- Format: Classical, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English, French, German
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 4
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 29 April 2016
- Run Time: 738 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B01C4B815S
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King & Country
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Customers who bought this item also bought
David Tennant plays the title role in Richard II, with Antony Sher and Jasper Britton as Falstaff and Henry IV respectively in Henry IV Parts I & II. Alex Hassell follows his performance as Prince Hal in Henry IV Parts I & II as Henry V in the final play in the tetralogy.
Works: Richard II; Henry IV Parts I & II; Henry V
<h3 class=""productDescriptionSource"">Press Reviews
"Shakespeare's two greatest plays have always been a defining experience for RSC directors. Gregory Doran now puts his decisive seal on the company by offering a production that, like last year's Richard II, combines richness of texture with psychological insight. It also contains a major performance from Antony Sher as Falstaff." (The Guardian - Henry IV Part II)
"Antony Sher is an insatiable and ebullient Falstaff. It's a performance that combines clarity and complexity - fruity, throaty, here and there a little overripe but always generous and detailed. He captures the warmth of Shakespeare's famously flawed knight - his delight in excess, blustering vitality and sparks of youthful exuberance. And even when he's at his most outrageous, Sher's Falstaff wears the expression of an affronted storyteller who can't quite believe that we don't find him winningly modest." (The Evening Standard - Henry IV Part I)
"... the Shakespearean event of the autumn... this is just what the nation ordered." (The Daily Telegraph - Henry V)
"David Tennant is mesmerising in the first show of Gregory Doran's six-year plan to present all of Shakespeare's works. A beautifully crafted, richly detailed production. " (The Guardian - Richard II)
David Tennant (Richard II - Richard II)
Michael Pennington (John of Gaunt - Richard II)
Jane Lapotaire (Duchess of Gloucester - Richard II; Queen Isobel - Henry V)
Jasper Britton (Henry IV - Henry IV)
Antony Sher (Falstaff - Henry IV)
Alex Hassell (King Henry V - Henry V)
Catalogue Number: OABD7198BD
Date of Performance: 2015
Running Time: 663 minutes
Sound: Dolby Digital and Dolby 5.1 (RII) - LPCM Stereo/DTS Surround (HIV) - LPCM & DTS 5.1 (HV) / LPCM & DTS Master Audio 5.1 (all of them)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: EN/FR/GE (except Henry V with EN only)
Label: Opus Arte"
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The History Plays illustrate England as a being that goes through seven stages of transformation. Each stage is associated with one of the seven kings, i.e., King John, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Richard III, and Henry VIII. The “King and Country”, therefore, addresses the middle part of this sequel. It may help to understand these plays to note that the entire sequel and its outcome were symbolically alluded to in the procession of kings in the witches’ prophesy inserted in “Macbeth”. The procession of the kings provides a link between the 11th century Scotland presented in “Macbeth” (a stage before the initiation of the process in England) and 16th century England (the outcome of the process).
In the History Plays, the king, members of his family and his courtiers represent various aspects of England. In each of the plays, there are only a few individuals who are aware of the concept of king, his role, and his function. Yet, they are confused because they are using artificial means to determine who the king is or who should be recognized as the king. Shakespeare clearly points out that these individuals do not have yet the capacity to recognize the righteous “King”. In “Richard II”, Shakespeare used the term “the hollow crown” to convey the difference between the “King” and a king. The crown is “hollow” or “empty” because the state of “King” does not correspond to the person wearing it. According to Shakespeare’s presentation, the true status of “King” is not determined by the crown, but by the inner state of a person. It is the gap between the concept of “King” and the person wearing the crown that drives the plots of the plays. In other words, the History Plays are an illustration of the process that gradually leads to the development of true “Kinghood”. According to Shakespeare’s narrative, a true King could appear only in the presence of an active agent of the transformation process. This active agent is symbolically represented as “love”. It is quite apparent that Shakespeare intentionally did not include “love” in his History Plays. There is no falling in love in the History Plays. The arrangement of the marriages is driven entirely by ordinary political and strategic motives. Or as King Henry V put it when demanding Katherine to become his wife, “She is our capital demand, comprised within the fore-rank of our articles”. It is this feature, or rather the lack of it, which differentiates the History Plays from Shakespeare’s other plays. This is why a true King could not appear within the milieu presented in the History Plays. This fact is also alluded to in the witches’ prophesy where the line of true Kings is symbolically presented as a reflection in a mirror held by the eight king. It is in this context that the production of “King and Country” may be evaluated, i.e., how does it help the audience to grasp the meaning of Shakespeare’s narrative.
Of course, the director has the right to exercise his imagination and present his vision of the plays. But the question is: to what degree may the director change the original story in order to express his own personal opinions or beliefs? I would argue that it is a matter of sincerity and humbleness. Sincerity, because it is necessary to put aside one’s personal opinions and biases; humbleness, because one is faced with an incredibly sophisticated and delicate instrument whose mode of operandi and its function have not yet been fully understood. Shakespeare is unique in the sense that his writings impact and stimulate specific latent layers of the mind. There is no other English playwright who used or even was aware of such a technique. Therefore, flouting with Shakespeare’s text is different than making modifications to any other playwright’s text. Randomly simplifying the plot, making a story more plausible, or bending it to bring in some currently pressing issues - all these destroy the original function of Shakespeare’s plays.
In his production of “King and Country”, Gregory Doran made a few significant alterations to the original text. For example, he attempted to transform “Richard II” into a sort of melodrama by making Aumerle into Richard’s would-be lover and then his murderer. This change corrupts the intended impact of the play. In his comment about the change, Doran explained that “it was a coincidence that seemed to work for us but happened to not occur to Shakespeare”. Really? Let’s keep in mind that there is no remark or scene in the canon that is ever offhanded. Every episode, every scene, every name and every place fits perfectly into Shakespeare’s narrative. Shakespeare used a somewhat peculiar method in disclosing his narrative. Namely, he would insert odd details, seemingly meaningless episodes or scenes that might look like mistakes or errors. Yet, it is these seemingly ambiguities that are the key elements pointing the audience’s attention towards Shakespeare’s narrative. He used these ambiguities as markers to guide the readers through his plays. At the same time, these ambiguities serve as traps for our thinking flaws. Those who are driven by flawed thinking patterns will disregard these markers and will not be able to recognize Shakespeare’s tale. Those, however, who are sincere enough to put aside their opinions and beliefs, are able to follow Shakespeare’s signposts and gradually perceive the fuller picture. Therefore, there is a simple criterion which helps to determine which interpretation of the plots is correct and which is not. Namely, the correct interpretation must fit into every other scene and episode. If it requires removal or modification of any other scene or episode, then such an interpretation is definitively incorrect. In the case of “Richard II”, Doran had to cut off the entire scene with Exton in the last act in order to fit his version of the plot. In Shakespeare’s narrative, the scene with Exton is needed as it parallels (and therefore provides insights into) the circumstances of the Duke of Gloucester’s death.
Prince Harry is one of the key characters of the History Plays. His personal reformation is a crucial element of the process that the being of England is going through in the History Plays. Right at the beginning of “Henry IV, Part 1”, Harry discloses to the audience his plan and his strategy (“I know you all”). It is interesting to notice that Harry’s approach follows the same strategy as his father’s. The difference is that Harry has to play both roles, i.e., his father’s and King Richard II’s. This is why, at the beginning, Harry somehow mimics Richard’s behaviour in order to establish a reference pattern for his future transformation. It is quite ironic that, later on, King Henry IV will bitterly scorn his son for this behaviour. Harry’s aim, however, is much higher than his father’s. As England is going through the transformation, so Harry’s reformation is part of this process. Harry does not wish to be simply a king; his aim is to become the “King”. He knows that if he is to achieve his objective he has to learn how to overcome his behavioural reflexes and, when needed, how to exercise ruthless (“I am now of all humours”). The following episodes illustrate the stages of his reformation. He is somehow cruel when he uses Francis to test how behavioural conditioning limits one’s ability to progress (“I will give thee for it a thousand pound: ask me when thou wilt, and thou shalt have it”). In his comment about Hotspur, Harry indicates that he is still not able to be ruthless enough (“I am not yet of Percy’s mind”). This follows with Harry’s rehearsal of banishing Falstaff (“I do, I will”). It is at this point that the Sheriff arrives at the Boar’s-Head Tavern in Eastcheap. The scene in which Harry confronts the Sheriff is simple and brief but an incredibly powerful demonstration of Harry’s ability to switch into an authority figure. This is an important moment that marks the beginning of Harry’s transformation. Yet, this crucial moment is killed in the RSC production by parachuting there the Lord Chief Justice and making Harry to slap him. The carefully designed process of showing how Harry has been working on his transformation is disturbed. This clumsy and ill-timed modification interferes with the flow of the play. To support this modification, the director has also changed the Lord Chief Justice’s line in the last act from “and struck me in my very seat of judgment” to “and struck me in an Eastcheap tavern house”. The episode of Harry slapping the Lord Chief Justice does not belong to this scene. This episode took place much earlier, i.e., when Harry was imprisoned for that offence. In the scene at the Boar’s Head, Harry is on his way to the war, therefore he could not be put in a prison at this time.
“Henry V” illustrates the final stages of Harry’s transformation. Harry, as King Henry V, faces formidable challenges on his way towards his goal. In the final scene Henry V marries Katherine, the daughter of the French King. The marriage reinforces the peace agreement between England and France. Shakespeare subtly points out, however, that the ultimate goal of England could not be achieved at this stage of the process. Definitively, Henry V became a great king. But he did not become the “King”. Shakespeare’s plays contain several layers. So far, scholarly analyses, movie and theatre productions have been concerned only with lower layers of the plays. The more subtle layers still remain invisible to rational intellects and psychology. These more subtle layers are indicated by a series of ambiguities that Shakespeare left unexplained in the play. Let’s take as an example the scene with Pistol, the page-boy and Monsieur le Fer (Act IV, scene 4). In the RSC production, the page-boy and Monsieur le Fer are killed. Yet, in the original text Shakespeare does not tell us if Pistol followed the king’s order and killed his prisoner or whether the page-boy was killed after his return to the camp. In this way Shakespeare draws the audience’s attention to other details disclosed in this scene which are needed to reconstruct Shakespeare’s narrative. This is an example of Shakespeare’s method to help the audiences to recognize their intellectual and emotional reflexes which prevent them from perceiving the more subtle layers of the play. Let’s recall that, in his St. Crispin’s Day speech, Henry V announced that he who fought with him in the Battle of Agincourt “shall gentle his condition”. We may notice that among those who took part in the battle of Agincourt, Pistol and the page-boy are the only characters who will reappear in another play. Only then the audience will find out why Henry V could not succeed with his ultimate goal of becoming the “King” and what role Shakespeare chose for the page-boy.
It seems that the recent productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company tend to flout with Shakespeare’s text. Let’s keep in mind that, in their original and uncorrupted versions, the plays are as adequate to modern audiences as they were 400 years ago. Therefore, the plays do not need any improvement or “modernization”. What they do need though is their faithful and unbiased treatment. Therefore, I am looking forward to seeing the next RSC’s productions of the remaining plays of Shakespeare’s narrative. Let’s hope that instead of trying to “improve” plots, the RSC will use their remarkable resources to help the audiences grasp their meaning. Otherwise, the seemingly odd reappearance of Falstaff and his followers in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” will remain incomprehensible.
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