By far, this play is one of the most heartbreaking. It shows the advancing illness of Henry IV and how it effects everyone around him. The Prince of Wales, grief stricken, ascending the throne in the wake of his Father's death
Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston do a fantastic job of highlighting the enfeeblement of a weary King, and a Prince who may or may not be ready to be a King, but a King no less.
The night of Henry IV's death he collapses and is put to bed. The Prince of Wales, arrives to sit at his father's bedside, thinking his father will never wake:
"My gracious lord! my father!The Prince of wales, removes the crown from his father's side and proceeds out of the bedchamber. Tom Hiddleston delivers a superb scene here. The way he captured the Prince's grief is something I will never forget. Believing his father will never wake, he sits on the throne, already feeling the heavy burden of the crown.
This sleep is sound indeed, this is a sleep
That from this golden rigol hath divorced
So many English kings. Thy due from me
Is tears and heavy sorrows of the blood,
Which nature, love, and filial tenderness,
Shall, O dear father, pay thee plenteously:
My due from thee is this imperial crown."
However, the King awakes seeing himself alone and without the crown, he finds that the Prince has taken the crown. In his last burst of energy, the King confronts the Prince of Wales:
"Dost thou so hunger for mine empty chair
That thou wilt needs invest thee with my honours
Before thy hour be ripe? O foolish youth!
Thou seek'st the greatness that will o'erwhelm thee."
Seeing his father alive, barely, the Prince begs the pardon of the King telling him in not so many words, by God's grace, he wants his father to live to spare him the crown. Feeling his death is imminent, the King forgives the Prince, understanding why he took the crown. In his last moments the King says:
"How I came by the crown, O God forgive;
And grant it may with thee in true peace live!"
Jeremy Irons has given a fantastic performance as Henry IV. He was an excellent choice for the elder King. My heart broke for Tom Hiddleston. he had the difficult job of going from scapregrace Prince to respected King. But he managed it. If there is anything Ton Hiddleston does well, its Shakespeare.
Of this Henriad, I am most looking forward to Henry V. Please look for my review of Henry V. Let me know what you think!