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Stage History

Although still in the tradition of conjuring up spectacular stage pictures, this production was significant in being the first to allow room for the ambivalence of the play's presentation of war.

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Calvert had himself recently raised funds for the victims of the Franco-Prussian wars. The French in his production were victims before they were enemies, and wounded soldiers and grieving women could be seen amidst the triumphant crowds celebrating the return of Henry to London. It was in this production that Katherine's French lesson was finally restored, although still without its final obscenities.

The play was given a strongly heroic interpretation in productions at the turn of the century, responding to the military nationalism aroused by the Boer War. Actors such as Lewis Waller and Frank Benson portrayed Henry as an uncomplicated, physically impressive warrior, set off by pleasingly picturesque medieval costumes and armour. A departure from this came in when William Poel presented the play for one performance at the Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. With a small cast, a bare stage, and simple Elizabethan costuming, Poel's aim was to restore the play to something of its original swiftly fluid Elizabethan staging.

This production moved away from recent traditions and portrayed Henry as a thoughtful and complex man. Guthrie and Olivier chose to explore the ambiguities and questioning of the play and so marked the way for future productions. Olivier built on his experience at the Old Vic when he directed and starred in the film version of the play in As in previous centuries, the play was an obvious choice to steel the resolve of a nation at war and the film is dedicated to the British forces whose task it was to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.

The film begins and ends as a performance in the Globe Playhouse, with the actors playing in a nicely stylized fashion. The action then moves out into a kind of animated Book of Hours before assuming full and impressive realism at the Battle of Agincourt, thrillingly presented with full French cavalry and a deadly rain of English arrows. The play was filmed again in , under the direction of Kenneth Branagh, who also took the leading role.

He had played the part for Adrian Noble at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in and his film owes much to that production. In , the play was filmed as part of the BBC series of Shakespeare's plays. Michael Pennington presented a coldly intelligent, isolated king. This production was fearless in its debunking of English heroism and the glory of war, with unflattering allusions to the Falklands conflict of a few years earlier.

Nicholas Hytner, likewise, drew on contemporary conflicts in his production at the National Theatre in Adrian Lester played the king in this modern dress production, in which visual allusions to the ongoing invasion of Iraq gave pre-eminence to the play's questioning of the merits of war. Penny Downie played the Chorus, consulting her file of archival records as she told the story. Branagh made his film at the end of the Cold War, in the light of scepticism resulting from the wars of the second half of the century.

His Henry V is more brutal and dark and the king shows internal conflict. He is tough, but more intimate and emotional, and the entire adaptation bears signs of an anti-war message. Even though Branagh and Sharrock show signs of drawing on the preceding adaptation, each of the three adaptations is still unique and shows a different Henry V.

Either way, all three of them show the importance of both the historical figure behind the play lines as well as the importance of the Bard himself, who keeps re-emerging when the occasion calls for it, just as Irena R. Makaryk suggested.

Henry V by William Shakespeare: | Books

Henry V , Henry V, United Kingdom: Renaissance Films. The Hollow Crown: Henry V , Cartmell, D. Shakespeare, Film and Nationalism: Henry V. In: Interpreting Shakespeare on Screen.

The True Story of Henry V, England’s Warrior King

Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Crowl, S. Shakespeare and Film: A Norton Guide. New York: W. Donaldson, P. Prague: Academia. Jowell, G. Propaganda and Persuasion. Lehmann, C. In: Shakespeare Remains: Theater to film, early modern to postmodern. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Makaryk, I. Shakespeare, W. Henry V , ed. A comparative analysis of the character of Henry V in three film and television adaptations. Keele University.

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