Prince Hal parts from his past to fulfill his royal destiny in this essential conclusion to Henry IV, Part 1.
Rebellion still simmers in England and King Henry's health is failing. Prince Hal has proved his courage but the king still fears that his son's pleasure-loving nature will bring the realm to ruin. Meanwhile, Falstaff and his ribald companions waste the nights in revelry, anticipating the moment when Hal will ascend the throne. Falstaff is in Gloucestershire when news arrives that the king has died. Has the dissolute old knight's hour come at last?
Hal is played by Jamie Glover and King Henry by Julian Glover. Richard Griffiths is Falstaff.
Public Domain (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
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After you've listened to Henry IV Part One, get the other half of the story here. Although Part One can sort of stand on its own, with a great battle scene at the climax, skipping Part Two would deprive you of one of the best plays about aging ever written - and also one of the great father/son scenes of all time.
There's not so much sturm and drang in Part Two. There's another batch of rebels to bring to heel, but they're defeated by a trick, by Hal's brother John - a serious, devious young man who cares about as much for Falstaff as Falstaff does for him - which is to say, not much. (Falstaff's speech about the virtues of sack is a miniature masterpiece.) Meanwhile Falstaff is feeling the effects of age. There's a poignancy about his scenes with the prostitute Doll Tearsheet, or the country bumpkin Justice Shallow, that's unlike anything in the first play. And it leads up to one of the most painful scenes of rejection in all of Shakespeare.
Prince Hal has much to do to convince his father, the dying Henry Bolingbroke, that he's not a wastrel and good-for-nothing. He's playing a long game. When he ascends the throne, he plans to throw off all his old companions and let his true virtue show forth, arousing his subjects to wonder and admiration. In a long and moving scene, he and his father finally come to terms.
The cast of Part One continues here, with Julian and Jamie Glover as Hal 4 and Hal 5; Richard Griffiths as Falstaff; and introducing the energetic Edward de Souza as the crazy Marlowe-quoting Ancient Pistol ("What? Shall we have incision? Shall we imbrue? Then death rock me asleep, abridge my doleful days! Why then let grievous, ghastly, gaping wounds untwind the Sisters Three!").
Is Hal a cynical jerk, or is he making a painful but necessary decision to reform? Some of the scenes in this play really hurt, up close and personal. Falstaff is a bloated scoundrel, but he's also - as Pistol later says of King Henry V himself - "a lad of life, an imp of fame, of parents good, of fist most valiant. I kiss his dirty shoe, and from heart-string I love the lovely bully."
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