Henry V (BBC TV)

British Broadcasting Corporation's Henry V


CITATION for Works Cited:

Henry V. By William Shakespeare. Dir. David Giles. Prod. Cedric Messina. BBC TV Production, 1979. Distributed by Time/Life, Inc.



English French

Chorus: Alec McCowen

King Henry V: David Gwillim King Charles: Thorley Walters

Earl of Westermoreland: David Buck The Dauphin: Keith Drinkle

Sir Thomas Erpingham: George Howe The Constable: Julian Glover

Fluellen: Tim Wylton Katherine: Jocelyne Boisseay

Gower: Brian Poyser Alice: Anna Quayle

English Herald: Simon Broad Montjoy: Garrick Hagon

Cambridge: William Whymper

Scroop: Ian Price

Grey: David Rowlands

Bardolph: Gordon Gostelow

Nym: Jeffrey Holland

Pistol: Brian Pringle

Boy: John Fowler

Hostess Quickly: Brenda Bruce



1. Cuts from and additions to Shakespeare's script.

a. Do we see more of the Battle of Agincourt than Shakespeare gave us? (Do we learn about Henry V's order to cut the throats of the prisoners?)

b. Does the BBC production retain Shakespeare's references to earlier plays/history--e.g., Henry Bolingbroke's usurpation?

2. Continuity, consistency, changes.

a. Are there "through-lines" (jargon for "consistency") for the actors retained from the Henry IV plays, most especially for Hal/Henry V? Most especially, is the Henry V we see at the end of Henry V essentially the same character we saw in the first tavern scene in 1H4? If not, are the changes plausible, given what he's experienced?

b. Is the style of the play, the mise en scene, consistent with the earlier plays in the BBC Second Tetralogy? If not, are the changes sensible--appropriate for this different play?

c. Is the tone of this Henry V--the attitude, as you infer it, of the makers of the production toward their subject and audience--the same as in the earlier plays? Most especially, what is the attitude toward Henry V, and what are the intentions of the producer and director in terms of forming attitudes among the audience?

3. Does the production emphasize or de-emphasize the comic pattern in the history plays? Do we have here a happy ending?


Rich Erlich, English 221 and other courses

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Olivier Production of Henry V


CITATION for Works Cited:

Henry V. By William Shakespeare. Prod. and Dir. Laurence Olivier. A Two Cities Film, 1944. Presented by Eagle-Lion. Initial U.S. release by United Artists, 1946.


PARTIAL CREDITS (from Harry M. Geduld, Filmguide to Henry V [Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973], section 1, "Credits"):

Screen Play: Laurence Olivier and Reginald Beck

Text Editor: Alan Dent

Film Editor: Reginald Beck

Filmed from 9 June 1943-12 July 1944 at Enniskerry, Eire, and at Denham and Pinewood Studios, England. World premiere: 11 November 1944 at the Carlton Theatre, London; first U.S. showing, 6 April 1946 in Boston, MA.

Film dedicated to the Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain, "the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture."

Major Players (in order of appearance):

Chorus: Leslie Banks Canterbury: Felix Aylmer

Bishop of Ely: Robert Helpmann English Herald: Vernon Greeves

Westmoreland: Gerald Case Erpingham: Morland Graham

Henry V: Laurence Olivier French Herald: Ralph Truman

Corporal Nym: Frederick Cooper Lt. Bardolph: Roy Emerton

"Ancient" (=Ensign) Pistol: Robert Newton

Hostess Quickly: Freda Jackson Falstaff: George Robey

Boy: George Cole The Dauphin: Max Adrian

King Charles VI of France: Harcourt Williams

Constable of France: Leo Genn Fluellen: Esmond Knight

Gower: Michael Shepley Princess Katharine: Renee Asherson

Lady Alice: Ivy St. Helier Queen Isabel: Janet Burnell

Court (Camp-boy): Brian Nissen John Bates: Arthur Hambling

Michael Williams: Jimmy Hanley A Priest: Ernest Hare

Duke of Burgundy: Valentine Dyall

Infantry and Cavalry by members of the Eirean Home Guard

[Unacknowledged: Direct aid from the British government (inference from the production plus a letter from the Ministry of Defense to me saying that, indeed, it was a government job.]


1. Cuts from and additions to Shakespeare's script.

a. Do we see more of the Battle of Agincourt than Shakespeare gave us? (Do we learn about Henry V's order to cut the throats of the prisoners?)

b. How come there are credits to characters that don't appear in the cast-list for Shakespeare's play?

c. For a full compilation of the many cuts, changes, and shifting of lines, see Geduld 47-58; for a partial list, see my study guide--or me.

Erlich, Olivier's H5 2


d. What do you make of the cuts, additions, and changes you note?

2. Stylistic matters:

a. Note apparent realism of the setting of the scenes at the Globe Theatre, shifting by degrees into romanticism, then back to realism, and then to romanticism for the wooing of Katherine--and then to the Globe. What do you make of these stylistic shifts? How might they make the film more heroic?

b. Note stylistic shifts in acting, especially by Olivier. When is he quite formal and "theatrical"? When is he more "natural"?

3. Olivier perfected some tricks for filming Shakespeare and experimented with voice-over for soliloquies. Note camera work as Olivier moves to the loud climax of a major speech. Note how still the camera is for the voice-over soliloquy. Voice-overs for soliloquies haven't become popular; does it work in Olivier's Henry V? (I.e., does the device help Olivier achieve his intentions for the film?)

4. The costumes at the Globe are correct--for London in May of 1600. Note the shift into Medieval costumes (and hair styles).

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Study Guide for Branagh Henry V (1989)


Henry V. Kenneth Branagh, dir., star. UK: The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1989. From William Shakespeare's Henry V, with additions in flashback to 1 and 2 Henry IV.



Henry V (Prince Hal in flashbacks): Kenneth Branagh

Chorus: Derek Jacobi

Pistol: Robert Stephens

King of France: Paul Scofield.

Fluellen: Ian Holm

Boy: Christian Bale

Mrs. Quickly: Judi Dench

Duke of Exeter: Brian Blessed

Bishop of Ely: Alec McCowen

Katherine, Princess of France: Emma Thompson



1. This film is a complement to and commentary on Laurence Olivier's World War II propaganda version of Henry V. Olivier showed his generation a romantic, gloriously imperial, unambiguously heroic Henry; Kenneth Branagh balances that view with an unromantic, post-imperial, highly ambiguous Henry. (Olivier cuts most of the comic business; Branagh cuts almost all of it.)

Olivier begins the live action in an Elizabethan theater; Branagh begins in a modern theater. And so on through the film, sometimes "replying to" Olivier's version (it seems) shot for shot.

Note, though, that even Branagh cuts Henry's orders kill the French his forces hold prisoner at Agincourt. That's one way to handle a textual problem in the script--but it's also a copout. The historical Henry V gave the order; educated folk in Shakespeare's time could still debate the morality of the decision; and Shakespeare stresses the event.

Note also that Branagh stages the hanging of Bardolph--and has Henry shed some tears at the loss. In both script and film, Henry's lines in response to Bardolph's death begin with "We would have all such offenders so cut off," go on to Henry's orders that the French are to be treated well, and end with a justification for Henry's mercy: ". . . for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner." Tears are one possibility, but a director might suggest an attitude here like that of Michael Corleone fairly late in the Godfather saga: sometimes you have to murder an old retainer, 'cause "Business is business."

2. Branagh keeps Henry's cat and mouse game with the three English traitors; note Henry's utter rage.

3. Shakespeare declines to show us much of the Battle of Agincourt, but few film directors would follow the script in that. How glorious is that glorious victory as filmed by Branagh? What is the effect of that context for the multiply repeated opening lines (words?) of the "Non nobis"--Psalm 115: "Non nobis, Domine, non nobis; / Sed nomini tuo da gloriam"--"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give the glory," and which goes on "for thy loving mercy and for thy truth's sake"? If you see a theme in Henry V of responsibility and avoided responsibility, "Not unto us"--the royal "us"?--can get very interesting, especially if one cuts the final glove business with the common soldier Williams, where Shakespeare's Henry does take responsibility.

4. Film Trivia--Running time for tracking shot at end of Battle of Agincourt: 3:46.08 (cf. opening tracking shot of The Player: 8:06.77).

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