Whereas the last play focused on kings, this play focuses much more on the story of a father and a son. The former is disappointed in his son, who, in his eyes, fails to live up to the standard of a prince who is heir. Henry IV wishes that Harry Hotspur, who seems much more honorable and princely, was his son instead of Prince Harry. An alternative however, is also given to Prince Harry in the form of John Falstaff. The struggle between father and son seems very natural, yet extra gravitas is added by the context of the play. Henry's position on the throne is not secure and questioned by Harry Hotspur and the King feels that his son could not care less. It makes Henry IV a lonely figure who you almost pity. He is plagued by guilt about how he got to the throne and when faced with a plot,
Again, the cast was stunning. This series is quickly turning into an assembly of Britain's finest actors. Simon Russel Beale has been called "the greatest stage actor of his generation" and he lights up the screen every time the camera locks upon him and achieves to make us both laugh and cry. Julie Walters was also very enjoyable as Mistress Quickly. For an hour, I kept on wondering who she was, until I finally recognized her. But perhaps the most important performance is Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal. Not only is he crucial in both Henry VI's but is central to Henry V. Together with Simon Russel Beale he is hilarious and has a roguish charm, together with an amazing Jeremy Irons, he seemed a lost boy. Joe Armstrong as Harry Hotspur was a great enemy to the other two Henry's. He seems honorable, even if he is hotheaded, and he was able to not make me laugh with his accent.
In another interesting episode of 'Shakespeare Uncovered', Jeremy Irons explored not only Henry IV and his fears, but also Henry V and how he changes throughout the three plays. His exploration of the historical kings and his own thoughts on the mind of Henry IV are very interesting and not only explain the first play, but also prepares the viewer for the other two which are still to come. Also, to my shame, I have to admit I cannot seem to warm to Laurence Olivier. It is perhaps largely due to how Shakespeare was acted back in the day. It just seems a bit overacted and I much more appreciate the acting in 'The Hollow Crown'.
Did you see 'Henry IV' and did you enjoy it as much as I did?