Celebrating Sir John Falstaff

John Watson-Williams 90th Birthday

Last weekend, our Shakespeare reading group celebrated the 90th birthday of our senior member: John Watson-Williams. We are reading Shakespeare’s “Henriad” tetralogy: Richard II, Henry IV-i, Henry IV-ii, and Henry V. John W-W and I usually compete for who is assigned the lead role. Our 90th Birthday present to John W-W was that he gets to read the role of Sir John Falstaff every time.

Our group meets every two months and watches Shakespeare films in between. We are currently watching The Hollow Crown series – and are very excited that The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses comes out in DVD next month!

The Henriad includes some of Shakespeare’s greatest roles. The four plays are excellent individually and as a set. Part of the particular charm of Henry IV, Part i is its balance of excellent roles: Falstaff has 616 lines, Prince Hal has 551 lines, and Henry Percy “Hotspur” has 562 lines. John W-W, Melita Thorpe and I had a wonderful time sparring through the play!

I have been the Mentor for this Shakespeare reading group since we started in 2012, providing background reading and film homework and assigning roles at the start of each party.  Melita and I sometimes coach readers but we are blessed in having many experienced voices from whom to select.  Role assignments are made easy by the line analysis prepared in advance by the Rev. Stephenie Cooper. Our primary difficulty is that we do not all use the same Shakespeare editions, so sometimes there is confusion as to line assignment. For this reading, an extra challenge was offered by the Goodyear Blimp which was circling noisily overhead while we read in Melita’s garden.  In August, we take on the least popular play in the Henriad: Henry IV Part ii.  My husband John and I are hosting.

Shakespeare Reading Group 4 June 2016

Shakespeare Reading Group 4 June 2016

John Watson-Williams 90th Birthday cake - Sir John Falstaff

John Watson-Williams 90th Birthday cake - Sir John Falstaff

Goodyear Blimp, 4 June 2016

Henry IV-i marble carving Folger Library Washington DC 2012

Shakespeare dolls and books June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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