I was still considering the manic Hotspur of last night. A couple of reviewers have not liked this interpretation, but I think it could be justified for Shakespeare’s Hotspur. After all, if you wanted a fearless whacker on the leading edge of your heavy cavalry charge, forcing it through an armoured wall, a hyperactive borderline psychopath might be just the ticket, and could look very like a great leader. Until, of course, you needed him to do grown up stuff, such as patience and prevarication.
But in this portrayal Hotspur is only an exaggeration of the other magnates around him, all touchy, aggressive and ambitious to a degree. No wonder, the play says, that there is civil war. And it is certainly possible that there is a covert Shakespearian commentary on the nobility of his own time.
No interpretation of Henry IV 1 will show us the historical Henry Percy, who was entrusted with diplomatic and ‘management’ roles, and was well on to 40 when he died – but then, the truest poetry is the most feigning?
As I ruminated thus, the fields did their best impersonation of timelessness,
spread out below wide green shoulders and lavishly bordered with campion, bluebells, bracken and cow parsley,
while the car followed its nose into the sunset.