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Sprite
01-26-2014, 08:16 PM
Henry V is an anti-hero? I thought he was a straight-up hero, and the only note of bitterness in the play was the knowledge that his son would give back much of what he'd gained. He even went through the common soldiers in disguise to assuage their fears on the night before battle!
Henry V is an ambiguous play. Depending on how you interpret it, it can either be a lionizing of England and the monarchy or a cynical condemnation of the whole idea of monarchy and the pointlessness of war. The soldier Henry argues with in the scene you cited throws Henry's status as a hero into question, and the rather pointless nature of the war gives evidence to that view. Henry's hard work is undone, and the only people who suffer are the soldiers who get killed.

My favorite scene in that play is between Henry and Katharine. Early on, when Henry is threatening war, the French offer him Katharine's hand and a few fifedoms, an offer he rejects out of hand as ridiculous. Later, once the war has been won, he has a romantic scene with Katharine, whose hand he has now won by force. He gives an eloquent speech to her about how much he loves her, how he fought a war for her, how awesome he is in general. He re-contextualizes the war as a man fighting valiantly to win the woman he loves.

His story is a complete lie, of course, because he could have had Katherine much earlier without killing anyone. He doesn't actually care about her, except inasmuch as she can give him France. The great irony of the scene is that Katharine barely even understands English. Henry's mostly talking to himself.

Teaspoon
01-26-2014, 08:46 PM
The thread I didn't even know I wanted!

throwing an opinion out there for debate: the histories are loads more fun than the comedies

Gerad
01-26-2014, 08:48 PM
Henry V is an ambiguous play. Depending on how you interpret it, it can either be a lionizing of England and the monarchy or a cynical condemnation of the whole idea of monarchy and the pointlessness of war. The soldier Henry argues with in the scene you cited throws Henry's status as a hero into question, and the rather pointless nature of the war gives evidence to that view. Henry's hard work is undone, and the only people who suffer are the soldiers who get killed.

My favorite scene in that play is between Henry and Katharine. Early on, when Henry is threatening war, the French offer him Katharine's hand and a few fifedoms, an offer he rejects out of hand as ridiculous. Later, once the war has been won, he has a romantic scene with Katharine, whose hand he has now won by force. He gives an eloquent speech to her about how much he loves her, how he fought a war for her, how awesome he is in general. He re-contextualizes the war as a man fighting valiantly to win the woman he loves.

His story is a complete lie, of course, because he could have had Katherine much earlier without killing anyone. He doesn't actually care about her, except inasmuch as she can give him France. The great irony of the scene is that Katharine barely even understands English. Henry's mostly talking to himself.

I think the scene with Henry talking to the soldier is at least ambiguous, as the two argue about the King's motives and Henry promises to wear something in his hat after the war, so the soldier can find him then and they can settle the question. That seems to me to prove that Henry, at least, is confident that events will prove his conscience clean and will be willing to back that up in person.

I do agree that the machinations of the English nobles and clergy in setting up the war are portrayed poorly, and make it clear that the war is sending good (and bad) men to their deaths to advance the questionable aims of a few. But it always seemed to me that Henry himself was portrayed as a paragon of virtue in the midst of lesser men, and that the overarching message of the play was "would that all kings were like him".

I admit to not having read the play in several years; I'll probably have to go get my copy to discourse any more intelligently on it.

Guild
01-26-2014, 09:00 PM
Guildenstern is a man who dutifully carries his own death warrant to his own execution. IMHO he is an allegory for blind patriotism and the corruption of governors, proof that chivalry is often touted more to inspire obedience than achieve justice or righteousness, and most of all he is a foil for the notion that it is often the simple man whose nobility is most pristine and therefore exploitable; kept in the dark, the average person assumes the best rather than the worst out of naivete (rather than willful ignorance). One of them also invented the steam engine and a few laws of motion in a modern dark comedy written by Tom Stoppard starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, but I forget now which was which.

Madmachine
01-26-2014, 09:05 PM
I remember being assigned to read loads of Shakespeare throughout high school and going, "I actually kind of like this!" because I was am a neeerrrrrd and feeling sorry for all the other kids who didn't like it.

My primary regrets were that the teacher tired to make us move along sloooowly and analyze every little detail and look up every little word, when we could have just blazed through it to get the big picture and then go back for the details. It seems like the way a lot of classes read books actually wants the kids to miss the forest for the trees.

Also, as with any plays, Shakespeare plays are ideally watched, then read, not read, then watched as so many high school classes nowadays do.

Teaspoon
01-26-2014, 09:09 PM
He's also a bloke who gets himself killed by ineptly spying on Hamlet and doing a rotten job at it. Also he's a courtier and therefore far from being a symbol of the "common man" in the original.

(has anyone ever done a version of Hamlet with the pirate fight? We'd all remember him as a far more active character if Shakespeare had done a pirate scene.

Also, it would have been remembered forever as "Shakespeare does PIRATES".)

Teaspoon
01-26-2014, 09:12 PM
First time I tried reading Shakespeare I was trying to barge through this giant brick of book with all the plays in it and completely didn't get what everyone was talking about. Also "Midsummer Night's Dream" simply isn't that interesting to the prepubescent.

Later on I watched the BBC adaptations and read a copy of "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare" and that went a lot better.

Rascally Badger
01-26-2014, 09:21 PM
One of my goals this year is to read an unread Shakespeare a month. I'm kind of disappointed in how few I've read. I blame all my teachers for always assigning King Lear and The Tempest. The Professor who taught my Shakespeare class spent most of his time trying to convince us that Falstaff was Shakespeare's most brilliant creation. He was right, but most of us got that after the first few weeks.

Solitayre
01-26-2014, 09:33 PM
Guildenstern is a man who dutifully carries his own death warrant to his own execution. IMHO he is an allegory for blind patriotism and the corruption of governors, proof that chivalry is often touted more to inspire obedience than achieve justice or righteousness, and most of all he is a foil for the notion that it is often the simple man whose nobility is most pristine and therefore exploitable; kept in the dark, the average person assumes the best rather than the worst out of naivete (rather than willful ignorance). One of them also invented the steam engine and a few laws of motion in a modern dark comedy written by Tom Stoppard starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, but I forget now which was which.

My interpretation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is they were a couple of fops who tried to play the political game and were not cut out for it. They scheme and cajole and think they've got it all figured out, when they were never in the same league as Hamlet, who completely outplays them.

Sprite
01-26-2014, 09:41 PM
I think the scene with Henry talking to the soldier is at least ambiguous, as the two argue about the King's motives and Henry promises to wear something in his hat after the war, so the soldier can find him then and they can settle the question. That seems to me to prove that Henry, at least, is confident that events will prove his conscience clean and will be willing to back that up in person.
Well, as I said, the whole play is ambiguous. It's similar to Shakespeare's problem plays, such as Measure for Measure (my favorite Shakespeare play), in that all the characters seem happy and agree everything worked out for the best, but you're left with an awful taste in your mouth.

For instance, the argument you refer to between Henry and Williams is only settled when the King reveals himself as the "commoner" Williams argued with. Williams of course begs the king's pardon, and receives it. Does that scene show Henry's magnanimity, or simply prove Williams's point? What Williams does or believes doesn't matter one whit, because his life is entirely in Henry's hands. The power imbalance between them turns the argument into a sham, because Henry wins by default simply by being the king. His attempt to identify with the common people is just another way to show how awesome he is.

Though, yes, you could argue that Henry proves his conscious clean, and the text would support that interpretation. The tension between Henry as hero and Henry as villain is what makes Henry V such an amazing play.

MikeDinosaur
01-27-2014, 05:15 PM
Sprite has made most of my points for me. I think it's hard to read Henry V the first time without being swept along by Henry's charisma and poetry, but the chorus monologue at the end of the play is kind of an invitation to look at it differently the next time you read it. Which, yeah, is what's great about Shakespeare. The plays grow and mature with you.

...the argument you refer to between Henry and Williams is only settled when the King reveals himself as the "commoner" Williams argued with. Williams of course begs the king's pardon, and receives it. Does that scene show Henry's magnanimity, or simply prove Williams's point? What Williams does or believes doesn't matter one whit, because his life is entirely in Henry's hands. The power imbalance between them turns the argument into a sham, because Henry wins by default simply by being the king. His attempt to identify with the common people is just another way to show how awesome he is.

Yeah, Henry not only doesn't win the argument, he humiliates William by dint of his royal privilege--an utterly uncommon privilege.

All three of the plays about Henry evince a lot of discomfort with Henry's supreme capability. Henry is always playing a role--the dissolute lout, the repentant prodigal son, the common king. Henry's an artist of himself but it's hard to say who's wearing the masks. His greatest joy comes in dissembling, and while he might proclaim his army his "band of brothers" it doesn't stop him pulling rank when things get too hot for him.

The discomfort with great artistry, its sophistic ability to shroud venality and pride in beautiful language is typical of problem-comedy era Shakespeare.

Well, as I said, the whole play is ambiguous. It's similar to Shakespeare's problem plays, such as Measure for Measure (my favorite Shakespeare play), in that all the characters seem happy and agree everything worked out for the best, but you're left with an awful taste in your mouth.

I love Measure for Measure too. Have you read any of Harold Goddard's The Meaning of Shakespeare? It's one of my favorite books. Really insightful about Shakespeare and about real life.

boyonion
01-28-2014, 06:06 AM
I have all of the volumes on my bookshelf, but I haven't actually read anything since I got them. After I finish what I'm reading now, I am going to re-visit Billy and contribute to this thread!

Sprite
01-28-2014, 10:26 PM
We own a Complete Shakespeare set, but I don't really like reading his plays that much. They're so much more satisfying when seen live. Luckily I'm in a city now where I'll get to do that a lot.
I love Measure for Measure too. Have you read any of Harold Goddard's The Meaning of Shakespeare? It's one of my favorite books. Really insightful about Shakespeare and about real life.
I haven't. I tend to avoid most analysis and theory when it comes to Shakespeare because folks can go overboard with it. Part of what makes his body of work so amazing is that it's remained rather accessible.

Daikaiju
02-09-2014, 04:48 AM
My interpretation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is they were a couple of fops who tried to play the political game and were not cut out for it. They scheme and cajole and think they've got it all figured out, when they were never in the same league as Hamlet, who completely outplays them.

I thought that was Polonius. I will concur they were a bit foppish. I never liked Hamlet as a character though. The amount of collateral damage he did in getting revenge on his uncle still rankles me.

Sprite
02-09-2014, 07:40 PM
You know what annoys me? When productions of Hamlet, in order to shave off time, cut out all mention of the encroaching Norwegians. I've heard a lot of people complain about how Fortinbras's scene at the end comes out of nowhere, when in fact his arrival is foreshadowed throughout the play, and his presence is crucial. He's the threat pressing in from the sidelines that the rest of the characters try and swat away as less important than "why is Hamlet sad." Fortinbras shows just how crummy Claudius is at being king, and what an idiot Hamlet is for pussyfooting around his revenge.

Teaspoon
02-09-2014, 08:28 PM
Depends. Would you rather have Fortinbras or Hamlet as king?

Issun
02-18-2014, 04:05 PM
Would you rather have a stable leader or maintain your national identity? Yet another reason Shakespeare remains relevant over five centuries later.

Alixsar
02-18-2014, 09:25 PM
The thread I didn't even know I wanted!

throwing an opinion out there for debate: the histories are loads more fun than the comedies

I kind of hate the comedies? I like the tragedies and histories way more. The comedies basically boil down to some awesome puns and that's kind of it? There are exceptions, but I find the other stuff more intriguing. All of that said, it's been years since I've read or seen any...

Guildenstern is a man who dutifully carries his own death warrant to his own execution. IMHO he is an allegory for blind patriotism and the corruption of governors, proof that chivalry is often touted more to inspire obedience than achieve justice or righteousness, and most of all he is a foil for the notion that it is often the simple man whose nobility is most pristine and therefore exploitable; kept in the dark, the average person assumes the best rather than the worst out of naivete (rather than willful ignorance). One of them also invented the steam engine and a few laws of motion in a modern dark comedy written by Tom Stoppard starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, but I forget now which was which.

I see what you did there.

Also, yeah, I wrote a huge essay in college about Fortinbras in college and I wish I still had it. ARGH

Teaspoon
02-18-2014, 09:31 PM
I did a long one about how Richard III is basically Holinshed's History: The Play! (also Thomas More. Anyone who thinks More was a Renaissance angel of satire has a point, but he also sucked up to the Tudors big time with his histories.)

McClain
02-24-2014, 03:32 PM
Why is it so freaking hard to find a good edition of Macbeth on the Kindle? The cheaper versions don't include line numbers (kind of critical for any classroom use), but the fancy critical versions are stupid and don't get to the actual play in the preview! Yes, it's very nice that you give a glimpse of your scholarly introduction, but that doesn't really give me any idea of how the hell you laid out the text of the, you know, PLAY!

Anyone have any good experience reading Shakespeare on the Kindle? Or should I just bite the bullet and get a dead wood version?

Adam
02-24-2014, 04:18 PM
All of that said, it's been years since I've read or seen any...

Then you should come see Othello this year.

fugu13
02-24-2014, 08:09 PM
Why is it so freaking hard to find a good edition of Macbeth on the Kindle? The cheaper versions don't include line numbers (kind of critical for any classroom use), but the fancy critical versions are stupid and don't get to the actual play in the preview! Yes, it's very nice that you give a glimpse of your scholarly introduction, but that doesn't really give me any idea of how the hell you laid out the text of the, you know, PLAY!



Anyone have any good experience reading Shakespeare on the Kindle? Or should I just bite the bullet and get a dead wood version?


Wow, you're right. The only decently formatted kindle Shakespeare seems to lack line numberings and notes and textual links. The Shakespeare that should be awesome, Oxford, apparently is barely edited after an OCR.

That's awful. I'd bite the bullet and get a good edition on paper, but I'd also complain to the publisher about the kindle edition.

Pombar
03-04-2014, 10:19 PM
I did a long one about how Richard III is basically Holinshed's History: The Play! (also Thomas More. Anyone who thinks More was a Renaissance angel of satire has a point, but he also sucked up to the Tudors big time with his histories.)

Richard III is definitely the play that proves the "histories way more fun than the comedies" rule, at least while he's still vying for power, when we love to be in on all his jolly awfulness - same reason House of Cards works.

McClain
03-06-2014, 12:05 AM
I ended up just borrowing a friend's complete Shakespeare to read Macbeth. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would! I tend to prefer his comedies over his tragedies, but this was relatively easy to get through. I think it helps that it's his shortest tragedy (play overall?). I read a note that said that the version that history preserved may have been a heavily edited folio, but heck, I think it works fine this way.

Sanagi
03-06-2014, 01:01 AM
By the way, if you guys haven't read To Be Or Not To Be, the choose your own adventure version of Hamlet, it is amazing.

McClain
03-06-2014, 01:12 AM
By the way, if you guys haven't read To Be Or Not To Be, the choose your own adventure version of Hamlet, it is amazing.

seconded! Though I need to spend some more time with it.

Evil Dead Junkie
05-05-2014, 12:05 PM
You know it's a misguided production of Much Ado About Nothing when Hero comes off as more interesting than Beatrice.