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The Lion in Winter

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  5,983 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Insecure siblings fighting for their parents’ attention; bickering spouses who can’t stand to be together or apart; adultery and sexual experimentation; even the struggle to balance work and family: These are themes as much at home in our time as they were in the twelfth century. In James Goldman’s classic play The Lion in Winter, domestic turmoil rises to an art form.
Paperback, 144 pages
Published 1968 by Dell Books (first published 1966)
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What shall we hang, the holly or each other?

If that sounds like something you'd hear (or say) at one of your holiday gatherings, then it's time for this Festivus classic. Wait, Festivus classic? Absolutely. While Die Hard may be an alternate Christmas classic for those who avoid the overly heartwarming by watching Bruce Willis blow stuff up real good, this is the movie (play, I meant play!*) for those who prefer their explosions verbal and emotional.

But why Festivus and not Christmas? This is,
I've just spent a happy Saturday finishing this delicious book, which did live up to expectations.

Henry and Eleanor's dynamics in this play would perhaps be best described as "a loving hate relationship," for you never are sure what exactly they feel for each other till the final scene, when you realise they are each other's weakness. The dialogue is wonderfully snarky and poisonously witty, it's like watching the two greatest swordsmen of the time duel for hours and hours non-stop, only that b


Despite its obvious inaccuracies this is still my favourite fiction about Henry and Eleanor. Love the snark!!

I have a problem with despicable people. I have a bias against them, so shoot me. If you suck, I garner no enjoyment from your suckdom, and therefore will not typically read a book that is strictly about lying, conniving, murderous, adulterous, dare I say slimy?, people. Though we know little of their true personalities, I believe those adjectives could easily fit Henry II, his wife Eleanor and their crew, based on documented wars and murders alone.

But I did, enjoy it that is, an
This is the play that the movie came from, and it's one of the most exciting and witty plays written. My edition has an interesting introduction by Goldman in which he relates how many people believe that the movie was made because the play was a big hit, which wasn't true. It was the movie, released over two years after the play had closed its brief Broadway run (with Christopher Walken as King Philip) that turned the play into a classic.

It's Christmas, 1183, and the three princes, Richard, Geo
This is a fabulous show. Well written and intriguing. The audience watches as Henry II and his estranged Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, gather together with their boys, France's prince, and Henry's mistress for a Christmas holiday. A young Richard the Lionheart debates with his brothers for the crown, struggles with his father for a wife, fights to hide an indiscretion, and plots to keep his land. Prince Geoffery schemes and Prince John snivels. Alais, Henry's mistress and Richard's fiance, is pla ...more
Eric Kibler
I'm about to start rehearsing to play Richard in this play, which goes up in June. It's a revisiting. I read it in college when I helped build the set for an OSU theater department production. Eight years later I played Geoffrey in a community theater version. Now on to Richard.

The play takes place on a Christmas Day in the twelfth century, and concerns a unique dysfuctional family who just happen to be the Royal Family of England. There's the father, Henry II, trying to effect a peaceful transi
THIS IS A GREAT PLAY. So great that I have resorted to caps-lock, which is not something I do too much. Seriously. There are so many great quotes that I wanted to set aside and come back to later, and I did start copying them down until it became apparent that I'd be copying down the whole script and I was better off just reading it again. Which I did.
If you'd rather watch it, I highly recommend the Katharine Hepburn/Peter O'Toole classic. It's remarkably faithful to the script and, of course, v
Lisa Feld
Goldman uses a really interesting technique here, since this play requires a ton of exposition to explain the backstory: that Henry II celebrates Christmas with three of his sons, who have all plotted rebellion against him at some point; his wife Eleanor, whom he locked up for inciting those rebellions; Alais, his son's fiancée, whom Henry has taken as a mistress; and his sworn enemy, Philip, king of France and son of Eleanor's ex-husband. Goldman makes these facts the grist of old family argume ...more
I truly do love this play. The writing's devilishly good and wickedly fun. Some lines are real gems. To me, it doesn't matter that the story's one of fiction. The play in essence gives life to these people and makes them seem more real. And given my knowledge of the history of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the lives of their children, some of the themes addressed in the play do indeed seem plausible.
Henry and elanore being who thety are have problems. Regal problems that can't be solved in a simple fashion.
The play really is a masterpiece of words and a delightful chess game between two string willed royals who are used to getting their own way. Now they must make cibsessions and learn to work together for the common good and to find themselves together as a team.
A whirlwind look at a completely dysfunctional family under the guise of history. It supposedly represents Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their children in a conflict over who will replace Henry when he dies. There is much conniving, fighting, threatening and general mayhem throughout the play. I soon got bored and any intelligent person will too.
I’m not sure if Molina is the best Henry II I’ve seen or heard, but this performance of the play is darn good. The repartee is well done and even with just the audio you can hear the passion and disgust that Henry Eleanor feel for each other.
From The Inward Sources.

That was the hardest book to find ever, so it’s a good thing that’s so good that not even anticipation ruined it for me. Seriously: IT’S VERY GOOD.

(Honestly, to get that book was the most difficult thing, I had to pass tests and solve riddles (almost). I finally got it from the hidden archives of my ex-University (my sister had to withdraw it for me, because after only 2 months of having graduated, I couldn’t use the uni library anymore), but now I can’t wait to have mone
I cannot hope to write everything I think and feel concerning this play in one review, but I'll do my best. It is, to be frank, absolutely incredible. It's one of the wittiest things I've ever read. It's also one of the most delightfully cruel things I've ever read. It is filled with countless manipulations, plots, schemes, threats, and lies. The Plantagenets as represented in this play exemplify the thin line between love and hate. The manipulations and plots are so subtle and interwoven that e ...more
I am reserving a star rating until I see the play (or, more likely, one of the films), since it is so difficult to judge a play based on a reading without a performance as well, especially one with as much mood whiplash as this one.

I can't help but think that a number of future political dramas and even action thrillers were inspired in part by this play, with the constant plotting, scheming, backstabbing, and turning of tables -- and the fact that it ultimately neither changes nor decides anyth
Megan Sanchez
The play that sparked my interest in the Platagenets. I remember falling in love with Anthony Hopkins as Richard Lionheart and the gorgeous Tim Dalton as Philip II Augustus. I literally burst out laughing every time I read or watch this play - and I do that pretty often. Every time there is some line that finally catches me and which I'll never overlook again. On this particular reading, I was struck by the vagueness of John's character. A gifted actor could transform the role into something qui ...more
Lluvia Almanza
Did I enjoy it? Yes. This is an unconventional and new look at history and while I don't know how accurate this is, it is refreshing to get a glimpse from someone other than Shakespeare. I am trying to expand my knowledge of plays and this was next on my list.

I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it.
I was introduced to this fine play as part of a "Great Plays" class I took in college. And I was not disappointed. The script is taylor-made for live performance, unlike some plays which are just screenplays crammed onstage without thought given to the limits/opportunities of the stage. Goldman's play boasts a small cast, straightforward set, and suspense achieved through intellectual cunning.

In my first read through, I was overwhelmed with the constant back and forth, and the rapidly shifting
Wow, and I thought my family was bad! King Henry needs to choose the next heir to his throne, so for Christmas, he brings together his wife (whom he imprisoned in a tower) and his three sons. Also invited are his young lover (who is betrothed to his eldest son) and her brother, King Philip II of France. They face the kind of problems any family might find themselves in, only taken to extremes: sibling rivalry, unfaithful husband, vengeful wife, ignored middle child, even finding out one of your ...more
This play has become a regular on the theater scene, and for good reason. The action centers around King Henry II and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, as they battle each other in every sense of the word. It's harsh, nail-bitingly suspenseful, cruel, exciting, even at times downright disgusting. And I can comfortably say this is the best portrayal of a love-hate relationship I have EVER READ. Psychologically fascinating. I recommend the latest film version starring the incomparable Glenn Close a ...more
A very well written play with intense family battles. Looking forward to see the movie also!
Some of the best dialogue I've read in a play. Biting, sarcastic, funny, and smart.
Nov 19, 2008 Jeaneen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English wit
Recommended to Jeaneen by: Mom
King Henry II wants to trot the Queen out of prison for Christmas court (she's kept there after almost winning the last revolt against him). His three sons are also summoned home, to meet with mom & dad and fight over who will be the next King of England. Throw in the King of France, who used to be the Queen's step son, and who used to be the lover of Henry's eldest son, Richard. Apparently all three sons are ready to kill each other, their parents, or the King of France to get the throne. A ...more
Royal families can't have a quiet Christmas without sniping at each other either. Your family is not the only one. Although, Father doesn't usually fetch Mummy from prison to have a gathering, or get Richard back from the Crusades, or bring the cousins in from France, just to bully a divorce and stage a wedding to his little mistress.

One of my favorites from what we did in high school, and I own the movie - oh, young Anthony Hopkins! Timothy Dalton! The Queen herself, Katharine Hepburn, and no o
Twelfth century royal family dysfunction at it's finest!
I don't even know where to start when I try to describe this play. It's one of my favorite literary pieces of all time for so many reasons. It details the relationship between King Henry II of England and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The dialouge is extremely witty and entertaining as you watch Henry and Eleanor try to outmanuever each other and designate an heir to the throne. I re-read this play frequently and every time I find something new to laugh at. Definitely one of the best reads I ...more
Take one messed up royal family, add a modern sensiblity and you get this romp through domestic drama circa the time of Henry II. Lurid in all the right ways and surprising in all the satisfying ones, Goldman's tale of backstabbing leads to major fights and major scenery-chewing on a level that would seem campy if the dialogue wasn't so damn good. This will always be one of my pet favorite plays, if only because Eleanor of Aquitaine gets to say the most ridiculous and appropos stuff when she's o ...more
An enjoyable play about King Henry, his wife Elanor and their three sons each vying for the crown. Everyone is plotting against everyone and you really can't tell who is on whose side for a lot of the deception and action. There were some lines that had me laughing hysterically, some of them because they were just so frank and honest. I liked how it was written about England hundreds of years ago, but was written in the language of the present. I would definitely like to see this performed.
The characters in this play are easily some of the most conniving you'll ever love.

It's been years since I first read it, but what most stands out about it is that at it's most basic, it's a story about family. Sure, most people aren't scheming against their siblings for their father's crown and kingdom and their fathers don't banish their mothers to a far away land for decades, but otherwise you will relate.

Love it, love it, love it.

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James Goldman was an American Academy Award-winning screenwriter and playwright, and the brother of screenwriter and novelist William Goldman.

He was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up primarily in Highland Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. He is most noted as the author of The Lion in Winter and author of the book for the stage musical Follies.

Goldman died from a heart attack in New York City,
More about James Goldman...
Follies Myself as Witness The Man from Greek and Roman: A novel The lion in winter (A Dell book) Robin and Marian

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“I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family.” 14 likes
“Give me a little peace.
A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now, there's a thought.”
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