The Shakespeare-deniers, of course, say the upstart from Stratford could not have written the plays, that it must have been some nobleman in Elizabeth’s court – how, they ask, would a glover’s son know the way courtiers and kings converse at court? The obvious answer, of course, is that he didn’t. He made it up out of his head. Historians agree that the royal interactions don’t ring true. Now, however, this is the way we imagine kings and queen should speak. William Shakespeare shaped our reality. Check it out: the BBC is giving you an excellent opportunity to revel in the matchless histories of Shakespeare with The Hollow Crown, which includes Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. (Follow links I’ve provided.)
A lot of rubbish has been written about the series already. Even esteemed places like the New York Times don’t seem to know how to write about Shakespeare anymore (here and here) – any moment I expect them to begin complaining about how hard the language is. Pretty much all of them, however, agree that this is a terrific, must-see series. Ben Whishaw has been praised for his Richard II, though I find it over-the-top, and Rory Kinnear‘s Bolingbroke underrated (see Clip #2). David Suchet (a.k.a. Hercule Poirot) is at Bolingbroke’s left, by the way, another good performance. Clip #3 features Patrick Stewart‘s John of Gaunt. Clip #4 Jeremy Irons as Henry IV. Clip #5 features Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff. And the final clip is Tom Hiddleston‘s Henry V.
It’s been at least a year or two since I’ve seen Shakespeare performed. The ear craves it. Tease your own with the excerpts, below. The full videos are available for listening at www.pbs.org for a limited time only. Take advantage of the opportunity. Please. You owe it to yourself.
Postscript on 1/13: I broke down and bought the DVDs on Amazon. Under $30. Free shipping with a Prime account. How could I forbid myself this little indulgence?
1. Trailer for the series.
2. Richard II (A few seconds of “Great Performances” la-di-da at the beginning. It’s only a few seconds, really…)
3. Richard II
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 2