The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare's History Plays

The Hollow Crown is a Great Performances series showcasing four filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays: Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.

The interactive and video resources in this collection are designed to aid teachers in exploring these complex plays with their students. Use the viewing guide, supplemental teaching tips, discussion questions, background essays, and activities to analyze and compare the films with Shakespeare’s original text, discover major themes, and delve deeper into the stories’ historical backgrounds.

  • Language: Poetry vs. Prose | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    Prince Hal and Falstaff both recite speeches in these video segments from Henry IV, Part 1. After watching these two Hollow Crown segments, have students analyze the related text, determine whether the excerpts are considered prose or poetry, and answer the discussion questions.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Character of Falstaff | Great Perfomances : Hollow Crown

    Analyze the personality traits and flaws of the comedic braggart Falstaff using these Henry IV, Part 1 video segments and the supplemental background essay, activity, and discussion questions. These two video segments paint a portrait of the crude knight, who despite being one of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters, is notorious for his questionable moral compass. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Henry V: War—What is it good for? | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    Examine the justification of war theme in Henry V using these video segments from Great Performances: The Hollow Crown along with the related writing assignment and discussion questions. In these videos, Canterbury justifies invading France to King Henry V and the disguised king defends his reasons for going to war to common soldiers.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Honor in Henry IV, Part 1 | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    In these three video segments from the Great Performances’ series The Hollow Crown, discover the prevalence of honor as a theme in Henry IV, Part 1. Contrast Falstaff’s rejection of honor, Hotspur’s high regard for the principle, and Hal’s more intermediate view. Consider how the characters’ various views influence their actions throughout the play.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Shakespeare on Screen | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    In this Henry V video from the Great Performances series The Hollow Crown, watch the St. Crispin’s Day Battle scene and consider how the selection might be depicted differently in a play version of the story.  Use the related student activity to explore the film scene’s limitations, as well as how the film version affects the audience’s expectations and relationship to the action.                   

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Role of the Chorus in Henry V | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    Thea Sharrock, director of Henry V, chose to have the chorus deliver the prologue through a voiceover instead of filming an actor or actress reciting the speech on camera. Analyze and discuss the role of the chorus in Henry V using the video segment, provided discussion questions, essay, and two student activities. Consider how the director’s choices impact the role of the chorus and the audiences’ interpretation of the chorus.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Richard II: What makes a king? | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    This series of videos from Great Performances’ presentation of The Hollow Crown: Richard II explores the question of what makes a king. Students examine the leadership of Richard II, the rebellion against him, those who supported him as the “divine leader” of England, and those who acted to overthrow his reign. Analyze the major players: Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke, their closest allies, and consider what motivated their actions.   

    Grades: 9-12
  • Director's Cut | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    Discuss the filmmakers' creative decisions in these scenes from Great Performances' presentation of The Hollow Crown. Consider the staging, performance, costume, and set and compare these choices with what’s presented in Shakespeare’s text. Analyze the impact of the selections and what they suggest about the director’s interpretation. Use the video segments alongside the related activity, which can be found below. 

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Infographics: Shakespeare's Game of the Hollow Crown

    Using Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 as your map, follow the history of rebellion in 15th century England and the successive stories of three kings: Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. Teachers can print these infographics and hang them up in the classroom to enhance learning.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Shakespeare: The Intersection of Art & Life Timeline

    Discover major events in William Shakespeare’s life through The Intersection of Art and Life, an interactive timeline. The timeline spans from Shakespeare’s birth in 1564 to the post-mortem publication of his First Folio in 1624. Explore the impact of personal events on the poet and playwright’s masterpieces and watch segments from film adaptations of his plays.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Henry V: What makes a king? | Great Performances : Hollow Crown

    This series of videos from Great Performances’ presentation of The Hollow Crown: Henry V explores the question “what makes a king.” Students examine Henry V as a new king at war with France, learn about his rousing battle speeches, observe his bravery in combat, witness private moments of self-doubt, and view earnest discussions with the king and his men. 


    Grades: 9-12