Henry V

CONTEST: Win tickets to a screening of Henry V!

Our friends at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema have given us 4 pairs of tickets to the Shakespeare’s Globe presentation of Henry V on November 29, 2014!
Enter now on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Contest closes Wednesday, November 26 at noon.

Good luck!

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

Known as one of the greatest contemporary actors, let’s remember Philip Seymour Hoffman and his work today. He had a great presence both on screen and on stage, appearing in productions of The Merchant of Venice, and Henry V.
In 1995, he appeared in a film version of 15 Minute Hamlet, based on the play by Tom Stoppard. The film is an interesting take on the film industry, and what it would been like had it been around in Shakespeare’s time. You can watch 15 Minute Hamlet here:

Shakespeare at the Movies- The Oscars 2014

The nominations for the 2014 Academy Awards are in, and I must say, there is some fierce competition for a statue this year!
Until the awards are actually given out on March 2, we can only speculate on the internet and join the office pool, guessing who will walk away a winner. In the meantime, we can dive into the nominees past works, and learn about the interesting and brilliant choices that this group of actors have made throughout their careers.

Seeing as we are a Shakespeare related theatre company, I have sifted though the careers of the nominees and compiled a list of some of the Shakespeare related works that they have been a part of over the years! Enjoy!

christian-bale-american-hustle

Christian Bale (Best Actor Nominee)

Appeared in:

chiwetel-ejiofor-12-years-a-slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Best Actor Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Macbeth (1997 theatre production) as Malcom
  • Romeo and Juliet (2000 theatre production) as Romeo
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2003 TV movie) as Orsino
  • Othello (2007 theatre production) as Othello

leonardo-dicaprio-the-wolf-of-wall-street

Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor Nominee)

Appeared in:

amy-adams-american-hustle

Amy Adams (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Into the Woods (2012 Shakespeare in the Park Production) as Baker’s Wife

cate-blanchett-blue-jasmine

Cate Blanchett (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Richard II (2009 Sydney Festival) as Richard II


*Fun Fact- This role was part of a show called The War of the Roses, which condensed all of Shakespeare’s historical plays into one 8 hour performance!

judi-dench-philomena

Judi Dench (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:


*Fun Fact- Judi Dench also performed with The Royal Shakespeare Company for many years.

meryl-streep-august-osage-county

Meryl Streep (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • The Taming of the Shrew (1978 Shakespeare in the Park Production)  as Katherine
  • Romeo and Juliet (2012 Shakespeare in the Park Staged Reading) as Juliet

michael-fassbender-12-years-a-slave

Michael Fassbender (Best Supporting Actor Nominee)

Appearing in:

  • Macbeth (Currently in Pre-production) as Macbeth

sally-hawkins

Sally Hawkins (Best Supporting Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Much Ado About Nothing (2000 theatre production)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2000 theatre production)

lupita-nyongo-12-years-a-slave

Lupita Nyong’o (Best Supporting Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • The Winter’s Tale (Yale School of Drama Production)
  • The Taming of the Shrew (Yale School of Drama Production)

Have you seen any of these movies or performances? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

“This day is called the feast of Crispian”

According to Christian legend, Crispin and his brother Crispinian were Roman preachers who spent their days trying to convert the Gauls, and their nights making shoes. The Emperor at the time, Maximian, didn’t take kindly to Crispin and Crispinian’s proselytizing ways, and had them beheaded on 25 October 285 AD. The brothers’ feast day has since been bumped off the liturgical calendar due to skepticism about their actual existence, but their names live on thanks to Shakespeare (and a few historically informed specialty shoemakers).

In Act 4, scene 3 of Henry V, King Henry and his army are on the verge of battle with the French. The British are vastly outnumbered by the French army, and defeat looks inevitable. To rouse the flagging spirits of his weary troops, Henry delivers what is often referred to as the St. Crispin’s Day speech. He spurs his men on with promises of the glory they will share in, whether they win or lose, and the stories that will be told back home of the brave “band of brothers” who fought for England on St. Crispin’s Day:

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.

Many will be familiar with Kenneth Branagh’s rousing version of the St. Crispin’s Day speech, but here is a budding Shakespearean who could give Sir Ken a run for his money:

Ok, so he leaves out a few key lines, but what vim! What vigour!

There are many ways to celebrate St. Crispin’s Day. You could cobble some shoes, avoid angry Romans, or, maybe just pull out your copy of Henry V and channel your inner warrior king for a dramatic reading.

This has been Genie the intern, reporting for Harry, England, and St. George.

Wordy Wednesday!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is ‘Band of Brothers’.  This famous phrase was coined by Shakespeare in 1599 and was first heard in his theatrical production of Henry V – which was one of the opening productions performed in the newly built Globe Theatre.

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.

Henry V [IV. iii. 2291 – 2302]

Henry V delivers this rousing speech to his men just before the Battle of Agincourt.  Along with his “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech [Henry V, III. i. 1092], these famous lines capture the heart of the play and Shakespeare’s vision of the warrior King.

 

The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 went down in history as one of England’s most famous victories and Henry V’s crowning glory.  The English army was outnumbered more than four to one by the French and defeat seemed almost inevitable.  However, due in no small part to the unrelenting archers with their ferocious longbows driving the enemy back, the English managed to defeat the vast French force. England’s improbable odds before the battle give Henry’s impassioned words even more resonance.  Shakespeare endows his Henry V with the powerful skill of being able to stir the hearts of his men and inspire and rouse them into fighting bravely and fearlessly for him despite the odds.  Just like Joan of Arc’s battle cry to the French soldiers who later fight the army of Henry VI (Henry V’s son) – they were determined to “fight till the last gasp”. [Henry VI P I, I. ii. 326]

 

Henry proclaims that at that moment in time, they are all equals and they will stand shoulder to shoulder and fight as brothers.  They will fight and bleed together and many of them will die together.  This blood bond ties them together as family, and on this day they do not fight as kings, lords or foot soldiers, but as men, as equals and as brothers.

 

This notion of comradeship and blood bonds during combat is transcendental.   Lord Nelson evoked this powerful wartime bond in his speech after the Battle of the Nile, referring to his Sea Captains as a ‘band of brothers’. There are copious examples throughout history of soldiers fighting and dying together as a ‘band of brothers’.  One such example is that of the 101st Airborne East Company during World War II.  This unit fought fearlessly and heroically from the Normandy invasion through to the end of the war; united by the blood spilt on the battle field and the strength of the lifelong bonds they had forged.  Their story was immortalized in the HBO series, aptly named ‘Band of Brothers’.

bandofbrothers

An evolution of this is seen in Game of Thrones through the Dothraki blood riders fighting side by side with Khal Drogo and then Daenerys’ riders.  Daenerys calls these warriors “blood of my blood” as they have pledged their lives to her and their blood is now the blood of their Khaleesi.

185px-Daenerys_1x03

I was lucky enough to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry V twice during their two year/eight play History Cycle in 2007/2008.  It was the greatest theatrical spectacle I have ever seen, and Geoffrey Streatfeild’s Henry was passionate, rousing and utterly spellbinding.  Such is the power of Shakespeare’s stirring words in Henry V, that Streatfeild delivered his “Once more unto the breach” speech in the dressing room of the English rugby team, to rouse and inspire them before they stepped onto the field to do battle with the French team to fight for the glory of the Six Nations Championship in 2007.  An inspired England won the battle on the day; beating the highly favoured French team – (although France were ultimately victorious clinching the title against Scotland the next week).  This demonstrates the immense power and potency Shakespeare’s texts still wield today and how they have infused nearly every facet of our contemporary society.

henry v pic

By Linda Nicoll

References:

BritishBattles.com – ‘The Battle of Agincourt’, 2002 – 2013. Chalfont Web. http://www.britishbattles.com/100-years-war/agincourt.htm [Accessed 15 May 2013]

British Library – ‘Treasures in Full ~ Shakespeare in Quarto – Henry V Early Performances’. 2013 London. http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/henry5.html [Accessed 15 May 2013]

Game of Thrones Wiki – ‘Bloodriders – Rakharo’. 2013 Wikia. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Rakharo [Accessed 15 May 2013]

IMDb – ‘Band of Brothers’. 1990 – 2013 IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185906/ [Accessed 15 May 2013]

In depth Info – ‘Band of Brothers in literature and history’. Copyright 2005 – 2013. W. J. Rayment.  http://www.indepthinfo.com/band-of-brothers/ [Accessed 15 May 2013]

Open Source Shakespeare – ‘Play Search’, 2013 George Mason University. http://www.opensourceshakespeare.com/views/plays/plays.php

Royal Shakespeare Company – ‘Henry V Programme – Geoffrey Streatfeild as Henry V’. 2007, Dir. Michael Boyd – RSC Stratford upon Avon and The Roundhouse Theatre London, England.

Suite 101 – ‘Horatio Nelson and his Band of Brothers’, 1996 – 2013 Suite101. http://suite101.com/article/horatio-nelson-and-his-band-of-brothers-a221354 [Accessed 15 May 2013]

 

 

 

Wordy Wednesday – “Devil incarnate”

Medieval beliefs remained strong in Shakespeare’s era; the idea that real, literal demons haunted humanity is still believed by some today.

Lucius: O worthy Goth, this is the incarnate devil
That robb’d Andronicus of his good hand;
This is the pearl that pleased your empress’ eye,
And here’s the base fruit of his burning lust.
–(Titus Andronicus, V.i.2163-67)

Nym: They say he cried out of sack.
Hostess Quickly: Ay, that a’ did.
Bardolph: And of women.
Hostess Quickly: Nay, that a’ did not.
Boy: Yes, that a’ did; and said they were devils incarnate.
Hostess Quickly: A’ could never abide carnation; ’twas a colour he never liked.
–(Henry V, II.iii.859-65)

Shakespeare’s use of the phrase “devil incarnate” – which he never actually put in those exact words in his plays – is the same as ours today. Unlike many of his sayings or catchphrases, there’s none of the drift in meaning by which, for example, “kill with kindness” has gone from an ironic implication of deliberate cruelty to a more modern torture – making a target worry that too much niceness must conceal a sinister hidden motive. A ‘devil incarnate” is still, as it was then, the worst possible human being – an irredeemably wicked individual to be avoided at all costs.

In Shakespeare’s day, of course, the reasons for someone to be so evil were considered different than ours. We tend to write modern villains as suffering mental illness – like sociopathy, or PTSD from childhood trauma – or with clear motivations of greed, lust, or jealousy. In short, they’re broadly realistic people with a strong urge to get something and no problem hurting and killing others who get in their way. We all know milder versions of that, and we can make the leap to more serious, intense villainy.

Elizabethans and Jacobeans had a different frame of reference. They were almost all Christians, and far more literal and severe in their beliefs than almost anyone alive today. They believed quite firmly that if God could incarnate himself in a human form, surely the Devil could do the same. As such, villainy in Shakespeare is generally internal and inexplicable – they’re just born that way, with a devil in them trying to get out.

I’d actually argue that some of the worst villains in Shakespeare aren’t ‘Devils Incarnate’ in this sense. Richard III, nasty little ferret that he is, tends to have a reason for what he does – power, women, revenge, they’re not pretty but they’re fairly obvious. The real Devil works pro malo, to do evil because it’s their calling – in the above speech from Titus Andronicus, Lucius isn’t referring to the Goths as devils (they’re arguably no worse than the Romans by this point in the play) but the monstrous Aaron the Moor, who incites barbarity from all around him and, when asked if he’d like a last-minute chance to apologize, simply replies:

Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more. (V.i.2276-9)

Or we could look at King Lear‘s Edmund, who disdains any idea that he’s a victim of birth order, parentage, stars or fate, declaring that

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are
sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make
guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars. (I.ii.441-3)

The really scary thing isn’t the person who’ll knife you for a dollar and a sandwich; it’s the person who’ll do it for no reason at all, when you least expect it, that should keep you up at night. Shakespeare got that, and that’s why the villains that stay with us are those, like Iago in Othello, who responds to the question of why he destroys others with an arrogant “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know” (V.ii.301) that echoes his ominous early admission that “I am not what I am”. (I.i.65) Someone entirely unpredictably evil, just for the sheer joy of it, with no reward other than having hurt someone else – truly that’s as close as we get to the Devil incarnate.

Wordy Wednesday!

“Fight till the last gasp” ~ This phrase, commonly used today, was coined by Shakespeare in the history play Henry VI Part I.

Reignier:                                     

My lord, where are you? what devise you on?                                                        Shall we give over Orleans, or no?

Joan la Pucelle:                     

Why, no, I say, distrustful recreants!
Fight till the last gasp; I will be your guard.

Charles, King of France:     

What she says I’ll confirm: we’ll fight it out.

Joan la Pucelle:                      

Assign’d am I to be the English scourge.     (1)                                                                                                                        

In Henry VI Part I – Act One Scene Two, Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc) rouses the French Army Commanders into action and promises to show unwavering courage and commitment in the battlefield against the English and demands the same from them.

joan of arc

                                                                   (2)

Through Joan Shakespeare invokes the never yielding spirit of a true warrior to keep fighting – even if it is with their last dying breath, and in so doing, coined the now widely used phrase: fight till the last gasp.

Last Gasp:

Idiom – The moment before death; also, the end (3)

Origin – 1350-1400; Middle English gaspen,  equivalent to Old Norse geispa  (4)

Today, the ‘fight till the last gasp’ analogy is commonly used in the sporting arena, where sports men and women do battle to the bitter end, never yielding until the final whistle is blown or the chequered flag is waved.  Instead of  “the vasty fields of France” (5), it is now on the rugby field where you would see France and England battle it out for the spoils of victory in the Rugby Union Six Nations Championship every year.

The unyielding, never say die attitude and strength of will of Shakespeare’s Joan la Pucelle is evoked poignantly in the final lines of Alfred Tennyson’s epic poem Ulysses.  This transcendental notion, whether used literally or figuratively, of never giving up and fighting until the end for what you believe in has been a mainstay of our theatrical and cinematic culture.  Most recently, Dame Judi Dench as M in the new James Bond film Skyfall, during a government enquiry into the current effectiveness of the British Secret Service, delivers a powerful rendering of Tennyson’s immortal lines:

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.   (6)

As the head of MI6, Dench’s character is alluding to the fact that England’s enemy is no longer visible – no longer a nation that can be fought on a battlefield, but one that lingers in the shadows, and that her department will strive to defend and protect the people in this ever-changing world. (7)  Or as Bond himself refers to it earlier in the film, using another Shakespearean phrase – this “brave new world”. (8)

By Linda Nicoll

Sources:

1.         Henry VI Part I [I. ii. 323-328]

2.         Diomedia: Copyright ©1999-2013 Diosphere Ltd t/a DIOMEDIA [http://www.diomedia.com/public/15413/25/en/imageSearch.html;jsessionid=0964C69CB491FD7FCBC6CB8958011560.worker2] Accessed 15/01/2013

3.         Ammer, C (1997) The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston, MA.

4.         Dictionary.com: Copyright © 2013 Dictionary.com, LLC [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/last+gasp] Accessed 15/01/2013

5.        Henry V [Prologue. 13]

6.        Tennyson, A. T., & Day, A. (1991). Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selected Poems. Penguin Classics. London

7.         Skyfall ~ James Bond. Dir. Sam Mendes. MGM. 2012

8.         The Tempest [V. i. 2235]