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As the saga of Henry IV continues in Part II, we see surprisingly little of the King as played by Jon Finch. The rebels who were not part of the battle that insured his crown in Part I are busy plotting away again to possibly get another insurgency going. And Prince Hal who came to his father's aid and literally saved his life on the battlefield and killed Hotspur in single combat has fallen back on his dissolute ways and conniving with people in low places, chiefly an old braggart Sir John Falstaff.
Henry's got three other sons so the succession for the House of Lancaster is assured, but his oldest Prince Hal as played very winningly by David Gwillim is back doing his drinking and wenching and lowdown behavior as we saw him in Part I. Second eldest son John Of Lancaster seems more fit for the job of king, but it's the future Henry V that is in line. Of such rivalries kingdoms have fallen apart and eventually this one does, but not for another 20 years or so.
Anthony Quayle's Falstaff is seen here as a bit more a shady character than he was in Part I. He's got a few things cooking and he has hopes that when Hal becomes king he will remember his bosom companions of his partying days. What a shock Quayle is in for.
Though he's seen less Jon Finch really comes into his own in the title role. Henry IV is getting older and very conscious of his mortality and worries about his kingdom if his idiot son succeeds. A bit of promise shown in Part I seems to have been overtaken by Hal's desire to party and party. In Finch we see a portrait of a man in physical and mental agony and maybe questioning did I really do the right thing by usurping Richard II. Finch played this character in the three successive plays and we see him grow and change in the role. It's one of the biggest strengths of the BBC Shakespeare series.
This play comes a bit short of the excellence of Richard II and Henry IV Part I, but it's still outstanding theater as presented to us by the BBC.
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