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Category Archives: English

Henry V

(DISCLAIMER: the post is a bit thick today.  If it’s too much, sorry.  I just really like Henry V 8/ )

In case you haven’t noticed from the particular books and plays I have reviewed, I am a History nerd/dork.  For my Early Shakespeare class this semester, we were charged with reading Henry V; we just finished it a week or two ago.  And, I’m maybe a little obsessed?  I bought myself, for an early birthday present, Jamie Parker’s Henry V, Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, and the complete Hollow Crown cycle (the first one, not the War of the Roses cycle).  I also rented Laurence Olivier’s version of Henry V.  Again, a little obsessed.

Why am I obsessed with Henry V?  I don’t really know.  There are certain stories and types of stories that just seem to be really enjoyable for me.  If we clump Henry V with Arthurian legend, maybe it will make a bit more sense.  My professor bemoaned that we would not be able to read the whole Henry cycle, Henry IV through Henry V, because you really get  Henry V’s whole story arc.  But, semester’s have only a certain amount of time in them.

Henry V, unlike many of the plays I’ve read, first, has a chorus, and two, starts with the chorus.  The chorus pretty much lies out what the story is going to be about, and then gives a disclaimer, saying ‘we ain’t got that big a budget, y’all, fill in the gaps.  It’s gonna be great.’  More or less.  We then see the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking with another clergyman about how great Henry is, despite the fact that he was a rascal as a youth.  They go in to speak to the king and tell him that he has a legitimate claim to the French throne.  The King decides to pursue this claim on French fields.  We cut to some of the people Henry used to hang out with as a prince.  They are the comic relief.  Some interesting things happen in the context of Henry’s whole arc, but  we won’t go into too much detail here.  Henry punishes some traitors who were once friends of his, and everyone sails to France.  We have the Battle of Harfluer, some intermediary scenes, then the night before the Battle of Agincourt.

Henry walked among his men to raise their spirits, but then he decides to go spend some time alone; “I and my bosom must debate awhile, and then I would no other company (4.1.31-32).”  But that doesn’t last long.  Some characters we have already met enter and have some interaction either with the king or simply before him, giving Henry an insight into what his men really think.  Then, Henry talks with some new characters; Williams, Bates, and Court.  They aren’t happy or excited about going to battle the next day and they don’t want to be there.  They are critical of the King’s war, unbeknownst to themselves, in front of the king.  These characters push Henry to give a refutation, and then to trade gloves with Williams; a promise to fight him later.  After all exit, Henry gives some powerful monologues, and then the Battle of Agincourt begins. (We will skip the Battle of Agincourt, because this post is already turning out longer than I anticipated.)

After the Battle of Agincourt, we skip a year or so to the Treaty de Troyes and the wooing of Katherine, which, when played right (Jamie Parker’s version, specifically), is hysterical.  Katherine and Henry do not speak each others’ language, so have a barrier they must converse through.  In the end, Henry receives Katherine through the Treaty, and Henry and his future issue are made the heirs of France.  But, the chorus reminds the audience that Henry died young, and his son, Henry VI loses the throne of France.

This play is just so good, especially depending on how it is performed.  So. Good.  The rating? 10/10, would read again (and again…. and again…..)

Have you read Henry V?  What person from History are you obsessed with right now?  Share your comments below!  And, until next time, keep reading and be kind, folks!

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The Bedford Shakespeare

This copy of a selection of Shakespeare’s plays was required by my Early Shakespeare professor.  It is based on the New Cambridge Shakespeare Edition, and is not complete.  It includes significant portion, though: The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, The Merchant of Venice, Henry IV.I, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV.II, As You Like It, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Othello, Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, and the Tempest.

It is an acceptable version, for sure.  The type is larger than my Dad’s copy and is easily read, there are lots of pictures of performances of the plays and quotes from actors and other people on certain parts of the plays, and the copy includes side bars, asides, and context ‘essays’ for lack of a better term, along with the footnotes.  The footnotes are not as complete as my Dad’s copy, the are not noted in the text it self, and there are certain details, such as scene breaks and lines, that are different between the two.

Specifically, with regard to the footnotes, Shakespeare frequently makes references to ‘rubs,’ which is a reference to the game of bowls that Elizabethans would have been familiar with.  My Dad’s copy points the reader to an appendices that discusses bowls so that the reader has a deeper understanding of what Shakespeare was trying to evoke by using the term.  This copy does not note references to ‘rub’ in such a way.  It is a small instance, but it’s there, none the less.

All in all, I think it is a good copy for studying.  There is a lot more room for note taking, so I give it 9/10.  Not my favorite, but it has different strengths.  So, having both is very helpful.

Is there a book you have were you prefer one copy over another?  Are you nit-picky about footnotes and how they present in a book?  Share your thoughts!  Until next time, keep reading and stay kind!

 

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The Complete Works of Shakespeare

So, I’m a total Shakespeare nerd.  For real.  It all started in fifth grade when I stole my Dad’s copy of the Complete Works from when he was in high school and memorized Hamlet’s to be or not to be soliloquy for a talent night.  This will be a review of Dad’s copy (cause I still think of it as Dad’s copy, despite the fact that it is effectively mine), then I’ll review the copy I’m using in class this semester, then through specific plays.

Dad’s copy was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and edited by G.B. Harrison.  There is a TON of information in this copy.  There is lots of information in the introduction, which is made up of multiple parts, there are plates with pictures and illustrations to help you visualize as you’re reading, and really complete appendices.  The footnotes are A GOD-SEND.  These footnotes are very detailed and complete, giving a wonderful glimpse into Elizabethan theater.  The footnotes are denoted in the text itself with a small circle, which makes it easy to know what is addressed and what is not.  There are also interesting comments about the different quartos and folios.

Being a copy of the complete works, it also gives a treatment of Shakespeare’s verse, which are also helpfully footnoted.  This copy was also owned by my Dad, so his scribbles are in the copy as well, which I really love.  Not because what he wrote was particularly insightful, but simply by virtue of its being his handwriting.  I also just really like books that have writing in them; it makes me feel like Harry reading from the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of a text book.x

On a different note, it smells fantastic.  If smart were a smell, that is what this smells like, honestly.  It’s last copyright date is 1965 and some of the sources mentioned in the Reading List it also gives at the end are dated in the early-mid 70s.  So, the book is at least around forty years old.  Apparently, it was a very good year. 😉

This copy is an 11/10.  I absolutely adore it, and I’ve used it even in the class I’m doing this semester for its footnotes.  This maybe in part because it was my first copy, it was my Dad’s copy, or simply because of the smell. I really don’t care though.  The rating stands.

Do any of you have a copy, of Shakespeare or otherwise, that you adore?  Not just for the content, but because of some other characteristic?  I’d love to hear about it!  Until next time, keep reading and be kind!

 

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Becket by Jean Anouilh

This is one of my favorite plays ever.  I love the story of Thomas A’Becket, anyways, but this play makes the story very palatable.

I found this play through Netflix, actually.  I found the movie version with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton playing Henry the (number) and Thomas Becket, respectively.  They were phenomenal. Then, I found out it was a play, and bought the script as soon as I could.

The story of Thomas Becket begins with Becket and the King.  Henry and Becket are friends, doing all sorts of horrible things.  Because Henry likes Becket, he keeps promoting his friend, who is a Saxon, which drives the Norman Lords mad.  Henry is also fighting with the Catholic Church in England.  His great-(insert correct number)-grandfather, William the Conqueror promised the church that he would not collect taxes from them or their land.  Henry, on the other hand, is fighting a war and needs every bit of cash he can get his hands on.  He is also fighting with the Church over who has judicial authority.  If the King is King of all the land, he should have judicial authority over members and clergy of the Church on his lands.  However, the Church argued that he had no authority over clergy, and the Church argued its right to divvy out punishments as it saw fit, as well.  This drove Henry crazy.

But, Henry thought he figured it out.  When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, he figured he would place his old pal, Becket, in that position.  Becket asked the King not to promote him to Archbishop, but Henry would not have it.  So, when Becket became Archbishop, he started upholding the Church’s positions instead of Henry’s.  Henry felt betrayed.  One day, in frustration, he yelled, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!”  Some of his Lords heard him, and rushed to Canterbury, where they murdered Becket in his own church.  Henry was heartbroken; he didn’t mean what he had said.  To appease the church and his people, who quite liked Becket, he agreed to strip and go under the lashings of several monks from Becket’s church (which was unheard of.  Most kings would have never subjected themselves to that).

Rating: 10/10, would read again.  (and again….and again…..)

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Books, Classics, English, Library Updates, Plays

 

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Beowulf

Beowulf is fantastic!  I started it once and couldn’t get into it, but then  I read it for an English class when I was 13-14, and it was fantastic!  This is a book where you want to find a friend or a class to read it with, or you won’t enjoy it as much.

Beowulf is about a badass warrior who comes to a kingdom to kill their monster.  No one has succeeded in this task, but Beowulf with the strength of fifteen men in one hand, smites the monster.  The monster’s mom is very angry about this, so Beowulf kills her, too.  Eventually, Beowulf becomes king,and when he’s 80+ years old, he takes a little kid with him to go smite a dragon.  He kills the dragon, but dies because of it.  He only dies because he’s 80+ years old fighting a dragon.

Beowulf was written by at least two authors; one pagan author and one Christian author.  It’s often pretty evident where one ends and one begins.  Try it out for yourselves!

It is interesting to read Beowulf alongside Gawain and the Green Knight, to contrast the themes of masculinity between them.  Arguably, Beowulf is closer to what we think of as manly; he’s super strong and heroic, but really that means fighting dragons and monsters.  Not much else.  Gawain, on the other hand, may dress in satin and silk with birds and flowers embroidered all over him, but he is more selfless and protective of those around him.  (I could say more, but I’ll save that for my Gawain the Green Knight review.)

Rated 10/10, would read again.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2016 in Books, Classics, English, Library Updates

 

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