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The Use of Flashback in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V

The Use of Flashback in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V

In Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry V flashback is used at key moments to comment on the action and to explain points in Henry’s past, and how that past effects his present judgment. Certain scenes and lines are borrowed from parts one and two of Shakespeare’s Henry IV to do this. The result is an amalgam of scenes, lines, and characters which brings about a telling expose of Henry V, and the man he was before becoming king of England. Flashback is used in this adaptation directly, to establish key points and players in Henry’s life, as well as in a less direct manner, coming through in his current actions, to show his sovereignty, what that means to him and why.

The initial flashback scene displays a memory of Pistol’s concerning Sir John Falstaff (portrayed by actor Robbie Coltrane). The flashback occurs while Falstaff is on his deathbed, and his remaining friends lament his impending loss. Branagh gives Pistol a line of Falstaff’s, describing Falstaff in his own words as “A goodly, portly man, in faith,” (1 Henry IV. II. iv. 421), apparently to establish Falstaff as the well loved character he seems to be in the Branagh film. Falstaff is shown as the jolly jester in this flashback, and not at all as the dangerous, mischief making deceiver he is in the texts, themselves. Branagh focuses on the pathos of Falstaff, to display his rejection as an unfortunate one. It is in this flashback that the audience sees the Machiavellian seeds being sewn in Prince Hal’s personality as he shows his willingness to banish “valiant Jack Falstaff”, however it is not shown where these seeds came from. Falstaff advises his young friend not to banish him f…

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…am Shakespeare’s Henry V, Branagh uses flashback in more than one way to retell the classic story of King Henry V. Both in actual, and implied flashback Branagh shows the true character of Henry, along with what makes him the king that he is and what gets him to this point in his life. The byproducts of the humanization of Falstaff, and the vilification of Bardolph, coupled with the unique look at Henry’s image of his father gives the audience a very different look at this life story, but one which is nonetheless accurate, and entertaining.

Works Cited

Henry V. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1989.

Kliman, Bernice W. “Branagh’s Henry V: Allusion and Illusion.” Shakespeare on Film Newsletter. 14.1 (Dec. 1989): 1 .

Shaw, William P. “Textual Ambiguities and Cinematic Certainties in Henry V.” Literature Film Quarterly. 22.2 (1994): 117-28.

Essay on the Character of Ophelia in Hamlet

The Character of Ophelia in Hamlet

Ophelia is a beautiful and simple-minded woman, easily molded by the more powerful opinions and desires of others. The thoughts of her father and her brother influenced her the most. The love letters from Hamlet also swayed her opinions and confused her mind. Ophelia wasn’t able to realize herself because of all the pressures exerted on her to be something she’s not. That weakness of mind and will, which permitted her obedience to her father and thus destroyed her hope for Hamlet’s love, finally resulted in her insanity and death.

When her father had challenged the honor of Hamlet’s intentions, Ophelia could only reply “I do not know, my lord, what I should think” (III, iii). Used to relying upon her father’s direction and brought up to be obedient, she can only accept her father’s belief, seconded by that of her brother, that Hamlet’s “holy vows” of love were simply designed for her seduction. She was to obey her father’s orders not to permit Hamlet to see her again. Her father also wanted to prove Hamlet’s madness to the king. He used Ophelia as bait so he and the king could listen to Hamlet’s words. Ophelia willingly obliged to her father’s desires. By not thinking for herself and only doing as her father wished, she ruined her chances of love with Hamlet.

Hamlet put pressure on Ophelia by expecting her to surpass his mother’s shortcomings and be an epitome of womankind. He searched her innocent face for some sign of loving truth that might restore his faith in her. He took her mute terror for a sign of her guilt and found her to be a false person, like his mother. In his letter to her, he addressed the letter to “the most beautified Ophelia” and he terminated the letter with “I love thee best, O most best, believe it” (II, ii). He used the word “beautified” to display a sincere tribute, and it is apparent he still loves her. His attempts to win her affection are not triumphant. Ophelia is still too much under the influence of her father to question his wisdom or authority, and she has no mind of her own to understand how much she has made her lover suffer. No matter how much it pained her to not see Hamlet, all she could see in his present behavior is the madness that terrified her.

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