Sunday, March 08, 2009

Shakespeare: King Henry IV, Part I

I liked Henry IV, part I.

Like I said earlier, they do a lot of jokes about Sir John Falstaff being fat. Here we find a phrase that Shakespeare sort of coined: "Discretion is the better part of valour" began as Falstaff saying "The better part of valour is discretion", which I suppose is functionally the same.

There are many good speeches and conversations. Act II, Scene III, where Hotspur leaves his wife without telling her he is going to battle, is almost entirely excellent dialogue.

There's a very good and humourous scene between Falstaff and Prince Henry where they roleplay a conversation between the Prince and the King (Act II, Scene IV). When Falstaff plays the King, the King seems to only be interested in praising Falstaff, and when Prince Henry plays the King, he mocks Falstaff to no end, while Falstaff, acting as the Prince, defends himself against the words of the real Prince. I can imagine that Shakespeare enjoyed writing that scene.

Shakespeare seems to think that battles consist of lords dueling each other after pairing off. Never does a regular soldier enter a fight, and the commanders of each army almost inevitably fight. It's all for drama, of course, but sometimes, it seems rather silly.

Although the play's title is Henry IV, the story is truly about Prince Henry, later Henry V. He changes from a rogue to a warrior for the King to earn his father's respect. He has an excellent line contemplating the corpse of the rebel leader Hotspur:

Prince Henry
When that body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough:-this earth that bears thee dead.

16 Down, 21 To Go
Next Up: King Henry IV, Part II
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