Review Blog

Nov 20 2014

William Shakespeare's Henry V, retold by Robert Swindells

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Shakespeare today series. Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 9781408123966
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Retelling. Shakespeare. English history.
For the series Shakespeare today, Bloomsbury has commissioned writers to retell the stories of the bard to be accessible to a younger modern audience. In this they have succeeded admirably. In the past I have read a number of these, Romeo and Juliet, As you like it, and Midsummer night's dream, which have been terrific, distilling Shakespeare's story into modern idiom. A list of the others can be found on the Bloomsbury site.
Henry V, the tale of a new king wanting to retake the land in France he feels he is entitled to by divine right, is a masterful tale of power and its use, as Henry rebuffs overtures from the King of France, wanting to test himself in his new role. The words of Shakespeare are turned into lines that can be found today, but also rework some of his poetic writing, so introducing the modern reader to some of the scope of Shakespeare's writings. Short pieces from the play are used as prefaces for each of the five chapters, and the characters which make up the original story, in the main, are included.
So we have Falstaff and the drinking friends of Henry when he was young, hoping to curry favour with the new king. Each of these old friends is disappointed, but none more so than the traitors within.
I love this retelling, and hope students will get a taste for Shakespeare from it, if only to watch a DVD of the play with more understanding.
Fran Knight

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