We Happy Few: Shakespeare at Castle Feuerstein from December 2nd to 4th, 2016

The play for the annual Shakespeare weekend at Castle Feuerstein was, as the title suggests, one of Shakespeare’s histories, namely Henry V. Once again, PD Dr. Beatrix Hesse conducted the majority of the programme and guided the 20 participants on a journey through time.

On a rather bleak and cold Friday afternoon, we found ourselves surrounded by woods and shrubs and leaves – similar to Henry’s army in the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Once everyone settled into their dorms, we began our path through the historical aspects of Shakespeare’s play and discussed how the various adaptations (the focus was on the versions by Laurence Olivier (1944), Kenneth Branagh (1989) and Thea Sharrock (2012)) dealt with Henry’s complex character.

Saturday saw us pondering about Henry’s companions throughout the play. We laughed with Falstaff and felt teary-eyed about his untimely death. After a break we gathered our thoughts to discuss how the various directors chose to characterise the soldiers and noblemen of Henry’s army, agreeing that Exeter in Branagh’s and Sharrock’s adaptation were indeed distinctively different and yet equally fascinating.

A walk through Franconian Switzerland proved to be quite helpful in order to talk about the play’s climax: the battle of Agincourt and thus the well-known St. Crispin’s Day Speech. Kerstin-Anja Münderlein introduced us to the historical context of the battle and after discussing the realisation of the three adaptations, we ourselves had the chance to try our luck with the pep talk-like speech and empathise with the former King of England.

Sunday was reserved for the play’s afterlife. We heard presentations on a short story written during WWI and on David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia. We discussed the various parallels these works share with Henry V. Ultimately, Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” was discussed by PD Dr. Hesse as a musical realisation of the motif of Henry’s Band of Brothers.

This year’s Shakespeare weekend was filled with thoughtful discussions, merry entertainment and the realisation that Kenneth Branagh really likes to showcase his face.

And indeed, we would not wish for a single participant more.


Written by Lisa Schädlich, all photos by Julie Reichardt