With this episode, the series "Shakespeare Uncovered: Henry IV and Henry V" is back on track. Our narrator/host this time is Jeremy Irons and the focal point is a new production: "The Hollow Crown." "Shakespeare Uncovered: Henry IV and Henry V with Jeremy Irons" debuts tonight on PBS from 10 p.m. Check local listings.
These new adaptations were part of BBC's 2012 Cultural Olympiad: "King Richard II," "King Henry IV, Part 1"; "King Henry IV, Part 2." This is more exciting than previous episodes with thrilling back scene clips with Irons in and out of character (as Henry IV). Tom Hiddleston (Loki in "Thor: The Dark World" and (Magnus Martinsson in "Wallander") plays Prince Hal and Simon Russell Beale ("MI-5" as Home Secretary William Towers and "The American Experience" John Adams) is Falstaff. We also see portions of a stage production at the Old Globe.
"Henry IV" is about father and son. King Henry IV is uneasy about the irresponsible behavior of his son, Prince Hal, and the manner in which Henry ascended to the throne--by killing a king which denies the divine right of rule. Prince Hal finds a surrogate father in the man of low moral substance, Falstaff.
King Henry almost finds a surrogate son, Hotspur, who is everything that King Henry wishes Prince Hal to be. Yet eventually Henry finds himself in a war with Hotspur. King Henry and his son unite to fight against Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury, and Prince Hal contrasts his father's courage to Falstaff's cowardice.
In most productions of this play, we see Prince Hal as much older. Prince Hal is seen as an adult who is clinging too long to his boyhood instead of a boy beginning his journey into manhood. Shakespeare makes Hotspur the same age as Prince Hal although in reality Hotspur was about 30 years older than Hal. Hal was only 16 at the time of the battle of Shrewsbury.
Shakespeare exposes the brutality of war and BBC shows us coming attractions although probably more people are excited about another installment of "Thor" as a movie than a three-play mini series of Shakespeare's historical plays. "Shakespeare Uncovered: Henry IV and Henry V with Jeremy Irons" debuts tonight on PBS from 10 p.m. Check local listings.