Shakespeare, not may favourite author but he knew how to spin the drama. Henry V holds a place in my heart as the best book about a war I have ever read. As a welsh woman I also found it string as the King himself is always making references to how epic it is to be welsh, to have songs in your heart and poetry in your soul. For those who do not know… here is a very simplified version of the history.
UK and France do not like each other. Have not until recent history 😉 before the 20th century we were always knocking seven bells out of each other. Henry V is involved in an ill-advised campaign (egged on by the church I may add) to regain a part of northern France that the UK formally owned because there was a link through Henry’s maternal line to some ancestor who owned Northern France. Yes, for all we have disliked each other the nobility in both countries is all twisted up together.
I myself am a product of the 1066 invasion of Britain. Yep am part Norman! Much diluted by now with Anglo-Saxon and Celt and certainly have no claim on French castles anymore. Anyway Henry and his army cut a bloody swath over northern France, besieging and killing but only the soldiers you understand… They are honourable invaders! (Yeah Shakespeare I believe you!)
It’s very nationalistic and this is a quality that has been lost in British culture. We are self-depreciating and seem embarrassed that there is still a ‘great’ in Great Britain. (Prob cos we owned a ¼ of the planet then pissed everyone off by demanding too much tax then generally behaving like pricks.)
The play is a heady cocktail of battle and belief in the cause and it wins me over every time. Henry is a fantastic leader but vulnerable and young. Also he has a complex over the fact his Dad killed the previous King. Not exactly Christian and he feels guilt for his father’s deeds. In ‘real’ history Henry dies in his 30’s and his French princess runs off with a welsh soldier, (we are studs.)
Best Henry in my opinion will always be Kenneth Branagh. He defined the role for me.
The play culminates in the battle of Agincourt. Basically, the welsh have always been good with bows and they and the English killed a superior French force that day. The weather also did not help. Guess the invaders were better used to the wet climate 😉
I would watch the film with the play open on my lap and follow the dialogue. Parts of it so beautiful it would bring me to tears. That is powerful writing.
Prizes for spotting a young Christian Bale!