In the midst of the Hundred Years War, the young King Henry V of England embarks on the conquest of France in 1415.In the midst of the Hundred Years War, the young King Henry V of England embarks on the conquest of France in 1415.In the midst of the Hundred Years War, the young King Henry V of England embarks on the conquest of France in 1415.
This Shakespearean play made for all time, whether accurately or not, a noble and just hero out of the historical figure Henry V (just as Shakespeare firmly established Richard III as a villain). From my amateur perspective, Kenneth Branagh gives a brilliant performance in all facets of the king's action, whether back in England dealing with political / military issues following an insult by the King of France, eventually at the end wooing the French princess (daughter of said French king), and most especially rallying his weary, demoralized troops at Agincourt.
Of course the English victory at the bloody Battle of Agincourt, despite superior numbers of French forces, is legendary. Henry's rallying St. Crispian's Day speech prior to the battle is, from my standpoint, a fitting example of Shakespeare's genius. I can still picture 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...', delivered by Branagh with such eloquence and intensity.
The scene in which Henry refuses to spare his friend, who has been caught stealing from the French church, is also dramatic and shows the king's efforts, undoubtedly painful to him, to remain impartial when disciplining his troops. This soldier was in fact Falstaff, whom I recall vividly as 'Prince Hal's' (later Henry V's) friend from the earlier play, Henry IV, Part I, which I DID read in school, so found the incident particularly touching.
However, for me the scenes of Henry hobnobbing incognito with his troops before the battle, his own conflicted emotions about his military decisions, and the subsequent rousing St. Crispian's speech are indeed the definite highlights in this memorable adaptation.
- Mar 13, 2006