(It's no pancake batter bukkake, but it's still excellent. -- Ross)
"Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; Henry V"
Hayden Fry: King Richard II
Kirk Ferentz: Henry Bolingbroke/King Henry IV
Barry Alvarez: Thomas Mowbray & King of France (Charles VI)
Ricky Stanzi: Prince Henry/King Henry V
Bob Bowlsby: Sir Piers Exton
Drew Tate: Henry Percy/Hotspur
Norm Parker: Sir John Falstaff
Gary Barta: The Archbishop of Canterbury
Brett Bielema: Louis, the Dauphin
Adrian Clayborn: Sir Thomas Erpingham
Tyler M.F. Sash: Captain Gower
D.J.K.: Captain Fluellen
The parallels are striking to Iowans conversant in the Bard.
The Henriad, Shakespeare's four-part magnum opus consisting of the plays Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V, spans a seminal three decades in the history of England. Likewise, one could argue the last 30 years have been the most influential period in the history of Iowa Hawkeye football.
The cast of characters is dizzying and the stakes of their actions are enormous. Two powerful, bordering kingdoms -- England (Iowa, yay!) and France (Wisconsin, boo hiss [France is as close as to Communism as the Bard gets]) -- rub up against one another, chafing tempers and provoking all-out war.
But our story, gentle reader, begins well before all of that when the noble King Richard II (Fry) reigned in relative harmony and prosperity (three Rose Bowl trips) before descending into tyranny in the violet hour of his monarchy. The descent begins between two of Richard's noblemen (and ultra-competitive assistant coaches), Henry Bolingbroke (Ferentz) and Thomas Mowbray (Alvarez) who detest one another ask the King to intervene on their behalf.
Unable to placate either (records are spotty but probably at a High Porch Picnic replete with folksy colloquialisms and back-handed compliments), Richard finally acquiesces to Bolingbroke's and Mowbray's challenging one another to a duel. But before either assistant nobleman can run his sword through the other, Richard banishes both into exile. While Bolingbroke's banishment is to be temporal (Maine and the N.F.L.), Mowbray's is permanent ('der Northwoods).
Richard dithering speeds the country's fall to shambles and soon England is ripe for a regime change. A resurgent Bolingbroke returns and claims the throne, crowning himself King Henry IV. [The author glosses over some unpalatable details here:] Richard is imprisoned and "retired to Mesquite, Nev." by Sir Piers Exton (Bowlsby, in a drive-by cameo), thankfully, without Henry IV's the knowledge (whew!).
Henry IV, Part 1
The King is dead; long live the King! However, Henry IV (remember, Ferentz) does not immediately instill stability upon his ascension. In fact, a tumultuous couple of years plague his inauspicious start. (Life imitating art imitating life.)
Henry Percy (Drew Tate), known as Hotspur for his capricious temperament, strong will and competitive fires, is an honorable soldier under Henry IV until he bucks the line and ultimately winds up leading a rebellious skirmish against the King in the north (Canadian Football League).
Meanwhile, the young Prince Henry (Stanzi) and heir apparent runs afoul the King, carousing with vagrants in the seedy underbelly of London (Iowa City's ped mall). Chief among his companions is the boisterous and witty comic foil Falstaff (Norm Parker), whom the prince views as a surrogate father figure given his strained relationship with the King.
Henry IV, Part 2
Yadda yadda yadda, this installment is easily Shakespeare's weakest of the four and it reminds me of Spaceballs II: The Quest for More Money.
In any event, allow the author to sum up Part 2 thusly: King Henry IV (Ferentz already, people) ultimately reconciles with his son Prince Henry (Stanzi [Look, I know it's difficult to remember everyone but we're talking about a character who was introduced just two grafs ago; please pay attention.]) after the young prince swears off his intemperate ways and just before his father's contented and natural, umm, "retirement." (I feel so dirty typing d-e-a-t-h here for some ridiculous reason [probably because I love and respect Ferentz so much]. Allow the author to be frank for a moment: natural cause is the absolute best expiration for which a medieval king, or anyone, could ever aspire.)
The King is dead; long live King Henry V. [cue kickass coronation music, waving flags, fireworks, fighter jets, weeping cheerleaders, etc.]
However, Falstaff, the King's old friend and confidant, believes himself to be in store for gains now that the Henry has assumed the throne. Alas, he is rebuffed by the King and Falstaff's envisioned "paradise of thieves" never materializes. (An epiphany: "Paradise of Thieves" is a fitting nickname for our ballhawking defensive backs.)
It's all been building to this final chapter. The once wayward and immature prince has now grown into his kingship and fully embraces his lineage and sense of duty. And not a moment too soon as it turns out.
The conspiring Archbishop of Canterbury (Bloodpunch) sees an opportunity to secure the Church's financial position by thrusting Henry V into war with France. His thinking being that France would fill England's depleted coffers instead of new King Henry V taking land and money from his Church -- an antiquated form of revenue sharing whereby France (the filthy communist
pigs Badgers) pays for everything.
Meanwhile, the King of France Charles VI (Alvarez [in a separate role, deal with it]) and his son, the Dauphin (Bielema), enrage the Henry V by mockingly sending him a gift of tennis balls, owing to the latter's youthful indiscretions and dalliance. Nonplussed, Henry V vows to turn those tennis balls into cannonballs fired back at France. (Now that's some hubris, or [wait for it] balls.)
The stage is now set and King Henry V readies his troops for a huge, deciding battle with France. While Charles VI (Alvarez) views England as a legitimate threat, the Dauphin (Bielema) dismisses Henry V as nothing more than a foolish boy who'll be easily dispatched.
Henry V rallies his men for the Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin's Day (October 25th, almost 600 years later that's close enough!). Helping to lead his army that day: the noble, battle-hardened Sir Thomas Erpingham (Clayborn) a veteran of countless wars, the capable Captain Gower (Sash) who's always making a tactical play, and the loquacious, brilliant strategist Captain Fluellen (D.J.K.) with a silver tongue.
A portion of Henry V's famous rousing speech follows without edit because it rocks just as the Bard wrote it. Love it or leave it!
If we are marked to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God's will, I pray thee wish not one man more.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now abed,
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Of course, the French are routed in battle despite their superior numbers and other advantages. They simply lack the heart of the English who are led into combat by King Henry V himself to win the day. Go Hawks!
# # #
V: Michigan Wolverines -- "Richard III"
IV: Penn State Nittany Lions -- "Julius Caesar"
III: Ball State Cardinals -- "As You Like It"
II: Arizona Wildcats -- "Macbeth" [sighs]
I: Iowa State Cyclones -- "Much Ado About Nothing"