The Treatment of the Heterogeneous "Army" by Kenneth Branagh and Lawrence Olivier in Shakespeare's "Henry V".

Essay by windsurferchicUniversity, Master'sA+, May 2003

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In Act III, scene ii of Shakespeare's Henry V, we see firsthand how King Henry's army is heterogeneous, made up of men with four different accents from four different regions, English, Scottish, Irish and Welch. This scene is the only time in the play when these four men from four regions all interact together

Both Lawrence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh present this scene very differently in their film versions of Shakespeare's play. In my paper I set out to prove my hypothesis that Olivier's film sets out to show how the unity of these separate peoples whose differences are made explicit, lies in their allegiance to King Henry and that the cohesion of these disparate regions is something that Henry has managed to achieve, and this is characteristic of Henry as king. In contrast, Branagh's film is set up so that the viewer has a hard time distinguishing each of these men from each other.

In his film, the audience is meant to think that these men are not so different from each other in the first place. In Branagh's film, it is the act of war itself, not Henry as a brilliant king, which binds these men together.

This scene takes place during the battle of Harfleur, and the four Captains are meeting to discuss the tunnels which are being dug to undermine the fortress at Harfleur. Irish Captain MacMorris is in charge of digging the trenches. Welch Captain Fluellen offers Irish Captain MacMorris advice about how to dig proper trenches, but MacMorris angrily tells him that his men were forced to abandon the project. The contrasting clips I have chosen are taken from near the end of the scene when the Welch Captain Fluellen makes a seemingly insulting comment to Irish Captain MacMorris about his "nation"...