>ASC: Henry V

>Last night I saw the American Shakespeare Center production of The Life of King Henry the Fifth. Evan Hoffmann was excellent as the charismatic Henry, and the eloquent speeches were incredibly moving, including this one:

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
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.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
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.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
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;
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.

The rest of the cast also did a great job, in a play that has nearly 50 characters, requiring doubling, tripling and quadrupling of parts for a company that has only 11 actors. The scene where Princess Katherine, played by Ellen Adair, learns English from her attendant Alice, played by Ginna Hoben, is hilariously done. Various Dukes and Earls were played by Scot Carson, Raffi Barsoumian, Paul Reisman, Daniel Kennedy, Christopher Seiler, Josh Carpenter, Chris Johnston, and Alisa Ledyard.

Henry V is the story of the Battle of Agincourt, which took place on October 25, 1415, in which a heavily outnumbered English army defeated the French. As the Director’s Notes say,

The play strongly suggests what a nation can achieve when it is united under a charismatic leader; yet Shakespeare doesn’t flinch from raising the whole question of the legality of Henry’s war, nor does he avert his eyes from the inevitable horrors that war brings in its wake.

Something to think about. Great play, great production.

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