Henry IV Part 2 – Larry Bull (King Henry IV) and Sam Ashdown (Prince Hal)

This season, we continue the History Cycle and the Complete-the-Canon Project with Henry IV, Part 2. The play begins shortly after the Battle of Shrewsbury (which was at the end of Part 1), with messengers coming from the battle. So there is a sense of immediacy from the end of Part 1.

Larry Bull, who played Bolingbroke in Richard II and Henry IV in Part 1, continues his role as King Henry IV. Sam Ashdown, whom we met in Part I, continues as Prince Hal. On a sunny day (finally!), we met them both to talk about their thoughts on Part 2 – how their characters have evolved.

We discussed the mood of this play versus Part 1.

Sam:       Part 2 starts with a weariness; I say “Before God, I am exceeding weary”. The king is much sicker than in Part 1. The country is decaying. Falstaff is having physical issues. There’s a sense of disease and decay in the country because of the prolonged civil war.

Larry:     There’s a lot of cheer that’s developed in Part 1 – lots of fun. This is the other side of that coin. If Part 1 is a night of drinking, Part 2 is the hangover.

 

When Henry IV became king, he had great expectations. By the time of this play, he’s worn down and sick. We asked if Henry thought it would be this hard when he became king.

Larry:     No, I think he expected a calmer world – he had so much support at the time and so much wealth and power through his family. It was the elusive nature of that legitimacy (as king) that has dogged him ever since the coronation. He’s always batting away rebellions. As far as the reign, I can’t imagine he perceived this much difficulty. He dies at 47.

 

How does the relationship between father and son evolve in this play?

Sam:       I think that I, Hal, know that I’m going to be king from the beginning. I believe I have it in me. But as it gets closer I stop fitting in the world I’ve been in and I still don’t fit in the world I’m going to. So Part 2 is a transition phase where I’m out of love of both of those worlds.

Larry:     There are fits and starts. In this play there’s much more reconciliation than there was in the last play. The last play was more about the immediacy of the rebellion and how Henry needed a unified front and the prince is a huge element of that. This play is more about the legitimacy of the crown and being able to pass that intact to Hal.


How about the relationship between Hal and Falstaff – how does that evolve?

 Sam:       The sad truth is that there’s no room for Falstaff in this new life. In Part 2, my commitment turns from friends and even family to the people, my country, the citizens. There are too many lives on the line to have room for anything that’s not for them.


And why do you think Hal turns to the Lord Chief Justice after Henry dies?

Because he’s impartial and honest. Growing up, he sent me to jail. He certainly didn’t flatter me; I got no special treatment. He always upheld the law and looked after my father. As frustrating as that was as a young prince, it’s what I would want as a king.


Henry IV, Part 2 opens in preview on June 26 and plays through September 5.

You can learn more about the play, including complete cast, director’s notes and costume designs at http://www.bard.org/plays/2015/henry-iv-part-two

Tickets are available online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX.