Henry V (Film)

“A Little Touch of Harry”: Intimacy and “Twin-Born” Kings

Though in the beginning of Kenneth Branagh’s screen adaptation of Henry V Derek Jacobi implores that we try to “think” when the players speak of Agincourt that we “see” the commotion (Prologue. 27), we soon realize that pretending is not necessary. Surrounded on all sides by sleeping soldiers, a cloaked figure squats near the warmth of a dying fire, as moonbeams illuminate a half-covered yet familiar face in quiet darkness. This figure is Henry V, and this moment in the film most certainly does justice to its written counterpart—we hear the “creeping murmur fill the wide vessel of the universe” (4.1.2) through the haunting hum of violins, and feel “the poring dark” (4.1.2) envelop us as the fire wanes on the eve of the Battle at Agincourt. Indeed, that which Shakespeare wrote unfolds before us, clearer and more authentic perhaps than the playwright himself could have ever envisioned. The film’s magic lies in its ability to make real Shakespeare’s words and to fill them with a story of tears, breath, and blood. The film exposes the private secrets of a story that at first blush appears to be what Stephen Greenblatt calls “the celebration of Charismatic leadership and martial heroism” (223). Branagh’s picture fascinates by...

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