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Life at the Globe

Life at the Globe

20 April 2019

9:00 AM

20 April 2019

9:00 AM

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

And so, as we continue through the Summer Season of history plays at Shakespeare’s Globe — supported by principal partner Merian Global Investors — to Henry IV: Part Two, which opens this week. This is, for my money, the most complex and moving of this sequence of plays – where the just-about-comic and just-about-heroic elements of Part One show their seamy side. It’s a play full of melancholy, sickness and regret: the death of the old king looming in the background. It’s where, to cite Morrissey, ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’.

The scenery-chewing monster of Part One, Sir John Falstaff, gets half the play here, his story twined in a double helix with that of Prince Hal, though the two seldom meet onstage. Jolly Sir John is physically sick (a doctor pronounces his urine healthier than the patient), broke, and in danger of being caught by the law. His ever more desperate hopes are pinned on preferment when his old friend Hal ascends to the throne.


John Betjeman’s couplet — ‘But I’m dying now and done for/ What on earth was all the fun for?’ — comes to my mind as Falstaff and his doddery old friends reminisce in Act Three about their vagabond younger years, with that famously poignant line: ‘We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.’

Hal, meanwhile, is moving towards kingship, and it’s the loneliness of the role rather than its power that bears down on him. This is not apotheosis, but renunciation: he must become another man, must (as he expresses it) awake from a dream into reality. And as he says, late in the play: ‘This new and gorgeous garment majesty/ Sits not so easy on me as you think.’

The ultimate renunciation is of Falstaff. The two strands meet in Act Five when Falstaff approaches Hal en route to his coronation, and Hal makes good on the half-joking promise of part one. He will banish Sir John. ‘My king! my Jove! I speak to thee, my heart!’ pleads Falstaff. ‘I know thee not, old man,’ replies the King, ‘fall to thy prayers.’ Hal destroys his old friend, as he must.

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


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