This was the only play I've had (or will have) to read for my Shakespeare class that I was almost completely unfamiliar with. (Apart from the St. Crispin's Day speech, but even that I've only heard in passing.) Thankfully, I found a good amount of time to spend with it so I didn't have to speed through it.
I'll admit that I was pretty confused for most of the time. I'm not super familiar with the history of the English royalty, especially pre-Henry VIII. My teacher explained it in class a little bit, but I often got lost among the large cast of characters.
Also--and I'm not proud of this--I often wondered, "What's the point of this?" The play was interesting enough, and had some truly fantastic speeches, but it's the first Shakespeare play I've ever read where I finished reading it and didn't feel particularly "wowed." After discussing the play in class, I think a lot of the reason I didn't really relate to this play was that a lot of "The Point" had to do with English patriotism and monarchy. As an American who is somewhat critical of monarchy (like most Americans, I think), I just wasn't as drawn in by Henry's greatness and the excitement of conquering another country. I was sort of ho-hum about the whole thing. Even when I read the St. Crispin's speech (and again, I'm not proud of this), I kind of thought to myself, "But what about the people who die?"
Yep. I'm a product of my time. I'll freely admit it. (And the fact that I'm a woman might have a little something to do with my inability to relate to the "band of brothers.")
The play was good, and I enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong. And there was plenty to think about, and some very interesting themes. And some gorgeous speeches. It just wasn't my favorite Shakespeare play.