No trouble with “Henry”

Please don’t think I’m bourgeoisie.

Doesn’t just using the word ‘bourgeoisie’ make you bourgeoisie? I’m not sure.

All I know is that I’m dying to share about my Saturday evening of Shakespeare in DC…without sounding like I’m the kind of person whose name appears in the program next to the word ‘Gold Circle Benefactor.’ Which, by the way, I’m not, but, you know, it’s Shakespeare, so the brow just seems a little bit higher than normal.

I went to see Shakepeare Theatre Company’s production of Henry V (which I had not and have not read), and, I must say that while I truly only partially understood the dialog (though my comprehension increased considerably as the play progressed), I believe that I did understand enough to get the play—and to find myself moved by it.

The set was impressive, the staging stunning, the theatre itself like being inside a piece of modern sculpture. The dinner before, planned by my friend, Ann, was absolutely a grand slam, diminished afterward only slightly by my near miss with a speeding car (although the feeling of Craig grabbing my shoulder to prevent me from taking the next, potentially fatal step will likely remain a precious marital memory).

Back to Henry, the story goes that Henry’s advisors tell him that he has some claim to lands in France, and when the prince of France sends him the insulting gift of (I’m not making this up) a papier mache version of Henry’s head, filled to the eyes with tennis balls, Henry decides to invade. The French, in taunts reminiscent of the Monty Python & the Holy Grail, are routed, but not before Henry starts to feel the regretful pain of dragging his countrymen into a potential mess of grief and loss.

I was particularly moved by this soliloquy, in which Henry contrasts the lot of a king—who spends sleepless nights with the world on his shoulders—to that of the laborer—who, though he works hard, boosting up the king and his cronies, nevertheless sleeps well, enjoying the security afforded by the king:

And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,
Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,
Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.
The slave, a member of the country’s peace,
Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,
Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

I understand the sentiment, but I respectfully disagree with Henry. I know this is far from Shakepearean, but it’s all relative, right? I mean, no one with the last name of ‘Obama’ is down in the White House basement at three o’clock in the morning because the dishwasher malfunctioned in the White House kitchen and is now raining down water all over the basement. George Bush certainly wasn’t responsible for changing light bulb over the garage that’s been out for 3 months. And I’m pretty sure that somebody other than Hilary took care of things when the dog threw up in Chelsea’s bed.

Not that those respective folks haven’t done their own version of a service to our country. I’m just saying, the last time I had a flat tire, no member of Congress showed up to help me. Presidents lose sleep, kings lose sleep, doctors lose sleep, bus drivers lose sleep. Even kids lose sleep over some things. Thankfully, we don’t all have to worry about all of it all the time.

So, Henry, chill. Next time France sends you tennis ball, grab your buddies, go to the courts of the court, and hit a few. And while you’re doing it, keep in mind that most of the time, it all works out in the morning—no invasion necessary.


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