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Henry IV Part II in Cinemas, Star Wars in Verse | Bard in Multimedia

By July 7, 2014 No Comments

Bard in the Cinema:

Antony Sher plays the hedonist  Falstaff and Alex Hassell plays Prince Hal.

Antony Sher plays the hedonist Falstaff and Alex Hassell plays Prince Hal.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Henry IV, Part II, directed by Gregory Doran, has been captured on film and will be shown in theaters worldwide from July 5 through August 4th.

In Part II, Henry IV’s land is under siege and his health is poor. Complicating matter, his eldest son Hal has had a misspent youth carousing in the taverns with ruffians and thieves such as the wicked Falstaff. King Henry IV fears his son Hal is not up to the task of defending the homeland.

Gregory Doran, director of Henry IV, Part 2.

Gregory Doran, director of Henry IV, Part 2.

Part II has a very different tone, says Doran in an RSC video. There’s “an ache to Part II, the language of the play changes, certainly the imagery of the play changes, the whole play is infected with disease,” says Doran, who is also RSC’s Artistic Director. Whether it’s the country itself, which is crippled, the king with his internal conflict, the prostitute riddled with this terrible pox and or the dying Falstaff in the fleet prison. “It is as if [Henry IV], at the start of his new regime, is purging himself and purging the land of any immorality and corruption.”

The production’s cast includes heavy-hitters Antony Sher as the hedonistic Sir John Falstaff, Jasper Britton as King Henry and Alex Hassell as the wayward Prince Hal. In a Meet the Actors’ RSC interview, Sher describes the disreputable, thieving Falstaff. “Famously on the battlefield where you see men fighting for their lives, and in a very savage way, he has a speech about how meaningless honor is. All these people are fighting for their honor. That’s an extraordinary thing for Shakespeare to do–to make the audience think whether honor is something worth dying for or not. And Falstaff does that continuously. He’s always turning the world upside down. This is an awfully big adventure for me.”

A clip with the comic Falstaff can be seen on the RSC Youtube Channel. For cinema listings go to the RSC website.

Star Wars in Shakespeare Speak:

illustration from Jedi_Doth_Return1_750px

Shakespeare’s epic space saga? Did I miss something? Not exactly. Author Ian Doescher’s forte is writing in the style of Shakespeare’s plays and has taken iambic-pentameter to a galaxy far, far away, which has landed him on the New York Times’ best selling list with his trilogy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

The final chapter in Doescher’s series, William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return from Quirk Books, has just been released with Luke, Darth Vader, Jabba, C-3PO uttering Shakespearean verbiage filled with prithees, doths, thees and thous and maysts.

“Throughout all three books, I remain very true to the storyline,” says Doescher. “Just about every scene from the original trilogy is found in the books. I do add in a few scenes, including a dialogue between two Imperial guards in Act IV of each play, the purpose of which is to poke fun at the Star Wars trilogy itself.”

Illustration from The Jedi Doth Return.

Illustration from The Jedi Doth Return.

The concept is: “What if Star Wars were written 450 years ago by our Immortal Bard?”… “in time so long ago begins our play, In hope-fill’d galaxy far, far away…” And far-far away it doth seem, but Doescher’s verse offers gems and chuckles in his references to Star Wars, pop culture, and the Bard that make it well worth reading. Among the gems are: Obi-Wan Kenobi who says, “Remember me and ever shall the force remain with thee.” And the moment when Luke Skywalker holds the storm trooper’s helmet as Hamlet does Yorick’s skull and says, “Alas poor storm trooper I knew ye not, yet I ta’en both uniform and life from thee.”

“I have many references to Shakespeare’s works in my books, but this is the only one that was planned in advance,” says Doescher. “The one image that makes us all think of Shakespeare is Hamlet holding up Yorick’s skull. I knew I wanted Luke Skywalker to have the same moment in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, as he and Han are changing out of their stormtrooper outfits on the Death Star.”

In Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, the second in the series, Han and Leia have more of a Benedick and Beatrice relationship, rather than Romeo and Juliet, but Doescher “couldn’t resist this nod to the star-crossed lovers.” Every time the two become romantic, “they break into rhyming quatrains like Shakespeare’s most famous” star-crossed lovers. Han and Leia’s combative dialogue is among Doescher’s favorites.

Here’s a sample:

HAN: “A scoundrel? “Scoundrel” is the word you choose?
I like that word, when spoken from your lips.
LEIA Pray cease that touch, it doth my heart confuse.
HAN But wherefore cease? What reason shall eclipse
The greater reason of my heart’s intent?
LEIA But lo, my hands are dirtied by my work.
HAN My hands are likewise dirty. Pray, assent
Unto this moment. What fear makes you shirk?

Doescher has a nice touch for creating Shakespeare-style verse as is evident in this example when C-3PO rails against his fate that requires he rescue the evil Jabba the Hutt:

The rancor cometh forth with growls and barks
And catches up the poor and helpless soul
Who, screaming in its terror, doth fall mute
As rancor sinks large teeth into its flesh.
The slaughter of the blameless! I, it is
A vile and filthy service I fulfill.
Grant me the patience to endure this time!

His work has been well received by critics. Newsday writes, “Praise for William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: As Shakespeare would say, you might think, this be madness, yet there is a method in ‘t.” Paste Magazine writes “…the book is so brilliant you’ll wonder why someone didn’t think of it sooner,” and CNET.com writes, “At last, the mother of all mashups is upon us.”

In the final chapter of Doescher’s trilogy and in Star Wars: Return of The Jedi “is where the story of Darth Vader comes full circle…Darth Vader realizes he has a decision to make: save his son, or remain a slave to his Emperor. We see him make that choice in the most dramatic way possible, as he grasps the Emperor and casts him into the abyss to his doom,” writes Doescher in his afterword for Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return.

The illustrator Nicolas Delort, a Canadian who lives in Paris, “created woodcut-type drawings, which give the illustrations a centuries-old feel.” Doescher’s next venture is still uncertain, but he is discussing the possibility of doing more Star Wars, “the prequels and the forthcoming Episode VII.”

So for now, and not surprisingly, we shall end as he doth end, “May the force be with you, always” or better yet, “Mayst the force be with thee, always.”

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