The Unbearable Banishment: 10,000 dead frenchmen

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

10,000 dead frenchmen

I treated myself to Shakespeare’s Henry V. It was three hours but they flew by. I loves me the King plays.

When it began, I had my usual wrestling match with the dialog. It takes at least :10 to :15 minutes until I settle down with the cadence of Shakespearian English and acclimate myself to the iambic pentameter. (Whatever the hell that is. If you know, please explain.) It’s like trying to grab a garden hose that’s turned on full blast and is whipping around.

Henry V was one of England’s more successful monarchs. By the end of his rein, he ruled over a united England and France. His son, King Henry VI was a zero who lost everything his father built and started the War of the Roses. What a dickhead.

This play is a home run for an old Anglophile like me. In order to distract King Henry from his plan to liberate the church from a portion of its property and cash, the slippery Bishops (Are there any other kind?) conjured up a distraction. They convinced Hank that he is the rightful heir to the French crown. A war ensued and with a country to invade, who has time to abscond with church property?

Shakespeare’s historical dramas are based in fact. When Henry fought at Agincourt, a hungry and weary English army was outnumbered 10-1 by a fortified French army but England routed France! That’s a fact!

Take that, Frogs.

My comprehension of Shakespeare is tenuous at best. Do you know what helps? Jamming Cliff Notes the day before the play. I do it every time I see a Shakespeare play. Otherwise I'd get lost. I didn’t attend a University after high school so I’m a bit behind on all that stuff.

Photo credit: Ari Mintz for The New York Times



Blogger kyknoord said...

I remember taking a date to a particularly dreary performance of Hank5. Those three hours also flew by because I was sound asleep for most of them. Needless to say, we agreed to see other people.

March 4, 2009 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember having to count the syllables in words when you were a kid in school? Iambic pentameter is like that.

Henry VI, poor baby, didn't stand a chance. His father died in France when he was less than a year old and his kingdom was rule by a Regent until he reached the age of majority which is the real cause of the War of the Roses - too many potential heirs and a baby king. The fact that Henry V's queen suffered from the same sort of mental instability her father did, didn't help. VI was sickly and simple minded and raised to be a puppet and his cousins were ruthless and power-hungry. Gosh, I love the Plantagenets!

Good for you for reading the Cliff Notes. I always told my students that knowing the story going into one of Will's plays was half the battle.

Henry V is a wonderful play.

March 4, 2009 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kyk: I swear to God that's the funniest comment I've ever received. Laughed out loud while in a Starbucks. Much embarrassment ensued.

Annie: Thanks very much for the explanation. You should come down here! There’s a production of Othello currently playing on 42nd Street that’s suppose to be spectacular. One for the ages!

March 4, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Iambic pentameter has something to do with sentences constructed in 14 syllable structures. I could be totally wrong about that.

March 5, 2009 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger bob said...

ba BUM, ba BUM, ba BUM, ba BUM, ba BUM

iamb = unstress, STRESS (ba BUM)
pent = five (five iambs, ten syllables)

If mu- / -sic be / the food / of love, / play on

Is this / a dag- / -ger I / see be- / fore me?

A horse / a horse / my king- / -dom for / a horse

March 5, 2009 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

bob: Holy shit! Are you kidding me? He wrote a compelling plot with interesting, believable characters, all within the tight confines of this syntax?!?! That’s crazy. I’m impressed.

March 5, 2009 at 6:58 PM  

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