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Movie Essays – Shakespeare’s Henry Plays – A Comparative Study of Falstaff on Film

Shakespeare’s Henry Plays – A Comparative Study of Falstaff on Film

The Character of Sir John Falstaff is an integral part of any adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry” plays. The treatment of this character effects the way the production will be taken by the audience as the treatment of Falstaff is directly related to the understanding of the character of Prince Hal (later Henry V). Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, the BBC versions of parts one and two of Henry IV, and Orson Welles’ amalgamation Chimes at Midnight all show Falstaff in different lights, producing three different takes, not only on the character himself, but also on the interpretation of Prince Hal, and the entire workings of the production.

In the case of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V Falstaff is seen only in flashback. This version of Falstaff (portrayed by actor Robbie Coltrane) is displayed as the jovial and kind side of Falstaff with little of the nefarious nature that is seen in the texts of Henry IV parts one and two. Branagh as the screenwriter actually reassigns certain lines to achieve his end, including, but not limited to, the reassignment of some of Falstaff’s lines to others, as well as the reassignment of lines from one scene to another, all to display Falstaff as a happy Santa Claus of a man all but devoid of evil intentions or Machiavelian deceit. The first of the myriad flashbacks in the film begins with the assignment of Falstaff’s description of himself as “A goodly, portly man in faith,” (1 Henry IV.II.iv.421) to Pistol. This shows that in Branagh’s version Falstaff is as well respected by his comrades as he is by himself. This is somewhat in contrast to the way he is commonly illustrated, which is as a man who abuses deceit, but is not fooling …

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…Falstaff as played by Welles. It is this multifaceted nature that has Hal attempt (in a scene paraphrased from the text of Henry V) to go back on his decision toward the end and grant Falstaff favor (albeit too late). Welles’ Falstaff is the best example of the cross section of aspects that Falstaff has in the texts.

While certainly each portrayal of Falstaff is from it’s own school of thought, ranging from the idea of Falstaff as the pure, kind friend, to that of Falstaff as the selfish villain, to that of Falstaff as the moderate, complex character, each effectively displays an accurate Falstaff with his own hold on Prince Hal. These three versions show that the treatment of Jack Falstaff, regardless of his prominence in each production, can change the interpretation of the actions of Henry V as well as the reasons behind his choices for many of his actions.

An Analysis of On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again

An Analysis of On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again

The poem “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again” by John Keats is a sonnet about Keats’ relationship with the drama that became his idea of tragic perfection, and how it relates to his own struggle with the issues of short life and premature death. Keats uses the occasion of the rereading this play to explore his seduction by it and its influence on himself and his ways of looking at himself and his situation in spite of his negative capability.

From the first few lines Keats alludes to the great romances of the previous ages as opposed to William Shakespeare’s great tragedies. While it could be discerned that Keats is referring to his poem Endymion: A Poetic Romance, the underlying meaning of the lines remains. Keats writes “O golden tongued Romance, with serene lute!/ Fair plumed Syren Queen of far-away!/ Leave melodizing on this wintry day,/ Shut up thine olden pages and be mute.” (Lines 1 – 4). Keats here is shutting out the idyllic romantic notions he cannot at this time cling to due to the ever present spectre of death that hangs above him. Keats forsakes the romantic here leaning instead toward the tragic, which is what he perceives his short life to be. In these opening lines Keats seems to be a desperate, and morose storyteller who forbids himself the taste of the ideal, regardless of how strong a pull romance has for him. Keats is forced to command the romance to “Shut up thine olden pages and be mute!” (4) in order to pull himself away from it. This shows not only the strong attraction romance holds for Keats, but also Keats’ recognition of the Romance as a personified thing he can converse with and bid “Adieu!” (5). The use of …

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…ime it is clear that Keats has succeeded in accomplishing the transition of the Phoenix into immortality, as Keats still lives on over one hundred seventy five years after his death in his poetry and our memories


O golden tongued Romance, with serene lute! Fair plumed Syren, Queen of far-away! Leave melodizing on this wintry day, Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute: Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute (5) Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay Must I burn through; once more humbly assay The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit. Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion, Begetters of our deep eternal theme! (10) When through the old oak Forest I am gone, Let me not wander in a barren dream, But when I am consumed in the fire, Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.

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