Immediately following the Battle of Shrewsbury, false rumors spread that Prince Hal and King Henry IV have died and Hotspur is the victor. Soon, Northumberland learns of his son’s death and prepares to battle the king, allied with the Archbishop of York, Hastings, Mowbray, and Bardolph.
Meanwhile Falstaff has come out of the battle looking like a proper warrior, though his activities prove he is as much a rapscallion as ever. The Lord Chief Justice is on the point of arresting Falstaff several times; he continues to torment Mistress Quickly; and he begins a tryst with Doll Tearsheet. When called once more to fight in the king’s army, Falstaff allows soldiers to buy their way out of service again. His relationship with Hal, however, seems to wane as the disguised prince sees his former companion in a clearer light.
King Henry, too ill to go to battle himself, entrusts the charge to his second son, Prince John, who negotiates a peace with the rebels, then arrests the leaders as traitors. The news proves too much for King Henry, whose health deteriorates. The princes gather, and Hal is left alone with him. Thinking his father has died, Hal regretfully takes the crown, only to have the king revive, believing Hal too eager to succeed. The two reconcile at last, and King Henry dies.
Falstaff, hearing of the king’s death and Prince Hal’s ascent to the thrown, gleefully looks forward to the honors he is sure to receive now that his dear friend is King Henry V. He hurries towards London, and arrives just as the coronation procession passes. But when Falstaff calls out, the new King Henry does not acknowledge him, and instead banishes him and all his former companions, demonstrating how his reign will be one of strength and righteousness.
—Hadley Kamminga-Peck, dramaturg
Shakespearean scholarship has in recent years begun to investigate more closely the concept of “original practices,” a movement that aims to recreate the staging, rehearsal, and performance conditions of Elizabethan England. Shakespeare’s theater—its mode of production, its audiences, and its cultural function—was far different from today’s theater, and CSF’s 2014 production of Henry IV, Part 2 will be an experiment in working with original practices.
There are many different approaches to original practices, depending on whether the company wants to reproduce the journey or the destination. Shakespeare’s company, for example, learned their lines from a cue script, which contained only one character’s lines along with the line preceding it (the cue). They often only rehearsed for one or two days. Actors would receive the script up to three weeks in advance and learn their lines on their own, while the manager would prepare the promptbook and plan the staging. When the company assembled, members would quickly put the play on its feet, the actors having already acquired their costumes, and possibly even using pre-staged fights and crowd scenes.
Another approach to original practices focuses on the resulting production. Shakespeare’s company performed plays during the day, as they were performed mostly outdoors. Thus modern productions will keep the audience at least partially lit in order to replicate the feeling, allowing the actors and the audience to see and respond to one another. A prompter was employed, not necessarily to feed the actors lines, but to aid with the entrances and exits, sound effects, and preparing props. Companies also recreate the Elizabethan dress down to the manner in which the costumes are made, and utilize all-male casts in an effort to understand how Elizabethan theater companies worked. Some have even gone so far as to experiment with early-modern pronunciation.
CSF’s production will utilize as many of these techniques as a modern rehearsal process allows. You will see many actors from Henry IV, Part 1 continuing their roles, and they will learn their lines from a cue script, developed based on First Folio texts. the cast will have just five days to rehearse, in contrast to the usual three-week rehearsal period at CSF. We will use universal lighting, so the actors and the audience members can see each other clearly. Onstage musicians will play period music. The pace will be fast and light, keeping to “the two hours’ traffic of our stage,” and (we hope) introducing our actors and our audiences to a fresh, though not exactly new, approach to Shakespeare’s play.
—Hadley Kamminga-Peck, dramaturg
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