The Hollow Crown is a BBC miniseries in four parts, with each episode consisting of one of Shakespeare’s historical plays. Specifically, the series is made up of Richard II, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, and Henry V. The casting is tremendously (geekily) star-studded, featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, and John Hurt among many others. I actually only knew this was a thing that existed because of this interview that circulated post-Avengers.
Needless to say, I watched Henry V first.
I am always pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy watching Shakespeare, and Henry V was no exception. I think in school we’re taught that the Bard is this lofty stuffy dude when in reality his plays are full of sex and intrigue and human drama and, like, fart jokes. Despite being a huge fan, I was honestly expecting the histories to be boring, and I only wanted to watch them for their casts. I’ve only ever seen one of the histories before as a stage production, and I think I disliked it on principle because I had to watch it for a class.
I was, of course, totally wrong about that assumption. Henry V in particular is very much an action movie, as it follows the young Henry (Hiddleston) as he’s forced to become a responsible monarch and lead troops into battle in France. You’ve got basically everything you’d be looking for in an action film—battle scenes, sassy rejoinders, dramatic deaths, touching camaraderie, comedic romantic interludes, bittersweet endings—Henry V has got you covered.
My one real beef is that this adaptation isn’t very adventurous, that is, it doesn’t really take any risks. I’ve never actually read the play, so I can’t speak to how the changes from the original affected the BBC version (although I did read that they cut a few scenes). The biggest difference about it from a stage play is probably the movie-level production values. The Hollow Crown doesn’t do much new with the play—it’s set in a historically accurate setting, with no real twists in the casting choices except that the Duke of York was played by PoC actor Paterson Joseph. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed watching it, and recommend it highly to anyone who’s got two hours and change to sit around watching Shakespeare.