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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 454/700 pages
Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights
Melanie Windridge
Progress: 205/320 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 164/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 159/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
I Am a Cat
Graeme Wilson, Aiko Ito, Sōseki Natsume
Progress: 410/638 pages
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Progress: 651/1220 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 937 out of 1344 pages.

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

Henry V


Yeah, yeah, I'm supposed to be reading King Lear, but the BBC broadcast Brannagh's Henry V film and I thought I'd catch it on iPlayer before it disappears.

Now generally speaking I'm not in favour of invading your neighbour because everything's a bit fraught at home and you need to create a distraction and a bit of nationalistic fervour to make people forget about it and think you're a hero, but when Shakespeare's Henry V does it, I'm on board for plenty of gung-ho Jingoism leavened with comedic scenes and tragic loss of youth's friendships as Kingly responsibility makes its demands.

Why? Because Shakespeare's Chorus calls on a muse of fire in the Prologue - and was answered! There are so many great speeches and great scenes in this play that it would be easier to point out the bits that aren't unalloyed genius. I'm not going to do that because it would be boring. I'm also going to pass over Henry's numerous justly famous speeches in favour of the insufficiently praised Chorus. In all the Shakespeare (or any other drama for that matter) I've witnessed only Romeo and Juliet with it's "Two Houses, both alike in dignity" comes close to having such a truly awe-inspiring scene setting Prologue as this play does, calling upon the audience to supply with imagination the vasty fields of Agincourt whilst verbally rendering the necessary image in all the necessary technicolor 3-D surround-sound iMax glory. The Chorus goes on to further feats of hyperbolic scene-setting that are just amazing - all the more so if you are smart enough to get Derek Jacobi to deliver them for you.

There is of course another reason why I love Henry V so much - because he's a self-declared Welshman. The whole Ffluellyn as butt of Welsh stereotyping jokes tempered by Henry's proud acceptance of Welsh ancestry is great - makes Shakespeare feel more British and less purely English. (On the other hand, Flagon points out that Harry likes St. George who is a Dragon slayer and therefore not his favourite bloke.)

The play is also the culmination of a trilogy and at its best when taken straight after it's two preceding parts so that the transformation from Harry, jack-the-lad, to Henry, respected King and conqueror via a bloody rite-of-passage, assailed by doubts and overwhelming odds against him. Brannagh cleverly incorporates flashbacks to scenes from Henry IV in order to remind the viewer of this.

People don't talk much about the comedy of the play, either, despite there being plenty of it, some of it typically of the era. Where else but the Elizabethan/Jacobean stage would you find an English boy playing a French Princess learning English from her maid who is being played by another English boy? Must have been hilarious - still is when Emma Thompson does it. ANd talking of boys, the Boy is played by Christian Bale!

Anyway, it would take a muse of fusing plasma to inspire me to sufficient praise of this play. Go see it.