Heyo! Welcome to today’s Boozy Plays, wherein we attempt to pair some Shakespearean classics with their proper alcoholic partner. I’ve covering two plays this week, so let’s get going.
Last time, I brought you Richard II & Henry IV pt One. This time, I’ll be covering the other half of the Henry IV duology and finishing out the first half of Shakespeare’s Plantagenet Plays with Henry V. One of those plays is more fun than the other, and it’s the one on which I’m going to focus my pairing efforts. Because it’s just better.
Part Dos of the one-time Bolingbroke’s tale focuses less on the titular King and more on his son, the future Henry V. In fact, it shouldn’t be viewed as a continuation of the historical record as much as of the narrative from the previous play. In fact, Henry IV’s role in it is mostly to get sick and die so Hal can take the throne and become awesome. So, in essence, Part Two is more prequel than sequel. That’s how cool Henry V is. So, to sum up: Falstaff goes on being Falstaff, but he’s getting older and sicker; Prince Hal is still hanging out with London degenerates, but repudiates them and rejects Falstaff in particular; there’s another rebellion, but Prince John (as if to make up for another English prince named John) uses duplicitous political machinations to end that; and Henry IV gets sick and dies, but not before Hal transforms into Henry and decides to be super serial about being King. Then there’s an epilogue where Shakespeare
totally convinces tells the audience he’s not making fun of a political rival using Falstaff.
Basically, the best part of this play is the elegiac comedy of Falstaff and the power of the repudiation scene, which, if done right, can be pretty damn powerful. Though I do like the parallel of both of Prince Hal’s fathers — his real one and his surrogate — sickening and dying over the course of the play. While Falstaff survives to the next play (sort of) and the once Bolingbroke dies, Henry ultimately decides to follow the path of the latter and let Hal die. By the end, he is Henry V.
Not that he wasn’t always cool, mind. When he was fighting at Shrewsbury (the battle from part one), he took an arrow to the face and kept fighting. Keep in mind, he was sixteen at the time. Six-freakin-teen. Take a moment to look up what he had to go through to get the arrow out and you’ll wonder why more people don’t talk about it. Henry V was a beast taking arrows to the face (and just breaking them off to keep fighting) at an age when most of us are complaining about our parents not understanding. Seriously.
But let’s talk about his play. The vast majority of it is taken up by battle, as I discussed on Monday, with a weird detour into romance, and then an untimely death that threw England into chaos because his stupid son kept going catatonic at really, really bad times. (If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll get to follow my nightly conversations with a historical fiction writer of the Wars of the Roses, some of which are really fun!) It is England’s Independence Day, or something equally patriotic that doesn’t involve aliens. The Patriot? Patton? I think I said Patton last time, because I could totally see Henry V standing in front of a St. George’s Cross (remember, no Union Jack yet) or the Plantagenet lions/leopards (it depends on who you ask).
Anyway, it opens with the Southampton Plot, which was an attempt to assassinate Henry that definitely failed (and also served to show that Henry V was NOT TO BE F****D WITH!), but quickly moves to war efforts against France because, if you know your history at all, England had once owned half of France and wanted it back. It’s a quick-moving play, stopping every once in a while to let Henry make great speeches like the “once more unto the breach” speech at Harfleur and then the St. Crispin’s Day speech (“we few, we happy few, we band of brothers”) before Agincourt, which is also the climax of the play and results in an astounding English victory. (Historically, it was the battlefield and the ineptness of the French that really won the battle, with some help from the famous English longbow, but it was totally Henry V’s heroism here, OK?) Then Henry has to woo Katherine of Valois even though neither speaks the other language (which is adorable) and claim his place as the heir to the French throne (setting up that whole Joan of Arc thing). Then, at the height of his glory, he dies, leaving an infant to rule and England to rot. If you want to see the rot, read all ninety-seven parts of Henry VI (OK, there’s only three) and Richard III, where the grandson of Katherine of Valois through her second marriage manages to take the throne and start the Tudor dynasty.
Did I use this as a chance to talk history? Yes. Yes, I did. But now you get your reward! DRINKS! I wanted to pick something English, but then I thought… why not something slightly French, too? And maybe something that the English and the French each claim as their own AND came into existence during a war? Is there such a drink? YES! YES,THERE IS! And it’s called a Sidecar! Either invented in London or in Paris at the end of WW1, it’s a mix of Cognac, Triple Sec, and lemon juice, and perfect for this play. I’m going London School and recommending this version, which calls for two parts of Cognac to one part everything else. It’s super delicious, and I’m not the hugest brandy fan.
Alright! That’s it for me today! Sorry for rambling again. I like history…
A will be in tomorrow to recommend something for your viewing pleasure!