ENGL 339: Shakespeare
Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
English Department, California Polytechnic State University

Henry V: Video Questions

Review General Instructions for Personal Responses to the Required Video Screenings.

All video assignments are to be submitted to your PolyLearn Group Discussion Forum.  For each assigned video, you will answer each of three questions TWICE: 

  • once for yourself, prior to seeing the video, based upon your own informed understanding of the play; this "Pre-Video Analysis" posting is ungraded, but it is required for you to get credit for your graded PR.  It should be completed before you screen the required film and must be posted to your Group Discussion Forum before the class meeting when the required video will be discussed. 
  • a second time after screening the required video, Laurence Olivier's 1944 film of Henry V.  (You must screen this film in its entirety, either at a scheduled group screening or on your own, prior to the scheduled video discussion on the last full class day devoted to Henry V).  The second time, answer the questions as you believe director and star Laurence Olivier would, based upon your attentive viewing of the video and informed knowledge of the text.  (Be sure to identify the film clearly by Director's name and year produced.)  Your graded PR Video Analysis of the assigned film is due no later than 10 PM on the Friday following class discussion of the required video and clips from other filmed versions of the play.  
Both your ungraded Pre-Video Analysis responses with your own thoughts on the play and your graded PR analyzing the assigned video should be clearly numbered (questions 1a, 1b, 2 and 3).  Remember that for the ungraded pre-video analysis posting, you are answering the questions based upon your own informed understanding of the text, as if you were a director planning your own prodcution of the play.  Your graded PR should answer the same questions as you feel the director of the assigned film might have answered them. 

As you write up these questions, take care to state your interpretation clearly (it is your thesis) and support it textually (cite specific textual passages with act, scene and line numbers). For the video, cite both specific non-textual details from the video screened AND at least one key speech or scene which the director may have been thinking of when making these choices about how to film the play.

General Questions to answer prior to screening ANY Shakespeare video: 

1a) What is the central issue in this play? (What is it really about?) Upon what speeches/textual passages is my (or is the director's) understanding of this issue and its central importance based? 

1b) What non-textual details would I use (or are used in the video) to get this message across? Consider the contributions of director, actors, set and lighting designers, costumers, choreographers, musicians, cinematographers, etc. -- NOT elements common to ANY production of the play (such as plot lines or speeches that are in the script regardless of the director's interpretation). 

Specific video questions for Olivier's Olivier's Henry V:

3) King Henry is full of contrasts and contradictions -- which makes for a rich and complex text, but is a problem for the director. Based upon what you see as the central issue in the play, are there speeches or scenes that you would downplay as director? How would you handle them? (with humor or irony? by emphasizing other scenes or elements that are more central to your interpretation? by eliminating them completely?) The second time through, tell me how you think Laurence Olivier would respond to this question, based upon his treatment of the script.  (Note key speeches and scenes which are edited, elided, transformed or omitted from his considerably shorter version of the play!) 

4) What look would you (or does Olivier) go for, and why? (See e-reserve reading with Olivier's comments on making Henry V.)  How much realism/pageantry? (stylized? gritty? bloody? glorious?) Contemporary or period dress? (and what period?) How would you handle the Chorus? (For an interesting contrast, see Branagh's Henry V, an equally brilliant but very different film!) 

Click here for Henry V Study Questions

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Contents of this and all linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 1996-2012

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