Winston Churchill knew much of Shakespeare’s work by heart, writer and historian Richard Langworth said at a lecture for Hillsdale’s fourth Center for Constructive Alternatives.
Langworth delighted audience members with anecdotes of Churchill’s Shakespeare fandom during a talk delivered March 25. Churchill, he said, was known to recite the lines along with actors when he attended plays, much to fellow audience members’ amusement, but still had a reverence for the themes of Shakespeare’s writings.
“He used Shakespeare to ornament his language and punctuate his thoughts,” Langworth said.
Students, parents, and friends of the college attended the lecture, which was held in the Searle Center.
Langworth’s lecture followed a screening earlier that day of Laurence Olivier’s “Henry V,” a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play which Churchill admired. “Henry V” chronicles the life and reign of England’s King Henry V, who led the nation to victory in the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War.
A Senior Fellow with Hillsdale College’s Churchill Project, Langworth founded the International Churchill Society in 1968 and has written a dozen books about Churchill.
In his speech, Langworth expounded the importance of Henry V, Churchill’s familiarity with Shakespeare, Churchill’s friendship with Laurence Olivier, and the parallels between Henry V and Churchill’s story.
The historian observed that Henry V set a fine example of statesmanship, and Churchill was captivated by his leadership for good, as depicted in Olivier’s movie. Churchill admired Olivier’s work, and enjoyed a long friendship with the actor and director.
Churchill was inspired by Henry V’s political philosophy, according to Langworth. Churchill saw Henry V as “entirely national,” Langworth said, and he admired his prioritization of England’s unity.
Churchill once observed in a speech that Henry V “led the nation away from internal discord to foreign conquest.”
Just as Henry V’s success in the Hundred Years’ War earned him glory as a great warrior king, Churchill will forever be remembered for the prescience, courage, and indomitability with which he led England during World War II, according to Langsworth?
Joe and Diane Deiss said Olivier’s movie and Langworth’s talk taught them about statesmanship.
“Leadership lies heavily on people who care about a mission and the people in the mission,” Diane Deiss said.
Junior Avalon McKinney said attending this CCA has introduced her to a different side of Churchill.
“I thought it was interesting to see the connection between Churchill and the men he looked up to in British history,” she said. “I was shocked to see what a fan he was of scripting and the movies.”