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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Interpreting Branagh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1547  Tuesday, 19 June 2001

[1]     From:   Kathryn Prince <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 14:12:04 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 11:14:37 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

[3]     From:   Kit Gordon <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 13:34:43 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

[4]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 20:16:56 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

[5]     From:   Toby Malone <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jun 2001 09:46:08 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

[6]     From:   Meg Powers Livingston <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jun 2001 00:26:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Interpreting Branagh


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathryn Prince <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 14:12:04 -0400
Subject: 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

Regarding Mike Jensen's question: I wrote my MA thesis on productions of
Henry V. In my chapter on Branagh I focused on his (sometimes quite
heavy-handed) use of irony, and while I was at pains to provide as many
examples as I could, Henry's "ensnarement" of the traitors was among
them only because the traitors, not Henry, were treated ironically. With
respect to Kathy M. Howlett and to the possibility of differing
interpretations, I would be very surprised if many people agreed with
her reading of that scene. Sympathy for Henry is very occasionally
undermined in Branagh's film, usually only to be forcefully reinstated,
but I don't believe that is the case in this instance.

Kathryn Prince

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 11:14:37 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

Mike asks,

>[Kathy Howlett] writes, *The problem is that Branagh
>constructs this scene so that... the audience's
>sympathies are with the traitors and not with the
>king who ensnares them.*
>
>Does this scene play this way to you, or do you
>think that Howlett is wrong?

I, too, am surprised that Howlett interprets it this way.  I have always
thought that this scene was one of the high points of Branagh's *H5*.
To me, it seems like the audience was intended to see the traitor's
through the King's eyes: as long-time, trusted friends whom he can
scarce believe, but for incontrovertible evidence, would so betray him.
We, and Henry, are asked to perceive the betrayal filtered through a
veil of remembered friendship and affection...and thus feel the
treachery, AND the necessity of their execution, with even more pain.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kit Gordon <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 13:34:43 -0500
Subject: 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

 Mike Jensen asked:

>In her book Framing Shakespeare on Film, Kathy M. Howlett has a sentence
>that surprised me.  Commenting on the scene in Branagh's HV where the three
>traitors are arrested, she writes, *The problem is that Branagh constructs
>this scene so that... the audience's sympathies are with the traitors and
>not with the king who ensnares them.*
>
>Does this scene play this way to you, or do you think that Howlett is
>wrong?

It doesn't play that way to me at all; my sympathies were certainly
primarily with Henry because of the depth of the betrayal he
experienced. But I also felt some sympathy for the traitors (or perhaps
it was only one of them, but someone was clearly affected emotionally by
both the discovery _and_, I thought, the betrayal). Darn, now I'll have
to go watch the film again.

Chris Gordon

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 20:16:56 -0400
Subject: 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

In my memory of the scene -- which was one of the more vivid ones IMHO
-- Branagh makes sure we understand that the friendships were intimate
ones, hence Hal's disappointment in them runs deep.  If these guys seem
sympathetic, it is only because Shakespeare gives them compelling,
pleading lines.  I think the visual rhetoric of the scene places Henry
on top, but notes with sadness what has been lost.

Perhaps the unusually high emotional pitch of the scene gave the
misimpression that the friends were to be pitied.  The same might
perhaps be said of the hanging later on.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Toby Malone <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jun 2001 09:46:08 +0800
Subject: 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1535 Interpreting Branagh

I think Branagh certainly constructs his Henry to be initially difficult
to read - he is aloof and thoughtful throughout the Salic Law and Tennis
Ball scenes, and the audience are not inspired to naturally side with
him until much later, when his emotions are released after the fall of
Harfleur and the death of Bardolph.  We might have interpreted Branagh's
reading of the conspiracy scene as unsympathetic towards Hal if it had
not been made clear in Jacobi's chorus to introduce Scroop, Earl and
Grey by sight to the audience, making clear that they intend Henry a
mischief.  With that firmly in mind, I feel that it follows that the
audience's sympathy does lie with Henry, if only for the Branagh's
emerging lineation of the hero-villain categorisation.

Toby

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Meg Powers Livingston <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jun 2001 00:26:06 -0400
Subject:        Re: Interpreting Branagh

Mike--

I think Howlett misinterprets the scene--Branagh's portrayal of H5's
sense of personal betrayal, on top of the political betrayal, is pretty
effective, at least for me.  What might lead her to her conclusion,
though, is that Branagh doesn't do a very good job of setting the
background for that scene.  The brief lines explaining what the traitors
are doing and why--in short, that they ARE traitors--are easy to miss.
On the other hand, the opening scene in the throne room does a good job
of undermining the worthiness of the English "cause" in attacking
France, and Henry's manipulation of the actual confrontation, in which
he gets the traitors to put the noose around their own necks, is played
with a lot of cold anger.  These things together might mislead a viewer
unfamiliar with the play into some sympathy with the traitors.

My two cents,
Meg

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