Friday, May 11, 2007

'enery de aiff!

What a reputation the man has!

(Not Shakespeare this time - Good old 'King Henry'.)

Tudor playboy, musician, sportsman, passionate lover, wife killer, church destroyer, (and saviour) in one.

American WASPs are 'P' because of he.

And Shakespeare has a play with the title, 'Henry VIII'.

Well, it is also known as ‘The Famous History if King Henry the Eight’ but that’s far too long for the playbill and we already know the man is famous.

Not so the play.

I’ve just watched the first half of it in fact – from the BBC complete works.

Surprising really – intelligent matter. You don’t notice that when you read it – and I have only a vague remembrance of watching this performance back in 1979 so I only know it through a dutiful, once only, read.

You expect a different treatment of the characters – and much more vitriol against the Spanish (so far it is the French who have had to suffer a jolly good dose of Great English Xenophobia – can’t keep a respected enemy out of it). Catherine, Henry’s first wife, seems a most sympathetic character.

There is an ambiguity with Wolsey – everyone kicking at his common ancestry and ambition – but he is effective and another not exactly unsympathetic ‘representation’ (especially, one suspects, to a working class chap like Shakey).

And at this point there is a dreadful sense of fate weaving – a dark thread slipping into the cloth of gold.

Is there anything anyone could have done?

Which brings up the parallel with Romeo and Juliet: Several times there are little stage actions and theatrical moments that remind one of the earlier play. There is the masquers interrupting a feast, for example, and a man singling out a young woman – with talk of hands; there is the old worldly wise woman talking to the young girl who pretends an innocence not entirely believable, but not hypocritical.

But with R&J you know it didn’t have to be like that – here there is no escape – and it is not just a personal tragedy, it is National History.

(Image at the top is the 18 year old, newly crowned king: You start to think the poor bugger could have been manipulated into a marriage when you look at that!)

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