A Solid Hollow Crown

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 My crown is called content:  A crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.

Words put into the mouth of King Henry VI by Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 3

I have been greatly enjoying The Hollow Crown BBC presentation of the history plays of Shakespeare.  Henry IV Part Two is on tonight on Great Performances on PBS at 8:00 PM CST and this series concludes with Henry V next week:

Directed by Rupert Goold (Richard II), Richard Eyre (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) and Thea Sharrock (Henry V), The Hollow Crown features some of the most pre-eminent Shakespearean actors of our time. The Kings are played by Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston respectively, supported by a phenomenal cast including Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, David Morrissey in Richard II, Simon Russell Beale, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters and Maxine Peake in Henry IV and John Hurt, Anton Lesser and Paterson Joseph in Henry V. The plays were filmed on location in England between Summer 2011 and Spring 2012 and are all set in their authentic medieval period. The series premiered to rapturous reviews in the U.K., and was honored with BAFTA Television Awards for Whishaw (Leading Actor) and Simon Russell Beale (Supporting Actor), BAFTA Craft Awards for Original Television Music (Stephen Warbeck) and Sound (Fiction) (Richard II), and an RTS Programme Award for Single Drama (Richard II).

Pippa Harris, who serves as Executive Producer with Co-executive Producer Sam Mendes at Neal Street Productions (makers of Call the Midwife), explains, “The Hollow Crown shows the trials and tribulations and the murderous backdrop behind our own history. Whilst these four plays collectively say so much about Britain, the global appeal of Shakespeare is never-ending. Our phenomenal cast and crew have brought a vivid and inspirational edge to Shakespeare for a worldwide audience.”

Go here to read the rest at the Great Performances website.  The History Plays of Shakespeare have always enthralled me.  Often not very historically accurate, although Shakespeare did usually attempt to hew closely to the flawed source material at his disposal, the Bard captures the spirit of men and women being carried along in the vortex of great historical events as they have their brief times on the stage of History.  Shakespeare reveals for us the great truth of History that events make the great figures of History, as they in turn make events that bring forth new characters in the unending play that is History.  As we see king succeeding king, and the varying fates that await them, we comprehend that power as an end in itself is always a dead end, and that a crown is a mere bauble unless the wearer attempts to put the power it bestows to some purpose larger than self aggrandizement.  Only Henry V, the warrior king, at Agincourt comes close to doing so, as the other reigns are ultimately tragedies.

The crown rather than a sign of victory for the new king is a sign of continual, and usually fatal, woes:

A pity that politicians of our time are so rarely Shakespeare enthusiasts!





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