chapter  18
A Tale of Two Branaghs: Henry V, Ideology, and the Mekong Agincourt
ByChris Fitter
Pages 17

Interjacent between classes, Shakespeare problematized the ideology of each, and excelled in playing off against one another various groups in his heterogeneous audience. Shakespeare's structural rotation of attention between the decision-making aristocratic class-fraction and the common people whose lives are convulsed by them makes clear the human cost of imperial ambition. Politically companion masterstrokes of Noble are the decisions to make the commoner's sufferings visible, in bringing onstage the killings of Bardolph and the Boy. Branagh's film version expels almost every progressivist political gain from its RSC predecessor, triumphantly flattening down its multiple levels into a basic tale of sterling venture. Shakespeare's play, however, satiric, ambiguating and interrogative, is clearly an exposé of imperialist rhetoric and a critique of the institution of monarchy. Kenneth Branagh has done us, as lovers of Shakespeare, a quite wonderful cultural service, in giving us a Shakespeare that is genuinely popular, intelligent and enthralling, unforgettable if also unfaithful.