Tuesday, September 7, 2010

For ABC WEDNESDAY

“H” is for “Hal.”
Prince Hal, that is.
My guess is that if you were to try to figure out which character was the most popular that Ol’ Will Shakespeare ever created in his plays, you’d probably come up with Sir John Falstaff.

Falstaff is fascinating. In the first place, he was, shall we say, large – some might even go so far as to use the word “fat.” He was also totally disreputable, boastful, almost never able to tell the truth, and he spent most daylight hours with a buzz on, except for the times when he was pretty well totally hammered.

But he was also very entertaining and a helluva lot of fun. He was always joking and goofing off, occasionally coming up with some truly witty remarks along the way.
What did he have to do with Prince Hal? Thought you’d never ask. :-) Turns out, just about everything.
You see, young Hal, heir to the throne, believed his father the King was too cold, too strict, and the boy felt the life of a young, respectable royal wasn’t for him. He became a wild teenager, a type that I am led to believe may well exist in our time too.
What Hal really enjoyed was hangin’ with his pal Falstaff.

He felt the Disreputable One knew how to live. Carousing at the Boar’s Head Tavern, surrounded by the sexy wenches, in a way Falstaff was a kind of overwhelming life force. Hal knew he was slumming when he was with him, but he loved it. He even took part in a few of the older guy’s not-entirely-legal activities – something that would have created even more headaches for his dad if he had known about it.

Scholars believe the Old Fat Guy became a kind of second father to the boy. In this picture, Falstaff is played by Orson Welles.

But Shakespeare adds an interesting touch: the young Prince, it turns out, was careful at all times about what he was doing. Yes, he was screwing around and raising hell, but he believed he’d be able to change. He was just sowing his wild oats and he felt he would later be able to mature: when the time came he’d be ready for the job of monarch.

And in fact Hal did later become King Henry V, quite possibly the most beloved sovereign in the entire history of England.

There have been many films and theatrical presentations of his story. One of the best was the movie “Henry V” made by Laurence Olivier during World War II, intended as a morale-booster during the dark days when Britain very much needed its morale boosted.

25 comments:

willow said...

Wonderful post. I'm in love with Kenneth Branagh, by the way. Wonder if he'll be my date the the Willow Ball?

Berowne said...

I know you didn't mean it, but that Willow Ball has turned out to be a problem for me. Both Emma Thompson and Helen Mirren are after me to take them -- they've heard I make great scrambled eggs the next morning. :-)

Everyday Goddess said...

Great ideas for my Netflix queue!

ds said...

One of my fondest memories from my student time in England is of picnicking in the shadow of Falstaff's statue in Stratford-upon-Avon with my then and current BFF. Thank you for bringing that back.
The plays involving Prince Hal are probably the Bard's best at showing us statecraft and how a young man can grow into a role ("for England, Harry, and Saint George!"). And yes, I adore Kenneth Branagh. Will have to locate the Olivier--even though to me he is most memorable as Richard III. Guess that will have to wait for "R."
Thank you so much for this--Old Falstaff is among my favorite characters ever.

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous post for the H Day! I, too, love Kenneth Branagh and Shakespeare! Your post brought back lots of memories! Thanks for those! Have a great day!

Sylvia

photowannabe said...

I had totally forgotten the story of Falstaff and "Prince Hal" Thanks for the fascinating story and way of peeking my interest again in Shakesphere.

Jedediah said...

The Branagh version of Henry V was the first adaptation of Shakespeare I ever saw and I still love it - so many amazing actors. Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff - yay :)

Manang Kim said...

I have learn something today. Thanks for an informative post. Happy Wednesday!
ABC Wednesday-H

Berowne said...

E. Goddess: "Great ideas for my Netflix queue!"
Whatever did we used to do without Netflix?:-)

Mara said...

Yes, he does sound like most of the teenagers from today. Who will mostly turn out to be decent adults who will hate it if their children do the things they did.

I have yet to see any of the dramas by Shakespeare, the comedies are hard enough to understand at times!

Nanka said...

That was a great post and fun reading it too. You have a nice way of narrating.
Have a great week!!

Rumya said...

It was a very educative and interesting read. Thank you for sharing!!

Gramma Ann said...

What can I say? I know nothing about all the information today. I am not a Shakespeare fan. I never had to study him when I was in school, which was many moons ago, and sad to say, I never even heard of Prince Hal or Falstaff. So each week I learn a little something new.

Wendy said...

Shakespeare such incredible characters! Hal is one of my favorite Monarchs and Shakespeare had an insight like no other writer I believe to the minds and machinations of the Kings and Queens. Love this post :)

Hildred and Charles said...

A great post, - Prince Hal had a nicely balanced preparation for monarch, thanks to his father on one side and the lessons in humanity from Falstaff.

Roger Owen Green said...

Shakespeare can be so much more accessable via film. Two classic films of this king.'

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

Fascinating history lesson. I must go further back to learn more about Henry V, as right now I am into Henry VIII and his life and loves. Currently, I'm reading "Wolf Castle" about Thomas Cromwell and his connection with the king.

Berowne said...

Sylvia K: "Marvelous post for the H Day!"
"H" is for "Happy to hear it." Thanks.

Berowne said...

Wendy: "Love this post"
Love this comment. {-)

Derrick said...

Easy to see that "Larry" got the best costumes!

Christine said...

Thanks for the amazing retrospective! Great pictures to accompany the story. Thoroughly enjoyed. :-)

helenmac said...

Great post for all fans of Shakespeare and Henry/Hal and of course Falstaff! We have a Shakespeare Readers group and the plays come alive read outloud. And we watch as many film versions as we can. So far we have done 50 plays!!!!
Thank you!
HelenMac
ABC team

Berowne said...

helenmac: "Great post for all fans of Shakespeare and Henry/Hal and of course Falstaff!"
Glad to hear it, helenmac -- thanks.

Berowne said...

Hildred and Charles: "A great post."
What a generous comment -- thanks, H&C.

jabblog said...

Cry 'God for Harry, England and Saint George!'
Great H for ABC :-)

 
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