Today marks two year since Prince died. It’s not that long ago that I confessed that his was one of the very few celebrity deaths that have personally touched me. Step aside, Princess Diana! People have got tired of me saying he was the ‘effing Mozart of his age‘, I think.
This weekend is a busy one – or should be. One of my favourite watering holes, Beerwolf, are hosting a live music tribute on Sunday afternoon, marvellously entitled ‘Prince you’ve been gone‘. I suspect this might put a dent in my Sixth Form marking – sorry, people.
Whilst there’s an argument to be made that Shakespeare himself was a multi-faceted genius, you know me by now: I started thinking about who the Shakespearean ‘Prince’ might be. These were my criteria …
Our superstar must be:
- attractive / charismatic
- by turns playful [Starfish & Coffee], scornful [Push], unpredictable [The Most Beautiful Girl In The World], political [Race], confident to the verge of arrogance [Baby, I’m A Star], inventive [If I Was Your Girlfriend], romantic [Slow Love] and just plain sexy [Come]; able, in many ways, to play ALL 27 instruments, as Prince famously did on the album ‘For You‘; and
- driven, expecting perfection in others but also pushing himself too far and dying far too young
Step up and collect your prize …
… Harry Hotspur.
Hotspur often feels eclipsed by Falstaff‘s glorious, bittersweet tour de force of bluster and vulnerability, and Hal‘s interesting mix of the roisterer and the ruthless. But he supplies the backbone of the play – a worthy adversary who, let’s not forget, is envied for his chivalry by Hal’s own father. He has his own charm and humour, as when he teases his wife and Owen Glendower, but like Prince, he pushes himself too far in the end. There’s is an element of the classical definition of Tragedy in the lives of Prince and Shakespeare’s Hotspur.
He’s charismatic (and comic) in his impatience and impetuous nature, and although he ultimately fails, I trust him and would fight for him against the odds more than I would for Henry V and his ‘band of brothers‘ bullshit. An argument for another day.
In my three go-to productions of the play, Hotspur is more reliably performed than (the admittedly more challenging) role of Falstaff. If you want to see or hear the last flower of heroic chivalry at his compelling best, I recommend:
- Joe Armstrong in the Hollow Crown production (interesting side note – his father in the production IS his father, Alun);
- Alan Cox in the Arkangel Audio production; and
- Tim Pigott-Smith in the 1979 BBC production directed by David Giles
And – if you want a Prince recommendation – try the album, Come (1994). Dark, funky, and sexy – again, I think an overlooked classic by a musician in his prime.