Reading/Watching Shakespeare: Henry IV – Part 2

In our next instalment of ‘The Life of Prince Hal’ we see the death of a king, Falstaff’s hilarious observations, a bit of homosexual innuendo and Prince Hal be a bit of a dick before making up in a half-assed attempt all while Hal decides which path to take; the one he has been on as a rascal or to reform his ways and become the king so many people wanted him to become. Spoiler alert – next play is Henry V.

The popular opinion among people who have read Shakespeare’s works is that Part 1 is far better than Part 2. Initially, I thought I would be one of the populace as well and although if I had to choose I would choose Part 1, I do think Part 2 has some fantastic moments that make it stand up in its own right.

Reading the play, I was a little confused to what was happening (even though I had read the synopsis). I have quickly learned that the best way is to push on and soon it should become clear as to what is happening. This play being my sixth, I am beginning to fall into the world of Shakespeare and have become familiar with the language that he uses. It is so eloquent that it is starting to make me despair for today’s words.

It is Falstaff’s soliloquy upon meeting him for the first time in this play that we see that not much has changed – apart from the fact he is now Sir John Falstaff, sometimes referred to as Jack. He talks about his new man-servant ‘Page’ who has been assigned to him to run errands. Always that the front of his mind is where he can find a good beer, which is where he sets off to find, departing from stage.

The actual watching of the play went quicker than I thought it would. This didn’t make the play anymore or less enjoyable. The scenes with Falstaff are of course, a delight to watch. I have decided that he reminds me of my uncle but could in be anyone’s uncle at a wedding: drunk, joyful and with a tall tale to tell. His scenes in Part 2, where he is in the company of Page, Pistol and in particular Justice Shallow and Justice Silence are some of my favourite scenes. They combine humor, homosexual innuendo, and drinking.

It is when Prince Hal, now known as Henry V, disowns his earlier life and ever knowing Falstaff that you can’t help but want to yell, ‘Don’t be a dick’ at the screen. It is amusing that almost instantly Henry V realises what he has said and turning back he explains that if Falstaff and his men do turn away the drink and become loyal subjects, he guesses that he will let them have an achievement, he supposes.

Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death, As I have done the rest of my misleaders, Not to come near our person by ten mile. For competence of life I will allow you, That lack of means enforce you not to evil: And, as we hear you do reform yourselves, We will, according to your strengths and qualities, Give you advancement…

Henry V (Act V, Scene V)

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