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Life at the Globe

Life at the Globe

23 February 2019

9:00 AM

23 February 2019

9:00 AM

IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE’S 2019 SUMMER SEASON
Merian Global Investors

We’ve been looking at various aspects of Richard II, which has just opened at Shakespeare’s Globe. Now to turn our attention a little further into the future. Richard II was only the opener for the remarkable run of history plays that are the centrepiece of the theatre’s summer season this year. The second half of April will see openings for Henry IV, Part One, Henry IV, Part Two and Henry V; and on ‘Trilogy Days’, theatregoers with especially resilient bottoms will have the chance to see all three in a single day.


Let’s start with Henry IV, Part One — which this production subtitles ‘Hotspur’ (part two is subtitled ‘Falstaff’). That’s
a double-swerve, and a suggestive one. As most people will know, the protagonist of the two Henry IVs is not the titular king but his heir, Prince Hal. Henry IV himself is on the throne but often offstage. These plays are the story — Bildungsdrama, you could call them — of the future Henry V. Yet in each of the plays he is offset or contrasted with another character — an alternative or shadow-self.
In this play it’s the rebel Harry Hotspur. When they meet in the decisive Battle of Shrewsbury, the prince declares: ‘Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere;/ Nor can one England brook a double reign,/ Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.’ That is near enough to say: ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.’

Shakespeare lopped 23 years off the historical Hotspur’s age to make the two men contemporaries. Are they opposites? It seems so at first. Hotspur is valiant, honourable, impulsive, and fierce in battle. Hal — for most of the play — is more interested in drinking in low taverns with his fat pal Falstaff. But in defeating Hotspur on the field of battle, he doesn’t so much overcome him as become him, or at least appropriate the best of him: ‘All the budding honours on thy crest/ I’ll crop, to make a garland for my head.’ Hotspur is his arch-enemy, but also in some respects the model for Hal’s coming of age. So. ‘Hotspur’ it is.

IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE’S 2019 SUMMER SEASON
Merian Global Investors


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