I’m probably the least qualified person to review THE HOLLOW CROWN series. I’m not a Shakespeare nut, his complexity alludes me, however the beauty and the spectacle of the series captivated me from the first preview. Have you seen that preview?

A big draw on first look is probably the cast, its chock full of familiar faces, and both new and old favorites including Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Ben Winshaw, Patrick Stewart, David Morrisey, John Hurt, and so many more. THE HOLLOW CROWN is a four part series that both captures the epic scope and intimate details of the rise and fall of kings. Lady Jenevia broke it down each part: Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V, so check out her reviews, and I’m gonna dive into the goodies on the dvd.

The series has a run time of 505 minutes, and before you start groaning, it’s a fresh look at Shakespeare that will delight both neophytes and long time lovers of the Scribe’s works.
 Richard II
The first installment of the four-part series is adapted from Shakespeare’s “King Richard the Second”, centering on the English king who ruled between 1377–1399. Adapted and directed by Rupert Goold, Ben Whishaw stars in the title role. He’s both vain and eccentric, and fairly flamboyant as Richard II, beautifully demonstrating the downfall of the ruler who sealed his fate after the disastrous handling of a feud. You’ll also find Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt, Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke and David Morrissey as the Earl of Northumberland, in this first part.

Not only is the production top notch, PBS certainly goes for quality, so is the script. Sure it’s Shakespeare, but hearing it as it was meant to be spoken, and played out is a shock to the senses but in a good way. Visually you expect the sweeping landscapes, the flowing robes and jeweled crown, but high caliber English, well, that tends to be glossed over in the modern telling of classic Shakespeare.  

Bonus Features

The Making of Richard II (10  Minutes) – A behind-the-scenes featurette with commentary from Ben Whishaw, director Rupert Goold, Rory Kinnear, executive producer Pippa Harris, and producer Rupert Ryle-Hodges. Discussion is based around Whishaw and the qualities he brought to Richard II, as well as the quality of well-versed Shakespearean actors in the cast. 

Henry IV: Parts 1 & 2
Henry IV: Part 1 & 2 were adapted and directed by Richard Eyre.  Jeremy Irons steps into the role of Henry IV, an older, wiser, and guilt ridden ruler. Don’t let the title fool you, his son Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston) fairly steals the show with his coming of age antics. While the king deals with a rebellion on the horizon, Prince Hal busies himself with bad company. War breaks out, and it gives Prince Hal the opportunity to prove himself to his father. Hiddleston is perfection, as if there was any doubt he would be. He excels as both the scallywag, and the regal prince.

Henry IV: Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, focusing on Hal’s path to kingship and, his once companion, Falstaff’s march to the grave. Prince Hal finds the world he’s made, and the one he wishes to be a part of are highly incompatible, and struggles through the growing pains. Henry IV’s relationships crumble as Richard II had prophesized, and his health is in decline. Both Hiddleston and Irons produce powerful performances as Irons’ king passes, and Hiddleston’s rises.

Bonus Features
The Making of Henry IV (10 minutes) – A behind-the-scenes featurette with commentary from director Richard Eyre, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Simon Russell Beale, and Julie Walters. Discussion is based Prince Hal's growing pains and rise to power. There is also focus on the battle of Hotspur and Hal, filming the Battle of Shrewsbury, and the Fall of Falstaff.

Henry V
Finally we come to Henry V. Henry V was adapted by Ben Power and Thea Sharrock. It follows a more mature Prince Hal, now crowned King Henry V. He struggles to be an effective ruler, plagued but the sins of his father, and his less than exemplary past. Of all of the Hollow Crown, this is one that is probably the most well-known, and it is by far also the most enjoyable one. Hiddleston delivers  Shakespeare’s famous speeches at the siege of Harfleur and on St. Crispin’s Day, both with such passion, it’s no surprise the man has a legion of crazy fangirls willing to following him into the pits of hell if need be. I’m sure there were also a fair number of ovaries that shuttered when Prince Hal delightfully and charmingly woos the French princess, Catherine of Valois.

Bonus Features
The Making of Henry V (10 minutes) – A behind-the-scenes featurette with commentary from Tom Hiddleston, director Thea Sharrock, Paterson Joseph, producer Rupert Ryle-Hodges. Discussion focuses on famous speeches, which they filmed while Hiddleston ran along the Thames in the open air.

The Making of a King (10 minutes) – Behind-the-scenes look at getting the entirety of The Hollow Crown produced. Discussion is based around the entirety of the series, rediscovering Shakespeare and making it accessible and enjoyable in this modern age.

The Hollow Crown is available on dvd now, and whether you're a long time Shakespeare lover, or just looking for something spectacular to watch, this should be a welcome addition. If nothing else you'll get to see some seriously talented British thespians showing off their chops and wielding some pretty powerful magic. Shakespeare would be proud.

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