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Age of Kings Part 4 – “The Road to Shrewsbury”. We get to see Robert Hardy beat Sean Connery in a fight.

August 20, 2020

This is what we’ve been waiting for. Harry on Harry action. And we’re not disappointed.

Shakespeare is superb at describing the homoerotics of single combat and both these storied actors are desperate to hurl themselves at one another. Theirs is a passionate attachment worthy of Coriolanus and Aufidius.

Sean Connery’s Hotspur has never looked at Lady Hotspur the way he looks at Robert Hardy’s Hal just before trying to kill him. And this Hal has never looked at anyone the way he looks at this Hotspur. These two want each other. And when Hotspur dies, it really is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Connery’s Hotspur is played not just with a Scottish accent (slightly anomalous when he’s boasting about all the Scots he’s killed and taken prisoner), but also with an intermittent speech impediment. Hotspur is of course, poetic when disparaging poetry and eloquent when sneering at oratory – but the stammer is given one last dying breath here, allowing Hal to finish the word “worms” rather lovingly.

Amid this lovefest – some actual villainy is called for – and the partners in crime responsible for this are Worcester and Vernon, played by Geoffrey “Catweazle” Bayldon and Alan Rowe – actors who were (by pleasant coincidence) partners in real life. This production plays up the fact that a peaceful negotiated settlement was on the table right up to the morning of the battle – and the King’s conciliatory message was deliberately suppressed.

“God keep lead out of me” exclaims Frank Pettingell’s superlative Falstaff and somehow precisely the right balance is struck between sympathy for plump Jack’s frank ethic of self preservation and an acknowledgement of the sinister fact that others have died so that he could embezzle recruiting funds.

Earlier on, one of the funniest scenes in all of Shakespeare is done rather well. William Squire was actually Welsh, yet his accent for Glendower feels rather fake. I wonder sometimes if it was easier to get away with terrible accents when a very chiselled RP was the default setting for nearly all broadcasting. In this instance, we may have a strange example of a Welsh actor performing a comedy Welsh accent for comedy purposes – and the accent sounds fake because Glendower is himself a fake – a self-fashioned Jenga tower of Celtic stereotypes….

And so I will continue to watch. Already, Robert Hardy is my favourite Hal. Already, he has proved himself Shakespeare’s most successfully Machiavellian ruler.

Some thoughts on earlier episodes…

Part III:

Part II

Part I

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Just a reminder that Sean Connery played Hotspur…

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