July 19, 2004

Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 (Abridged)

What do you get if you mash Henry IV, Part 1 together with Henry IV, Part 2 and then use a chainsaw to cut it down to three hours? You get a pretty good play that is the interwoven story of three main characters: Sir John Falstaff, Prince Hal, and Henry IV.

"Prince Hal is a lot like George W. Bush," said the Fourteen-Year-Old.

He's definitely onto something. In my opinion, the California Shakespeare Theater missed a big opportunity by not explicitly drawing the parallels: have Prince Hal use Bush-like syntax mangling, play up the lines where Henry IV warns Prince Hal of the illegitimacy of the dynasty and advises Hal to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels", and cut short the end so that the Coronation-Reformation scenes are at least ambiguous, and it would have been a very interesting interpretation.

Posted by DeLong at July 19, 2004 12:57 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

The problem is that I can never see Bush growing up into someone who could deliver the St. Crispin's Day speech...

Posted by: Chris Lehmann on July 18, 2004 09:36 PM

____

Henry VI part 3 and Richard III can be seen as two halves of a whole and can be mashed together. In Olivier’s Richard III they spliced in a lot of lines from Henry VI.

Posted by: Harry Hutton on July 18, 2004 10:27 PM

____

Dubya is *nothing* like Hal. Hal's indolency was deliberate, Dubya's unthinking and hypocritical. Hal became the effective King and conquerer Henry, betraying his old friends along the way. Dubya is not effective and only marginally a conquerer—but he has remained loyal to his friends, many of whom are much more dubious and of lower character than Falstaff. Shakespeare's Hal to Henry transformation has something to say about the relationship of vanity to greatness, ego to will, deception to victory. G W Bush's presidential term says something about the relationship of hubris to folly, luck to self-satisfaction, and simple-mindedness to incoherence.

Bush may actually be a bit of a nice guy, while Hal/Henry was a bit of a jerk. But I'd vote for Hal over Bush any day of the week.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on July 18, 2004 11:32 PM

____

Prince Hal had already taken part in a few skirmishes against the welsh insurgents ,( or freedom fighters) and the falstaff episodes the reaction afterwards.

Posted by: big al on July 19, 2004 03:51 AM

____

I hate to write this, but the 14-year-old's comment reads like an op-ed by David Brooks. Maybe he should be doing the column for the Times. It couldn't be any more puerile, and at least would have the justification of being written by a puer.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell on July 19, 2004 06:24 AM

____


Falstaff would be Andy Sullivan, with tastes of P.J. O'Rourke and Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on July 19, 2004 06:33 AM

____

Two years ago, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (free Shakespeare in Boston Common) staged Henry V, partly as a statement about Shrub. As Judith Shulevitz once described it, "A newly crowned king's claim to the throne is subject to grave constitutional question, since his father usurped it by murdering its previous holder. The king needs to win his people's trust; he also wants to make them forget his youth as a drunk and a bum. He does exactly that by skillfully and courageously prosecuting a war against France, just as his father told him to do: "Be it thy course to busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels.'"

This summer, another theater company is performing Troilus and Cressida partly as a statement about the war.

Posted by: Lis Riba on July 19, 2004 08:25 AM

____

Two years ago, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (free Shakespeare in Boston Common) staged Henry V, partly as a statement about Shrub. As Judith Shulevitz once described it, "A newly crowned king's claim to the throne is subject to grave constitutional question, since his father usurped it by murdering its previous holder. The king needs to win his people's trust; he also wants to make them forget his youth as a drunk and a bum. He does exactly that by skillfully and courageously prosecuting a war against France, just as his father told him to do: "Be it thy course to busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels.'"

This summer, another theater company is performing Troilus and Cressida partly as a statement about the war.

Posted by: Lis Riba on July 19, 2004 08:25 AM

____

Two years ago, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (free Shakespeare in Boston Common) staged Henry V, partly as a statement about Shrub. As Judith Shulevitz once described it, "A newly crowned king's claim to the throne is subject to grave constitutional question, since his father usurped it by murdering its previous holder. The king needs to win his people's trust; he also wants to make them forget his youth as a drunk and a bum. He does exactly that by skillfully and courageously prosecuting a war against France, just as his father told him to do: "Be it thy course to busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels.'"

This summer, another theater company is performing Troilus and Cressida partly as a statement about the war.

Posted by: Lis Riba on July 19, 2004 08:26 AM

____

Two years ago, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (free Shakespeare in Boston Common) staged Henry V, partly as a statement about Shrub. As Judith Shulevitz once described it, "A newly crowned king's claim to the throne is subject to grave constitutional question, since his father usurped it by murdering its previous holder. The king needs to win his people's trust; he also wants to make them forget his youth as a drunk and a bum. He does exactly that by skillfully and courageously prosecuting a war against France, just as his father told him to do: "Be it thy course to busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels.'"

This summer, another theater company is performing Troilus and Cressida partly as a statement about the war.

Posted by: Lis Riba on July 19, 2004 08:27 AM

____

Whoops. Sorry about the multiple post. It seemed to hang at first, so I thought I cancelled and re-sent it. You may delete all the extras.

Posted by: Lis on July 19, 2004 08:28 AM

____

I'm reminded of one of the more inane ad campaigns in the last decade. Wachovia advisors have a series of ads that ask: "What can a batting cage tell us about financial planning?" or "What can a chocolate chip cookie tell us about retirement goals?" And so on. The answer is such an absurd stretch that nothing is conveyed except for the desperation of the campaign.

Here on prof. De Long's blog, we get daily doses of this in the local fixation on BushHitler. I mean, really.

Posted by: Jason Ligon on July 19, 2004 09:16 AM

____

Mmmm... chocolate chip cookie.

Posted by: Nick Kristoff on July 19, 2004 09:28 AM

____

Interesting you should make Bush-Prince Hal comparisons. A couple of years ago, I attended a production of HAMLET in Stratford. The ever-astute Brits cast a Dubya lookalike to play Claudius.

Posted by: Brad Reed on July 19, 2004 09:53 AM

____

"'Prince Hal is a lot like George W. Bush,' said the Fourteen-Year-Old."

Which officially marks him as smarter (about Shakespeare) than Max Sawicky who didn't realize Prince Hal and Henry V were the same person. I'm guessing your 14 year old is thinking about: "he comes oer us about our wilder days, not measuring what use we made of them."

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 19, 2004 10:00 AM

____

Lis,

I saw that production, and don't recall getting the idea that it was in some way aimed at Bush.

Now that you mention it though, I do remember that Henry, far from being an inspiring leader, strutted around like a self-important teen-ager while his generals did the real work of running the battles. Is that what you are referring to?

I think that the strength of parallels between Hal and Bush depends ultimately on how you see Hal. I'm no fan. The guy dumps his pals, (btw, Keith, Hal dumps his drinking buddies, which I suspect W did also) and invades France to satisfy his ego. Delightful. (And is al-Sadr to be Joan of Arc?)

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on July 19, 2004 10:53 AM

____

The gold standard is the motion picture "Chimes at Midnight" (aka "Falstaff") by Orson Welles. He extracted it from Rich II, Henriad, Merry Wives for several stage productions before finally filming it. It is currently in legal dispute in the U.S., but certainly available in Europe. If you are ever near a copy of this film, run, don't walk, to get it, watch it, keep it. Is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of this genius.

Posted by: Lee A. on July 19, 2004 11:34 AM

____

They could have set the Falstaff scenes in a Mobile, Alabama topless bar.

The standard authoritarian reading of the Bolingbroke plays sees Prince Hal "growing" into the role of King Henry. But I'm with Harold Bloom: Hal's rise to power comes at the expense of his soul, the loss of which is portended by his rejection of Falstaff (which, btw, is also a brand of beer that would have been served in Mobile, AL in the early 70s).

Posted by: son volt on July 19, 2004 11:43 AM

____

In late April, the Post's Harold Meyerson used his column to compare Bush to Prince Hal and John Kerry to King Henry.

I disliked it then as I disklike it now. The rabblerousing Harry is a prerequisite to regal uberrealist Henry. The experience with Falstaff, a free artist in himself, to use Hegel's terminonoloy, prepared him for greatness. Comparing Dubya to Hal is to deny Shakespeare genius for character.

I take great pleasure in pointing out the shortcomings of our sometimes president. I, however, take great umbrage at any attack that simultaneously debases the secular canon of the Bard.

A more apt comparison is the haughty Antonio of The Merchant of Venice. His delusions of grandeur and rabid, superior Christianity lead him to make a fool's bargain. An abject failure, sophistry and the protection of entrenched power insulate him from the consequences.

Posted by: Casey Flaherty on July 19, 2004 12:19 PM

____


Come to think of it, maybe Tommy Chong is Falstaff. What ended up happening to the guy, anyway?

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on July 19, 2004 01:43 PM

____

Hey Jason, take a long walk off a short one, will ya? To imply that literature cannot inform us on anything under the sun is absurd. You can learn a lot more about character, life in the world, etc., from reading a few of Shakespeare's better plays than what a lifetime subsciription to TNR will provide.

I agree with you about the specious comparison of Bush and Hitler, though. After all, Hitler was democratically elected...

Posted by: EasyE on July 19, 2004 01:49 PM

____

Love him or hate him, Hal did engage Falstaff and learned from the experience. Engaging another to learn is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of "Dubya".

Posted by: cc on July 19, 2004 01:57 PM

____

I think a better analog to Bush 43 might be King John from Richard Kluger's excellent "The Sheriff of Nottingham".

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 19, 2004 03:09 PM

____

"Theater missed a big opportunity by not explicitly drawing the parallels..."

I recall reading somewhere that one of Orson Welles early Mercury Theatre projects was a modern-dress version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Maybe some touch like would be all that's needed, and the audience could draw its own conclusions. Actually, I'd like very much to see something like that.

Posted by: Bruce Garrett on July 19, 2004 05:24 PM

____

> This summer, another theater company is performing Troilus and Cressida partly as a statement about the war.

I can't think of a better time to stage it. A play that's only really been appreciated in recent decades, which needs to be seen alongside the other plays on Shakespeare's desk at the time. A perfect complement to the 'I'm a war president' charade.

Posted by: nick on July 19, 2004 08:32 PM

____

I know its nitpicky, but Hitler was not democratically elected. He lost the race for Presidency and later became Chancellor through backroom deals and stupidity. I do, however, agree that all reason tends to disappear when the spectre of Hitler or the National Socialists enters into a conversation.

Posted by: Casey Flaherty on July 19, 2004 09:27 PM

____

Easy:

"You can learn a lot more about character, life in the world, etc., from reading a few of Shakespeare's better plays than what a lifetime subsciription to TNR will provide."

I would certainly not dispute that. I'm more the Reason libertarian than the TNR conservative. I quibble that the bard was telling us to vote for Democrats. I'm willing to bet you could do the whole Hal/Hank thing with FDR or George Washington, too. Oh, golly, he sent troops into the field, and ooh, he drank when he was in college! I bet he even had friends that he left behind.

Literature isn't telling you anything at all here, but it sure must feel nice to know that ol' Bill hates Bush too.

Posted by: Jason Ligon on July 19, 2004 09:51 PM

____

I don't know whether the Bush Hal parallel is especially strong. What reminds of Bush is not so much the wasted youth and Falstaff with his delinquent crew. But who would be the Falstaff of Bush's youth? The suspicious and opportunistic nature of the war with France (Iraq), his cynical behavior at Harfleur, his weak (whether honestly confused or cynical) response to doubts expressed by his soldiers about the war the night before Agincourt, and his confused private reflections later that same night, the context of the St Crispin's day speech all remind me of some Bush administration attitudes.

The fact that Henry is willing to mingle with common soldiers and listen to their thoughts and Henry's good nature in resolving the disagreement with Williams does NOT remind me of Bush, or anyone else in the Bush administration.

The real life Henry V seems to have been less attractive than Shakespeare's character. He was conflicted, he had serous "issues" A very devout and religiously intolerant person who externalized many internal religious conflicts. Imagine a far cleverer and more ruthless Bush with more religious fanaticism, more ruthless sense of realpoltick, and far fewer constraints on his behavior.

Falstaff is a very brilliant sympathetic portrait of a monster, and who's inner life reveals thoughts and feelings that most people can identify with. But what would a sensible person's reaction be to meeting some one like Falstaff in real life? RUN as fast as you can! Especially if you are not well-fixed. People like Bloom have been seduced by Shakespeare's genius at portraying such a monster in a sympathetic way. So, yeah, I feel kind of bad when Hal rejects Falstaff, especially when it is done by Hal in his righteous prig mode, but all the while I realize that Falstaff doesn't deserve much sympathy. These scenes are brilliant depictions of the interface of private and public lives of people involved in high politics. The fact that Shakespeare can move us emotionally in a situation where no one is very attractive at all shows that he was a great artist.

Heck, the Prof has his own blog. He should write his own play and post it. I'd download it and take a look. If he lacks confidence in writing his own stuff, then do a William Burroughs cut-and-paste job. Burroughs wrote a hallucinogenic play on the last days of Al Capone using that technique and I think it would work well for something about the Bush people.


Posted by: jml on July 21, 2004 09:24 AM

____

... or was the William Burroughs cut and paste play on the last days of Bugsy Malone? I forget. I will look it up. In any case, I think William Burroughs, or maybe Buechner (think Wozzeck with bush as Wozzeck and Cheney as the Mad Doctor) are better models for adapting something for Bush II.

Posted by: jml on July 21, 2004 09:52 AM

____

Thank you, I will now forward this post to Tony Blair who will hopefully cease to be an American lap dog forthwith.

Posted by: bryan on July 21, 2004 11:27 AM

____

The W as Prince Hal theme was pushed by quite a few of the president's admirers who felt his transformation from Hal to Harry took place after 9/11.

I've yet to see his reformation glittering o'er his fault, but I will grant that he has so offended as to make offense a skill.

And I'll believe he's grown into Harry only once he's capable of saying something like this:

"We give express charge, that in our marches through the country, there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language; for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner."

Posted by: Fred on July 21, 2004 03:33 PM

____

This online essay examines how pundits have been pressing the Bush/Henry connection for some time:

http://www.poppolitics.com/articles/2003-05-01-henryv.shtml

"Step aside, I'll show thee a president": George W as Henry V?

Political commentators have been claiming Dubya as a modern-day Prince Hal since the 1990s, eager to ascribe a kingly divine right to a ruler who, from his assumption of the throne to his current crusade, lacks justification.

Posted by: happy few on July 25, 2004 07:15 PM

____

3402 You can buy viagra from this site :http://www.ed.greatnow.com

Posted by: Viagra on August 7, 2004 02:22 PM

____

4590 Why is Texas holdem so darn popular all the sudden?

http://www.texas-holdem.greatnow.com

Posted by: texas holdem online on August 9, 2004 08:47 PM

____

2891 ok you can play online poker at this address : http://www.play-online-poker.greatnow.com

Posted by: online poker on August 10, 2004 09:04 AM

____

2241 Get your online poker fix at http://www.onlinepoker-dot.com

Posted by: poker on August 15, 2004 05:18 PM

____

592 black jack is hot hot hot! get your blackjack at http://www.blackjack-dot.com

Posted by: blackjack on August 17, 2004 09:29 AM

____

Post a comment
















__