The Hollow Crown
If you’ve never been a fan of Shakespeare, The Hollow Crown complete series will surely win you over (and if it doesn’t, then it’s probable that nothing will). The incredible screen adaptation of four of Shakespeare’s historical plays features some the UK’s finest actors: Ben Whishaw as Richard II, David Suchet as the Duke of York, Jeremy Irons in the title role of Henry IV, Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal, Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff, David Morrissey as Northumberland, Michelle Dockery as Lady Percy.
Executive-produced by Sam Mendes, and directed by Rupert Goold (Richard II), Richard Eyre (Henry IV Parts 1 and 2), and Thea Sharrock (Henry V), the rich details included in each episode of The Hollow Crown are eloquent of Shakespeare’s original masterpieces. The series is nothing if not extraordinary.
The series begins with Richard II. Ben Whishaw as Richard II is truly terrific, capturing every element necessary to encapsulate the disturbed royal. Rory Kinnear as the King’s cousin Bollingbroke and James Purefoy as Thomas Mowbray set the stage for drama, and my only complaint of Patrick Stewart playing Richard II’s father is that the talented actor doesn’t get enough screen time.
Henry IV takes place about twenty or so years post-Richard II, with Jeremy Irons now in the title role of Henry. Irons is an actor whose skill and capability allow him to totally embody the role of the aging royal; Henry giving attitude to everyone from Hotspur Percy to Henry’s own flesh and blood, Hal. And this is where the series really takes flight. When it becomes evident that the Percys are about to stage a revolt, King Henry gives the immature and impetuous Prince Hal a chance to prove himself worthy of his royal blood.
Out of the three tales, Thea Sharrock’s vision for Henry V was my preferred favourite. Like the original play (oft called the greatest of the Henriad), Sharrock’s screen adaptation has something for everyone, from war action and romance to politics and sheer drama. Tom Hiddleston absolutely shines in the title role, and his segue from rebellious rogue Hal (in Henry IV) to stately warrior king is award-worthy. Hiddleston’s heart for Shakespeare is evident in the way he completely embodies the role.
The sets, scenery (filmed on location in the UK), and costumes in The Hollow Crown assist in the overall feeling of authenticity the series relays. The directors interpretations stay true to each part of Shakespeare’s tetralogy, and the acting is spot-on. The Hollow Crown is an absolutely entertaining and almost flawless adaptation; precisely what Shakespeare done right looks like. I can’t express how delighted I am that PBS continues to bring us quality programming via the BBC that we’d miss out on otherwise.
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