Must I marry your sister?
God send the wench no worse fortune! But I never said so.
OKAY. SO. Let’s talk a little about this scene. Look at Poins. No, not that part of Poins - no, up a little - no, that’s Hal, look back to the right - keeping going - okay, stop. There! See his expression? Yeah. That is pure fear on his face.
Because Poins is not a jolly, drunk, short-sighted sycophant like Falstaff. Poins is Hal’s brother, metaphorically and perhaps even literally! (Hahahaha, Hal never does anything half-heartedly, God love him. He’ll find a new dad and a new brother, too! He’ll die not one death, not a hundred deaths, not a thousand deaths, but a hundred thousand deaths before breaking the smallest parcel of his vow! He won’t just defeat Hotspur, he’ll try fortune with him in a single fight! And so on and so forth…) The reason this scene is set in The Greatest Sauna In This Or Any Other Land (apart from hot, half-naked people being enormously entertaining) is to visually establish the casual, brotherly, locker-room intimacy that the dialogue reflects in the text (where Hal goes on at some length about the state of Ned’s underwear). Poins is smart, witty, proud, and more than a little psychotic - in other words, he’s enough like Hal that he gets that Hal is an ice-cold motherfucker.
In fact, Poins is probably the only person on the planet who understands what Hal is capable of, who senses what Hal is going to become, because he is the only one Hal ever reveals himself to (out of a weird mix of respect, because Poins is totally his bro, and disdain, because Poins is totally not his bro. Hal, you unutterable shit, I love you so). Which is why his response, when he thinks Hal has perceived him to have crossed that unspoken line, is pants-shitting terror. My favorite thing about this scene is how Poins holds his expression even after Hal laughs the first time, because he knows that Hal’s going to check his response - it’s only after he apparently passes that test, and Hal laughs again, that Poins allows himself an uncomfortable smile.
OH MAN. THIS PRODUCTION IS KILLLLLLING ME.
I think it’s a mistake to anticipate Henry in the performance of Hal - and it’s a temptation Hiddleston resists admirably, imbuing even Hal’s most ~regal~ instances of pride and anger and sorrow with a youthful and unkingly focus on the personal and the immediate - but I think it’s really interesting (and perhaps even necessary, when adapting these plays to be part of a production of the entire tetralogy) for the director to highlight some instances of proto-Henry. No, ~sweet honey lord Hal~ wouldn’t have Poins killed for a bit of hopeful nonsense about his sister, especially not on Falstaff’s unreliable word…but in the not-too-distant future Henry V will hand another dear friend a damning letter, and things don’t go so well for ol’ Scroop (or Cambridge, or Grey, but Scroop’s is the betrayal that really stings). (That scene may not even be in Thea Sharrock’s Henry V, which would make the inclusion of this take on this scene all the better!)
What this reading of the scene ultimately highlights is that Henry’s ruthlessness, his capacity for brutality, his affection for ~the common man~ ever tempered by the fact that he does (and must, as king) ultimately use them like things - those traits didn’t magically spring into existence upon coronation. Hal was always like that. Which is why I love him the very best, and why his Eastcheap brethren would have been well-advised not to.
bolded because I DIDN’T CATCH THAT, HOW DID I NOT CATCH THAT, I BASICALLY HAVE THAT SPEECH MEMORIZED
Can we also talk about the speech Falstaff makes saying that Hal and Poins are exactly alike? This is a speech worth mentioning at this point. ”…and other gambol faculties he has that show a weak mind and a strong body, for the which the prince admits him; for the prince himself is such another. The weight of a hair will turn the scale between their avoirdupois.” [weights. i had to look that one up.]
I HAVE JUST RE-READ THE THING WITH SCROOP, I absolutely agree with what you have said, Henry does the exact same thing to them as he does to Poins in this scene. Gives them letters condemning them and then watches their reactions. I cannot imagine that scene won’t be in Henry V (if it isn’t I will DEFINITELY BE THE SADDEST). And LOOK AT THE DESCRIPTION OF SCROOP: “That thou didst bear the key of all my counsels,/That thou knew’st the very bottom of my soul,/That almost mightst have coined me into gold,/Wouldst thou have practiced on me for thy use?” He could have said the exact same thing to Poins. ”dude. are you just using me to gain some kind of advancement?”
WOAH AND HEY, does the repetition of this scene on its differing scales mean that Henry is a better king because of his wild and splentive youth?
let’s say yes.