WIL Festival 6.2: “The First Part of Henry IV”

 Plays about the life and times of Henry V, affectionately referred to as Hal (Nikolas Hoback), were big business in 1580s and ’90s England. There were multiple versions, some treating him as a hero and others as a villain who comes to be reformed, before William Shakespeare came on the scene. The History play genre was a new thing, brought to great success by an earlier company called the Queen’s Men. (Check out their plays, here.) I am convinced by Jim Marino’s argument that “The First Part of Henry IV with the life and death of Henry sir-named Hotspurre” was a revision, rethought by Shakespeare as part of a tetralogy, what some call the “Henriad” after Homer’s Iliad, rather than a stand-alone piece.

Similar to thinking about Shakespeare as an expert reviser, watching an “original practice” or First Folio performance take on any of the plays challenges your assumptions about what is and isn’t there. I discussed in a previous post the useful and necessary fiction that are critical editions of plays: they pull together all the extant versions of a play with a name like “King Lear” into one place. This isn’t really a different act than Shakespeare’s revising an old play new again, except that critical editing isn’t interested in (and typically doesn’t retain) performative coherence. And it’s not objective either: critical editing creates its own myths about what we want a play to mean at a particular point in time. Watching an O.P. production, a performance that picks one version of Shakespeare’s text and sticks with it, illuminates just what those myths are.

So what happened in this performance, where the actors trust their text?

From left: Mikki Lipsey (Duke of Northumberland) and Isabella Buckner (Hotspurre).

Continue reading “WIL Festival 6.2: “The First Part of Henry IV””

Upcoming reviews for In The Glassy Margents

Back in 2014, I reviewed a series of teleplays produced by the BBC called The Hollow Crown. Starring Tom Hiddleston, the three-part miniseries based on William Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” “1 Henry IV,” “2 Henry IV,” and “Henry V” was distributed by NBC Universal in the U.S. and aired on PBS.

For the original reviews, click here.

 Having earned several awards and a following via unexpected DVD and VOD sales, this winter PBS is airing the second installment, called The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, featuring “1 Henry VI,” “2 Henry VI,” and “Richard III,” with Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role. I am happy to say that I will again be reviewing the series, but this time for my friends over at In The Glassy Margents over the next few weeks. I’ll post the links as they become available here.

The series is still streaming for free on PBS through early January, and via Amazon VOD ($5 for the season).

From left: Tom Sturridge (Henry VI), director Dominic Cooke, and Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret) on set.

Continue reading “Upcoming reviews for In The Glassy Margents”