Book #63: King Henry IV, part 1

I’ve never read a history play before and with the new plan to study both a tragedy and a history in my Shakespeare class, I wasn’t quite sure where to start.  Luckily, my oldest is obsessed with Shakespeare and quite knowledgable, so I just asked her.  Where do I start?  She recommended either Richard II or Henry IV part 1.  Which is funnier, I asked?  Henry.  So that’s what we did.

Regardless of my trepidations about a history play, I talked up this new venture to my students.  I had no idea if we were going to enjoy it as a class or not, so I focused on being the PR agent for it.  It helped, but the kids still had a harder time connecting and following the story than they did Romeo and Juliet.  Unfamiliarity might have contributed but only having 5 weeks to study and discuss it likely was the biggest issue.  Instead of discussing the deeper ideas and issues in the play, I spent the majority of the time trying to help the kids wrap their heads around what was going on and why.

That’s okay, it was still worth doing.  I enjoyed the history play far more than I expected and I had a few kids who really grasped it and loved it.  I would often play a clip from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent performance to help them visualize what was happening.  It made Falstaff far funnier for them.  In all, a worthy endeavor and I think I’m ready to read more.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars.  Not my favorite play, but it was so much better than I expected.


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