Theater Review: Henry IV by Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

Lisa and I headed down to Los Angeles to catch Henry IV, presented by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles in the Japanese Garden at the Veterans Administration complex in Westwood.

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A Legend

According to theatrical legend–which, because it’s legend cannot be validated–The Merry Wives of Windsor exists because Shakespeare had been told by his patron, Queen Elizabeth, that she wanted to see “Falstaff in love.”

It’s a great story. The only problem is that the first time we hear this legend, it’s a hundred years later and the legend is brought forth by English dramatist John Dennis.

Let’s say it’s true, though… what are our clues?
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Say Goodbye to the Tavern Life

Yesterday, we talked some about the boy in Henry the Fifth being, for Hal, the last link to the tavern-life. Just to be clear:

  • Falstaff dies, of a “heart…fracted and corroborate” (II.ii.119)
  • Bardolph is hanged “for robbing a church” (III.vi.98)
  • Nym, too, has been “hanged” (IV.iv.72)
  • The boy is killed (IV.vii.1) by the French
  • Word from England comes that Pistol’s “Doll” (V.i.77) is dead of venereal disease (“malady of France” [V.i.78])

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Hal, the Boy

King Henry the Fifth “was not angry since (he) came to France // Until th(e) instant” (IV.vii.54-55) he discovers that the boy has been killed by the French. The king’s been insulted, has faced military losses, and has had to allow a childhood friend to be hanged, but only NOW is he angry. Why? What is it in the character of the boy that elicits such a response?
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Act Two: Traitors, Tavern-mates, and Tennis Ball-Gifting Princes

Act Two of Henry the Fifth begins in the same manner as the first act, with the Chorus pushing the plot forward. After we hear that Henry is ready to lead an expedition to France, the Chorus tells us that “all the youth of England are on fire” (II.Chorus,1). The Chorus then tells of the plot of Cambridge, Scroop, and Grey against the king, hired by “the gilt of France (O guilt indeed)” (II.Chorus,26).

Only when the Chorus ends, and we get to Act Two, Scene One, it’s NOT to “Southampton (where) we shift our scene” (II.Chorus,42), but rather to where all our previous Act Two’s (from The First and Second Parts of Henry the Fourth) have gone: the tavern. Here, we find “Lieutenant Bardolph” (II.i.2) and “Corporal Nym” (II.i.1), where the latter bemoans Mistress Quickly’s marriage to Pistol, despite Nym’s being “trothplight” (II.i.18) or betrothed to her. When “Ancient Pistol” (II.i.24) and Quickly enter, it’s obvious from all the ranks, that it’s not just the “youth” of England that are on fire for war, but the old men as well.
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Podcast 68: The Second Part of Henry the Fourth: Wrap-Up

This week’s really short podcast concludes our month-long discussion of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth with some final thoughts, as well as a production concept and a possible cast. Then, we’ll finish up with our usual recap of this week’s blog entries.
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The Second Part of Henry the Fourth: Numbers Overall

The Second Part of Henry the Fourth

  • 3239 total lines; longer than average (average play: 2777; average history: 3009)
  • At 31 lines, the Act Five, Scene Five Epilogue is the longest of its kinds in the Canon
  • Act One: 608 lines; longer than average play, slightly shorter than average history(average play: 590, average history: 612)
  • Act Two: 807 lines; longer than the average (average play: 568, average history: 621)
  • Act Three: 433 lines; shorter than average (average play: 576, average history: 632)
  • Act Four: 851 lines; MUCH longer than average (average play: 563, average history: 651)
  • Act Five: 540 lines; longer than average (average play: 480, average history: 493)
  • 1662 lines of prose, the new champ and the most of any play thus far in the Canon (51.31% of total lines [as opposed to The Comedy of Errors: 13.31%, Titus Andronicus: 1.39%, The Taming of the Shrew: 20.82%, 1HenryVI: 0.37%, 2HenryVI: 16.64%, 3HenryVI: 0.14%, Richard III: 2.89%, Love’s Labor’s Lost: 35.08%, The Two Gentlemen of Verona: 26.81%, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: 19.75%, Romeo and Juliet: 14.18%, King John: 0.0%, The Merchant of Venice: 21.79%, Richard II: 0%, and 1HenryIV: 44.7%])
  • 75 rhyming lines (2.32% of total lines [as opposed to Comedy: 20.10%, Titus: 2.42%, Taming: 3.93%, 1HenryVI: 9.79%, 2HenryVI: 3.16%, 3HenryVI: 5.37%, Richard III: 7.55%, LLL: 40.86%, 2Gents: 35.08%, Midsummer: 43.5%, Romeo: 16.61%, King John: 6.19%, Merchant: 5.16%, Richard II: 18.95%, and 1HenryIV: 1.04%])
  • 21 scenes; about average (average play: 21; average history: 24)
  • 53 characters; more than average(average play: 36, average history: 47)

The Second Part of Henry the Fourth: Midpoint

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.
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Me So Bawdy

[EXPLICIT CONTENT AHEAD… SKIP IF EASILY OFFENDED]

OK, let’s start off by saying this is one rowdy, bawdy play. I’m not saying it descends into the Love’s Labor’s Lost ‘s territory of the gutter, but damn, it’s been a progressively deeper slog into the bawdy pool from Richard the Second, to the First Part to The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.
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