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Friday, February 1, 2013

Where he stood

PBS is going to put on BBC's 4-part Shakespeare history plays "The Hollow Crown" in a couple of months and is showing the educational series "Shakespeare Uncovered".

The more I think about it, the more I am inclined to believe that his sympathy lies not on the side of Henry V or his war. I mean, he made it as ambiguous as he could without getting his head chopped off. What more can we ask him of? He was a subject of the king and the queen, and had to sell tickets to patriotic English audience who wanted entertainment and thrills. Do you really think he would tell them outright dying for your king is a waste?

Among his contemporaries, Sir Walter Raleigh got his head chopped off for treason, and Christopher Marlowe was accused of heresy and then stabbed to death. Do you really think Shakespeare would openly proclaim his disdain for the senselessness of royal obedience and the causes of kings and nobles? I almost believe that he harbored contempt for honor and glory not unlike "the Hound" Sandor Clegane.

Of course he had humanized and hero-ized Prince Hal, so much that his audience cannot help but side with him, despite the reality that such a man would drive you to your death and betray you in a blink ("I know thee not, old man."). But he is also charming and heroic, and mingles with the bottom-feeders with ease. You don't even need to cast the lovely and irresistible Tom Hiddleston in the role to make people fall at his feet. Such a leader can be more dangerous than an ineffective fool.

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