“The King”: An Entertaining Shakespeare Tragedy


As The King commences, it’s inevitable not to think how a 17th century play can be exciting and appealing to a twenty-first century audience. However, it is impossible not to immerse yourself in the plot, characters, and allegorical significance that is abundant in The King.

The King, directed by David Michod, begins following the final days of King Henry IV. As feuds escalate with the Welsh, and family ties become extremely important within the first ten minutes, the young and rebellious Prince Hal must make life changing decisions. Prince Hal, who is played by Timothee Chalamet, indulges in a non-royal lifestyle in the London suburb of Eastcheap through the beginning of the film. Chalamet has had success playing a rebellious and ambiguous characters in Lady Bird and in Beautiful Boy. However, Chalamet’s performance in The King proves how he can fit into a role that demands much pressure from one of the world’s greatest authors: William Shakespeare.

The King loosely follows Shakepeare’s series of “Henry” plays. Primarily, it focuses on Henry V. Although the Henry plays are not  the kind of Shakespeare plays you may have read in high school, David Michod chose the perfect play to make a twenty-first century masterpiece. The King provides audiences with an “easier to understand” adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays, along with, beautiful cinematography that leaves The King deserving of many awards.

Throughout the past couple of years, Netflix has released a series of movies that has made them into respectable producers. Netflix most notably produced Cuaron’s masterpiece Roma, and more recently took on the daunting challenge of producing Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The King is not a big-time movie, with only one big name star (Robert Pattison), who portrays the French Dauphin. Nevertheless, the acting is exquisite, and the casting done by Des Hamilton and Francine Maisler is phenomenal The King was able to reel in $120,000 in revenue; although The King’s budget was roughly 23 million, it promises to be a Netflix classic, known for its unique subject and independent nature.

The lighting that accompanies The King is both organic and fitting of a Shakespearean King. Focal lighting throughout The King relies on natural lighting, or the ambience that candles provide in the large, dark castle where the royal court presides. The King’s landscapes chosen for several battle scenes provide viewers with a stunning masterpiece of cinematography which portrays the beautiful English lowlands, only to be tainted with the blood of old feuds.

Nonetheless, The King entertains and educates audiences. Shakespeare’s command of allegory deeply rooted in The King gives audiences a timeless masterpiece relatable to current events. A young heir to the throne trapped between the old feud’s of his ruthless father deeply conveys the ambiguity between those who seek power and those who deserve it.

The King no doubt will be an instant classic for many years to come. Although The King competes with several other film adaptations of Shakespeare’s, it’s powerful cinematography, entertaining cast, and heavily influenced middle English syntax through dialogue, make it both unique and educational. After all, we could all learn something about power in the wrong hands and betrayal.