Shakespeare Uncovered (2012–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V - full transcript

Join Jeremy Irons as he uncovers the enduring appeal of Shakespeare's "history plays."

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More than 400 years ago

at the height of his powers,

William Shakespeare sat down
to write 3 plays for his company.

These plays tell a story
that still resonates today,

a story of fathers and
sons, friendship and betrayal,

rebellion, insurgency, and war.

It's a story about a
king who stole the crown

and is tormented by guilt.

It's about his son, a
feckless young prince

who is forced to grow
up and face his destiny.

Then on succeeding
to the throne,



the new young king
takes his country to war.

He becomes the greatest
warrior king in English history.

Cry "God for Harry,
England, and St. George"!

It's a story of people
facing an uncertain future

and of a country
searching for a new sense

of patriotic identity,

but Shakespeare
being Shakespeare,

these plays are also
skeptical and ambiguous

and somehow
extraordinarily modern.

In 1599, William Shakespeare's
company had a problem

that some of us
might sympathize with.

Their landlord refused
to extend the lease

of the site where
their theater stood.

Now their theater was
imaginatively called The Theatre,



and it was in Curtain Road,

at that time some
way north of London,

but the actors owned The Theatre

because they'd
built it themselves,

so when their landlord was away,

they dismantled The Theatre

and carried it piece by
piece across the Thames

and rebuilt it
rather like a giant kit

on the south bank of the river.

The newly rebuilt theater
was called The Globe,

and by all accounts, the
first play to be performed

here was "Henry V."

Not far from the original
site of Shakespeare's

reassembled Globe
is this modern replica.

Sir Laurence Olivier's
Oscar-winning 1944 film

of "Henry V" opens as if the
play were being performed

in Shakespeare's
newly built Globe Theatre

at the turn of the 17th Century,

but the story of this King Henry
starts almost 3 plays earlier

with Shakespeare's Richard Il,

which tells about how
Henry Bolingbroke,

Henry IV to be, stole
the crown from Richard

and took over the
throne of England.

Then Shakespeare took two
plays to tell the story of Henry IV

before finally he
could get to Henry V,

but why write all these
history plays anyway?

Well, the most obvious answer
is that they were good box office.

History plays were the
big hit shows of the 1590s.

The Shakespearean
stage is the first moment

When big questions of
politics, social structure,

national identity
are explored in public

for a socially diverse audience.

If you try to sort of think
about what it was like to be

an ordinary Londoner
in Shakespeare's lifetime,

how did you get your news?

There were two places
where people gathered together

and matters of great concern,
of public concern were explored.

One of course was the church,

but obviously what
you're getting in a sermon

is very much the party line,

but then the second place
where people gather together

is the theater,

and there of course, there
is much less state control.

It's a really exciting,
dangerous forum.

It was in this dangerous forum

that Shakespeare
presented his new plays.

"Henry IV, Parts One & Two."

I've just been playing
that character of Henry IV

in a new film of the plays,

but I wonder what it
would have been like

to have told that story
on a stage like this.

Shall we be merry?

♪ Take the scorn
and wear the horn ♪

♪ It was the crest
when you were born ♪

♪ Your father's father wore it ♪

♪ And your father
wore, it, too ♪

♪ Hal-an-Tow ♪

♪ Jolly Rumbelow ♪

♪ We were up ♪

♪ Long before the day-o ♪

"Henry IV, Part One" is
one of the greatest plays

Shakespeare ever writes

because I think it's got
so much for the actors,

it's got so much
for the audience.

♪ Oh, summer is a-coming in ♪

♪ And winter's gone away, ho ♪

It's a play that
has comedy in it,

it has tragedy in it.

There's almost nothing
that Shakespeare puts

in every other play that
doesn't find some trace element

in "Henry IV, Part One."

Lay thine ear
close to the ground

and list if thou canst
hear the tread of travellers.

Not to mention the
great part that is Falstaff.

Have you any levers to lift
me up again, being down?

You don't have to
really know very much

about English
history to care deeply

about what is
going on in that play.

Though I be but Prince of Wales,
yet I am the king of courtesy!

Mm-wha!

It's about a young
man who is a prince

but who is clearly
disaffected from the role

that he's being asked to play

and finally having that
role thrust upon him in a way

that is inescapable for him.

I will redeem all
this on Percy's head

And in the closing
of some glorious day

Be bold to tell you
that I am your son!

I think it is an absolutely
magnificent play.

Hey!

And here you do get a real sense

of how the history plays worked
for Shakespeare's audience.

They're carnival
plays, those plays.

They're festive, and
they're quite wild,

and they're quite irreverent,

and that carnival atmosphere
is a given here at the Globe,

so stuff like Falstaff and
the Boar's-Head scenes,

they just erupt because the
audience goes wild for Falstaff.

If I tell thee a lie,
spit in my face...

call me horse.

And you get that,
which is great,

and then when go on
to the epic scale of it

and the battles
and the rebellion

and the movement
around the country,

this theater does
epic very well, as well.

The most obvious thing here,

the given thing here is
that the audience are lit.

They're lit by the sun
during the afternoon.

During the evening, we
light the audience again,

and then you look into
the eyes of the audience.

So they're not this sort of inky
blackness that you stare out into.

You're looking out at
a carpet of 600 faces.

It's wonderful. You see, this
is what Shakespeare wrote for.

Yeah.

That was what he had in his
head as he was writing these plays

was this sort of place.

Ohh! Welcome, Jack!

And so it's no wonder that
his plays could work here...

Where has thou been?

In a way like they couldn't
work anywhere else,

on a screen or in a
conventional proscenium theater.

IRONS, VOICE-OVER:
Despite the play's popularity,

it has never been made
as a big budget movie,

although there have
been versions made for TV.

Perhaps it's because of
the scale of the story itself.

Wan with care.

This is a story about a
man who deposed a king

and about a man who has a son,
the Prince of Wales, Prince Hal,

who will one day
hopefully be a king,

so it's a story
about a royal family,

but with the emphasis rather
more on family than it is on royal.

I know not whether
God will have it so,

For some displeasing
service I have done,

That, in his secret
doom, out of my blood

He'll breed revengement
and a scourge for me.

At the center of the play

is the story of a
father and a son,

a son who seems not to live up

to the expectations
of his father.

Henry may only have had a
tenuous claim to the throne,

but at least he
behaves like a king

and is tormented by the
fact that his son doesn't.

For thou has lost
thy princely privilege

With vile participation.

The father and son
battle of expectation,

of disappointment, of longing,

of love but also of hatred

is something that plays out
over both parts of "Henry IV,"

the longing on
the part of the king

for a different kind of son,

the son's
simultaneous rebellion.

You shall not find it so.

One thing Shakespeare does

to throw the
father-son relationship

into sharper relief
is to provide the king

with an alternative son,
a character Harry Hotspur

who appears to
have all the qualities

that the king wishes his
own son, also a Hal, had.

Come, Kate,

thou art perfect in lying down.

Hotspur represents
the old-fashioned virtues

of honor, courage,
and no nonsense.

Hotspur's family, the Percys,

had supported Henry
when he deposed Richard Il,

and initially,
Henry was popular,

but there was growing
discontent in the kingdom.

In fact, Hotspur was already
plotting a rebellion against him,

so it's particularly ironic that
at the beginning of the play

Henry explores the
possibility that Hal and Hotspur

might have been
swapped as babies.

O that it could be proved

That some night-tripping
fairy had in cradle-clothes

Exchanged our
children where they lay!

Then would I have
his Harry, and he mine.

And Shakespeare wasn't
content with just inventing

an alternative son for the king.

He also created
an alternative father

for the son, for Hal,

the character of
Sir John Falstaff,

and much of what is
extraordinary about this play

centers around that character.

Falstaff may be a knight,

but basically he's little
more than a womanizer,

a thief, a drunk,
and a reprobate.

We love antiheroes, rogues,
people on the margins,

people who disobey the rules.

How now, Hal?

It's interesting that
Falstaff is fat, isn't it?

I mean, that's a decision
Shakespeare makes as a writer

that Falstaff is
going to be fat.

How long is't ago, Jack,
since thou saw thine own knee?

What is it about fat people,

what do they represent?

Well, in some sense, they seem
to represent laziness, gluttony,

but they often
also represent life.

I shall think the better
of myself and thee

during my life;

I for a valiant lion,
thou for a true prince.

But, by the Lord, lads, I am
glad you have the money.

Living life to the full... You
eat, you drink, you laugh.

Those are the sorts of things

that the fatness of
Falstaff can evoke.

In London at Ealing Studios,

new film versions of
the two "Henry IV" plays

are in production.

They're being made
by a man who's directed

many of Shakespeare's plays both
onstage and on screen... Richard Eyre.

So we'll probably carry that...

EYRE, VOICE-OVER:
I think if you could say

that Shakespeare was
obsessed with anything,

it would be about
the relationships

of father and son.

What Shakespeare
does brilliantly

and in a symphonic
way over the two plays

is follow the theme
of father and son

in many different directions.

Action!

In this new version, King
Henry's son Prince Hal

is being played
by Tom Hiddleston.

Cut! Cut it!

Cut!

Like teenage sons everywhere,

Hal has little appetite
for responsibility

and seems to delight

in willfully
disregarding his father.

HIDDLESTON, VOICE-OVER:
Henry IV is a man of furrowed brow.

He's worried. He's worried
about the state of the kingdom

and the insecurity
of his position as king,

and he's desperate for Hal

to step up and step
into that silhouette,

to be the man, to be the
coming man, the great warrior,

and Hal's not
ready for that yet.

He wants to mess
around in the pub.

Prince Hal has chosen a
surrogate father in Falstaff.

Henry IV is all backbone
and honor but no soft edges,

and Falstaff is mostly soft
edges with no backbone.

Full rehearsal and action.

Falstaff is being played
by Simon Russell Beale.

His disregard for
conventional values

suits Hal perfectly,

but is Falstaff's almost
paternal relationship

with the young prince as
straightforward as it seems?

BEALE, VOICE-OVER:
Does Falstaff love Hal?

I'm not sure.

One's instinct is to say yes.

You know, this gorgeous lad,

this marvelous, young,
energetic, clever man

is spending time with
a man on his way out,

but I'm not sure.

It's muddied by the fact that Falstaff
keeps on going on about the fact,

"When you're king,
you'll do this for me,"

and, "When you're king, I
can't wait for when you're king,"

and you think that Falstaff's
too much of a petty crook

not to be taking that seriously,
that he's on to a winner

if he's best friends
with the Prince of Wales.

It's very, very hard to
think of any character

who is unalloyed
good or unalloyed bad.

"Oh, isn't Hal
something of the hero,

the golden boy?"

Actually, the
more you get in it,

you think he's a terrible shit.

I mean, he really does
some dreadful things,

and then you have the sort
of surrogate father Falstaff,

who is a congenital
liar, congenital drunk,

and congenital thief.

So there is no
exemplary character.

There are always ambiguities.

I mean, if you say,
"What is Shakespearean?"

everything that is
Shakespearean is ambiguous.

Today they're about
to film one of the play's

most ambiguous but
dramatically important scenes.

It involves Prince
Hal and Jack Falstaff

at the Boar's-Head pub.

While Hal is with
his surrogate father,

a messenger arrives
from his real father the king

to demand Hal's attendance
at the palace in the morning.

HIDDLESTON, VOICE-OVER: Falstaff
says, "Tomorrow, you're gonna get

"a right bollocking
from your dad.

"You should practice an answer.

I'll play your father."

That's a great pub game.

"Let's do an
impression of my dad.

Let's see who does
the best impression."

Yeah!

Hal's split loyalties between
Falstaff and his father

are central to both plays.

Falstaff brings out the wayward
and irresponsible side of Hal,

but Shakespeare knew
that he needed to open up

another side of the
young prince's personality.

How does he solve that problem?

He solves it through
a play within a play,

this fantastic scene, to my
mind... come on, I'll say it...

The greatest scene
Shakespeare ever wrote...

This fantastic scene
where they act out

Prince Hal returning to court,
being interviewed by his father.

It's an amazing
piece of theater,

where you have Falstaff
and Hal playing the parts

of King Henry IV and Hal.

FALSTAFF, AS HENRY
IV: There is a virtuous man

whom I have often
noted in thy company,

but I know not his name.

Falstaff being Falstaff
doesn't play the game properly.

What manner of man,
an it like your majesty?

A goodly portly man, i' faith...

Wearing a cushion and
copper-pot crown of a king,

he doesn't tell Hal to
pull his royal socks up.

Rather he instructs
the young prince

to spend more time with
a splendid fellow called...

Falstaff!

And then I say, "Oh, right OK.

"Let me do an impression of
my father, and you play me."

Hey! Ha ha ha!

HIDDLESTON, VOICE-OVER: Then
there's the wonderful comic opportunity

of having Falstaff
pretending to be Hal,

and then you see
their mutual affection.

Ooh!

This moment is
actually the turning point

of the whole scene,
possibly the play.

Well, here am I set.

And here I stand.

The roles are now reversed,

with Hal playing the king.

Whether aware of it or not,

Hal's perspective
begins to change.

Play-acting the king,

He's going to tell Hal,
now played by Falstaff,

to banish his fat friend.

There is a devil haunts thee

in the likeness
of an old fat man.

HIDDLESTON, VOICE-OVER:
And at the end of that game,

there is a chilling premonition

that runs down his spine,
that takes him by surprise.

No, my good lord; banish Peto,

banish Bardolph, banish Poins:

but for sweet Jack Falstaff,

kind Jack Falstaff,

true Jack Falstaff,
valiant Jack Falstaff,

and therefore the
more valiant, being,

as he is, old Jack Falstaff...

banish plump Jack, and...

banish all the world.

Heh. I do...

I will.

Cut!

We've cut! Shades are red.

If you know the play
well, if you love the play,

you can't watch
it with a dry eye.

It's also technically
so brilliant

because he's saying, "I do,"

within the context of
the play within the play,

acting the part,

but then in that instant pause,

in the shift of the
verb tense, "I will,"

he's speaking not within
the play within the play,

but as himself, he's
giving Falstaff warning

that the moment will come.

Hal's relationship with
his surrogate father

is clearly going to change,

but the following morning,
he visits the royal palace

to face his real father.

For all the world, Even
as I was then is Percy now.

He hath more worthy
interest to the state

Than thou the
shadow of succession;

For of no right, nor
colour like to right,

He doth fill fields with
harness in the realm...

IRONS, VOICE-OVER: In many
ways, Henry's a very lonely figure

at the center of this play,

weighed down by
the responsibility

of the kingdom and
somehow excluded

from the warmth
of the relationship

he suspects his
son has with Falstaff,

and that feeling of
exclusion, I think, only adds

to his feeling of
melancholy and loneliness.

In time, Henry will
come to believe his son

can and will live up
to his expectations,

but meanwhile, he must
deal with the consequences

of how he came to be king.

Threading through
both parts of "Henry IV"

is the explicit,
tortured guilt of the king

who has deposed
the previous king,

who has usurped the throne.

So he becomes more and
more suspicious of the people

who have helped
him to become king

and then more and more paranoid

because he's more
and more certain

that they are
plotting against him,

and then of course,
they do plot against him.

By the Lord, our plot is a
good plot as ever was laid;

our friends true and constant:

a good plot, good friends,

and full of expectation.

As happened historically,
Henry gradually loses

the support of the very men who
had helped him depose Richard,

and now they plan to depose him.

Shakespeare takes
that historical fact

and then weaves
in the dramatic irony

that it will be Harry
Percy, Hotspur,

the man whom Henry
once wished for as a son,

who will lead the
rebel army against him.

The battle that
inexorably follows

will take place on the
outskirts of Shrewsbury.

Henry spent the night
before the battle here

at this Augustinian
Abbey of Haughmond,

but before the battle,
Henry wanted to negotiate,

if possible, a settlement

so that they
wouldn't have to fight

because he knew that if
they did it would be carnage.

But the negotiations fail,

and the next day,
Shakespeare brings together

all his main protagonists...

Henry and the prince
and Hotspur and Falstaff...

In perhaps the defining
moment of the drama.

It's the morning of the battle.

Falstaff and Prince Hal
will be fighting together

with the king against
the rebel forces,

but Shakespeare
undermines our moral certainty

by looking at the
impending conflict

from Falstaff's utterly
subversive point of view.

He knows he's a wastrel,
he knows he's a cheat.

He might be morally dubious,

but certainly his analysis
of lots of situations

is perhaps inaccurate,
including his own.

Can honour set to a leg? no:

or an arm? no:

or take away the
grief of a wound? no.

And he knows about honor.

What is in that word honour?

What is that honour?

Air.

A trim reckoning!

Who hath it?

He that died o' Wednesday.

Doth he feel it? no.

Doth he hear it? no.

'Tis insensible, then.

Yea, to the dead.

But will it not live
with the living?

No.

So it's with Falstaff's
words ringing in our ears

that Shakespeare's Battle
of Shrewsbury begins.

We filmed this
battle in the depths

of the snowy winter of 2012

a few miles west of
London in Rickmansworth.

Cut.

And we've cut! We've cut!

Well done, people. Back
to number one, please.

Nice and steady.

It was actually fought a few
miles north of Shrewsbury

in the high summer of 1403.

This is the actual site of
the battle of Shrewsbury

with Hotspur and
the rebel forces

on the hill behind me

and the king's
forces ranged below,

and he was here that
Hal showed Henry IV,

his father... me...
the first signs

of the hero he was to become,

and it's also an
example of truth being

even stranger than fiction

because when Hal
fought at this battle

he was just 16 years old.

But as far as Shakespeare
was concerned,

the important fact
wasn't Hal's age.

It was that father and son
were finally united in a cause

that would begin to
rebuild their relationship.

The prince would be
fighting with the king

against a common foe, the
rebel army of Harry Hotspur.

HIDDLESTON, VOICE-OVER:
Hal's experience alongside his father

at the battle of Shrewsbury

change who Hal is.

His proximity to his father
as a leader of an army

alters his moral compass.

He sees Falstaff
in a different light.

He sees Falstaff
less as a jolly fat man

and more as a coward and a liar.

In the play... and again this
is Shakespeare's invention...

It is Hal who meets
Hotspur face to face,

Henry's real son,
the loyal prince,

against his idealized
notion of a son

now turned rebel... Hotspur.

Yaah! Puggg! And
then we're into the fight,

and it's a great
medieval battle.

Hal's defeat of Hotspur
is part of Hal's inheritance

of that martial valor.

By defeating this great warrior,

Hal assumes all of that
power and courage and might.

You can see he's already
beginning to change.

His shoulders are broadening,

not just physically
but metaphorically.

He's becoming a man.

Shakespeare chose to
be historically inaccurate

in order to heighten the
dramatic power of his play.

And call'd mine
Percy, his Plantagenet!

Then would I have
his Harry, and he mine.

To have the king compare
Hal to Hotspur as a potential son

and to make them
comparable military rivals,

Shakespeare had to
make them the same age,

but he knew perfectly
well from his history books

that Hotspur was about
30 years older than Hal.

The notion that Shakespeare
has built, if you like,

the dramatic force of his
play on historical falsity,

sometimes is very
anxious-making for historians today,

but for his own time,
this is perfectly plausible.

It's just a slight adjustment
for dramatic purpose

but for important sort
of dramatic purpose.

He's making a point
about those characters.

King Henry did win
the battle of Shrewsbury

but at an enormous cost.

After the battle, though
he was triumphant militarily,

he also found himself
emotionally shattered

by the huge loss of life.

He was a deeply religious man,

and so he ordered
this church to be built

possibly on the site
of the mass graves.

Shakespeare picks up on
the king's shattered emotions,

and from here on
in, the story is set

against Henry's
gradual disintegration.

Shakespeare now focuses on Henry

as a man approaching
the end of his life.

Rebellions against him continue,

his grip on the
crown remains fragile

as he more and more
obsesses about the fact

that he became king
by deposing a king,

a crime against the
law of divine right,

a crime against God himself.

I think it's very hard
to imagine nowadays

the sort of guilt he felt,

but that guilt, certainly
one of the things it did

was to stop him sleeping,

And Shakespeare says...

Gives him the lines:

"How many thousand
of my poorest subjects

"Are at this hour asleep!

"O sleep, O gentle sleep,

"How have I frighted thee,

"That thou no more wilt
weigh my eyelids down

"And steep my senses
in forgetfulness?

"Wilt thou upon the
high and giddy mast

"Seal up the ship-boy's
eyes, and rock his brains

"Within the roar and
surge of the unruly sea

"And in the calmest
and most stillest night,

"Deny it to a king?

"Then happy low, lie down!

Uneasy lies the head
that wears a crown."

Running through
the "Henry IV" plays

is a vein of poetic imagery
of disease and decay.

It's disease and
decay in the state,

but it's also in
the king himself.

The king is sick,
the state is sick.

The two things go together,
and as the plays unfold,

the king gets more
and more sick.

As the second play of our
trilogy reaches its climax,

the increasingly ill king
collapses at Westminster Abbey,

and here Shakespeare
does follow the historical truth.

Henry was brought from
the Abbey to this room.

In the play, he asks
what the room is called

and is told that it is the
Jerusalem Chamber.

To Henry, this is
an oblique fulfillment

that he would die
in the Holy Land.

He says to his courtiers,

"In that Jerusalem
will Harry die."

And they laid him on a
bed in front of this fire.

So this is where Henry spent
the last few hours of his life

on the 20th of March 1413,

and if he was conscious,
then he probably noticed

in the roof the letter
"R" over and over again.

"R" for the man who built
this room... King Richard Il...

And the man who
Henry had deposed

and who, especially
at this moment,

must have been lying very
heavily on his conscience.

With his father's death, Prince
Hal finally becomes Henry V,

and Shakespeare makes
sure that his first act as king

and his last act in the
play "Henry IV, Part Two,"

is the one that he hinted at
earlier in "Henry IV, Part One."

Hal has said, "I do,"
and he has said, "I will,"

so now he must turn his back on
and indeed banish Jack Falstaff.

My king! my Jove!

I speak to thee, my heart!

I know thee not, old man:

fall to thy prayers.

So with the death of Henry IV,

we finally get back to where
we started... "Henry V"...

But we're only halfway
through the tale,

and "Henry V" presented
enormous problems

to contemporary
16th Century theater

because apart from
its depictions of battles,

the locations leap around
from England to Wales

to the beleaguered palaces and
cities and battlefields of northern France,

and how do you do
that in a theater like this?

O for a Muse of fire,
that would ascend

The brightest
heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a
stage, princes to act

And monarchs...

Shakespeare's answer is
extraordinarily innovative.

He invents a
character, the Chorus,

who apologizes for the problems

and appeals directly
to the audience

to use their imagination
and suspend their disbelief.

But pardon, gentles all,

The flat unraised
spirits that have dared

On this unworthy
scaffold to bring forth

So great an object:
can this cockpit hold

The vasty fields of
France? Or may we cram

Within this wooden
O the very casques

That did fright the
air at Agincourt?

Probably it was
the first production

they did in the Globe in 1599.

Shakespeare was at
a crisis in his career.

He'd come into a new theater,

he wanted to write in a new way,

and that invitation of the
Chorus to use your imagination

and to "Piece out our
imperfections with your mind"

is central to what the Globe is.

Think when we talk of
horses, that you see them

Printing their proud
hoofs i' the receiving earth;

For 'tis your thoughts that
now must deck our kings.

And that's the nature
of Shakespearian theater

is what's defined
by the Chorus is

it's a sort of realism,

where you have to be truthful
and you have to be honest,

but you come on and
you say, "I am Hamlet,"

and the audience goes, "OK."

"This is Denmark."

"Hmm. All right. I'll
go with you on that,"

and then you go wherever
they want you to go,

led and steered
completely by the actors

and what's in your own head,

and that's central to "Henry V."

And let us, ciphers
to this great account,

On your imaginary forces work.

If the first two plays were
about fathers and sons,

then in "Henry V,"
Shakespeare shifts his attention

to the subject of how
to be a good king.

Almost as soon
as the play begins,

Henry sets off to France in pursuit
of a claim to the French throne.

War will almost inevitably
follow, so why do it?

Historically for 5 centuries,
the English monarchs had

very strong links with France.

There is no bar

To make against your
highness' claim to France

But this...

IRONS, VOICE-OVER:
The English king owned

large parts of
what is now France,

so Henry's claim
to the French throne

was not completely absurd,
but it was complicated.

The Archbishop of
Canterbury's justification

of Henry's claim offers
us an extraordinary view

of Shakespeare at work,

or, in this case,
completely avoiding it.

He stole almost the
entire text of the speech

from his primary source book
"The Chronicles of England"

by Raphael Holinshed.

In Shakespeare, "No woman
shall succeed in Salique land,"

and then we have Holinshed.

"Into the Salique land,
let not women succeed."

Shakespeare...

Which Salique land
the French unjustly gloze

To be the realm of France.

Holinshed's.

"Which the French glosses
expound to be the realm of France."

So virtually identical.

Yet their own
authors faithfully affirm

That the land Salique
lies in Germany.

"Whereas yet their
own authors affirm,

that the land Salique
is in Germany."

It's the same stuff.

If it's an undergraduate essay,

there would be
charges of plagiarism

because this is
pretty much identical.

IRONS, VOICE-OVER: So we know
where Shakespeare got this material from,

but what did he
actually think about it?

A modern Archbishop of
Canterbury has his doubts.

Frankly, I don't think
Shakespeare agrees

with the case
that's made at all,

and I do think that
"Henry V" is a play

absolutely shot through
with moral questions

about its central character.

It demands to be read
against the background

of "Henry IV, Parts One and Two"

because the character of
Henry V is consistent throughout.

He's constantly somebody
who really wants other people

to take the blame, to
carry the load for him.

So I think Shakespeare means
us to take a very, very distant

and rather skeptical
view of what's said

of what's said by the
archbishop and others.

May I with right and
conscience make this claim?

The sin upon my
head, dread sovereign!

IRONS, VOICE-OVER:
Everyone who tackles this play

will have to deal with
these moral questions

and come up with
their own answers.

At a time when conflict
and wars around the world

remain front page news,
the latest to examine

the relevance of
Shakespeare's "Henry V"

is the director of a new film
of the play Thea Sharrock.

SHARROCK, VOICE-OVER:
Well, it's funny, you know.

Lots of people have said to me,

"Oh, right so you're
doing Henry V, right.

So you doing
pro-war or anti-war?"

as if those are the
only two choices.

Owen, I just need to see...

I hope I'm not
really doing either.

I'm just trying to tell the story
that war happens all the time,

and it's very easy, I
think, to lose touch

with the individuals within it.

This is a play about a young
man who has been made king

and who literally
learns how to be a king

in front of our eyes during
the course of the play,

during the course of the film.

Tom Hiddleston,
who played Prince Hal,

is now king,

and "Henry V" is a play about
leadership in a time of war.

Henry's army is
bogged down in a siege

against the French
town of Harfleur,

and it seems
some of his soldiers

have little appetite
for the fight.

This brings out some surprising
qualities in the new king.

Well, he's not Hal
anymore, he's Henry,

but he's learning on the job,

and he very quickly is put
into extreme circumstances,

and it makes him
behave in a certain way,

and he's no angel.

I think he gets things wrong.

I think he says some
terrible things along the way.

There are some really
brutal moments in that play.

In the scene where they're
in the siege of Harfleur,

there's an extraordinary
threat that he makes.

How yet resolves the
governor of the town?

To our best mercy
give yourselves;

Or like to men
proud of destruction

Defy us to our worst:
for, as I am a soldier,

A name that in my
thoughts becomes me best,

If I begin the
battery once again,

I will not leave the
half-achieved Harfleur

Till in her ashes
she lie buried.

This is a truly brutal speech,

and it's entirely
Shakespeare's invention.

There's nothing in
Holinshed to justify it.

Why, in a moment look to see

The blind and bloody
soldier with foul hand

Defile the locks of your
shrill-shrieking daughters;

Your fathers taken
by the silver beards,

And their most reverend
heads dash'd to the walls,

Your naked infants
spitted upon pikes,

Effectively, he says,
"You better surrender.

"Otherwise, my men
are gonna come in,

"and they're gonna
rape your wives

and mutilate your babies."

While Henry actually gives the
speech of Harfleur to the governor,

I think he shocks himself, I think
he shocks himself with what he says.

What say you?

Will you yield, and this avoid?

Or, guilty in defense,
be thus destroy'd?

And that will
reverberate with him.

Not in the moment, but you
can bet your bottom dollar,

it has an effect on
him thereafter for sure.

Our expectation
hath this day an end.

HIDDLESTON, VOICE-OVER:
If "Henry V" is about anything,

it's about the nature of war.

It's all very well to
celebrate and revere

homecoming heroes,

but Shakespeare is brave enough

and we wanted to be brave enough

about displaying how
those wars are won.

Having finally taken
the town of Harfleur,

Henry's depleted
army actually planned

to return home to England,

but their retreat was cut
off near the River Somme.

It seemed as if the French
were determined to provoke

a decisive battle near
a town called Agincourt.

There's this extraordinary scene

the night before the battle
where the king goes in disguise

among his men,
and they just debate

about what it means
to fight for your king,

to die for your country.

It brings King Henry up short.

It's extraordinarily powerful.

Methinks I could not die
any where so contented

as in the king's company;

his cause being just and
his quarrel honourable.

Eh, that's more than we know.

Ay, or more than
we should seek after.

That scene at the
end of "Henry V"

just before the
Battle of Agincourt

is one of the most
remarkable scenes

that Shakespeare ever scripted

partly because the words
of the common soldiers

are so compelling and powerful.

But if the cause be not good,

the king himself hath an
heavy reckoning to make,

when all those legs
and arms and heads,

chopped off in a battle, shall
join together at the latter day

and cry all "We
died at such a place."

But he doesn't quite take it in,

he can't quite take it in.

He has to listen
and yet not listen.

I am afeard there are few
die well that die in a battle.

It's a brilliant
moment in some ways

of a certain kind of
Shakespearian vision

of leadership,

the leadership that
involves actually being able

to put off your kingly crown

and move among the
common people and listen

but not enough
to make him freeze

in the face of the decisions
that he's going to make,

decisions that for all he knows

are gonna lead all of
them to their deaths.

On the morning of the
battle in October 1415,

Henry did think that there
was a very good chance

that he and his outnumbered
army were doomed,

so Shakespeare provided him

with one of the greatest
speeches he ever wrote,

and the extraordinary thing is

that in Shakespeare's
source book we can find

the very words that inspired
him to write that speech.

It is said that as he
heard one of the hosts

utter his wish to another thus,

"I would to God they
were with us now,

so many good soldiers as
are at this hour within England,"

the king answered,

"I would not wish a man
more here than I have.

"We are indeed in comparison
to the enemy but a few,

but we shall speed well enough."

And out of this source material,
Shakespeare wove pure magic.

O that we now had here
But one ten thousand

of those men in England
That do not work to-day!

What's he that wishes so?

If we are mark'd to
die, we are enough

To do our country
loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the
greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee,
wish not one man more.

"Henry V" is a play
about leadership

and what it means
to be a great leader,

and in 2012, we're very cynical
about leadership it seems to me,

and I certainly am part of a
generation of people, I think,

who don't trust rhetoric.

This day is called
the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day,
and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe
when the day is named,

And rouse him at
the name of Crispian.

And if you look at
what the speech means,

all it means is it
appeals to basic courage,

which is very old-fashioned.

He that shall live this
day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil
feast his neighbours,

And say...

Many, many actors...

Laurence Olivier included...
Have decided, have chosen

to do it in front of
the whole army,

that it's a big speech
for the whole army.

This story shall the
good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian
shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the
ending of the world,

But we in it shall
be remember'd;

We few, we happy
few, we band of brothers.

Thea Sharrock
and I decided to do it

to a small group of people
for the band of brothers.

"Wouldn't it be great if we
had more men in our army?"

"You know what? We don't
need those men in our army.

"Why? Because it is a
brave and noble thing

to die standing up
for your country."

We few...

we happy few...

we band of brothers;

For he to-day that
sheds his blood with me,

Shall be my brother;

be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall
gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in
England now a-bed

Shall think themselves
accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods
cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us
upon Saint Crispin's day.

This is the actual site
of the Battle of Agincourt.

The English with their
much smaller army

was lined up on
the horizon there,

facing the French,
vastly outnumbered,

and it was clear that
whatever was gonna happen,

it was going to be either
a triumph or a disaster.

There were no other options.

The Battle of Agincourt
was extraordinary

for a variety of reasons:

the bloody effectiveness
of the English archers;

tactical blunders by the French;

the combination of heavy
armor and thick mud.

Thousands died,
cut down, crushed,

or drowned in the mud
beneath their fallen comrades.

And against all the odds,
Henry was triumphant.

As part of the peace
treaty with France,

Henry married
the king's daughter

and was declared heir
to the French throne.

Over the plays of
"Henry IV" and "Henry V,"

Shakespeare has told the
story of two great English kings.

In a simple reading,
he enshrined

a triumphant and patriotic
view of English history

that is still cherished today,

but Shakespeare
being Shakespeare,

nothing is simple.

His reimagination of history
also provides layer upon layer

of ambiguity,
subversion, and doubt.

To die for one's country is
of course an honorable death,

but Shakespeare clearly
had his doubts about honor.

What is that honour?

The battles may be
won, but he doesn't flinch

from revealing the
horror and brutality of war.

Ordinary people
with little to gain

and everything to lose
often lose everything

as they pay the blood price
for the ambitions of their kings,

and even in the most
honorable of causes,

great leaders can
never be certain

what the consequences of
their actions will actually be.

As the final words of
the play make clear,

Henry is dead by
the time he is 35,

and all of his
achievements were lost

by the end of his son's reign.

Henry VI, in infant
bands crown'd King

Of France and England,
did this king succeed;

Whose state so many
had the managing,

That they lost France and
made his England bleed.

Isn't this at the heart

of what Shakespeare
has been saying?

So as I walk here in northern
France not far from Agincourt

more than 400 years after
these plays were written,

I can't help wondering
have we learned anything?