Snapshots - #21: The Hollow Crown, Season 1

Richard II (♦♦♦♦)


Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), Duke of Hereford, cousin of King Richard II (Ben Whishaw), accuses Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, of treason. Brought in front of the king, neither wants to go back on their word, thus, to prevent the spilling of blood, the king banishes to foreign lands his cousin for six years, and Mowbray for life.

Meanwhile, Ireland is in turmoil, and the king is surrounded by vain flatterers. Upon the death of his uncle Old John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart), Duke of Lancaster, the king pilfers his uncle's possessions to fund an offensive in Ireland. Deprived of inheritance, Bolingbroke, now Duke of Lancaster (in title only), returns to England from exile, raising his men against the king and setting in motion the king's abdication.

The soft pastels of the king's attire are perhaps a metaphor for King Richard II being a monarch that values style above substance. He is surrounded by boy-men that, with honeyed words, have garnered coveted positions in his entourage and put his crown at risk. Though not a popular king—his cousin Bolingbroke is more in touch with the common folk than he is—, he believes God to be on his side by virtue of him being king.

Excellent performances, gorgeous locales, and (perhaps) a more accessible adaptation of Shakespeare's dialogues, make this production a must-see.

Henry IV, Part I (♦♦♦♦♦)



Many years have passed since the accession to the throne, as a twenty-six year-old, of Henry Bolingbroke, King Henry IV (Jeremy Irons). In the years since, he has parted ways with Lord Northumberland and Northumberland's brother, Lord Worcester. They have both been banished from court. Furthermore, Lord Northumberland's son, Henry 'Hotspur' Percy, has been rebelling against the king and, in a fiery temper, defies him face to face. Enraged by what he calls one more injustice from the king against he and his family, Hotspur begins to conspire against the king, joined by his uncle Lord Worcester, his cousin and brother-in-law, Mortimer, Mortimer's father-in-law, Glendower, Hotspur's cousin, Richard Vernon, and Douglas, Hotspur's loyal follower.

Another nightmare for the king is Hal, the Prince of Wales (Tom Hiddleston). The king often wonders if Hal is not a changeling, and his true son is actually Henry Percy. The latter certainly is valiant and more interested in matters of state than Hal has ever been or possibly will ever be. While Hal wishes his days away among drunks and whores at Mistress Quickly's (Julie Walters) tavern, Hotspur has assembled a small army that threatens the stability of the kingdom. Hotspur's forces will meet the king's at the Battle of Shrewsbury.

Due to a change of cast from Richard II's episode, I had to watch this part twice to become reacquainted with characters I already knew, and to untangle the familial relationships between many of the players.

I enjoyed the witty dialogues in this episode, particularly the exchanges between Jack Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) and Prince Hal, and in general, the action that takes place in Mistress Quickly's tavern. A big part of this episode is filmed in the tavern, and despite Falstaff being a secondary character, he steals the scenes he is in, as much as Prince Hal does. Both have more screen time than the king does, and show great working chemistry together.

Henry IV, Part II (♦♦♦♦)


After the Battle of Shrewsbury, which the king's men won, the king's health has debilitated greatly. Prince Hal no longer partakes with poor company, but his comings and goings still worry his father.

Meanwhile, learning of the fate of his brother Lord Worcester, and of his own son, Hotspur, the Earl of Northumberland is plotting a new uprising against King Henry IV. Among his allies are the Archbishop of York, Lord Mowbray, Lord Coleville, and Lord Hastings. Their forces don't rival the king's, but they are counting on the king's forces dwindling as they tackle multiple threats at once.

I realized watching this episode how much more suitable is this play for a grand production for the small screen than it is for the stage. The battles, maneuvers, and political counter plots have been played out to perfection as the shadow of war looms over the kingdom.

Jeremy Irons, as King Henry IV, has meatier monologues and longer screen time in this episode, as the time of his death nears. The weakened king is a man who suffers from apoplexy, insomnia, and a guilty conscience. He believes that the prophecies that his cousin King Richard II formulated, upon his abdication, have come true. In his final moments, he counsels Prince Hal and blesses his future reign.

Prince Hal has some introspective moments in this episode, as he is conflicted over his father's illness and the responsibility awaiting him. He confesses to Poins that he would be regarded as a hypocrite if the same people who have seen him party like a madman, now see him cry for his father's ill health.

As usual, the more lively scenes of the episode are the ones involving John Falstaff, who, feeling cast aside by Hal and Poins, has taken to fabricate rumors about both.

Favorite quotes:
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

[Lord Chief Justice]: "Wake not the sleeping wolf."
[Falstaff]: "To wake a wolf is as bad as to smell a fox."

Henry V (♦♦♦♦♦)


His father is dead. Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston) has become King Henry V. A fairer or most devoted king has not been known. Gone are the wild days of his early youth. Soon after he accesses the throne, his cousin the King of France issues a challenge. A war with France is championed by royal advisers Lord Canterbury, the Duke of York, and Lord Exeter.

Upon a disrespectful message from the Prince Dauphin, King Henry urges his court and his vassals to prepare for war. In France, the English advance at first with little resistance, but the fate of King Henry and his army will be decided on the Feast of St. Crispin's Day in the Battle of Agincourt, where the French outnumber the English 10:1.

With Henry V, Season 1 of The Hollow Crown, based on adapted Shakespeare's historical plays, comes to a glorious and satisfying conclusion. Tom Hiddleston is as amazing as a sovereign as he was as Prince Hal. The journey of his character has been a transforming experience for him and for the audience. As the Prince, he was mischievous, and carefree, but as a monarch, King Henry V weighs his options carefully and cares deeply for his fellow men. Hiddleston made credible both facets of the man, and we loved him for it. It takes a gifted actor to portray such a complicated man, and Hiddleston seems to have done it with ease.

Comments

  1. This series sounds interesting. A study of Shakespeare (have you read all those plays?), history, and plenty of Tom Hiddleston, who I admire.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't read the plays but now my curiosity is piqued and I have them on my Kindle...I just have to schedule some reading time... :-) You're right! Can't go wrong with Tom Hiddleston in it, and he was brilliant.

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  2. What a fabulous cast! And Shakespeare to boot! How could it not be wonderful?

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  3. Looks like an interesting series. I like Hiddleston too. I can imagine it's a bit disrupting when they changed the cast & the characters become different actors. I'll look for this; it seems excellent.

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    Replies
    1. It is an interesting series. I trust you'll like it.

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  4. I haven't watched any of The Hollow Crown series, though I would like to see the one about Richard III...wasn't it Benedict Cumberbatch who played him?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it was. I will be posting about that one this coming Wednesday.

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