November Books 30) Henry IV Part 2

30) The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, by William Shakespeare

I seem to have lost a bit of pace with my Shakespeare project – this is only my third one this month, and I’m not rushing to tick off Henry V this weekend. But at least progress is in a forward direction – I am 40% of the way through.

It’s a curious play, with a lot of good scenes (and some very famous quotes) which are not tied together particularly well. The plot is essentially the hubris and fall of Falstaff, against a background of high politics where King Henry IV dies and passes on not just the office but the role of kingship to his son Henry V. Falstaff’s story is much more interesting than the warring aristocrats, and the young prince Henry seems much less in the action than in the previous play, though he gets the killer line “I know you not, old man” in the last scene. Henry IV himself does get some good lines, especially in his dying scenes, but we had a lot of faffing around with rebellious Archbishops and Welshmen before we got there.

Richard Griffiths as Falstaff and Julian Glover as Henry IV carry the Arkangel production. Jamie Glover as Prince Hal has a disastrous concept of blank verse, and perhaps I would have liked the play more with a different actor in that role. Ex-Catweazle (and alternate Doctor) Geoffrey Bayldon is good as Shallow.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love’s Labour’s Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night’s Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All’s Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter’s Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

One thought on “November Books 30) Henry IV Part 2

  1. The botching of Early Modern English is unfortunately commonplace, particularly among American writers. (Here’s me complaining about it in the English translation of Super Paper Mario.) There seems to be a constituency with no real awareness that it was a real language with real grammatical rules, and who think that all they need to do is to throw in a few “thee”s and “thou”s to give their dialogue a medieval flavour. After a while this kind of thing becomes self-perpetuating, because there are generations of readers whose only encounter with the language is via popular culture rather than Shakespeare and the Authorized Version.

    The reaction to Bourke’s review is equally commonplace. There’s a standard playbook that gets applied to bad reviews: the critic is an arrogant out-of-touch academic; the critic is a failed author who is jealous of the success of the author under review; the book is just a bit of fun so how dare you take it seriously?; the popularity of the author shows that the critic is wrong; something that happens in the next book in the series contradicts one of the critic’s points, thus invalidating everything the critic has to say; everyone is entitled to their opinion (except the critic), so how dare the critic say that people who like the book are wrong?

    But why such a vitriolic and personal response, and why so common? It’s as if people feel that an attack on a book they enjoyed is an attack on their taste, and so a personal attack on their competence as a reader, and so they feel justified in making a personal attack on the critic.

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