Richard III ★★★✬☆

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Title: Richard III
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 312
Words: 90K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play begins with Richard of Gloucester describing the re-accession to the throne of his brother, King Edward IV of England, eldest son of the late Richard, Duke of York (implying the year is 1471):

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Richard is an ugly hunchback, “rudely stamp’d”, “deformed, unfinish’d”, cannot “strut before a wanton ambling nymph”, and says he is “determined to prove a villain / And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” Through a prophecy, that “G of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be”, he has contrived to have his brother Clarence conducted to the Tower of London (the king interpreted the prophecy as George of Clarence, but the prophecy could just as easily refer to Richard of Gloucester). Speaking to Clarence en route, Richard blames the queen and says that he will himself try to help Clarence. Richard continues plotting:

I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter.

What, though I kill’d her husband and her father?

Lady Anne attends the corpse of Henry VI with Trestle and Berkeley going from St Paul’s Cathedral. She bids them set down the “honourable load” then laments. Richard appears, and Lady Anne says that “Henry’s wounds […] bleed afresh”. He confesses the murder, and she spits at him. He offers himself to her sword, but she drops it. He offers to kill himself at her order, but she accepts his ring. Richard exults at having won her over so and tells the audience that he will discard her once she has served his purpose.

The atmosphere at court is poisonous. The established nobles are at odds with the upwardly mobile relatives of Queen Elizabeth, a hostility fueled by Richard’s machinations. Queen Margaret, Henry VI’s widow, returns, though banished, and she warns the squabbling nobles about Richard, cursing extensively. The nobles, all Yorkists, unite against this last Lancastrian and ignore the warnings.

Richard orders two murderers to kill Clarence in the tower. Clarence relates a distressing dream to his keeper before going to sleep. The murderers arrive with a warrant, and the keeper relinquishes his office. While the murderers are pondering what to do, Clarence wakes. He recognises their purpose and pleads with them. Presuming that Edward has offered them payment, he tells them to go to Gloucester, who will reward them better for having kept him alive. One of the murderers explains that Gloucester hates him and sent them. Pleading again, he is eventually interrupted by “Look behind you, my lord” and stabbing (1478).

The compacted nobles pledge absent enmities before Edward, and Elizabeth asks Edward to receive Clarence into favour. Richard rebukes her, saying: “Who knows not that the gentle duke is dead?”. Edward, who has confessed himself near death, is much upset by this news and led off. Richard blames those attending Edward. Edward IV soon dies (1483), leaving Richard as Protector. Lord Rivers, Lord Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan, have been imprisoned. The uncrowned Edward V and his brother are coaxed (by Richard) into an extended stay at the Tower of London.

Assisted by his cousin Buckingham, Richard mounts a campaign to present himself as the true heir to the throne, pretending to be a modest and devout man with no pretensions to greatness. Lord Hastings, who objects to Richard’s accession, is arrested and executed on a trumped-up charge of treason. Richard and Buckingham spread the rumour that Edward’s two sons are illegitimate and therefore have no rightful claim to the throne, and they are assisted by Catesby, Ratcliffe, and Lovell. The other lords are cajoled into accepting Richard as king despite the continued survival of his nephews (the Princes in the Tower).

Richard asks Buckingham to secure the death of the princes, but Buckingham hesitates. Richard then recruits Sir James Tyrrell who kills both children. When Richard denies Buckingham a promised land grant, Buckingham turns against Richard and defects to the side of Henry, Earl of Richmond, who is currently in exile. Richard has his eye on Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s next remaining heir, and poisons Lady Anne so he can be free to woo the princess. The Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth mourn the princes’ deaths. Queen Margaret meets them. As predicted, Queen Elizabeth asks Queen Margaret for help in cursing. Later, the Duchess applies this lesson and curses her only surviving son before leaving. Richard asks Queen Elizabeth to help him win her daughter’s hand in marriage. She is not taken in by his eloquence, and stalls him by saying that she will let him know her daughter’s answer in due course.

The increasingly paranoid Richard loses what popularity he had. He faces rebellions, led first by Buckingham and subsequently by the invading Richmond. Buckingham is captured and executed. Both sides arrive for a final battle at Bosworth Field. Prior to the battle, Richard is sleeping and visited by the ghosts of his victims, each telling him to “Despair and die”. They likewise attend and wish victory on Richmond. Richard wakes, screaming “Jesus”, then realises that he is all alone and cannot even pity himself.

At the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485), Lord Stanley (who is also Richmond’s stepfather) and his followers desert Richard, whereupon Richard calls for the execution of George Stanley, hostage and Lord Stanley’s son. But this does not happen, as the battle is in full swing, and Richard is at a disadvantage. Richard is unhorsed on the field, and cries out, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”. Richmond kills Richard and claims the throne as Henry VII.

My Thoughts:

I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would. Richard is a despicable character and I enjoyed seeing his rise to power because I knew his fall was sudden and immediate (at least in the play. In real life, no idea). At the same time, he is a mesmerizing character and it was baffling to see others fall into his clutches because of his honeyed tongue while his actions were in direct contradiction. He was a great example of unchecked power

However, this was very long. A play at over 300 pages seems excessive to me and trying to cram Richard’s entire rise and fall into one play, well, Shakespeare gave Henry VI 3 plays for goodness sake!Of course, if somethings had been cut altogether, it probably would have been better.

This play, while I enjoyed it, made me realize that my capacity for Shakespeare has definite limits. As such, I’m going to give him another break until next year. Then I’ll have to decide whether to do a 6month stint or to space them further apart (or is that “farther”? That’s one of those things I simply cannot get my head about. I’m good with “to”, “two” and “too” but further/farther, I’m lost). Any thoughts?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Henry VIII ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VIII
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 261
Words: 75K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play opens with a Prologue (by a figure otherwise unidentified), who stresses that the audience will see a serious play, and appeals to the audience members: “The first and happiest hearers of the town,” to “Be sad, as we would make ye.”

Act I opens with a conversation between the Dukes of Norfolk and Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny. Their speeches express their mutual resentment over the ruthless power and overweening pride of Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey passes over the stage with his attendants, and expresses his own hostility toward Buckingham. Later Buckingham is arrested on treason charges—Wolsey’s doing.

The play’s second scene introduces King Henry VIII, and shows his reliance on Wolsey as his favourite. Queen Katherine enters to protest about Wolsey’s abuse of the tax system for his own purposes; Wolsey defends himself, but when the King revokes the Cardinal’s measures, Wolsey spreads a rumour that he himself is responsible for the King’s action. Katherine also challenges the arrest of Buckingham, but Wolsey defends the arrest by producing the Duke’s Surveyor, the primary accuser. After hearing the Surveyor, the King orders Buckingham’s trial to occur.

At a banquet thrown by Wolsey, the King and his attendants enter in disguise as masquers. The King dances with Anne Bullen.

Two anonymous Gentlemen open Act II, one giving the other an account of Buckingham’s treason trial. Buckingham himself enters in custody after his conviction, and makes his farewells to his followers and to the public. After his exit, the two Gentlemen talk about court gossip, especially Wolsey’s hostility toward Katherine. The next scene shows Wolsey beginning to move against the Queen, while the nobles Norfolk and Suffolk look on critically. Wolsey introduces Cardinal Campeius and Gardiner to the King; Campeius has come to serve as a judge in the trial Wolsey is arranging for Katherine.

Anne Bullen is shown conversing with the Old Lady who is her attendant. Anne expresses her sympathy at the Queen’s troubles; but then the Lord Chamberlain enters to inform her that the King has made her Marchioness of Pembroke. Once the Lord Chamberlain leaves, the Old Lady jokes about Anne’s sudden advancement in the King’s favour.

A lavishly-staged trial scene (Act II Scene 4) portrays Katherine’s hearing before the King and his courtiers. Katherine reproaches Wolsey for his machinations against her, and refuses to stay for the proceedings. But the King defends Wolsey, and states that it was his own doubts about the legitimacy of their marriage that led to the trial. Campeius protests that the hearing cannot continue in the Queen’s absence, and the King grudgingly adjourns the proceeding. (Act III) Wolsey and Campeius confront Katherine among her ladies-in-waiting; Katherine makes an emotional protest about her treatment.

Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, and the Lord Chamberlain are shown (Act III Scene 2) plotting against Wolsey. A packet of Wolsey’s letters to the Pope have been re-directed to the King; the letters show that Wolsey is playing a double game, opposing Henry’s planned divorce from Katherine to the Pope while supporting it to the King. The King shows Wolsey his displeasure, and Wolsey for the first time realises that he has lost Henry’s favour. The noblemen mock Wolsey, and the Cardinal sends his follower Cromwell away so that Cromwell will not be brought down in Wolsey’s fall from grace.

The two Gentlemen return in Act IV to observe and comment upon the lavish procession for Anne Bullen’s coronation as Queen, which passes over the stage in their presence. Afterward they are joined by a third Gentleman, who updates them on more court gossip – the rise of Thomas Cromwell in royal favour, and plots against Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Scene 2) Katherine is shown ill; is told of Wolsey’s death; has a vision of dancing spirits. Caputius visits her. Katherine expresses her continuing loyalty to the King, despite the divorce, and wishes the new queen well.

Act V. The King summons a nervous Cranmer to his presence, and expresses his support; later, when Cranmer is shown disrespect by the King’s Council, Henry reproves them and displays his favour of the churchman. Anne Bullen gives birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth. In the play’s closing scenes, the Porter and his Man complain about trying to control the massive and enthusiastic crowds that attend the infant Elizabeth’s christening; another lush procession is followed by a prediction of the glories of the new born princess’s future reign and that of her successor. The Epilogue, acknowledging that the play is unlikely to please everyone, asks nonetheless for the audience’s approval.

My Thoughts:

The edition of The Complete Shakespeare I am reading has these “History” plays in alphabetical order instead of chronological order, so we skipped right over Richard III. That’ll probably be next.

I didn’t actually care. I cared less about this than I did for the entire Henry VI trilogy, which I didn’t think was possible.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 3 ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VI, Part 3
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 266
Words: 77K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play begins where 2 Henry VI left off, with the victorious Yorkists (Duke of York, Edward, Richard, Warwick, Montague [i.e. Salisbury] and Norfolk) pursuing Henry and Margaret from the battlefield in the wake of the First Battle of St Albans (1455). Upon reaching the parliamentary chambers in London, York seats himself in the throne, and a confrontation ensues between his supporters and Henry’s. Threatened with violence by Warwick, who has brought part of his army with him, the King reaches an agreement with York which will allow him to remain king until his death, at which time the throne will permanently pass to the House of York and its descendants. Disgusted with this decision, which would disinherit the King’s son, Prince Edward, the King’s supporters, led by his wife, Margaret, abandon him, and Margaret declares war on the Yorkists, supported by Clifford, who is determined to exact revenge for the death of his father at the hands of York during the battle of St Albans.

Margaret attacks York’s castle at Wakefield, and the Yorkists lose the ensuing battle (1460). During the conflict, Clifford murders York’s twelve-year-old son, Rutland. Margaret and Clifford then capture and taunt York himself; forcing him to stand on a molehill, they give him a handkerchief covered with Rutland’s blood to wipe his brow, and place a paper crown on his head, before stabbing him to death. After the battle, as Edward and Richard lament York’s death, Warwick brings news that his own army has been defeated by Margaret’s at the Second Battle of St Albans (1461), and the King has returned to London, where, under pressure from Margaret, he has revoked his agreement with York. However, George Plantagenet, Richard and Edward’s brother, has vowed to join their cause, having been encouraged to do so by his sister, the Duchess of Burgundy. Additionally, Warwick has been joined in the conflict by his own younger brother, Montague.

The Yorkists regroup, and at the Battle of Towton (1461), Clifford is killed and the Yorkists are victorious. During the battle, Henry sits on a molehill and laments his problems. He observes a father who has killed his son, and a son who has killed his father, representing the horrors of the civil war. Following his victory, Edward is proclaimed king and the House of York is established on the English throne. George is proclaimed Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, although he complains to Edward that this is an ominous dukedom. King Edward and George then leave the court, and Richard reveals to the audience his ambition to rise to power and take the throne from his brother, although as yet he is unsure how to go about it.

After Towton, Warwick goes to France to secure for Edward the hand of Louis XI’s sister-in-law, Lady Bona, thus ensuring peace between the two nations by uniting in marriage their two monarchies. Warwick arrives at the French court to find that Margaret, Prince Edward and the Earl of Oxford have come to Louis to seek his aid in the conflict in England. Just as Louis is about to agree to supply Margaret with troops, Warwick intervenes, and convinces Louis that it is in his interests to support Edward and approve the marriage. Back in England, however, the recently widowed Lady Grey (Elizabeth Woodville) has come to King Edward requesting her late husband’s lands be returned to her. Edward is captivated by her beauty and promises to return her husband’s lands to her if she becomes his mistress, but Lady Grey refuses. The two exchange sexually-charged banter, but Lady Grey continues to refuse Edward on the grounds of preserving her honor. Edward declares that, besides being beautiful, she is also clever and virtuous, and decides to marry her against the advice of both George and Richard. Upon hearing of this, Warwick, feeling he has been made to look a fool despite service to the House of York, denounces Edward, and switches allegiance to the Lancastrians, promising his daughter Anne’s hand in marriage to Prince Edward as a sign of his loyalty. Shortly thereafter, George and Montague also defect to the Lancastrians. Warwick then invades England with French troops, and Edward is taken prisoner and conveyed to Warwick’s brother, the Archbishop of York, while heavily pregnant Lady Grey (now Queen Elizabeth) flees to sanctuary.

However, Edward is soon rescued by Richard, Lord Hastings and Sir William Stanley. Henry, having been restored to the throne, appoints Warwick and George as his Lords Protector. News of the escape reaches Henry’s court, and the young Earl of Richmond is sent into exile in Brittany for safety. Richmond is a descendant of John of Gaunt, uncle of Richard II and son of Edward III, and therefore a potential Lancastrian heir should anything happen to Henry and his son; hence the need to protect him.

Edward reorganizes his forces and confronts Warwick’s army. Before the walls of Coventry, George betrays Warwick, and rejoins the Yorkists; this is lauded by Edward and Richard, and furiously condemned by the Lancastrians. The Yorkists achieve a decisive victory at the Battle of Barnet (1471), during which both Warwick and Montague are killed. Meanwhile, Edward’s forces have captured Henry and sent him to the Tower of London.

Oxford and the Duke of Somerset now assume command of the Lancastrian forces, and join a second battalion newly arrived from France led by Margaret and Prince Edward. In the subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury (1471), the Yorkists rout the Lancastrians, capturing Margaret, Prince Edward, Somerset and Oxford. Somerset is sentenced to death, Oxford to life imprisonment, Margaret is banished, and Prince Edward is stabbed to death by the three Plantagenet brothers, who fly into a rage after he refuses to recognise the House of York as the legitimate royal family. At this point, Richard goes to London to kill Henry. At Richard’s arrival at the Tower, the two argue, and in a rage Richard stabs Henry. With his dying breath, Henry prophesies Richard’s future villainy and the chaos that will engulf the country.

Back at court, Edward is reunited with his queen and meets his infant son, who was born in sanctuary. Edward orders celebrations to begin, believing the civil wars are finally over and lasting peace is at hand. He is unaware, however, of Richard’s scheming and his desire for power at any cost.

My Thoughts:

Henry the VI is a pussy and it gets him and his son killed. Henry the V is probably rolling in his grave at what a jackass his son was.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 2 ★★☆☆☆

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Title: Henry VI, Part 2
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 276
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play begins with the marriage of King Henry VI of England to the young Margaret of Anjou. Margaret is the protégée and lover of William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, who aims to influence the king through her. The major obstacle to Suffolk and Margaret’s plan is the Lord Protector; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who is extremely popular with the common people and deeply trusted by the King. Gloucester’s wife, however, has designs on the throne, and has been led by an agent of Suffolk to dabble in necromancy. She summons a spirit and demands it reveal the future to her, but its prophecies are vague and before the ritual is finished, she is interrupted and arrested. At court she is then banished, greatly to the embarrassment of Gloucester. Suffolk then conspires with Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Somerset to bring about Gloucester’s ruin. Suffolk accuses Gloucester of treason and has him imprisoned, but before Gloucester can be tried, Suffolk sends two assassins to kill him. Meanwhile, Richard, 3rd Duke of York, reveals his claim to the throne to the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, who pledge to support him.

Suffolk is banished for his role in Gloucester’s death, whilst Winchester (Cardinal Beaufort) contracts a fever and dies, cursing God. Margaret, horrified at Suffolk’s banishment, vows to ensure his return, but he is killed by pirates shortly after leaving England, and his head sent back to the distraught Margaret. Meanwhile, York has been appointed commander of an army to suppress a revolt in Ireland. Before leaving, he enlists a former officer of his, Jack Cade, to stage a popular revolt in order to ascertain whether the common people would support York should he make an open move for power. At first, the rebellion is successful, and Cade sets himself up as Mayor of London, but his rebellion is put down when Lord Clifford (a supporter of Henry) persuades the common people, who make up Cade’s army, to abandon the cause. Cade is killed several days later by Alexander Iden, a Kentish gentleman, into whose garden he climbs looking for food.

York returns to England with his army, claiming that he intends to protect the King from the duplicitous Somerset. York vows to disband his forces if Somerset is arrested and charged with treason. Buckingham swears that Somerset is already a prisoner in the tower, but when Somerset enters (“at liberty”), accompanied by the Queen, York holds Buckingham’s vow broken, and announces his claim to the throne, supported by his sons, Edward and Richard. The English nobility take sides, some supporting the House of York, others supporting Henry and the House of Lancaster. A battle is fought at St Albans in which the Duke of Somerset is killed by York’s son Richard, and Lord Clifford by York. With the battle lost, Margaret persuades the distraught King to flee the battlefield and head to London. She is joined by Young Clifford, who vows revenge on the Yorkists for the death of his father. The play ends with York, Edward, Richard, Warwick and Salisbury setting out in pursuit of Henry, Margaret and Clifford.

My Thoughts:

This is exactly why I don’t read history for fun. People being incredible jackasses while claiming the moral high ground in any area they can.

As one anonymous blogger would say “Why did Shakespeare even get out of bed in the morning to write this stuff”? I have no idea. If my ego wasn’t so big that I wanted to be able to say that I’d read all of Shakespeare’s works, I’d stop reading him right now.

But my ego IS that big and I didn’t actively hate this, so the journey of 10,000 papercuts continues!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 1 ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VI, Part 1
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 249
Words: 72K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play begins with the funeral of Henry V, who has died unexpectedly in his prime. As his brothers, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, and his uncle, the Duke of Exeter, lament his passing and express doubt as to whether his son (the as yet uncrowned heir apparent Henry VI) is capable of running the country in such tumultuous times, word arrives of military setbacks in France. A rebellion, led by the Dauphin Charles, is gaining momentum, and several major towns have already been lost. Additionally, Lord Talbot, Constable of France, has been captured. Realising a critical time is at hand, Bedford immediately prepares himself to head to France and take command of the army, Gloucester remains in charge in England, and Exeter sets out to prepare young Henry for his forthcoming coronation.

Meanwhile, in Orléans, the English army is laying siege to Charles’ forces. Inside the city, the Bastard of Orléans approaches Charles and tells him of a young woman who claims to have seen visions and knows how to defeat the English. Charles summons the woman, Joan la Pucelle (i.e. Joan of Arc). To test her resolve, he challenges her to single combat. Upon her victory, he immediately places her in command of the army. Outside the city, the newly arrived Bedford negotiates the release of Talbot, but immediately, Joan launches an attack. The French forces win, forcing the English back, but Talbot and Bedford engineer a sneak attack on the city, and gain a foothold within the walls, causing the French leaders to flee.

Back in England, a petty quarrel between Richard Plantagenet and the Duke of Somerset has expanded to involve the whole court. Richard and Somerset ask their fellow nobles to pledge allegiance to one of them, and as such the lords select either red or white roses to indicate the side they are on. Richard then goes to see his uncle, Edmund Mortimer, imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mortimer tells Richard the history of their family’s conflict with the king’s family—how they helped Henry Bolingbroke seize power from Richard II, but were then shoved into the background; and how Henry V had Richard’s father (Richard of Conisburgh) executed and his family stripped of all its lands and monies. Mortimer also tells Richard that he himself is the rightful heir to the throne, and that when he dies, Richard will be the true heir, not Henry. Amazed at these revelations, Richard determines to attain his birthright, and vows to have his family’s dukedom restored. After Mortimer dies, Richard presents his petition to the recently crowned Henry, who agrees to reinstate the Plantagenet’s title, making Richard 3rd Duke of York. Henry then leaves for France, accompanied by Gloucester, Exeter, Winchester, Richard and Somerset.

In France, within a matter of hours, the French retake and then lose the city of Rouen. After the battle, Bedford dies, and Talbot assumes direct command of the army. The Dauphin is horrified at the loss of Rouen, but Joan tells him not to worry. She then persuades the powerful Duke of Burgundy, who had been fighting for the English, to switch sides, and join the French. Meanwhile, Henry arrives in Paris and upon learning of Burgundy’s betrayal, he sends Talbot to speak with him. Henry then pleads for Richard and Somerset to put aside their conflict, and, unaware of the implications of his actions, he chooses a red rose, symbolically aligning himself with Somerset and alienating Richard. Prior to returning to England, in an effort to secure peace between Somerset and Richard, Henry places Richard in command of the infantry and Somerset in command of the cavalry. Meanwhile, Talbot approaches Bordeaux, but the French army swings around and traps him. Talbot sends word for reinforcements, but the conflict between Richard and Somerset leads them to second guess one another, and neither of them send any, both blaming the other for the mix-up. The English army is subsequently destroyed, and both Talbot and his son are killed.

After the battle, Joan’s visions desert her, and she is captured by Richard and burned at the stake. At the same time, urged on by Pope Eugenius IV and the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, Henry sues for peace. The French listen to the English terms, under which Charles is to be a viceroy to Henry and reluctantly agree, but only with the intention of breaking their oath at a later date and expelling the English from France. Meanwhile, the Earl of Suffolk has captured a young French princess, Margaret of Anjou, whom he intends to marry to Henry in order that he can dominate the king through her. Travelling back to England, he attempts to persuade Henry to marry Margaret. Gloucester advises Henry against the marriage, as Margaret’s family is not rich and the marriage would not be advantageous to his position as king. But Henry is taken in by Suffolk’s description of Margaret’s beauty, and he agrees to the proposal. Suffolk then heads back to France to bring Margaret to England as Gloucester worryingly ponders what the future may hold.

My Thoughts:

OH NOES, KENNETH BRANAUGH IS DEAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!

While not exactly how things start, it does start with Henry V’s untimely death, while the French are rebelling. So Henry VI has to take over and nobles are squabbling and fighting and betraying and in general it’s a right mess!

This was about 70% longer than Henry V and it is only Part 1 (I believe there are 3 parts). Ol’ Shakes really let himself go here. In other plays he’ll dismiss a whole battle or 2 years with a simple line or two. Not here though. We get the down and dirty on the whole shebang, to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Everyone is a horrible person to boot.

I did wonder what happened to the Queen Mother. She’s french and this whole English/French thing is a pretty big deal. Then throw in the damned Roman Catholic Church (and as an SDA I mean that damned literally) and my goodness, this was horrible.

So why the 3stars? Because it is still Shakespeare, you dunderhead! My goodness, bunch of barbarians out there. Show some class. Or I’ll pound yer head in for ya!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Henry V ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry V
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 160
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The Elizabethan stage lacked scenery. It begins with a Prologue, in which the Chorus (a lone speaker addressing the audience) apologizes for the limitations of the theatre, wishing for “a Muse of fire”, with real princes and a kingdom for a stage, to do justice to King Henry’s story. Then, says the Chorus, King Henry would “[a]ssume the port [bearing] of Mars”. The Chorus encourages the audience to use their “imaginary forces” to overcome the limitations of the stage: “Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts … turning the accomplishment of many years / Into an hour-glass”.

Shakespeare’s plays are in five acts. In Henry V, the first act deals largely with the king and his decision to invade France, persuaded that through ancestry, he is the rightful heir to the French throne. The French Dauphin, son of King Charles VI, answers Henry’s claims with a condescending and insulting gift of tennis balls, “as matching to his youth and vanity.”

The Chorus reappears at the beginning of each act to advance the story. At the beginning of Act II, he describes the country’s dedication to the war effort: “Now all the youth of England are on fire… They sell the pasture now to buy the horse, / Following the mirror of all Christian kings ….” Act II includes a plot by the Earl of Cambridge and two comrades to assassinate Henry at Southampton. Henry’s clever uncovering of the plot and his ruthless treatment of the conspirators show that he has changed from the earlier plays in which he appeared.

In Act III Henry and his troops siege the French port of Harfleur after crossing the English Channel. The Chorus appears again: “Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy/And leave your England, as dead midnight still”. The French king, says the Chorus, “doth offer him / Catharine his daughter, and with her, to dowry, / Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms.” Henry is not satisfied.

At the siege of Harfleur, the English are beaten back at first, but Henry urges them on with one of Shakespeare’s best-known speeches. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; / Or close the wall up with our English dead….” After a bloody siege, the English take Harfleur, but Henry’s forces are so depleted that he decides not to go on to Paris. Instead, he decides to move up the coast to Calais. The French assemble a powerful army and pursue him.

They surround him near the small town of Agincourt, and in Act IV, the night before the battle, knowing he is outnumbered, Henry wanders around the English camp in disguise, trying to comfort his soldiers and determine what they really think of him. He agonizes about the moral burden of being king, asking God to “steel my soldiers’ hearts”. Daylight comes, and Henry rallies his nobles with the famous St Crispin’s Day Speech (Act IV Scene iii 18–67): “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. The French herald Montjoy returns to ask if Henry will surrender and avoid certain defeat, and ransom his men’s survival; Henry bids him “bear my former answer back,” saying the French will get no ransom from him “but these my joints.”

Shakespeare does not describe the battle in the play. Though the French in one scene complain that ‘Tout est perdu’, the outcome is not clear to Henry, until the French Herald Montjoy tells him the ‘day is yours’. The battle turns out to be a lop-sided victory: the French suffered 10,000 casualties; the English, fewer than 30. “O God, thy arm was here,” says Henry.

Act V comes several years later, as the English and French negotiate the Treaty of Troyes, and Henry tries to woo the French princess, Catherine of Valois. Neither speaks the other’s language well, but the humour of their mistakes actually helps achieve his aim. The scene ends with the French king adopting Henry as heir to the French throne, and the prayer of the French queen “that English may as French, French Englishmen, receive each other, God speak this Amen.”

The play concludes with a final appearance of the Chorus who foreshadows the tumultuous reign of Henry’s son Henry VI of England, “whose state so many had the managing, that they lost France, and made his England bleed, which oft our stage hath shown”. Shakespeare had previously brought this tale to the stage in a trilogy of plays: Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2, and Henry VI Part 3.

As in many of Shakespeare’s history and tragedy plays, a number of minor comic characters appear, contrasting with and sometimes commenting on the main plot. In this case, they are mostly common soldiers in Henry’s army, and they include Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph from the Henry IV plays. The army also includes a Scot, an Irishman, and an Englishman, and Fluellen, a comically stereotyped Welsh soldier. The play also deals briefly with the death of Sir John Falstaff, Henry’s estranged friend from the Henry IV plays, whom Henry had rejected at the end of Henry IV, Part 2.

My Thoughts:

Back in May of ’21, I decided to Take A Break from Shakespeare. I was just burned out and even Henry V, the play I am most familiar with and enjoy, was not working for me. I had thought about taking an entire year off (you know you are getting older when planning your reading schedule now encompasses years instead of weeks or even months) but was a bit afraid that if I stopped that long that I might not get back on the horse. So here we are.

In highschool I had watched the Kenneth Branaugh production of Henry V. It really hit home to my teenage self and ended up occupying a place in my mind where I judged all other Shakespeare films to it. I still do in fact. So while I was reading this I had scenes from the movie interjecting themselves into my brain. I also had the Musical Score running through my head. Man, that is some good music!

All of that is to highlight just how biased I am in this play’s favor. I enjoyed reading this. It was interesting and having the “histories” lining up chronologically allowed me to have a fuller grasp of Henry as a character, as well as a few of his “old crew” who got themselves into various sorts of trouble.

It was encouraging and refreshing to enjoy Shakespeare again. While I have had, and will continue to have, issues with the Bard, they aren’t big enough to stop me from reading him. At least as long as I’m not approaching burn out. I’m going to try reading him until the end of ’23 and see if two years is a good period or not. Three years was definitely much too much.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Alas, Po’ Yo’rick! I’d Knowed Hisself, Ho…

I began reading Henry V and was just not feeling it, I mean, at all! I was trying to figure out what was going on because I haven’t had a “mood” issue for reading for years now. I was poking around and realized that I’ve been reading this Complete Shakespeare collection for 3 years now.

I started this journey with All’s Well That Ends Well in February of ’18 and the latest was Henry IV, Part II last month. I think I am just in need of a break from Shakespeare. It would seem that 3 years is about the longest I can deal with one ongoing “series” before I need a break. Armed with this info, I am going to be putting Ol’ Shakes on ice til ’22 when I will resume this quest to read all of the Bard’s works.

I am keeping this collection on my kindle so I don’t forget about it but am changing it’s name to “Hiatus til 22” so I don’t accidentally start again. I want a real break to recharge my batteries. I am glad this was an easy to figure out problem and I’ll be keeping it in mind for some of the other long running series I am currently going through.

Keep it cool Ol’ Shakes 👉 😎 😎 👈

Henry IV, Part II ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission


Title: Henry IV, Part II
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 103
Words: 28K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play picks up where Henry IV, Part 1 left off. Its focus is on Prince Hal’s journey toward kingship, and his ultimate rejection of Falstaff. However, unlike Part One, Hal’s and Falstaff’s stories are almost entirely separate, as the two characters meet only twice and very briefly. The tone of much of the play is elegiac, focusing on Falstaff’s age and his closeness to death, which parallels that of the increasingly sick king.

Falstaff is still drinking and engaging in petty criminality in the London underworld. He first appears followed by a new character, a young page whom Prince Hal has assigned him as a joke. Falstaff enquires what the doctor has said about the analysis of his urine, and the page cryptically informs him that the urine is healthier than the patient. Falstaff delivers one of his most characteristic lines: “I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.” Falstaff promises to outfit the page in “vile apparel” (ragged clothing). He then complains of his insolvency, blaming it on “consumption of the purse.” They go off, Falstaff vowing to find a wife “in the stews” (i.e., the local brothels).

The Lord Chief Justice enters, looking for Falstaff. Falstaff at first feigns deafness in order to avoid conversing with him, and when this tactic fails pretends to mistake him for someone else. As the Chief Justice attempts to question Falstaff about a recent robbery, Falstaff insists on turning the subject of the conversation to the nature of the illness afflicting the King. He then adopts the pretense of being a much younger man than the Chief Justice: “You that are old consider not the capacities of us that are young.” Finally, he asks the Chief Justice for one thousand pounds to help outfit a military expedition, but is denied.

He has a relationship with Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute, who gets into a fight with Ancient Pistol, Falstaff’s ensign. After Falstaff ejects Pistol, Doll asks him about the Prince. Falstaff is embarrassed when his derogatory remarks are overheard by Hal, who is present disguised as a musician. Falstaff tries to talk his way out of it, but Hal is unconvinced. When news of a second rebellion arrives, Falstaff joins the army again, and goes to the country to raise forces. There he encounters an old school friend, Justice Shallow, and they reminisce about their youthful follies. Shallow brings forward potential recruits for the loyalist army: Mouldy, Bullcalf, Feeble, Shadow and Wart, a motley collection of rustic yokels. Falstaff and his cronies accept bribes from two of them, Mouldy and Bullcalf, not to be conscripted.

In the other storyline, Hal remains an acquaintance of London lowlife and seems unsuited to kingship. His father, King Henry IV is again disappointed in the young prince because of that, despite reassurances from the court. Another rebellion is launched against Henry IV, but this time it is defeated, not by a battle, but by the duplicitous political machinations of Hal’s brother, Prince John. King Henry then sickens and appears to die. Hal, seeing this, believes he is King and exits with the crown. King Henry, awakening, is devastated, thinking Hal cares only about becoming King. Hal convinces him otherwise and the old king subsequently dies contentedly.

The two story-lines meet in the final scene, in which Falstaff, having learned from Pistol that Hal is now King, travels to London in expectation of great rewards. But Hal rejects him, saying that he has now changed, and can no longer associate with such people. The London lowlifes, expecting a paradise of thieves under Hal’s governance, are instead purged and imprisoned by the authorities.

Epilogue

At the end of the play, an epilogue thanks the audience and promises that the story will continue in a forthcoming play “with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France; where, for all I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat”. In fact, Falstaff does not appear on stage in the subsequent play, Henry V, although his death is referred to. The Merry Wives of Windsor does have “Sir John in it”, but cannot be the play referred to, since the passage clearly describes the forthcoming story of Henry V and his wooing of Katherine of France. Falstaff does “die of a sweat” in Henry V, but in London at the beginning of the play. His death is offstage, described by another character and he never appears. His role as a cowardly soldier looking out for himself is taken by Ancient Pistol, his braggart sidekick in Henry IV, Part 2 and Merry Wives.

My Thoughts:

The Adventures of Prince Henry continue! Or shall I say, Prince Harry? Even with Fraggle’s “explanation” in the comments of Part I, it still makes absolutely no sense to me how even a frenchified Henri could morph into Harry. But as she said, humans were bonkers even in Medieval England.

Which would explain a lot of history and this play. So King Henry IV is fighting insurrections and his best friends have turned on him and he’s sick and his heir apparent is a partying hound dog who flouts the law at every chance. Not a very good place to be in. What’s keeping him alive is the prophecy that he would die in Jerusalem. So after this fighting is done he’s planning on taking the lords of the realm to Israel and fight the saracens.

And then his heir turns out to be a pretty good guy. He fights like a demon, is charismatic, gives up his wastrel ways and turns on his evil companions. At the same time, King Henry’s enemies pretty much give up without a fight, like their backbones just melted into soup.

It doesn’t do Henry much good, as he’s sick to death. He and Harry are reconciled and Henry is taken to a room to die. Upon his death bed he sees that he is in the Jerusalem room, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Henry V is crowned king and vows to war on the damned frenchies.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Henry IV, Part I ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry IV, Part I
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 89
Words: 25K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Henry Bolingbroke—now King Henry IV—is having an unquiet reign. His personal disquiet at the usurpation of his predecessor Richard II would be solved by a crusade to the Holy Land, but trouble on his borders with Scotland and Wales make leaving unwise. Moreover, he is increasingly at odds with the Percy family, who helped him to his throne, and Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, Richard II’s chosen heir.

Adding to King Henry’s troubles is the behaviour of his son and heir, the Prince of Wales. Hal (the future Henry V) has forsaken the Royal Court to waste his time in taverns with low companions. This makes him an object of scorn to the nobles and calls into question his royal worthiness. Hal’s chief friend and foil in living the low life is Sir John Falstaff. Fat, old, drunk, and corrupt as he is, he has a charisma and a zest for life that captivates the Prince.

The play features three groups of characters that interact slightly at first, and then come together in the Battle of Shrewsbury, where the success of the rebellion will be decided. First there is King Henry himself and his immediate council. He is the engine of the play, but usually in the background. Next there is the group of rebels, energetically embodied in Henry Percy (“Hotspur”) and including his father, the Earl of Northumberland and led by his uncle Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester. The Scottish Earl of Douglas, Edmund Mortimer and the Welshman Owen Glendower also join. Finally, at the centre of the play are the young Prince Hal and his companions Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto. Streetwise and pound-foolish, these rogues manage to paint over this grim history in the colours of comedy.

As the play opens, the king is angry with Hotspur for refusing him most of the prisoners taken in a recent action against the Scots at Holmedon. Hotspur, for his part, would have the king ransom Edmund Mortimer (his wife’s brother) from Owen Glendower, the Welshman who holds him. Henry refuses, berates Mortimer’s loyalty, and treats the Percys with threats and rudeness. Stung and alarmed by Henry’s dangerous and peremptory way with them, they proceed to make common cause with the Welsh and Scots, intending to depose “this ingrate and cankered Bolingbroke.”[3] By Act II, rebellion is brewing.

Meanwhile, Henry’s son Hal is joking, drinking, and thieving with Falstaff and his associates. He likes Falstaff but makes no pretense at being like him. He enjoys insulting his dissolute friend and makes sport of him by joining in Poins’ plot to disguise themselves and rob and terrify Falstaff and three friends of loot they have stolen in a highway robbery, purely for the fun of hearing Falstaff lie about it later, after which Hal returns the stolen money. Rather early in the play, in fact, Hal informs us that his riotous time will soon come to a close, and he will re-assume his rightful high place in affairs by showing himself worthy to his father and others through some (unspecified) noble exploits. Hal believes that this sudden change of manner will amount to a greater reward and acknowledgment of prince-ship, and in turn earn him respect from the members of the court.

The revolt of Mortimer and the Percys very quickly gives him his chance to do just that. The high and the low come together when the Prince makes up with his father and is given a high command. He vows to fight and kill the rebel Hotspur, and orders Falstaff (who is, after all, a knight) to take charge of a group of foot soldiers and proceed to the battle site at Shrewsbury.

The battle is crucial because if the rebels even achieve a standoff their cause gains greatly, as they have other powers awaiting under Northumberland, Glendower, Mortimer, and the Archbishop of York. Henry needs a decisive victory here. He outnumbers the rebels,[4] but Hotspur, with the wild hope of despair, leads his troops into battle. The day wears on, the issue still in doubt, the king harried by the wild Scot Douglas, when Prince Hal and Hotspur, the two Harrys that cannot share one land, meet. Finally they will fight – for glory, for their lives, and for the kingdom. No longer a tavern brawler but a warrior, the future king prevails, ultimately killing Hotspur in single combat.

On the way to this climax, we are treated to Falstaff, who has “misused the King’s press damnably”,[5] not only by taking money from able-bodied men who wished to evade service but by keeping the wages of the poor souls he brought instead who were killed in battle (“food for powder, food for powder”).[6] Left on his own during Hal’s battle with Hotspur, Falstaff dishonourably counterfeits death to avoid attack by Douglas. After Hal leaves Hotspur’s body on the field, Falstaff revives in a mock miracle. Seeing he is alone, he stabs Hotspur’s corpse in the thigh and claims credit for the kill.[7] Though Hal knows better, he allows Falstaff his disreputable tricks. Soon after being given grace by Hal, Falstaff states that he wants to amend his life and begin “to live cleanly as a nobleman should do”.[8]

The play ends at Shrewsbury, after the battle. The death of Hotspur has taken the heart out of the rebels,[9] and the king’s forces prevail. Henry is pleased with the outcome, not least because it gives him a chance to execute Thomas Percy, the Earl of Worcester, one of his chief enemies (though previously one of his greatest friends). Meanwhile, Hal shows off his kingly mercy in praise of valour; having taken the valiant Douglas prisoner, Hal orders his enemy released without ransom.[10] But the war goes on; now the king’s forces must deal with the Archbishop of York, who has joined with Northumberland, and with the forces of Mortimer and Glendower. This unsettled ending sets the stage for Henry IV, Part 2.

My Thoughts:

This really should have been entitled “Henry V, the Early Years”. While Henry IV is the titular character, he seems to do little besides provide a reason for more kingdom drama. Everyone is going off to war at a moments notice on what seems pretty much like a whim. During all of this, young Prince Harry (by the by, WHY does the name Henry spawn the nickname Harry? It’s not even shorter for goodness sake) is carousing it up and being a blot upon his father’s name. He is unfavorably compared to the other Harry, the one leading the rebellion against the King.

In the final battle Harry shows his royal colors and mans it up perfectly. He seems to have set his rascally youthful ways behind him and to take his responsibilities seriously. Of course, all his old low friends are sure they are going to be sitting pretty once Harry becomes King, so they do what they want. Oh ye evil men, Judgement is coming!

Once again, I am loving these history plays. I was actually looking forward to reading this when Shakespeare rolled around in my reading rotation. What a change from earlier plays where that word “Shakespeare” brought dread and dismal despair to my heart. In fact, I seriously thought about just reading Part II of Henry IV but thankfully calmer and wiser heads prevailed (ie, my rational self instead of my emotional self).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Richard II ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Richard II
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 99
Words: 27K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The play spans only the last two years of Richard’s life, from 1398 to 1400. It begins with King Richard sitting majestically on his throne in full state, having been requested to arbitrate a dispute between Thomas Mowbray and Richard’s cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IV, who has accused Mowbray of squandering money given to him by Richard for the king’s soldiers and of murdering Bolingbroke’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Bolingbroke’s father, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, meanwhile, believes it was Richard himself who was responsible for his brother’s murder. After several attempts to calm both men, Richard acquiesces and it is determined that the matter be resolved in the established method of trial by battle between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, despite the objections of Gaunt.

The tournament scene is very formal with a long, ceremonial introduction, but as the combatants are about to fight, Richard interrupts and sentences both to banishment from England. Bolingbroke is originally sentenced to ten years’ banishment, but Richard reduces this to six years upon seeing John of Gaunt’s grieving face, while Mowbray is banished permanently. The king’s decision can be seen as the first mistake in a series leading eventually to his overthrow and death, since it is an error which highlights many of his character flaws, displaying as it does indecisiveness (in terms of whether to allow the duel to go ahead), abruptness (Richard waits until the last possible moment to cancel the duel), and arbitrariness (there is no apparent reason why Bolingbroke should be allowed to return and Mowbray not). In addition, the decision fails to dispel the suspicions surrounding Richard’s involvement in the death of the Duke of Gloucester – in fact, by handling the situation so high-handedly and offering no coherent explanation for his reasoning, Richard only manages to appear more guilty. Mowbray predicts that the king will sooner or later fall at the hands of Bolingbroke.

John of Gaunt dies and Richard II seizes all of his land and money. This angers the nobility, who accuse Richard of wasting England’s money, of taking Gaunt’s money (belonging by rights to his son, Bolingbroke) to fund war in Ireland, of taxing the commoners, and of fining the nobles for crimes committed by their ancestors. They then help Bolingbroke to return secretly to England, with a plan to overthrow Richard II. There remain, however, subjects who continue to be faithful to the king, among them Bushy, Bagot, Green and the Duke of Aumerle (son of the Duke of York), cousin of both Richard and Bolingbroke. When King Richard leaves England to attend to the war in Ireland, Bolingbroke seizes the opportunity to assemble an army and invades the north coast of England. Executing both Bushy and Green, Bolingbroke wins over the Duke of York, whom Richard has left in charge of his government in his absence.

Upon Richard’s return, Bolingbroke not only reclaims his lands but lays claim to the very throne. Crowning himself King Henry IV, he has Richard taken prisoner to the castle of Pomfret. Aumerle and others plan a rebellion against the new king, but York discovers his son’s treachery and reveals it to Henry, who spares Aumerle as a result of the intercession of the Duchess of York while executing the other conspirators. After interpreting King Henry’s “living fear” as a reference to the still-living Richard, an ambitious nobleman (Exton) goes to the prison and murders him. King Henry repudiates the murderer and vows to journey to Jerusalem to cleanse himself of his part in Richard’s death.

My Thoughts:

Another good “history” play. I do wonder how close to actual history they hew or if Shakespeare and these plays were the “bastard histories” of yesteryear like the “historical movies” of today are. But not being a history buff nor ever planning on becoming one, I don’t care enough for it to really matter.

And I don’t have anything to say here. I enjoyed this and that was that. * dusts hands off *

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.