fialleril: [Palo is everyone's favorite artist] (Palo)
[personal profile] fialleril
Mostly thoughts on BBC's The Hollow Crown as it's aired so far (so Richard II and Henry IV Parts 1 and 2), but also a Hamlet fic rec.

The casting for these is so incredible. I know everybody has been gushing about the casting, but it's true. Though I confess that part of me wishes Patrick Stewart had been cast as someone other than John of Gaunt, if only so he could have had more screen time. He absolutely stole every scene he was in, and his power was incredible. The part seems much larger in memory than it actually was in screen time; he just had that much presence.

Also I wish that Shakespeare had written a play called Lady Percy, so that I could have a whole movie full of Michelle Dockery being amazing, instead of just a few brief, shining scenes.

Somewhat to my surprise, most of my thoughts are about Richard II. Ben Whishaw was disgustingly good as Richard (to the point that by the time he got to his monologue on being deposed, it was practically a one man show - no one else was needed). But (predictably) what I most want to talk about is the symbolism going on with Saint Sebastian, and Richard as both Sebastian and Christ.

In some ways the Christ imagery was the more obvious choice, because Richard so clearly sees himself as a king with a divine-right-to-rule, as anointed by God, and therefore as someone who is protected by God, both in his person, but more importantly in his station. A betrayal of the king is a betrayal of God, so of course it makes sense to portray the deposing of the king as a kind of second betrayal of Christ. And Richard is obviously consciously aware of this, and plays to it, partly because he believes it and partly because he has an extraordinary talent for guilt trips.

But the Saint Sebastian imagery is all in the staging and cinematography. It's not something any of the characters ever acknowledge. And yet I think it was a really good staging choice, though I'm still mulling through a lot of my thoughts about it.

The imagery works on a number of levels. There's the obvious homoerotic subtext, for which Sebastian has been a poster boy practically since the beginning of his popularity as a saint. There's also, once again, the association of the king with a holy figure, one who is unjustly slain but holy even in death (or even more so - Sebastian, unlike Christ, becomes perfected in holiness precisely because of the manner of his death). But I think there's also a level at which Richard resembles Sebastian in terms of his own self identity.

Sebastian is one of those early saints who was, even from the beginning, much more of a symbol than a real personality. Which I think fits Richard really well. His whole identity is based around seeing himself as the symbol, the divinely ordained king, the crown and the scepter and the sitting for portraits. He doesn't seem to have much of an idea of who Richard is, outside of King Richard II. So when he's deposed (with all of the Christ imagery that entails), that's almost more a death scene than his actual death. He gets his last great monologue, he gets to perform his role. He both loses his symbolism, and, paradoxically, becomes nothing but the symbol, because he doesn't know who he is outside of being the king. And if he is no longer the king, then he is a martyr.

So I really loved the symbolism of his Sebastian-style death, as heavy handed as it was. Because of course he couldn't die as a person. He had to die as he lived, as a symbol.

My thoughts on Henry IV are much less in depth, and probably less coherent. Mainly, I am intensely amused by the fact that the Prince John who comes across as so level headed and even, perhaps, better suited to kingship than his older brother Hal, is historically the same John who orders Joan of Arc's execution, and trying to match up his characterization in this play with his usual characterization in Joan of Arc biopics is inexplicably hilarious to me.

Also hilarious is the fact that all of Tom Hiddleston's characters are the same. I am willing to forgive him this, because he does it so well, and his character archetype is one of my favorites. But still. I feel like the end of Henry IV and the still-to-come Henry V are basically what would have happened in Thor if Loki had not had a mental breakdown, and had actually remained king. (That scene where Hal tries on the crown, though. I am a terrible person, but I laughed through all of that. It was so good, but I just could not stop laughing. Tom, all of your characters are the same.)

On a non-spoilery note, here is a fic you should read immediately, if you have not already done so!

Rosemary for Remembrance by Gehayi. It's Hamlet! In space! With Ophelia as the protagonist and an asexual woman of color, solving mysteries and saving the day (in space)! And female!Claudius, and secret plots, and aliens, and people saving the day by being clever. It is one of my favorite pieces of fiction, period.

October 2012

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