Henry IV, Parts I & II

On two separate evenings, I immersed myself in the world of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at BAM. (April 6 for Henry IV part I and last night for part II.) I must say, it’s been great to see the lively commentary about the plays on BAM’s blog. I am new to the Henriad, so each of the four performances are firsts for me. I am seeing them in order (my thoughts on Richard II are here. I will see Henry V next week.) I have not read these plays, so imagine my delight at encountering the character of Falstaff for the first time, with the exuberant Antony Sher in the role — now as my benchmark! The advantage of being new to these works is the delicious experience of viewing each one fresh (as in beginner’s mind). I have no preconceived ideas about how the plays “should” be. The disadvantage is that I most certainly missed dialogue that was difficult to hear, and without knowing the plays in depth, may not have had as clear a sense of them as more experienced viewers. That said, I thought both of the Henry IV plays were fabulous. Is it bad that Falstaff eclipsed every other character in both plays? Perhaps. Was Prince Hal a little weak in the role? Maybe. Was Hotspur like a toddler throwing a tantrum? I think so. But I was deeply engaged in both plays, loved the sets and costumes, and I have walked away from each one enriched and entertained. I would like to think the Bard would be well satisfied. As for my favorite? So far I am most drawn to Richard II, although Falstaff is going to be sorely missed. I’ll cast a final vote after I see Henry V!

Henry IV, Part II

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