The Hollow Crown is an exciting television adaptation of William Shakespeare’s four history plays known as the Henriad (Richard II, Henry IV: Part 1, Henry IV: Part 2, and Henry V) and aired as part of PBS’s Great Performances series in 2013. The entire Hollow Crown series is available on DVD and is well worth watching for any Shakespeare fan or novice.
My personal favourite of the adaptations is Henry V, which was directed by Thea Sharrock (Equus, The Misanthrope, After the Dance) and stars Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea, Thor). This play largely continues where Henry IV: Part 2 left off, with the charismatic playboy Prince Hal transforming into the respected and courageous King Henry – excellently portrayed by Hiddleston (a protégé of Kenneth Branagh, who previously played the heroic king in the 1989 film). Hiddleston manages to preserve the character’s vulnerability throughout the series and gives a quiet, yet powerful performance. John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Midnight Express, Melancholia) also gives a particularly moving performance as the Chorus and Mélanie Thierry delivers some of the play’s lighter moments as the young, proper, and beautiful Princess Katherine, Henry’s future French bride. Whereas past cinematic interpretations of the play either emphasis the nationalistic glory of war or the horrifying realities of the battlefield, this version seems to find a good middle ground and frames the play around Henry’s own mortality. This makes the play more relatable for modern audiences.
Prince Charming, I mean Tom Hiddleston
I’m a closet poetry fan. It all started in my high school English Literature class after reading John Keats’ “The Eve of St. Agnes.”* A few weeks ago, I discovered a truly fantastic app called The Love Book App that has been a real throwback to high school and all the times I would read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and giggle for ten minutes straight.
The Love Book App is an interactive literary anthology where you can read over 200 recent and classic poems, quotes, and selections of prose. Through the app, you can find new poems by browsing by theme, author, or performing a few different search options (all of these features would be very handy for English students). You can also listen to many of the poems being narrated by classy British actors with lovely voices, including Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston, Gina Bellman, Damian Lewis, and Helen McCrory. You can also record your own versions of the poems and send them to your friends (I have not inflicted this on anyone just yet, however). The app design is intuitive and the graphics by Kate Moross are cool, colourful, and fun. Perhaps best of all, 10 percent of all sales go to the awesome charity Save the Children. Clearly, I’m in love with this app. It is available on iTunes and Google Play.
In case you were wondering, my favourite poem I have discovered via the Love Book App is the very funny and sick “Life Story” by Tennessee Williams. Below is a sample of Tom Hiddleston reading Shakespeare for the app (Hmmm, I wonder how much would I have to pay Mr. Hiddleston to read “Kubla Khan”? Sadly it is missing from the app).
*Fun Fact: Single ladies, St. Agnes Eve is on January 20th. According to Scottish legend, if you perform a few superstitious rituals, such as going to bed without any supper, your future husband may just visit you in your dreams!