An Age Of Kings – Episode Six – Uneasy Lies The Head (Henry IV Part Two)

henry iv part 2

Uneasy Lies The Head concludes the tale of Henry IV Part Two.  As the episode opens, a sickly Henry (Tom Fleming) is still awake in the early hours of the morning and muses on why everybody should be asleep but he.

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

As with the previous episodes, Fleming is very good and whilst he doesn’t have a great deal to do (this scene and his deathbed scene are his two main moments) he’s still compelling to watch.

But as with The New Conspiracy the focus of the piece (at the start anyway) is concerned with Falstaff’s misadventures.  But he’s met his comic match when he comes up against Justice Shallow (William Squire).  Squire delivers a fine performance as the fussy, reflective Shallow and he’s one of the highlights of Uneasy Lies The Head.

The heart of the piece, though, is the death of the King and Hal’s elevation to the throne.  Believing the King to be dead, Hal takes away the crown, but Henry still has breath in his body and is dismayed to find his crown missing.  Hal explains his actions (some quality acting here from both Robert Hardy and Tom Fleming) and they are reconciled just before Henry’s death.

Once Hal has become King Henry V there is one important matter to be dealt with – that of Falstaff.  Although I can’t confess to have been greatly enamoured with Frank Pettingell’s performance during the last few episodes, he does manage to capture very well Falstaff’s shock and hurt when Henry publicly disowns him.  Hardy’s delivery here is spot on – and his journey from wastrel Prince to King Henry V is completed.

I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
I have long dream’d of such a kind of man,
So surfeit-swell’d, so old and so profane;
But, being awaked, I do despise my dream.
Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape
For thee thrice wider than for other men.
Reply not to me with a fool-born jest:
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn’d away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.

As the credits roll, there’s one more surprise.  We see the actors removing their stage clothes and talking amongst themselves whilst the camera gradually focuses on William Squire.  Squire removes the white wig and false nose of Shallow and after the credits have finished he steps forward to deliver the epilogue of the play which promises the return of Falstaff (something which didn’t happen as Shakespeare obviously changed his mind – Falstaff dies off-stage in Henry V).

The breaking of the fourth wall is somehow in keeping with the theatrical tradition of the piece and it’s an interesting conclusion to the episode.

Next up – Episode Seven – Signs of War

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