The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2131  Friday, 7 September 2001

From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 06 Sep 2001 10:48:30 -0400
Subject:        Cartmell's Views

Mike Jensen is right: Cartmell should be pleased  to have her work
discussed -- whether pro or con. I don't think, however, that my
comments will upset the author. On to Mike's questions:

1. Yes, the darkened figure of Henry when he first appears, just before
the Council Scene, instantly reminded me of Darth Vader, but NOT only of
him, but of Batman as well. The music is heroic-noir, that is, it
combines heroic suspense and dark foreboding.  I think the point is to
present Henry as a kind of "rabbit-duck," a la Norman Rabkin's thesis.

2. As Mike well knows, critics have been talking about the "dark side"
of Henry and his war for a long time: Hugh Richmond, John Palmer, A.C.
Bradley (indirectly), all the way back to William Hazlitt, and probably
even before that.  But it's also true that Branagh is an actor, not a
critic, and he probably did pay most attention to the critics of the
80's (and perhaps to Rabkin, who comes a bit earlier).

3. That Branagh's movie is ultimately "right wing" is a common view: I
don't share it.  Take, for example, the scene Branagh invents at the end
of the battle, where, to swelling strains of a hymn, Henry carries the
body of the boy across the fields to the casket for the dead. Now, it is
rumored that a certain well-known Shakespearean regularly stops the film
at the end of this sequence and excoriates Branagh for the rest of the
class period. She shouldn't.

Earlier in the movie, Falstaff's death is reported by the Hostess and
the reference to Socrates made clear, he who was wrongly charged with
the crime of "misleading youth." After battle, Branagh forces Henry to
carry the weight of a dead boy for all to see!  Thinking members of the
audience have a chance to ask themselves who is the real misleader of
youth? Falstaff or Henry?

I think Shakespeare would have heartily approved of Branagh's addition
to the play.

--Ed Taft

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