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King Hedley II (The Century Cycle #9)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  337 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
“Wilson’s melody here is the mournful sound of what might have been, a blues-tinged tale about a driven, almost demonic man. He’s a petty thief named King who will stop at nothing for a better life. . . . King Hedley is a big play, filled with big emotions and big speeches. These aria-like monologues are rich in humor, heartbreak and the astonishing details that go into cr ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Theatre Communications Group
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Dec 23, 2016 rated it liked it
King Hedley II is the ninth play in August Wilson's Century Cycle. This one was good but like the rest of his plays not as good as Fences. One interesting fact that I noticed in this play was that the character of Aunt Ester, who is the main character in Gem of the Ocean, is mentioned as being 366 years old in King Hedley II (she is not in this play but is mentioned). So I asked myself, "when was Aunt Ester born?". So I subtracted 366 from the year that King Hedley II was set which was 1985 and ...more
Ha Li
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it
All that for a cat?
not as enamored of this play as Jitney
but it did stimulate the old brain pan
and i like the idea of a single set in fiction
Courtney H.
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: century-cycle
A week and two more plays later, I still don't know if I've found my footing after reading King Hedley II. As I mentioned in Seven Guitars, King Hedley II is the life force of two plays, itself and Seven Guitars. It is perhaps the most straight-up Shakespearean tragedy of the many tragic plays in Wilson's Century Cycle, from the name (though King Hedley II, like his namesake, is not royalty) to the conclusion. King Hedley II plays out on the edge of a blade, on one side there is success, love, a ...more
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Set in 1985 and involving two characters from Seven Guitars, King Hedley II is a contemporary tragedy of urban violence and the ninth of ten plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle. Ruby and Stool Pigeon (called Canewell) are in Seven Guitars. Ruby is Hedley II’s mother; his father is the first Hedley, who kills the blues musician Floyd Barton in the earlier play. Ruby now lives with Hedley, called King, and his wife Tonya. King has a scar on his face, put there by a man he killed and spent time ...more
Jessica Barkl
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well, I read this a long time ago in like a 7 hour version...or, at least, it felt that way. This version was much more manageable to read and it's really cool to see how August edited his plays. Anyway, I'm sure this is one of the more difficult of the cycle to act and direct, but, nonetheless, a really insightful play on the African-American experience of the mid-1980s. It was also cool to the see the child that Ruby was carrying in SEVEN GUITARS and how he emulated King Hedley I. It was also ...more
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been spending the year reading Wilson's Century Cycle. I decided to read them in the order they take place, not the order they were written. This may have been a dumb decision. It turns if I had read them in the order Wilson wrote them I would have read Seven Guitars right before Hedley, which would have probably been preferred, considering Hedley is basically Guitars's sequel. Having read the plays the way I did, Seven Guitars was 3 plays ago and I didn't remember much. Now this doesn't hu ...more
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
One of a series of plays set in Pittsburg, PA in each of the decades of the 20th century all with Black characters and all in the same impoverished neighborhood, the Hill section. Several of the plays were hits on Broadway and Off.
Only two of the plays have some of the same characters, this one and Seven Guitars which takes place 30 years earlier.
It's 1985 and King Hedley II, the son of a popular singer who is also in both plays, has just come out of the pen and is determined to build a new lif
Herbert Ricks Jr.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of August Wilson, and with King Hedley II, I have now completed the Century Cycle. Wilson always has engaging characters that allow you to see the progress and struggle of the African-American community within a given decade. Amazing story with great depth, but as usual, I am not fond of Wilson's endings. It is, however, a fantastic read full of rich detail.
Mar 09, 2015 rated it liked it
King Hedley II is a decent play but doesn't strike me with the originality of the other plays in the cycle. It's nice to have some closure around the frayed and sudden ending of Seven Guitars but it almost feels like fan service. The eventual conclusion of this play is telegraphed pretty early and comes across more hamhandedly than I expected.
Julien-Pierre Campbell
Okay, so I'm doing a piece from this play for a monologue competition, so I'll have to read it multiple times. I have to say - "August Wilson writes dialogue beautifully. I'm not a huge fan of the plot, save for the last forty pages or so, but I do appreciate this play quite a bit. The character of Ruby is just so great.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
King Hedley II continues 7 Guitars in a form and fashion, and there are some beautiful monologues which touch upon dreams deferred and rebuilding lives. I liked it and didn't love it, though there are just turns of phrase and rhythms to the speech that August Wilson just captures beautifully. His prose soars.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It's set in 1985 and tells the story of an ex-con in post-Reagan Pittsburgh trying to rebuild his life. Very bleak, chaotic...everyone has his own rules...lots of selfishness. Urban America at the nadir.
Michael Borshuk
1985 in August Wilson's century is a devastated urban landscape undone by too much violence and excessive material longing, without the comforts of community and spiritual nurturing as a counterbalance as in other periods he dramatized.
Ann Adams
Typical August Wilson, but not my favorite---language is rough as were the times and culture of which he writes.
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not my favorite Wilson play but looking forward to teaching this one.
An important tragedy.
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: play
King and Mister search for ways to get the money to buy a video store. King won't get the chance.
Robert Jersak
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Slowly but surely, I've made my way through Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle. As almost all of the reviewers attest, it's a stunning series with profound insights into the generational evils of systemic injustice, populated with characters who can be deeply flawed and quietly heroic. King Headly II, which takes place in the 1980's, is no exception.

You can get a much better plot synopsis elsewhere. Simply, the story revolves around King, a hard-edged local who, like other mythological heroes, is admirab
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When referring to the Pittsburgh Cycle from here on out, let’s not refer to it as the African-American experience of the 20th century but rather the experience of African-American MEN in the 20th century.

Once again, there’s not much in King Hedley II to differentiate it from other plays in the cycle. There’s the men with big dreams and big talk, the token put-upon woman, and societal inequality. All of these things are legit bases for play, but this play, like most others in the cycle, feel lik
Andrea Lakly
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I saw this at Kenny Leon's True Colors theatre and I was very impressed with the quality for the production. As the last play in Wilson's Century Cycle, it's a frightening condemnation of what the 20th Century meant for black people, and its focus on gun violence could not have come at a more relevant time.
Brian McCann
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Despite some excellent monologues, this play is formulaic, with a similar story line to many Wilson readers.
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Sep 24, 2011
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August Wilson was an American playwright. His literary legacy is the ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fourth
More about August Wilson

Other books in the series

The Century Cycle (10 books)
  • Gem of the Ocean
  • Joe Turner's Come and Gone
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • The Piano Lesson
  • Seven Guitars
  • Fences (The Century Cycle #6)
  • Two Trains Running
  • Jitney
  • Radio Golf