Henry IV (Part II): Screening Review – Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

Henry IV (Part II) is the melancholic, comedic and touching conclusion of the saga of King Henry IV. The Royal Shakespeare Company delivers a brilliant take on this classic. We are taken back to the court and the lives of pre-Elizabethan London. England is recovering from Civil War and the power of the monarchy is under threat. Truly “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”. King Henry IV is sick and troubled, beset with guilt and tired of civil unrest. Prince Hal has still not mended his ways and Falstaff is revelling in his newfound glory. The rebellion is in its death throes. And Shakespeare brings all of this to a stunning conclusion. You are left with a feeling of sadness and hope. Unusual, yes, but true enough to the history of England. 

Gregory Doran directs the second part of Henry IV. As the artistic director of the company, he has given this play a marvellous touch. Through the cast and the sets, you are thrown into the ending of Henry IV’s reign. Is there hope for Prince Hal? Will he take the throne and turn into the king that England deserves? The play sees the return of some characters from Henry IV (Part I) and the introduction of a few more. Shakespeare includes some wonderful moments of comedy and sadness into the play. You will feel the agony and uncertainty of Prince Hal, the happiness and sadness of Falstaff and then, you will see the change in the roles of Henry IV. In Part I, the primary character is Falstaff, but he is no longer just the comic relief, he is a reflection of what Shakespeare felt. A characterization, if you will, of his age and the changing fortunes of England. With some amazing speeches which vary from an ode to alcohol to a son professing his love for his father, this play takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. In the end, you see the ascension of Prince Hal and the beginnings of the next play in the teratology: Henry V. 
 
The cast and crew of the play are wonderful once again. Sir Antony Sher delivers a wonderfully nuanced and controlled performance as Falstaff. Alex Hassell is brilliant as Prince Hal. Jasper Britton does a truly amazing turn as King Henry IV. But the people you have to look out for are Antony Byrne, who plays Pistol, and Oliver Ford Davies as Shallow. These two characters will make you smile from ear to ear with their words. On the whole, the play gives us a look into the change in the courts of England. In fact, it leaves you with a build-up for Henry V. In the end, you are left with a feeling of wonderment and satisfaction. 
 
Why should you watch this movie? 
An amazing conclusion to the saga of Henry IV. The world of Shakespeare is once again open for exploration. You will enjoy every minute of it. As Falstaff, Sir Anthony Sher reminds us of our mortality and the need for change. Henry IV (Part II) is a play that must be watched and enjoyed. 

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