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The Lion in Winter
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The Lion in Winter

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  6,457 ratings  ·  109 reviews
It is Christmas of 1183, and Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine are, for once, together in the drafty castle at Chinon. For all their regal status, they are much like any long-estranged but inseparably married couple: Henry flaunts his new mistress; Eleanor plots against him with their sons. They will do anything they can to hurt each other. and they love each ot ...more
Hardcover, 126 pages
Published September 1st 1966 by Amereon House (first published 1966)
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Chris
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
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Marquise
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
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Laura
Feb 22, 2015 Laura marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
Jemidar

Re-read.

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

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
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jennifer
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
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Susana
The love of power, the power of love and the power of power. Lovely. Those are the three things the play is about according to Michael Mayer, one of its directors.

I've just watched two plays that have absolutely nothing to do with one another despite being pretty much about the same thing: a dysfunctional family get-together for a special occasion (Christmas in one, the grandfather's suicide in the other). The one is the Lion in Winter, the other August: Osage county.

It's Christmas 1183. Henry I
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Shannon
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
...more
Jackie
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
...more
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
Marija
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.
Eyehavenofilter
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.
☯Emily
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.
Kenneth Valentine
Sharp, biting and exquisitely wicked, "The Lion In Winter" is a masterpiece of how power is thicker than blood! It's Christmas, 1183, and King Henry II knows he has reached the age where he must decide who will rule his kingdom when he is gone. He has built the greatest empire in Europe sine Alexander, and his wife (Queen Ealanor of Acquitaine) and his sons (Richard, Jeffrey and John) spend the holiday bickering, squabbling and backstabbing while they host the King of France.

This story is an am
...more
Chris
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.
Bradley
OMG. This play was killer and I hope I can see a production one day. The Royal Family has gathered for the Christmas holidays. King Henry II is there with his mistress. He's released his Queen, the famed Eleanor of Aquitane, from prison just long enough to spend the holidays with her three sons Richard, Geoffrey and John. Henry is also entertaining the young King of France, Phillip. Phillip happens to be the brother of Alais, Henry's aforementioned mistress.

The dialogue of this play is splendid.
...more
Beverlee  Couillard
This is one of my all-time favorite books. The dialog is so wonderful. The characters well-drawn, and the writing is gorgeous. The time of the Plantagenets is, for me, one of the most interesting historical periods, and I have two book shelves filled with books from this period. It is a time of violence, high drama and fascinating people. This book was staged on Broadway and become my all-time favorite movie. I read this book shortly after it's publication, so I can't remember the date I finishe ...more
Marina
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
...more
Danya
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
Kat
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
...more
Liz
Fierce creatures. All these characters are fierce and brutal in their words in their quest for the throne. I just spent an afternoon reading this play and could not put it down. I loved the witty but petty characters trading insults and allegiances. I loved the female characters who are as brutal and also vulnerable as the males that dominate them. I also love British history and absorbed the characterization of these historical figures.
Mike Jensen
Remember when this play seemed absolutely vital? Unfortunately, it is past its sell-by date. The scene in Phillip's rooms is utterly phony, the ending creaks, and the constant manipulation gets tired. Perhaps I would feel differently if I saw a perfectly balanced and amazingly acted performance. Well, there would still be that stupid scene if Phillips room. There is still much that is great about this play, but it is not a great play.
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
Heather Robinson
I love Eleanor of Aquitaine!! In spite of historical inaccuracies-- I can imagine the aging queen would be just so. The raging wit and scathing banter between Eleanor and Henry are delicious. The love lost between them, as she ages and he (being male) has acquired a newer model. So she loves him with her brain and she hates him with her brain-- as she is his intellectual equal.
Very fun. Yet human.
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.
Jake
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
...more
Wiccat
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
Rachel Genari
I honestly feel like nothing got accomplished by the end of this play. Any one of the characters in this could have died and I would not have cared. That sounds bad, but there's no attachment at all. All of them are so whiny, spoiled, fickle, and just plain annoying. I only read this because of English class. I hope the movie is a lot better.
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Goldman grew up in a Jewish family in Highland Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and obtained a BA degree at Oberlin College in 1952 and an MA degree at Columbia University in 1956.His brother was the late James Goldman, author and playwright.

William Goldman had published five novels and had three plays produced on Broadway before he began to write screenplays. Several of his novels he later used
...more
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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.” 18 likes
“Give me a little peace.
A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now, there's a thought.”
16 likes
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