Chimes at Midnight

Drawn primarily from Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, with additions from other plays and Holinshed's Chronicles, Welles's interpretation of the life and death of “this great hill of flesh” Sir John Falstaff is both acutely personal and faithful to the language and spirit of Shakespeare. In a comic and stirring elegy that echoes the senile Shallow's refrain, “Jesus, the days that we have seen,” Welles plays the canny fool Falstaff as a living emblem of a dying world. His merrie Englande of jostling vulgarity, shared with the fierce and lusty bawd Doll Tearsheet (Moreau), is visually contrasted against the settings of stark majesty from which Henry IV (John Gielgud) uneasily reigns. Prince Hal (Keith Baxter) must choose between these two worlds and their masters. In a single moment, Hal's “I know thee not, old man,” Welles beautifully expresses themes of loyalty and betrayal that haunted the whole of his work.

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