Henry V is Shakespeare’s most famous “war play”; it includes the storied English victory over the French at Agincourt. Some of it glorifies war, especially the choruses and Henry’s speeches urging his troops into battle. But we also hear bishops conniving for war to postpone a bill that would tax the church, and soldiers expecting to reap profits from the conflict. Even in the speeches of Henry and his nobles, there are many chilling references to the human cost of war.
Firstly, I don’t feel I can write a ‘review’ of a Shakespeare play. It’s Shakespeare, England’s most famous writer, I think it’s fair to say. But I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the play anyway.
I’m not really a fan of the histories, I must admit. I read this play back in year twelve (nearly three years ago) and wasn’t really keen on it, and reading it again for uni made me understand why I don’t particularly enjoy it. I watched it, rather than read it, this time around. It helped, as my attempts at reading it were just not going to happen!
There are so many characters. I know it’s a historical piece and Shakespeare couldn’t exactly cut them out of the play but I could not follow them. This is why watching it made it so much better. I could put a face to a name at the very least (admittedly, I had no clue who some of the people were but hey). I just got so confused reading this and I struggled to get through it (well, I didn’t). It is important to remember it is written for the stage though, even more so than today’s plays as the majority of Shakespeare’s audience wouldn’t have been able to read, so I guess there’s that.
I did love some of the speeches, the ‘Crispin’s Day’ speech is truly wonderful. Henry V definitely has good, motivational speeches going for it. But otherwise, I was bored. As I said, I’m not really a fan of the histories – I prefer the over the top drama of the tragedies and comedies personally. But I can see its merit. I mean, I find history interesting to learn about, but historical fiction in general is not my thing, let alone Shakespeare’s version of it!
Rating: 3 / 5 🌟