Saturday, September 02, 2006

A little touch of Harry

There has been much commentary about the news that George W. Bush is marking his sixtieth birthday this summer by reading adult books, including "three Shakespeares." Better late than never, of course, and we all wish we had time for reading or re-reading (statistics indicate that Americans have less vacation time than ever these days). But plays should really be seen in performance, and we know Bush is more of a visual kinda guy who likes one-page summaries and one-syllable words. Phrases like "stay the course" are easier for him to handle than fancy terms like "dissemble"; an aide had to show him a PowerPoint presentation about Hurricane Katrina last year before he could begin to grasp the extent of the catastrophe.

Fortunately, there are many fine film versions of Shakespeare plays which are more enjoyable for the novice than struggling with archaic poetry. I particularly recommend Kenneth Branagh's 1989 version of "Henry V," with special attention to the aftermath of Agincourt -- the battlefield strewn with corpses, the grieving women, and especially the dead children. So much horror, because Henry took his father's advice and started a foreign war to distract his people from his shaky claim to the throne, when France had done nothing but insult him with a gift of tennis balls. Devious clergymen, war profiteers, a profound meditation on what it means to be a head of state, this play has it all. See it twice.


Blogger Unknown said...

A thoughful post. I hope that our President is in fact more sensitive that he lets on. If he is then "Henry V" will have had a profound effect on him.

3:19 AM  

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