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King Henry V of England is insulted by the King of France. As a result, he leads his army into battle against France. Along the way, the young king must struggle with the sinking morale of his troops and his own inner doubts. The war culminates at the bloody Battle of Agincourt. Written by
Liza Esser <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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O! for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention; A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. Then should the war-like Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire crouch for employment.
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Tis a triumph at evr'y turn: Shakespeare and Branagh Move Thy Heart and Makest Ye Wishth that One Had English Blood Pure of Nobilitie
According to William Shakespeare, on the morn of the Battle of Agincourt (1415), one of the final military confrontations during the 100-Years War between France and England, the English troops exhibit hesitancy and consternation toward this monumental of tasks at hand. They have been engaged in a long campaign on French soil having just trekked several hundred miles toward Calais to return to England. Kenneth Branagh as King Henry V suddenly appears among his soldiers and speaks the words that inspire his noble "brethren". Here is but an excerpt:
"This day is called the Feast of Crispian: He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.' Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember with advantages What feats he did that day: then shall our names. These are words that would make any man fight for his brethren." (Act IV, Scene 3)
No one knows exactly when William Shakespeare wrote Henry V (aka The Cronicle History of Henry fift, The Life of Henry Fift) except that it was probably penned sometime between the late 1580's and 1590's. Aside from the historical liberties that permeate much of the drama, such as the king's executing anyone who would steal from local French communities (in reality Henry V's troops plundered much of the French countryside during their campaign), Henry V stands as one of Shakespeare's most moving and inspirational achievements. Certainly, the play is very much biased toward the English. While the English are colorful, emotional, and determined, the French are portrayed as conniving and dispassionate, except for the princess Kate. Shakespeare was not intending to teach a lesson in medieval history but rather arouse patriotism among his fellow countrymen. (Is it possible Henry V was written during the time of England's battle against the Spanish Armada in 1588?)
Kenneth Branagh has taken Shakespeare's overly patriotic play and forged a piece that combines the stunning visuals of Hollywood film-making with the high-culture of William Shakespeare into a movie of stunning magnitude that seems nearly incomparable, with the possible exception of Zeffirlli's "Romeo and Juliet". Hollywood films of this type have often been lopsided with great visuals but mediocre scripts. However, in this case, there is no better screenwriter than William Shakespeare. Added to the mix is an outstanding cast of Shakespearian actors who navigate through Shakespeare's blank verse as easily as if they were speaking modern dialogue instead of late 16th-century English. They speak the lines as if they are spontaneously being uttered rather than being remembered from a 400-year-old play. And to give a little bit of spice to the experience, Branagh incorporates a few flashback scenes from Shakespeare's Henry IV in which Prince Hal (not yet Henry V) commiserates with a band of drunkard cronies lead by none-other than one of Shakespeare's most popular characters, Sir John Falstaff.
This play, this noble play, which hast action, adventure and high arte, would be a fine and noble way to show those of young years the arte of Shakespeare. Seest thou this filme, this fine filme. And if thou seest not this filme, I will sadly be forced to come into thy companie and take ye to the theatre, tie ye up to a chair, and make ye watch these actors fine. Aye, ye willst later thank me, for never was there a moment dull.
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