The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film will present Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” opening Friday, Oct. 16, in the Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre.
Often portrayed as chivalrous, the title character in the UT production reveals a darker, warmongering side.The Battle of Agincourt, an enormous success for Henry and the main action of the play, was not an epic battle with breathtaking sword fights on horseback and longbow archers saving the day. In actuality, the French army got mired in mud because of their heavy armor and became sitting ducks for the English. Most recently, French academics have declared that the English behaved like war criminals, murdering prisoners and nobility who had surrendered in atrocious ways, such as setting people on fire and showing no mercy.
Agincourt winds up becoming historically unimportant since Henry died before he could claim the French crown the battle entitled him to. So why does Shakespeare write about it almost 200 years later?“Ultimately, Shakespeare’s histories are not documentaries, but a reflection on human nature at its best and worst,” Irene Alby, UT senior lecturer in theatre and film, and director of the production, said. “‘Henry V’ is not meant to portray the king as a hero, but rather to unveil the corruption of power, the manipulation of the masses through propaganda, and, ultimately, to portray him as a warmonger.”
Interestingly, the UT production of “Henry V” will coincide with the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. The play’s last performance Sunday, Oct. 25, is the actual anniversary date.
Alby said she hopes this serendipitous timing of the production and the battle’s anniversary will give audiences a reason to pause and reflect on the often disastrous and tragic consequences of war, particularly wars fought for ego and glory.
“Henry V” will be performed with an intermission from Friday through Sunday, Oct. 16-18 and Oct. 23-25. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday shows are at 2 p.m.
Following the opening night performance, there will be a free reception and discussion where the audience can ask questions about the show.
Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for faculty, staff, alumni, seniors 60 and older, and military members; and $8 for students. They can be purchased online at utoledo.tix.com, by calling 419.530.ARTS (2787), or by visiting the Center for Performing Arts Box Office.
For more information and to see the season’s lineup, click here.