Review Blog

Nov 16 2010

Henry V by William Shakespeare, retold by Robert Swindells

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A and C Black, 2010. ISBN 978 1 40812398 6.
A retelling of Shakespeare's Henry V in 94 pages makes the play more accessible to a wider audience. All of the main characters are there, Henry V, Bedford, Gloucester, Archbishop of Canterbury as well as the French king and his entourage, and even the lower orders, Pistol, a dying Falstaff and Num. The play opens with Henry V deciding with his advisers that their only option is to go to war with France. Act 2 sees the army in France, and the dialogue between the lower orders, Num Pistol and Bardolph easily parallels the lives of some of Henry's men. Act three sees the two armies the night before the Battle of Agincourt and we see Henry V strolling incognito amongst his men, gauging what they are feeling and encouraging their participation. Act four details the awful battle and statistics are given towards the end of this act to underscore the impressive defeat of the French army. Act five sees the mopping up of the campaign, and Henry V returning to France to marry the French king's sister, Katherine.
Those reading the original will be well served by reading this shortened modern retelling. A list of characters at the start of the play will aid the readers, and each act is prefaced by one of the important speeches from the play. Comments by Swindells at the end reiterate the power of Shakespeare's language in this play, and he quotes two of the major speeches which will resonate with many.
This amazing adaptation is one of the series, Shakespeare Today, published by A and C Black.
Fran Knight

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