Review: Henry IV (Part 2)

Posted 21 May, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Henry IV (Part 2)
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: eBook; my copy

After defeat at the Battle of Shrewsbury the rebels regroup. But Prince Hal’s reluctance to inherit the crown threatens to destroy the ailing Henry IV’s dream of a lasting dynasty. Shakespeare’s portrait of the prodigal son’s journey from youth to maturity embraces the full panorama of society.

Continuing along with Henry IV and the events of the first half of the play (review), here I am at the second half, which I read right after.

This book is part of the William Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.

I am thankful that I did watch “Henry IV” from the The Hollow Crown miniseries starring Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston because it helped my reading of this play. To be honest it was a slow slog to get through this play, the conflicts more tamed somehow. The larger implications and the second uprising felt like a minor story as the play itself focuses more on the end Henry IV’s reign, the crossroads that Henry finds himself in, and Falstaff’s tomfoolery. I’m actually surprised at how prominent Falstaff is in this play (seemingly more so than in the first play–or maybe that’s because his storyline and Hal’s do not intersect); at times he seemed more the main character than either Henry IV or Henry V.

I’m also not entirely sure what to think of Hal’s sort of limbo period between his old ways of hanging out with the lowlifes of London and becoming Henry V. The end of part one already showed that he was more or less determined to keep to the straight path, so I never got a sense in this play why he was holding back early on. The few scenes he had with Henry IV were interesting, though I found them rather dry, the speeches quite long.

Overall, while it was nice to finish Henry IV’s story that started in the first part, there wasn’t much from this play that left a lasting impression in my mind. That final scene when Hal was crowned and he announces that he has rejected his old ways and behaviour was rather interesting and dramatic, but otherwise everything else seemed rather dull.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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