Saturday, January 26, 2008

Open Source: Backstage with Henry the V

(Is Shakespeare's play an anti-war masterpiece?)

Backstage With Henry V
Open Source
Hosted by Christopher Lydon

Henry the Fifth remains, for many, the familiar favorite among Shakespeare plays. For Lydon kids, it began with my father’s doctrine that Laurence Olivier’s Henry V was the best movie ever made — though we all came to see the sinew-stiffening World War 2 propaganda dimension of the piece, which Winston Churchill had cleansed, for example, of the mass slaugher of French prisoners in Shakespeare’s account. Those magic lines of Henry’s — “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” to his warriors, and his love banter with the French princess Katherine — “take a soldier; take a King” — summon the blood and melt the heart long after we realize that this warlike Harry was bluffing his way through an aggressive and unpopular war of choice, egged on by a corrupt church establishment.


What is Shakespeare saying through Henry the Fifth about honor and heroism, about the earning of kingship and manhood, about nationhood and war, about chivalry and tragic irony?

To Listen/Read the Episode

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