Television film in the series The Hollow Crown with Richard II, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V
Airdates: 7 July 2012 on BBC2; 27 September 2013 on PBS
Role: Henry Percy, called Hotspur
Also starring: Jeremy Irons as Henry IV; Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal; Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff; Alun Armstrong as the Earl of Northumberland; Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly; David Dawson as Poins; Michelle Dockery as Lady Percy; Tom Georgeson as Bardolph; David Hayman as the Earl of Worcester; James Laurenson as the Earl of Westmoreland; Harry Lloyd as Mortimer; Maxine Peake as Doll Tearsheet; Robert Pugh as Glendower; Alex Clatworthy as Lady Mortimer; Ian Conningham as Peto; Stephen McCole as Douglas; Henry Faber as Prince John of Lancaster
Directed by: Richard Eyre
Where to find:
Buy the Region 2 (UK/Europe) DVD from Amazon UK
Locations: Joe's scenes in Henry IV were filmed at Gloucester Cathedral (used for the Palace of Westminster) and at Caerphilly Castle in Wales. The Battle of Shrewsbury was recreated in a field near Rickmansworth. Filming took place from January to March 2012.
Note: Playing the Percys of Northumberland, Joe does a northern accent matching his father's natural accent.
Harry Percy is known as Hotspur because of his impetuous nature. King Henry admires Hotspur for his feats as a soldier and criticises his own son, Prince Hal, for wasting his life. The Percys have grievances against the King and plot a rebellion. Hotspur's wife, Lady Percy, demands to know what he's up to. He agrees to let her follow him to his meeting with her brother Mortimer and Mortimer's father-in-law, the Welsh rebel Glendower. At the Battle of Shrewsbury, Hotspur's father Northumberland sends word that he is ill and will not bring his army, but Hotspur decides to proceed anyway. Prince Hal, meanwhile, has promised his father to redeem himself and defeat Hotspur. The battle culminates in a duel between the two rivals which only one can survive.
Watch or download a 15 minute showreel of Joe Armstrong in The Hollow Crown, courtesy of Markham, Froggatt & Irwin.
Preview for Henry IV:
Trailer for The Hollow Crown:
Joe Armstrong discussed Henry IV in an interview with Glamour:
"It was a complete joy to be at the read-through for Henry IV. I play Harry Hotspur, who's a fearless young warrior, fixated by notions of honour and courage. The only time I heard Parts I and II read together was at the read-through, when all the actors [including Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Julie Walters] from both films were assembled. I hadn't really done Shakespeare before so it was a great experience for me.
"Working with my dad [character actor Alun Armstrong] was surreal. He plays Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, my on-screen dad. It was great because, obviously, we had a connection before we started, but it was also slightly odd to look into the eyes of someone who's pretending to be your dad, but who also is your dad. It's an interesting and surreal experience, but it was very fun working with him."
- See the full interview and photos on the Interviews page.
"The casting of father and son actors Alun and Joe Armstrong as Northumberland and Hotspur is a stroke of brilliance. In particular – and not to take anything away from Alun Armstrong – Joe is the best Hotspur I have ever seen. As a rule, I have tended to find the character something of a swaggering boorish dullard, but here the force of the man’s blunt personality was almost intoxicating: high on emotion, with a compelling, passionate, willful charm, he was a genuine counterpoint to the self-contained and withheld Prince Hal." - Mathew Lyons
"Hotspur is an arrogant twerp, he always has been, so turning him into someone to love is a thankless task. It's a challenge Joe Armstrong more than meets with an assault of gripping northern enthusiasm. Screaming 'die merrily' to rouse his rebellion, Armstrong wears the ferocity on his sleeves, always keeping the pace of the story flowing." - Jonathan Watson, The Stage
"Joe Armstrong makes for a passionate and charismatic Harry Percy (Hotspur), rallying support for a rebellion against the King. His relationship with his wife Kate (Michelle Dockery) is a fiery one and their barely disguised mocking of Mortimer (Harry Lloyd) and his wet Welsh speaking wife is a joy." - Christa Ktorides, DIY
"This is contrasted of course by the gumption of young Hotspur, Joe Armstrong oozing rugged charisma and forming the highlight of the whole thing for me, and in a lovely piece of casting, his real father, Alun Armstrong has been cast as his onscreen father which added poignancy to their moments." - Ian Foster, There Ought to Be Clowns
"Someone on the casting crew had the brilliant idea to have Alun and Joe Armstrong play Shakespeare's rebellious father-son team. They performed the roles of Northumberland and Hotspur brilliantly together, especially Armstrong Jr as Percy, who delivered his lines seriously and engagingly – in a Geordie accent; a difficult task indeed.
"He further impressed with his interactions with Michelle Dockery who played his wife, Kate Percy. The porcelain skinned Dockery – who has become a household name after playing Lady Mary in Downton Abbey – worked well with her minimal material to portray a feisty, fiery Lady. The chemistry between the Percys was most certainly palpable, and they were well matched." - Kate Bull, The Yorker
"... a fine and nuanced performance by Joe Armstrong as Hotspur. Hotspur is, here, almost entirely without guile, building into a full-blooded rant as he describes the fop who demanded his prisoners, much to Henry's amusement. It is only, however, as Henry notices him exchange a non-too-subtle glance with his father, intended to be private, that he snarls defiance at the young man. Hotspur's rage bursts out in defiance before the doors of the hall have even closed behind him, to Henry's clear consternation. The subsequent scene between the three Northern relations, played in a splendid corridor, is one of the most gripping sections of the film, as they attempt to keep Hotspur quiet and their conversation concealed from the surrounding guards, ending up making a whispered agreement in an alcove.
"The younger Armstrong continues to be impressive throughout, initially in a complex scene with Michelle Dockery's Kate that presents the couple as deeply in love yet bound by abuse; he troublingly covers her mouth, pushes her violently to the bed and talks down to her, yet she presents a formidable match and refuses to bow to him. The sense of an unequal relationship is stressed further in the appearance of a servant who openly sneaks peeks at Kate's naked back while she puts on a dressing gown, unchecked by Hotspur; the evenness of their relationship is qualified by a sense of Kate's objectification. Their united front is shown more clearly in the Welsh singing scene, as while the rest close their eyes and listen to Alex Clatworthy's beautiful song, the two begin groping each other and sneak off giggling to conduct their own farewell. In the final duel with Hal, Hotspur has the better of the battle throughout, but takes too much vaunting pleasure in anticipation of his victory, taking time to raise his sword to finish him and allowing Hal to thrust a dagger into his side." - Peter Kirwan, The Bardathon
"Joe Armstrong as fiery rebel Hotspur has never been better..." - David Butcher, Radio Times
"Joe Armstrong is faultless as Henry Percy, running high on emotions in an exhausting role, which feels bigger on the screen than in the text." - Kirsty E., Production Notes
"But what casts! Not even counting those kings, to whose number one must admit the dourly brilliant Rory Kinnear as Richard’s successful challenger Bolingbroke, there is the fat-suited Simon Russell Beale as a delicate, scheming Falstaff, Joe Armstrong as Hotspur, and, down in Falstaff’s unruly alternative court in Eastcheap, Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly. Again and again, actors we have taken for granted prove true Shakespeareans." - Andrew Billen, The Times
"Both men [Hal and Hotspur] were portrayed with vigour by two rising stars of British television and film. Prince Hal for all his charm, want and undeserving loyalty was beautifully captured by Thor star Tom Hiddleston and his adversary portrayed by Joe Armstrong who played such characters as as Alan A' Dale in the recent B.B.C. version of Robin Hood and various bit parts finally found the meaty role that he was looking for having previously been denied his stature as an excellent actor. Although the two men didn't meet until very near the end of the tale, both carried the film along superbly." - Ian D. Hall, Liverpool Student Media
See the IMAGE GALLERIES for a full set of screencaps of Joe's scenes.
Click the images to enlarge. Photo credits: Joss Barratt/BBC
No larger size available:
Note: This is a summary of Hotspur's storyline only.
Act I, scene i:
Learning of Hotspur's victory over the Scottish rebels at Holmedon, King Henry IV expresses envy that the Earl of Northumberland is blessed with a son who is "the theme of honour's tongue," while his own son Prince Hal spends most of his time in dishonourable pursuits with Sir John Falstaff. The King wishes that the two young men who share a name had been switched at birth. But Hotspur has refused to turn over the Scottish prisoners he captured, and the King summons him to demand an answer.
Act I, scene iii:
Hotspur arrives with his father and his uncle, the Earl of Worcester. Worcester is dismissed from the King's presence for reminding him that they helped him gain the throne. Hotspur explains that he was annoyed when the King's messenger, perfumed and neatly dressed like a popinjay, appeared on the battlefield after the fighting was done to demand the prisoners. The King is not appeased because Hotspur still will not comply unless his wife's brother, Edmund Mortimer, is ransomed from the Welsh rebel Owen Glendower, who captured him in battle. Hotspur is enraged when the King accuses Mortimer of being a traitor now allied with Glendower. The King orders him not to speak of Mortimer again and to turn over the prisoners at once.
After the King departs, Hotspur continues to rant about the insult to Mortimer, who has a claim to the throne, and he bemoans the fact that his family helped Henry Bolingbroke become King. Worcester returns and manages to interrupt Hotspur's outbursts with his plan for rebellion. Hotspur is to make an alliance with the Scottish rebel Douglas by returning the prisoners he just captured. Northumberland will seek the help of the Archbishop of York, who has a grievance against the King, while Worcester heads for Wales to discuss the situation with Glendower and Mortimer.
Act II, scene iii:
Back home at Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, Hotspur is incensed as he reads a letter from a nobleman who declines to take part in the rebellion, thinking it poorly planned and dangerous. Douglas and the others have already agreed to assemble their forces. Hotspur decides to set out immediately in case the nobleman informs the King.
Hotspur's wife Kate demands to know why her husband so preoccupied that he hasn't joined her in their marital bed for weeks. He responds that he has no time for expressions of love or "to tilt with lips. We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns." He won't tell Kate the plan because although she is loyal she is still a woman and therefore not to be entrusted with secrets, but he concedes that she can follow him.
Act III, scene i:
In Wales, Hotspur meets with Glendower, Mortimer and Worcester. Hotspur mocks Glendower's claims that the earth shook when he was born and that he "can call spirits from the vasty deep." Hotspur retorts, "Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?" The leaders survey a map and discuss how they will divide Britain after they defeat King Henry. Hotspur takes issue with the way the River Trent cuts through his portion and proposes to change its course, which prompts Glendower to object. Mortimer and Worcester warn their hot-headed relative that he should be more diplomatic with their new ally and not push him too far.
Glendower needs more time to assemble his army. The others prepare to depart to join forces with Northumberland and Douglas at Shrewsbury. The wives enter to bid their husbands farewell. Mortimer is married to Glendower's daughter, who doesn't speak English while Mortimer speaks no Welsh. When Mortimer lays his head in his wife's lap as she sings to him, Hotspur suggests that he and Kate do the same, but she refuses to sing.
Act III, scene ii:
King Henry summons his son and berates him for wasting his life in pursuit of pleasure while Hotspur has shown his worth on the battlefield. Prince Hal vows to prove himself to his father by defeating Hotspur in battle and thus "make this northern youth exchange his glorious deeds for my indignities."
Act IV, scene i & iii:
At the rebel camp at Shrewsbury, a messenger arrives with news that Northumberland is ill and will not send his army to join them. Worcester is concerned that people will suspect there is dissension amongst the rebels, but Hotspur thinks it will be more impressive if they can win without him. Then another messenger brings word of Prince Hal's approach. Hotspur cuts off his description of the Prince's newfound prowess and looks forward to meeting him in battle to the death. Hearing more bad news that Glendower still is not ready and that the opposing forces number 30,000, Hotspur remains undaunted and prepares to muster his troops saying, "Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily."
Hotspur refuses advice to delay the battle. An emissary from the King brings an offer to pardon the rebels and hear their grievances, which Hotspur enumerates at length. He says he will send word of their decision in the morning.
Act V, scene i & ii:
Worcester attends the parley and reiterates his family's dissatisfaction with the King since they helped him gain the throne. Prince Hal tells him to relay an offer to Hotspur that they fight each other in single combat to determine the victory and spare their armies bloodshed. The King promises friendship to the rebels if they accept his offer.
Worcester, however, decides not to tell Hotspur because he fears that while the King may pardon his rash young nephew, he himself will remain under suspicion along with his brother Northumberland. Instead, Worcester claims that the King insulted them and is prepared to do battle. Hotspur sends Douglas with a challenge to the King. Worcester then tells Hotspur that Prince Hal wants to fight him - omitting Hal's offer to decide the outcome of the battle between them. Hotspur is eager to do battle and sets forth without stopping to read letters brought by a messenger.
Act V, scene iii & iv:
The Battle of Shrewsbury begins. Douglas kills a man claiming to be King Henry but Hotspur identifies him as Sir Walter Blunt. Douglas vows to find the real King and does so, but Prince Hal comes to his father's rescue and drives Douglas off, earning his father's respect.
Hotspur and Prince Hal meet on the battlefield. They agree that there is no room for the both of them in England and that one of them must die. They duel, and Hotspur is mortally wounded. With his dying words, Hotspur regrets that Prince Hal now has the glory and honour that once were his.
Hotspur: O, Harry, thou hast robb'd me of my youth!
I better brook the loss of brittle life
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts worse than sword my flesh:
But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool;
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. O, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue: no, Percy, thou art dust
And food for—
Prince Hal: For worms, brave Percy: fare thee well, great heart!
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough: this earth that bears thee dead
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.