By now, you know that we love all things Shakespeare. Especially all things Shakespeare involving Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Irons. Which is why we are overwhelmed with excitement over this:
Starting tonight, Friday, September 20th, on Nashville Public Television, Great Performances will air four of Shakespeare’s History Plays (Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I & II, and Henry V) on four consecutive Friday evenings under the umbrella title The Hollow Crown.
Originally broadcast on the BBC last summer, The Hollow Crown is a Sam Mendes (Skyfall!)-produced television event that chronicles the lives of the three legendary English kings, played by Ben Whishaw (BBC’s The Hour), Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston (Loki in The Avengers and Thor), highlighted in Shakespeare’s second tetralogy. The four plays, also known as the Henriad, tell a sequential story of feuding dynasties, rebellion and murder, with recurring characters, resulting in a four-part epic project filmed entirely on location that resembles a television mini-series more so than individual plays. Think The Tudors, not classic theatre. We’ve seen the first two installments in the series and in our opinion, The Hollow Crown is a complete triumph. So be sure to check it out! (And you’ll be forgiven if the series brings to mind Game of Thrones…that’s no accident. Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin was inspired by the same events Shakespeare drew from in his history plays: the Wars of the Roses.)
The Hollow Crown premieres on Nashville Public Television, Friday, September 20th at 8 p.m. with Richard II.
The full schedule (so you can set your DVRs) is as follows:
Friday, September 20th
KING RICHARD (Ben Whishaw) is called upon to settle a dispute between his cousin HENRY BOLINGBROKE (Rory Kinnear) and THOMAS MOWBRAY (James Purefoy). RICHARD calls for a duel but then halts it just before swords clash. Both men are banished from the realm. RICHARD visits JOHN OF GAUNT (Patrick Stewart), BOLINGBROKE’s Father, who, in the throes of death, reprimands the King. After seizing GAUNT’s money and lands, RICHARD leaves for wars against the rebels in Ireland. BOLINGBROKE returns to claim back his inheritance. Supported by his allies, NORTHUMBERLAND (David Morrissey) and the DUKE OF YORK (David Suchet), BOLINGBROKE takes RICHARD prisoner and lays claim to the throne.
Friday, September 27th
Henry IV, Part I
The heir to the throne, PRINCE HAL (Tom Hiddleston), defies his father, KING HENRY (Jeremy Irons), by spending his time at MISTRESS QUICKLY’s (Julie Walters) tavern in the company of the dissolute FALSTAFF (Simon Russell Beale) and his companions. The King is threatened by a rebellion led by HAL’s rival, HOTSPUR (Joe Armstrong), HOTSPUR’s father NORTHUMBERLAND (Alun Armstrong) and his uncle WORCESTER (David Hayman). In the face of this danger to the state, PRINCE HAL joins his father to defeat the rebels at the BATTLE OF SHREWSBURY and kill HOTSPUR in hand-to-hand combat. Michelle Dockery plays HOTSPUR’s wife, KATE PERCY.
Friday, October 4th
Henry IV, Part II
In the aftermath of the Battle of Shrewsbury, NORTHUMBERLAND learns of the death of his son. THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE (Geoffrey Palmer) attempts, on behalf of the increasingly frail King, to separate FALSTAFF from PRINCE HAL. The rebels continue to plot insurrection. FALSTAFF is sent to recruit soldiers and takes his leave of his mistress, DOLL TEARSHEET (Maxine Peake). The rebel forces are overcome. This brings comfort to the dying King, who is finally reconciled to his son. FALSTAFF rushes to HAL’s coronation with expectations of high office, only to be rebuffed by the former prince who has now become King HENRY V.
Friday, October 11th
HENRY V has settled onto the throne and has the makings of a fine King. The French AMBASSADOR (Jérémie Covillault) brings a challenge from the FRENCH DAUPHIN. Inspired by his courtiers, including EXETER (Anton Lesser) and YORK (Paterson Joseph), HENRY swears that he will, with all force, answer this challenge. The CHORUS (John Hurt) tells of England’s preparations for war and HENRY’s army sails for France. After EXETER’s diplomacy is rebuffed by the FRENCH KING (Lambert Wilson), HENRY lays a heavy siege and captures Harfleur. The French now take HENRY’s claims seriously and challenge the English army to battle at Agincourt. HENRY and his meager forces prove victorious against all odds.
We know what we will be doing for the next four weeks!
The Hollow Crown also has a companion website that is an amazing resource for videos, classroom materials and all around Shakespeare fun.