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Student Blog Reviews of Henry V

Table level photo of group of students having a discussion

Discussion of "Handbagged" facilitated by Helen


Excerpts from Student Blog Reviews of Henry V:


On the verge of the 15th century, the British were amidst turmoil and conflict as it was trying to expand its influence. Henry V watches his father, the king, die in his arms and then takes the throne of England. Henry V receives a tennis ball as a backhanded gift from the King of France. Enraged, Henry V decides to rally his army and conquer France. His forces declare victory in the battle for Harfleur. Before the Battle of Agincourt, he delivers a passionate speech to his troops and leads them to victory. In the aftermath, he meets with the King of France to give his demands, which the King accepts, and the primary objective is to marry the King’s daughter, Katherine. In this production, the original ending of Henry V was substituted for a customs interview between Katherine and a modern British customs officer.


One important issue that was bought up in the play was Henry V’s mental heath and how he could not sleep because he was stressed about being the king. The play affected me when Henry V yelled in the second scene this is because I am a person that does not like yelling. The use of sound was effective because it helped the audience to feel how Henry was feeling at the most important moments. The lighting was effective in the audience knowing where the scene was taking place.


The Play really made feel unsettled, disturbed, and self-reflective. The moment that moved me is in Act 4 is when Henry for his part of the deal wanted the hand in marriage of his cousin Katherine. Where we see Henry focus himself upon Katherine to get a kiss from her, we realize that there is no consent in this relationship: he is sexually assaulting her. After the Marriage was agreed on upon by King of France. The king left Katherine with her mother Queen of France, which was a part that made me think.  Once Katherine and the Queen of France are alone, we see Katherine beg her mother to teach her English. We see The Queen of France struggling to teach her daughter to speak English. We eventually we see the Queen of France leave her daughter behind with Henry as she begs her mother to stay.


Josephine Callies did an amazing job playing the boy and Princess Katherine, of France because Josephine’s character was a victim of sexual assault, so when King Henry goes to kiss her, she shies away from his kiss scared that he was going to do something to her without her consent. Josephine also speaks clearly and also makes eye contact with the audience when she speaks.


There were several themes I noticed during this play, but there is only one that I want to focus on for I believe it to be the most important of all: The Ruthlessness of a Good King. King Henry V's predominant concern is viewed in leadership and the relationship it has with morality. Even though there were some modifications made to the version of this play, it shows, through the actions of King Henry V, that the qualities that define a good ruler are not necessarily the same qualities that define a good person. For example, he was devastated by having to have his lover killed after having learned of his betrayal, but he knew that it had to be done for the good of England.


The themes of this production feel to be pulling from various influences. The play aims to cover a variety of topics within my opinion varying degrees of success. Some themes which I found in the play were the weight of power, diversity, and the environment. The play aims to take certain elements from the original script and translate them for a modern audience. I felt that the weight of the power Henry commanded at times seemed to be driving him further down a dark path. The Henry we were given was unfeeling when it came to his troops and seemed to eventually be directed by personal ambition. Personally, this interpretation of Henry felt a little reductive and made him to a less sympathetic character.


I also thought that this psychological look into the mind of Henry was enhanced by lighting and sound. The lighting was made up of candles and lighting from the stage windows, while the sound was from instruments backstage. The combined effort of the lighting and instruments made me feel claustrophobic, as the only thing I felt existed was Henry, his thoughts and the people affected by his presence.


The play showed something I wasn’t expecting, and I really liked it. Henry was showing his struggles on mental health and for me being into psychology was intriguing. I also understood Henry in parts where he fought with himself, yelled in the mirror, and sat in a corner holding his head from all his duties. Being in the pit of this play made me feel like I was apart of the cast.


One of the things that stood out to me about this production was how it approached the story. Rather than the traditional romanticized version of the story, this interpretation was grim and brutal. This added an extra layer of depth to the play and helped to underscore the harsh realities of court politics and war.

Johnstone's portrayal of Henry V was nothing short of gripping. He brought a sense of unhinged determination to the character, perfectly capturing how the weight and responsibility of being a king at war can drive one down a chaotic and disturbing road. The supporting cast was equally as talented, with each actor bringing a level of intensity and emotion to their respective roles.

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