Later this month the BBC will begin the truly great tetralogy of Shakespearean plays beginning with Richard II, the two parts of Henry IV and finally Henry V. It seems they have gathered together the cream of British acting talent according to The Telegraph:
Tom Hiddleston (Prince Hal), Patrick Stewart (John of Gaunt), Julie Walters (Mistress Quickly), David Suchet (Duke of York), Lindsay Duncan (Duchess of York), Rory Kinnear (Bolingbroke), Michelle Dockery (Lady Percy), Maxine Peake (Doll Tearsheet), Iain Glen (Warwick) and John Hurt (The Chorus). Irons stars as Henry IV, while Russell Beale plays Falstaff.
Even as superb an actor as Russell Beale must feel a twinge of worry playing Falstaff fairly shortly after Roger Allam's definitive performance at The Globe, but Russell Beale is, I believe, one of the most highly intelligent actors on the British stage so I can't wait!
It is entirely right that these plays are performed together, or at least, in close proximity so that one can see the links and the development of not just WS's writing but also his political thought. Shakespeare was a bourgeois to his money-grubbing fingertips and he cared deeply about the quality of leadership needed by a king or queen lest any weakness lead to disorder and rule by the mob. In Richard II we watch a weak king, in effect, self-destruct. In the two parts of Henry IV (his very greatest political plays) we see a regicide fearful for his future and beset by pangs of conscience for evil deeds done in the past. Also, we see a young prince, already developing those skills in deception required, as Machiavelli made clear, by any ruler, gradually come to terms with his father and showing exactly the same qualities of steeliness that his king-killing father had already displayed. Finally, in Henry V we see the prince as king. Now he must learn to set aside personal feelings and devote himself to statecraft. Unlike Richard he does not suffer toadies - he executes them without compunction.
So, get your 'do-flicker-recording-thingies' set up, or, book a seat at your local cinema, and sit back and watch four of the very best!
PS: It being the BBC, sigh, I do hope there are no contemporary overlays!