richard II took place in the court and in the halls of nobility, Henry IV is set on the cheap side of London, the dark pubs and streets. And in true Shakespearean fashion, a character emerges who makes you laugh and think. That character is Falstaff. A jolly, fat knight in the company of Prince Hal. He is the beating heart of the play, with the best lines and filled with wondrous joie de vivre. Now the kingship of Henry IV is threatened by the very same friends who helped him depose Richard. As the clouds of war gather, Prince Hal faces the challenge of rising up in the ranks. But the years of bawdy behaviour and wasteful meandering have made him a foolhardy prince. Does he rise? Or fall? All the while, Falstaff makes merry. He is the man who knows the true price of honor and the dangers that face him. Truly, he shines throughout the play.
 
 
The Royal Shakespeare Company gives us this marvellously comical and compelling play. Falstaff is played by Sir Anthony Sher. He plays his role to the hilt. You will smile every time you see him take the stage. In the course of the play, you are introduced to Hotspur and Hal, played by Trevor White and Alex Hassell. These two are polar opposites. One is warlike and hot-blooded, the other is a man whose joys are pubs, women and making merry. In the latter part of the play, this conflict comes to a head. But you will be blown away by Sher’s performance. He is the spirit of the play. Loud and full of life, he gets you to feel the plight of an old knight. It is Falstaff who transforms the play from a courtly drama to a comical delight. The battle scene at the end of the play is truly wonderful. Filled with sword fights, drums and smoke, the battle will give you an idea of how the public was entertained in the Elizabethan age. All the while, there is Falstaff, larger than life and delivering the best lines in the play.
 
Why should you watch this film?
For Falstaff. This play screening is not stuffy or highbrowed. It is bawdy, simple and brash. Henry IV (Part I) is one of two parts. The second one deals with the failing health of Henry and the rise of Prince Hal. But here, Henry IV (Part I) is a delight for the senses. Falstaff reminds us about the little pleasures of life: to eat, drink and be merry for honor doesn’t come cheap. All in all, an amazing piece of Shakespeare. 

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