Saturday, February 14, 2009

Henry IV, Part One

What joys does this play offer an actor?  The personal and political relationships are complex, subtle--there are infinite ways to play most of these characters.  The shades of meaning, the ambiguity of purpose--so many of the characters offer the chance for original interpretation (particularly if the actor shows some bravery--most of the characters could be played dully, too).  The language is evocative: most of the characters are capable of creative imagery, clever turns of speech.  Falstaff did not meet my expectations in print, but alive on stage, he must be something altogether new.

My favorite passage:

Glendower:  I cannot blame him. At my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes
Of burning cressets, and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shaked like a coward.

Hotspur:  Why, so it would have done at the same season if your mother's cat had but kittened, though yourself had never been born.

Glendower: I say the earth did shake when I was born.

A close second:

Falstaff: 'Tis not due yet: I would be loath to pay him before his day.  What need I be so forward with him that calls not on me?  Well, 'tis no matter; honor pricks me on.  Yea, but how if honor prick me off when I come on?  How then?  Can honor set to a leg?  Or an arm?  No.  Or take away the grief of a wound? No.  Honor hath no skill in surgery then?  No.  What is honor?  A word.  What is in that word honor?  What is honor?  Air--a trim reckoning!  Who hath it?  He that died a 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.  Why?  Detraction will not suffer it.  Therefore I'll none of it.  Honor is a mere scutcheon--and so ends my catechism.

1 comment:

  1. It's most certainly one of the great ones. I love Falstaff and his gang. Falstaff and George Costanza are cur from similar fabrics, I think.