Reading/Watching Shakespeare: Henry IV – Part 1

Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack and unbuttoning thee after supper and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.

Prince Hal (Act I, Scene II)

Even though this play is entitled; Henry IV  – Part I, we all know that it’s in fact Prince Hal (also known as Prince Henry, also to be known as the future Henry V) who is the true main character of the play and one character that most people remember after reading the play. This play could be seen as part of a trilogy of plays (Henry IV – Part 1 and 2 and Henry V) that together for the bildungsroman of Prince Hal.

The main conflict in the play is the start of what will be known as The War of The Roses, is a rebellion against The King that is brewing. While Henry IV tries to decide a plan of attack, he also deals with his displeasure of Prince Hal’s antics by taking him to along to the battlefields, most likely hoping that getting him away from the taverns and women, to bring him back into line.

I had seen this play performed live prior to reading it as my friend who challenged me to read these plays actually played Prince Hal in an Australian Shakespeare Company production I saw while living in Melbourne although I couldn’t remember exactly what the play was about.

After having the background of Richard II and reading the basic plot summary I found myself easing int this slowly, one scene a night, for the first few nights. This was not because it was heavy going, it was more because I got tired extremely quickly and I didn’t want any brain fog while reading the book, I found this the best way to attack this play.

Prince Hal has taken the position of 2nd favourite character; however, this post cannot be finished without a mention of Falstaff. Playing a father-figure to Prince Hal, he reminds me of the drunk uncle at Christmas who would have those stories that he tells every year.

Roger Allam as Falstaff

I loved watching this play too, I watched the Globe 2010 production with Jamie Parker as Prince Hal and Roger Allam as Falstaff are two actors with chemistry that reminds me of Timon and Pumba. They are a delight to watch, making me laugh with glee at their sparring. As they play the parts in The Globe’s Part 2 production, I am thoroughly looking forward to watching it.

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