Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tales from Shakespeare: Henry V

Tales from Shakespeare: Henry V
written by Timothy Knapman; illustrated by Yaniv Shimony
2015 (QEB Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Therefore take heed... How you awake our sleeping sword of war.

Prince Hal certainly didn't act the part. He was in line for the English throne and spent his days being a party boy. Funny thing happened on the way to the crown. When he took his late father's place, he reverted to being king-like with wisdom and bravery and left his previous ways almost immediately. It was time to reign and France was a jewel for England to take. Henry V consulted his circle of advisers about his claim to the French throne and they felt the time was right. Henry was not so sure. When the Dauphin, the son of the King of France, mocked him with a gift of a chest of tennis balls, it was game on. Henry and his army landed near the port of Harfleur and won a tough battle that significantly weakened their troops. Now the French were extremely confident that they would easily handle the English at Agincourt. Nonetheless, Henry inspired his troops with a speech that sent them into battle with a fierce mindset. The French were overcome and England triumphed despite being underdogs. Not only did Henry conquer northern France, he won the hand of the French king's daughter Katherine in the peace settlement. Unfortunately, he didn't live much longer afterwards as he was trying to conquer the rest of France.

At some point high school students are going to encounter Shakespeare's works. This retelling of Henry V in modern English is a great way to introduce the play and entice reluctant readers who might need a gateway into Shakespeare. There are several quotations from the original play and illustrations that will help readers understand the characters and the mood. I enjoyed reading this adaptation and now will seek out the play and the 1989 Kenneth Branagh film.

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