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Group Readings > 1, 2 And 3 of Henry VI

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message 1: by scherzo♫ (last edited Feb 22, 2010 09:46AM) (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 269 comments Cast of Characters

King Henry VI
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, uncle of king
John, Duke of Bedford, uncle of king

Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, great-half-uncle of king
Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, great-half-uncle of king

All are descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who had two families -- one with his wife, Blanche, and one with his mistress, Katherine Swynford (whom he later married which legitimized the children).

Descendants of the marriage to Katherine Swynford included their granddaughter Cecily Neville, mother to Kings Edward IV and Richard III; and their great-great-grandson Henry Tudor, who became King of England after the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and established the House of Tudor.

The War of the Roses is a family fight carried on for generations.

*****
A great book to help get all the people straight in the history plays:
Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama by Peter Saccio


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments I agree totally. Saccio's English Kings is an excellent book to help understand the history plays.

He also has several very good lecture series on Shakespeare issued by The Teaching Company, at
http://www.teach12.com/


message 3: by Betty (last edited Mar 05, 2010 05:32PM) (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Saccio's SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH KINGS is on my virtual bookshelf. Henry VI is the title of two chapters. His Teaching Company lecture series SHAKESPEARE: THE WORD AND THE ACTION (Part 1, Lecture 7 "The battles of Henry VI") is also there.

EDIT: A detailed explanation of 1H6 is on the blog of http://thebillshakespeareproject.com/. On the main page scroll down the right side until you come to "Category Archives" where Bill Waltham has 33 pieces and podcasts about 1H6.

1.1-3: The play opens with Henry V's funeral attended by Bedford, Gloucester, Exeter, Winchester, and others. For the moment, they seem to have banded together because the English are trying to maintain control of French towns and cities. They are interrupted by 3 messengers, who bring bad news. Several French towns are lost, the Dauphin Charles has named himself as King, and Talbot was captured. Another issue is to crown the young H6. But, Winchester plans to abduct the boy from his protector Gloucester. The characters interpret their misfortunes upon astral influences.
The setting of Scene 2 is in France where the fight over Orleance belongs alternatively to the English then the French. The visionary Joan la Pucelle wins over Charles, who is overcome by her capability and beauty. His attendants remark jokingly about his double interests.
Scene 3 in my edition turns to the English Tower of London. The antipathy between the Gloucester side and the Winchester side is growing. Gloucester has come for additional men and supplies but is barred at the gate. After he does enter, he and Winchester hurl innuendos at each other [Walthall has a good explanation to the background of these slurs'.:]
1.4-6: The English fare badly in France and lose Salisbury and Gargrave as Joan la Pucelle leads the victorious French.

The Mowat and Werstine edition makes the point that Joan and Talbot are seen differently by each side--praised by one and loathed by the other. Wikipedia calls the double perception a theme of the play. Besides the "Saintly and the Demonic" theme, there is also "Death of Chivalry" and "Patriotism". Indeed, there don't seem to be any spies in this play.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments Shakespeare is not known for being accurate in his history -- he often moves people or events around or compresses events in order to increase the dramatic impact of the plays.

But here he goes overboard. (One of several reasons there is serious doubt that Shakespeare actually wrote Part 1: the prevailing view seems to be that he made a few adaptations to an already existing play.)

If I have time, I will bring up some of the other historical inaccuracies over the course of the discussion, but for starters, at the funeral of Henry V, which took place in September, 1422, a messenger arrives from France reporting defeats at or loss of several cities, including Orleans and Paris. But the first English defeat at Orleans didn't occur until 1429, seven years later, and Paris wasn't lost until 1437, a full fifteen years after Henry's funeral.

A second messenger reports the crowning of the Dolphin (Dauphin) Charles at Rheims. In fact, Charles was crowned at Poitiers in November, 1422 (not a major time shift here), BUT he was not acknowledged by many as a legitimate king since French kings had to be crowned at Rheims, which was still in English hands at the time. He was not crowned at Rheims until July, 1429, when the French had retaken the city.

As long as we view the play as just a dramatic piece of literature very loosely based on some actual people and events, this matters little to our enjoyment of the play. But we must be sure not to consider that Shakespeare is offering us anything like the real history of the times.


message 5: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 269 comments I'm fascinated by Shakespeare's ability to take decades of rambling, year-by-year chronicles and find the drama of heroic Talbot plus bickering English lords plus scheming French women -- all presented in the first act.


message 6: by Monica (new)

Monica | 8 comments Right on. Shakespeare is not known for historical accuracy and he can be very biased.


message 7: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments While I think we can all agree that "Hung be the heavens with black!" is one of the better opening lines in English lit, did anyone else get the sense that Shakespeare was rushing through scenes pell mell?

We move from funeral scene (1.1) to a French rout and the appearance of Joan (1.2-3), to Gloucester's and Winchester's feud (1.4), to Talbot's ransoming and the death of half the English command (1.6), to Talbot's too brief encounter with Joan (1.7), to the French occupation of Orleans.

This may relate to the authorial controversy, of which I have no familiarity.


message 8: by Monica (new)

Monica | 8 comments I think it is riotously funny that Talbot refused to be traded for anyone other than the most prized French captive. Anyone else would have reflected poorly on his honour. A true measure of how practicality has become more valued through the years. Or maybe it's not practicality... I'm searching for the term. It would have behooved the Englishmen to take advantage of the first rather than pointing out to the French "hey, you can have a more worthy dude back."


message 9: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments Monica wrote: "I think it is riotously funny that Talbot refused to be traded for anyone other than the most prized French captive. Anyone else would have reflected poorly on his honour. A true measure of how p..."

Well...I'm not so sure things have changed all that much. The Israelis will trade several hundred Palestinians for a couple of IDF soldiers.

Talbot's name is used to scare French children into behaving:

"So great fear of my name 'mongst them were spread / That they supposed I could rend bars of steel / And spurn in pieces posts of adamant. / Wherefore a guard of chosen shot I had / That walked about me every minute while; / And if I did but stir out of my bed, / Ready they were to shoot me to the heart." (1.6)

To have traded him for anyone less than the French best would have been a mortal insult.


message 10: by Monica (new)

Monica | 8 comments I can understand the Israeli's doing that yet if the Palestinians were willing to hand over the IDF soldiers for only a few of their Palestinians (as the French were willing to accept a low ranking soldier in exchange for Talbot), I doubt the Israeli's would protest.

I guess my point is that honour was that much more important back then than it is today, such that having the advantage of retaining a prized French captive isn't even a consideration for Talbot as Shakespeare writes him.


message 11: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
I have found the moving between scenes and locations very exciting. I had no idea that Joan would be at all in this play, and right away...I felt more excitement about the ideas begun in these few scenes.

I thought the repeated association of "lights out" with the Kings death very touching and visual. Within a few verses, the English country is losing its ground since the Kings death.

oh my, and what a catty verse from Alencion!

They want their porridge and their fat bull-beeves:
Either they must be dieted like mules
And have their provender tied to their mouths
Or piteous they will look, like drowned mice.


I have to admit, I laughed about porridge! (I love the ongoing battle of gourmet and diet between Brits and French...charming to see it from 400 years ago right up to today)

I love how Joan was immediately associated with pagan goddesses. And a trick is tried to fool her.

Perhaps we are aided to see that historical or hard logic isn't entirely what this play will be exploring.

I can imagine the accuracy contested of an historical play...but if this play isn't accurate with facts...I feel it is already dealing with an emotional history...with much of the poetry...it feels emotionally true or emotionally realistic.

Joan describes her inventory...I am prepared: here is my keen-edged sword,
Deck'd with five flower-de-luces on each side;
The which at Touraine, in Saint Katharine's
churchyard,
Out of a great deal of old iron I chose forth.


How interesting to have Joan associated with the Sibyls, a cult of St. Katherine (!) the mystic area of touraine, an Amazon and Deborah! And Venus, Helen, St. Philips daughters

I thought how she says the following so beautifully put:

Expect Saint Martin's summer, halcyon days,
Since I have entered into these wars.
Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.
With Henry's death the English circle ends;
Dispersed are the glories it included.
Now am I like that proud insulting ship
Which Caesar and his fortune bare at once.


Glory is like a circle in the water which never cease to enlarge itself. Wonderful.


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments The Elizabethan audience would probably have been much more aware than we are of the tension between the state and church powers at the start of the play. Henry VI was still a baby, so would have needed a regent or Protector. The four participants early in the play, two uncles and two great-uncles of the babe, were all players in the royal intrigues. Thus, there are some pointed remarks exchanged. Gloucester, in his "The church..." speech implies that Winchester could have saved Henry V had he wanted to (which he may well not have wanted to, since his power was reduced under HV). Winchester seems to accept Gloucester as Protector, but it seems clear that he isn't going to take this lying down. Thus, even as HV's body is still above ground, the wrangling for power is playing out before our eyes.


message 13: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments My work and parenting schedule, along with my increasingly ambitious reading list, continues to prevent me from participating in these group readings. So I humbly apologize if my presence here is an intrusion.

I just wanted to share the fact that Henry VI, Part 1 was the very first Shakespeare play in which I performed (not a particularly glorious debut, I admit, but a rollicking adventure for a 19 year-old actor still new to New York).

I played the messenger in the first scene who calls the English lords to arms for the rescue of Lord Talbot, and then various and sundry other little characters peppered throughout the play. In spite of the play's many weakness (historical, poetic, and dramatic), I had a ball and it will always be close to my heart for having been my first.


message 14: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
Everyman, I wonder if the Elizabethan audience really did relate more to the tensions between state and Church than us? I think we can see this struggle every day on U.S politics. And what about the history of Ireland in the 70s and 80s bombings. Or Patty Hearst kidnapping by PLO, or the international struggle to weigh political beliefs with Fundamentalist suicide bombers? I suspect Shakespeare living with political and church tensions is one of the many reasons we can find meaning in his plays today. The comments about porridge reminded me of something Glenn Beck might say on his talks show! Bill Maher's movie Religulous is relevant about the tension in U.S. between state and church.

But...I do see what you mean by the idea that we try to remember there were struggles specific to the plays era. Certain references I probably miss all the time because I don't a certain fact about the era. Your knowledge of the era really helps me to try to see how we might understand the tensions going on between the characters!

Mathew...step in whenever you can! It's always good to hear from you...even if you are juggling your responsibilities. It's terrific to think of anyone who has actually performed these plays joining in on the discussions in any way you can. It must have been a wonderful experience to be so young in N.Y. and scoring a part in a play.


message 15: by Martin (last edited Oct 29, 2016 06:29AM) (new)

Martin | 5 comments Let me say at once it is great to see so many contributors here.

I wanted to make a couple of points, the first about authorship, the second about historicity. The second will be in a later post perhaps.

Everyman quotes the widespread view that H6.1 is not by Shakespeare, but that he possibly just made a few adaptations to an already existing play. (This idea goes back to Malone in the 18th century.) There's the danger of disapointment here, 'cos we might think we're not getting our moneysworth. There is also the danger of undervaluing the play.

I think, as far as the first act goes, there can be little doubt that we are listening to Shakespeare. Terence praises the opening,

Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

The image is of night as the black drapes of mourning, and the phrase "black night" as a signal of death later turns up in the sonnets, "which by and by black night doth take away / Death's second self, that seals up all in rest." This is followed by the image of the comets, as celestial heads with the tail-part as the trailing hair,

Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,

-- and similarly in Hamlet, comets ("stars with trains of fire") are used in the opening scene in connection with the death of a great king. Then the tresses become whips to be turned on the stars,

And with them scourge the bad revolting stars
That have consented unto Henry's death!

-- with the word play on "revolting": the stars have revolutions around the sky, and cause revolutions in the state. Later we're told that "France is revolted from the English quite". The idea of celestial influence is mirrored on the French side by the opening words,

Mars his true moving, even as in the heavens
So in the earth, to this day is not known ...

(This is deliberate design, and argues against a muddle of mixed authorship). Shakespeare is being characteristically puzzling, but it could refer to doubts about Mars' direction in the sky at the point when it goes retrograde, this corresponding to a change in the fortune of the war. References to Mars "going backwards" comes in All's Well, and greatly intrigued Candy.

Bedford's image of black night is followed by Gloster's image of the King as dazzling day, and then by Exeter's metaphor of the Lords being part of Death's triumph,

Like captives bound to a triumphant car.

The same image will occur more famously in Julius Caesar,

What tributaries follow him to Rome
To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels?

One could go on, but the point is I think the poetry is excellent, and is all Shakespeare. Certainly the third scene is more low-key, but it captures well the disagreement between heads of state degenerating into a vulgar brawl, and the language corresponds.


message 16: by Martin (last edited Mar 02, 2010 09:43AM) (new)

Martin | 5 comments The other point is about Shakespeare's reorganisation of historical events. In the late comedies he plays extraordinary tricks with time and space for dramatic purposes, and he clearly does the same in his early histories! But it's not merely bad history. You can see why several years of war in France should be reported before the late King is even buried. Henry V is a "strong king", like Edward III (later mentioned). So Henry builds a little empire in France. What we see is the whole enterprise collapsing like a house of cards, and the nobles arguing bitterly at the funeral service. They will pursue the war abroad which the cannot afford ("no treachery, but want of men and money"), while things deteriorate at home.

Modern analogies are of course easy to find.


message 17: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments A few things to comment on here (the posts are piling up too fast to keep track of :-)

@Matthew: How dare you allow work and parenting to interfere w/ the Bard! I kid, of course. Any thoughts are welcome, I would imagine. Even those of a harried parent.

Perhaps especially those of a parent. I was reading the intro to my Pelican Shakespeare edition and the author was pointing out the prevalence of parent-child relationships in the play (not always actual) such as Henry VI and his "protectors," Talbot and his son, Richard Plantagenet and Mortimer, etc.

@Candy: You wrote, "I love how Joan was immediately associated with pagan goddesses."

Notice, however, that the associations are always negative. Shakespeare is setting her up for the coming fall, and Joan always claims a holy mandate:

Heaven and our Lady gracious hath it pleased
To shine on my contemptible estate.
Lo, whilst I waited on my tender lambs,
And to sun's parching heat displayed my cheeks,
God's mother deigned to appear to me,
And in a vision, full of majesty,
Willed me to leave my base vocation
And free my country from calamity.


And, "Assigned am I to be the English scourge."

And, forgive me for jumping ahead a few scenes, but both she and Margaret of Anjou are going to be vilified for assuming a man's role in the "civil broils":

"BEDFORD: Coward of France! How much he wrongs his fame,
Despairing of his own arms' fortitude,
To join with witches and the help of hell.

BURGUNDY: Traitors have never other company.
But what's that `Pucelle' whom they term so pure?

TALBOT: A maid, they say.

BEDFORD: A maid? And be so martial?

BURGUNDY: Pray God she prove not masculine ere long.
If underneath the standard of the French
She carry armor as she hath begun -"


@Me: I've been listening (again) to the Arkangel AudioCD version of the play, and when you have the play presented as it's meant to be - i.e., orally - the pacing of the first Act is more natural and not quite as chaotic as I found it while simply reading.

@Everyman: This isn't directly directed to Everyman so much as to the point about Shakespearean audiences and their awareness of contexts unknown and unknowable to modern audiences.

It seems to me that a common theme throughout the historical plays is the importance of legitimacy. I think you can argue that Henry V lacks the power of, for example, the Richards, II and III, or Henry IV because it lacks the tensions generated by the breakdown of the normal, God-given order.


message 18: by Betty (last edited Mar 05, 2010 05:40PM) (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Everyman wrote: "...there is serious doubt that Shakespeare actually wrote Part 1: the prevailing view seems to be that he made a few adaptations to an already existing play..."

The Appendix of the New Folger Mowat-Werstine edition (2008) basically refuses to sort out this play's author(s), who might have collaborated on or written parts of the play. They regard Shakespeare's sole authorship as a 'convenience' without other proof.
Btw, is the "already existing play" the Harey Vj or something else?


message 19: by Betty (last edited Mar 05, 2010 05:48PM) (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Terence wrote: "...did anyone else get the sense that Shakespeare was rushing through scenes pell mell..."

"My Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet for a New Generation" (DVD,2005) makes a Shakespearean actor into a director of some London teenagers who will perform RJ at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). His advice to them is that they speak their lines as rapidly as possible. The quick pace will hold up the audience interest.
Also, how much stage scenery was there? Without much in the way of sets, language and movement carried the story of chaos. And, the location shifts as well as rivalry lead to what has been called an "action-packed" story. So, your finding that the play proceeds pell-mell is quite justified.

EDIT: Phyllis Rackin, A Modern Perspective, in New Folger, p260-61) concurs 1H6 depicts a "chaotic world". Specifically, old virtues have died, authority is divided, absence of a "strong...central character", etc. Her historical analysis could be explained in more detail.


message 20: by Martin (last edited Mar 03, 2010 09:07AM) (new)

Martin | 5 comments (Asmah, could you expand or correct those last two sentences of post 18, I don't quite understand...)

The question is, what is the nature of this supposed evidence? It seems to me it can only be stylistic. An editor who asserts that Act I is the work of Nashe would need to connect the style and ideas in Act I with Nashe's own works, and make a stronger association than the ones I made in post 15, since an attribution to Nashe is nowhere supported in the printing history of the play. Has this anywhere been done? The reason I'm sceptical is that there is a long history of S being denied authorship of sections of his plays because readers did not like them or did not understand them.

I think this is important: if we are to believe that this play is only marginally by S, it is not clear why we're reading it in the S reading group.


message 21: by Martin (new)

Martin | 5 comments I got the impression that 1H6 is an early Shakespearean play...

Yes, it is possibly his very first play, Asmah.


message 22: by Candy (last edited Mar 03, 2010 09:13AM) (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
I once read a very interesting book, back in 2000, called "Author Unknown" by Don Foster.

Foster made his name by helping to bulk up Shakespeare's C.V. with one more entry: As a doctoral candidate in the mid-'80s, he flagged a neglected Elizabethan funeral elegy as a lost work of Shakespeare's, and gradually invented a computer-assisted method of textual analysis to help prove his case. He's also the guy who fingered Joe Klein as the anonymous author of "Primary Colors." He's since worked on the Unabomber and JonBenet Ramsey cases, the Monica Lewinsky fiasco and numerous other high- and low-profile disputes of the who-wrote-what variety. From Salon.



It's a fun topic though...I can see why it interests some readers. For me, I take a leap of faith and

Perhaps this subject is worth a whole topic on its own in a separate section?

I started a topic here:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...


message 23: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 03, 2010 10:25AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Surely even Bill couldn't be brilliant every single line? The weak parts in an early play...couldn't they just be himself, but not quite on form?


message 24: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
Ah, good observation Old-Barbarossa.


message 25: by Martin (last edited Mar 03, 2010 10:50AM) (new)

Martin | 5 comments Certainly, Old Barb, and the question is not "did he write this when it's such a weak passage?", but "is this, after all, so weak?" Remember that all the plays we've read in this group so far (Macbeth, TWT, Cymbeline, AWTEW) have perfectly acceptable sections in them which "experts" have in the past rejected as non-Shakespearean.

(I'm a bit worried about the new topic you've created there, Candy ... )

Perhaps I shouldn't have started this ... I don't want to distract from the play. I will just end by saying that for my part I'm quite happy so far (Act I) to take it as Shakespeare, and would only change my opinion if I saw extremely compelling evidence to the contrary.


message 26: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Just about to start it so don't know if any of it is actually "weak" as far as I'm concerned.
I'm just looking from a groundlings perspective...carnage? wit? crossdressing? All I'm really concerned about is enjoying the read. The Hx accuracy of the play doesn't bother me, or the subtle changes of rhyme scheme.
Can we agree (at least on this thread) that old Bill wrote it and Hx accuracy can go hang...as long as we can enjoy the play?
After all, it was written to get "bums on seats".


message 27: by Betty (last edited Mar 05, 2010 06:02PM) (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Martin wrote: "...The question is, what is the nature of this supposed evidence? It seems to me it can only be stylistic. A..."

Hi, Martin,
The two publications seem to add to the authorship question. I think the first supports Nashe's involvement in the authorship. Vickers looks into Nashe's style and writings, criteria that you suggested. I didn't know that 'recension' differs from revision, but they are apparently different. The second apparently inquires into the collaboration that created 1H6 and builds on an important, earlier essay:
1. "This essay reexamines 1 Henry VI, bringing together and expanding the evidence that Nashe wrote Act 1. This attribution is based on the coincidence of several complex associations of idea and words in Nashe's work and in 1 Henry VI, some of which derive from books known to Nashe but not to Shakespeare. Stylistic markers shared by Nashe and the author of Act 1 include a staccato utterance, made up of short sentences and many questions; extensive syntactical inversion of subject and object; and distinctive prosodic features. The most likely scenario is that Nashe was involved in the first recension of the play, ca. 1592, and that Shakespeare took part in a revision, ca. 1594."
Project Muse description of Vickers, Brian.
Incomplete Shakespeare: Or, Denying Coauthorship in 1 Henry VI
Shakespeare Quarterly - Volume 58, Number 3, Fall 2007, pp. 311-352.

2. "...In Chapter 4 I conduct the first comprehensive assessment of Gary Taylor’s groundbreaking 1995 authorship hypothesis for the play and modify it significantly. The degree to which we are able to identify ‘who wrote what’ in the play is the concern of Chapter 5, where I conclude that The first Part of Henry the Sixt is Shakespeare’s revision of the play that appears in Philip Henslowe’s Diary as ‘harey the vj’; a play written by Thomas Nashe (Act 1) and an anonymous playwright (Acts 2–5) for Lord Strange’s company and first performed at the Rose theatre on 3 March 1592."
Abstract of thesis "WHEN harey MET SHAKESPEARE The Genesis of The First Part of Henry the Sixth" (U of Auckland 2005) by Paul J. Vincent.
I haven't formed any opinion about Shakespeare's authorship of 1H6. Until there is proof of authorship, readers and audiences will continue to enjoy the Shakespearean plays.

Re: The last lines of message 19. TWT had a number of opaque lines and Cym mythological allusions. We'll discover 1H6's complexities during this reading.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments Candy wrote: "Everyman, I wonder if the Elizabethan audience really did relate more to the tensions between state and Church than us? "

Actually, I do think so, since church leaders were very strongly involved in government affairs. Because the church still had pretty much a lock on higher education, many of the most prominent government officials were churchmen. And remember the experience of Henry VIII in fighting against church leaders in his attempts to validate his marriages.

Especially we in the US, who have never had an official church, don't have much experience with a society where the head of state is also the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. That title may be largely ceremonial today, but it wasn't in Elizabeth I's day.

In Henry VI in particularly, Winchester was very much after political power.


message 29: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 85 comments Have you noticed the great emphasis on Joan of Arc's witchcraft? It's obvious to Shakespeare's audience that no French army could ever defeat an English army in fair fight, so the French had to rely on witchcraft, on help from Satan to defeat the pure and noble English.

If you look for this bias it runs throughout almost all the passages dealing with the defeats of the English.

By the way, Joan of Arc wasn't from Arc at all. Her given name was Joan Darc, but somebody put an apostrophe in it to make her appear more aristocratic, so she because Joan D'Arc, and from that Joan of Arc. But really, she's plain old Joan Darc.


message 30: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 03, 2010 11:06PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Everyman wrote: "Have you noticed the great emphasis on Joan of Arc's witchcraft? It's obvious to Shakespeare's audience that no French army could ever defeat an English army in fair fight, so the French had to re..."

I think the emphasis on witchcraft to explain defeat is an example of fairly standard spin on events. If your forces launch a surprise attack it is a daring raid, if the enemy do it it is a cowardly sneak assault...if the English win it is due to longbows and the bravery of the men who have hearts of oak (or something similar), if France...look, she's a witch. The massacres of the French at Crecy and Agincourt are still remembered today, so would still have been fresh in the memory of old Bill's audience (being only a roughly similar distance in time from them as the US Revolutions or Civil war to us today). But most defeats are brushed under the carpet by the losing side as, amongst other things, they add nothing to the idea of strong Nationhood...unless you are the underdog and want to glory in the (over simplified) treachery that caused your defeat: see some Scots view of Culloden.
Also, I'd imagine that the fact that she was female would make it all the easier to resort to charges of witchcraft, rather than cowardly sneakyness or unchivalrous behaviour...a cunning woman that can outwit an army in battle? Obviously a witch.


message 31: by Betty (last edited Mar 08, 2010 09:02AM) (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Candy wrote: "I have found the moving between scenes and locations very exciting. I had no idea that Joan would be at all in this play, and right away...I felt more excitement about the ideas begun in these few ..."

I also didn't expect to find Joan in the play because the thought of females in the play didn't occur to me. There are three on the French side--Joan la Pucelle, Countess of Auvergne, Margaret of Anjou--and none on the English side. Joan is decidedly female, described better by the French than by the English. Her armor, strength, prophesying, and spirit raise her up from obedient daughter, a fertile woman, a strumpet, and a notable women. She plays the part of a messenger of the Virgin and a witch as well. Charles identifies her with two extraordinary females: an Amazon and Deborah:
"...Thou art an Amazon, / And fightest with the sword of Deborah."1.2
Deborah resembled Joan by invigorating the Israelites with fresh enthusiasm.
"Sisera, the leader of the Canaanite troops, brought out his chariots which terrified the Yisraelite infantry.
But Deborah encouraged her men and imbued them with such enthusiasm as to ensure victory. Barak was camping with his troops on Mount Tabor. 'Up!' she commanded him, 'For today is the day YAHWEH has put Sisera into your power. Yes, YAHWEH marches at your head.' The Yisraelites rushed down the hillside; panic-stricken, the enemy fled; part of the Canaanites fell by the edge of the sword; another part drowned in trying to cross the Kishon, at that time swollen as the result of a terrible but providential storm." Source: http://www.yahwehsword.org/s-david/05...
.
Marjorie Garber ("Shakespeare After All", p90) writes that 1H6 is "full of strong characters". Joan must be one of them even if she is not a main character. Or perhaps she is. Charles tries to identify her with great historical women but has to raise his sight to starry Venus:
"Was Mahomet inspired with a dove?
Thou with an eagle art inspired then. 141
Helen, the mother of great Constantine,
Nor yet Saint Philip's daughters were like thee.
Bright star of Venus, fall'n down on the earth,
How may I reverently worship thee enough?"1.2
Helen, Saint Philip's daughters, and Venus are probably identified in your playscript's commentary. Helen found Jesus's cross, Saint Philip had four virtuous daughters who prophesied, and bright Venus appears at dawn and dusk.
__________
Btw, within all the play's linear action and literal language, you found some well-turned passages. There might be more of them in later scenes.


message 32: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 06, 2010 01:10AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa I've got the RSC version of Complete Works, which has very good notes.
I just discovered, during 1:3 at the tower, that a "Winchester goose" is a syphilitic swelling in the groin. I'd read the act and wondered what Gloucester had said to the Bishop that was so insulting...now I know...having said that I suppose turning up team handed and demanding entrance to the tower didn't help things.
I shall try and use it in conversation...
See, it's not just complex poesy old Bill is good at. Love the Tudor insults. Imagine the crowd at the globe wincing at the phrases, happy in the knowledge a rammy was going to kick off.
Then there's all the smutty schoolboy sniggering from the French nobility when Charles is interviewing Joan out of their line of sight.
So far in my unlimited budget version Joan is played by Uma and dressed like the Bride in Kill Bill...and Talbot is Clint Eastwood as in Unforgiven.


message 33: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 06, 2010 03:22AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Old-Barbarossa wrote: "I just discovered, during 1:3 at the tower, that a "Winchester goose" is a syphilitic swelling in the groin. ..."

After a wee bit of reading and some google, this can also refer to a prostitute or client, 14 th century prostitutes in London were obliged to live in an area that was part of the Bishop of Winchester's lands. Their profession was legal and he would have raked in their rent...so Gloucester is using a cracking multi layered insult, calling the Bishop a pimp with a smelly crotch.
Hope I'm not lowering the tone too much, but I speak for the groundlings...not the poets.


message 34: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
Ha ha good work Barbarossa. What an insult. An fun old improv exercise we used to do was to make up Shakespearean sounding insults with posh accents.

Asmah said I also didn't expect to find Joan in the play because the thought of females in the play didn't occur to me. There are three on the French side--Joan la Pucelle, Countess of Auvergne, Margaret of Anjou--and none on the English side. Joan is decidedly female, described better by the French than by the English. Her armor, strength, prophesying, and spirit raise her up from obedient daughter, a fertile woman, a strumpet, and a notable women. She plays the part of a messenger of the Virgin and a witch as well. Charles identifies her with two extraordinary females: an Amazon and Deborah

Yes, I was surprised too. And that the three women you note I am very very curious how they are going to play out. I am curious how Shakespeares play is going to treat them and feel about their activities.

And how do we contrast Joan's association with powerful positive women...the accusation of witching with her being seen as guided by Christ's mother (one of her own claims in the play) to this...

OF WINCHESTER
Here's Gloucester, a foe to citizens,
One that still motions war and never peace,
O'ercharging your free purses with large fines,
That seeks to overthrow religion,
Because he is protector of the realm,
And would have armour here out of the Tower,
To crown himself king and suppress the prince.


Charging fines and taxes to overthrow religion. Very interesting.

I found Talbot to be almost composing some kind of mathematical riddle...again with numbers and counting. Numbers as poetry...I love it!

TALBOT
What chance is this that suddenly hath cross'd us?
Speak, Salisbury; at least, if thou canst speak:
How farest thou, mirror of all martial men?
One of thy eyes and thy cheek's side struck off!
Accursed tower! accursed fatal hand
That hath contrived this woful tragedy!
In thirteen battles Salisbury o'ercame;
Henry the Fifth he first train'd to the wars;
Whilst any trump did sound, or drum struck up,
His sword did ne'er leave striking in the field.
Yet livest thou, Salisbury? though thy speech doth fail,
One eye thou hast, to look to heaven for grace:
The sun with one eye vieweth all the world.
Heaven, be thou gracious to none alive,
If Salisbury wants mercy at thy hands!


I thought this was rather fun too...with his hair all raised up:

TALBOT
Hear, hear how dying Salisbury doth groan!
It irks his heart he cannot be revenged.
Frenchmen, I'll be a Salisbury to you:
Pucelle or puzzel, dolphin or dogfish,
Your hearts I'll stamp out with my horse's heels,
And make a quagmire of your mingled brains.
Convey me Salisbury into his tent,
And then we'll try what these dastard Frenchmen dare.



message 35: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
Everyman, funny, I felt very much like Joan was described very positively, not very much with witches except by Talbot. I think you are going to find Act 2 very interesting. Right away the French are saying that Talbot is aligned with hell!!!

So how wonderful we see in this play so early and so plainly the idea that two separate powers and countries believe they are protected by God. How very familiar this scenario is for us today!


message 36: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
This was a funny ditty...is it from a children's song? I tried to find out about it online...anyone know?


Between two hawks, which flies the higher pitch,
Between two dogs, which hath the deeper mouth,
Between two blades, which bears the better temper,
Between two horses, which doth bear him best,
Between two girls, which hath the merriest eye,
I have perhaps some shallow spirit of judgment;
But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.


And check this out...a series of the three plays...

http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=6qTK0...


message 37: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Loads of fight scenes in this play.
How would they have been done? The battles? Mainly off stage with shouts and banging and trumpets?
I can see a limited fight or duel being choreographed, or even done as sparring, but a battle?
Any production of Shakespeare I've seen live has had really rubbish fight scenes...Yuen Wo-Ping should have been designing them.


message 38: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Old-Barbarossa,

In addition to acting and directing, fight choreography was one of my most beloved disciplines in my theatrical days. I had been fencing for only about a year when I did Henry VI, Part 1 so I did not feel confident asking the director for the choreography job. Looking back, I should have because the fights were, in you excellent choice of words… rubbish. In live productions you often see what I call “Donald Duck fencing”, which is two swords going back and forth in an X pattern. No one ever fought like that in Shakespeare’s day (or any other day, for that matter). But I went on to do big battle scenes in Henry V and an original play about the Trojan War, as well as doing duels in Macbeth, an original piece about pirates, and two very different productions of Romeo and Juliet.

While Yuen Wo-Ping’s fights are fun, eye-popping, and boisterous, I would never advocate using him for a Shakespeare production. The difference between eastern and western swordsmanship is very plainly visible even to anyone who has never picked up a weapon. To see an example of just how unbearably silly historic westerners look doing Asian moves with rapiers, look at Peter Hyams’ ghastly The Musketeer (2001). Coming off the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon craze, everyone figured that was how fights ought to look no matter where or when they took place. The most interesting and fun thing about fight choreography is how different fights are from each other, depending on the setting.

In my opinion, the greatest fight choreographer who ever picked up a sword is William Hobbs. He started with the Alec Guinness classic, Damn the Defiant, in 1962 and has arranged fights for major productions up through 2005’s Casanova with Heath Ledger. He has also done stage and television over the years and, of course, teaches as well. His Shakespearean work stretches from Olivier’s Othello in 1965 to Zefirelli’s Hamlet in 1990. He is one of the very few choreographers to accurately tackle the 18th century French smallsword (demonstrated in 1977’s The Duellists and 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons) and his most interesting work may be when he paired a Scottish cleaver with a transition rapier in 1995’s Rob Roy. He also does some unusually interesting broadsword work (usually, a very dull and styleless weapon from an age before swordsmanship really became an art) in Robin and Marian and Excalibur. He is truly a legend in the world of fight choreography.

Two other names that are well known in fight direction are Rick Sordelet and B.H. Barry. Both have worked on Broadway as well as in film but, unlike Hobbs, are more famous for their stage work. Sordelet receives my vote for the single most overrated fight director in the business. He ruined the duel in Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre's otherwise excellent production of Hamlet in 1995 shortly before setting up the unbearably silly fights in the much reviled Broadway musical of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Barry, on the other hand, is a master. While his highest profile battles are in Edward Zwick's brilliant movie, Glory, I remember his rousing, painful, brawl scene in the 1996 revival of William Inge's Bus Stop on Broadway. That, incidentally, was the production in which Mary-Louise Parker met Billy Crudup.

B.H. Barry and William Hobbs both understand that a stage fight must be dangerous for the characters but safe for the actors. If the actors (or, God forbid, an audience member) are ever put in genuine danger, the audience will sense this and it will pull them out of the play as they start to worry about the real life that is in jeopardy. This is what Rick Sordelet has never managed to understand.

But, by now, I have surely told you more about whales than you wanted to know.


message 39: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Matthew wrote: "While Yuen Wo-Ping’s fights are fun, eye-popping, and boisterous, I would never advocate using him for a Shakespeare production..."

Not even if it was a Kung-Fu stylee production?
My tongue is firmly in cheek when suggesting him.
Reading your comment though I am struck by the fact that some of my favorite sword work on screen is all choreographed by the one man...William Hobbs. The fights look real and messy, rather than overly stylised. Thanks for the info.


message 40: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Forgive me, Old-Barbarossa, for not recognizing your comments as tongue-in-cheek. I'm bad about that sort of thing.


message 41: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Matthew wrote: "Forgive me, Old-Barbarossa, for not recognizing your comments as tongue-in-cheek. I'm bad about that sort of thing."

No bother. I ramble during comments and slip into colloquialisms, tending to type as I would talk.
My comments need not be taken too seriously...my mock outrage is usually brief, occasionally taking the pish out of myself, and meant in good humour.
I must go, Act 4 awaits me...this can't end well for many folk.


message 42: by Martin (last edited Mar 21, 2010 11:37PM) (new)

Martin | 5 comments Candy is rightly charmed by the sequence of images beginning,

between two hawks, which flies the higher pitch ...

in what is, I think, a scene which in itself is a mini-masterpiece. I'm sure a critical sceptic would see the naivety of the lines as un-Shakespearean, but as well as capturing the obsessions of contemporary youth (hawks, dogs, swords, horses and women), their dramatic significance is to show Warwick hesitating, when Richard is hoping he will commit himself to York. Hence Richard's reply,

Tut, tut, here is a mannerly forbearance.

The sense of confusion here is deliberate: we don't know what the legal case is, we don't know the characters, who are all new in this scene, and we don't see the divisions and realignment until it happens (York and Warwick versus Somerset and Suffolk). I may need to explain to some of the American readers that the Temple in London is an area for the law courts, and used to be the centre of a religious order,



This would have been at once familiar to S's contemporaries, and still echoes today. In the BBC version of the 1980s, the young men in this scene wear rich fashionable apparel, markedly distinct from the chain-mail of the earlier scenes. There is a study of S's "silences" in Kermode's Shakespeare's language, and one sees an example of that here, where the scene clearly begins (and may be followed by) significant on-stage silence,

Great lords and gentlemen, what means this silence?

and later,

Since you are tongue-tied and so loath to speak,
In dumb significants proclaim your thoughts.

To place this scene before the next, where Richard's claim to the throne is explained by Mortimer, instead of after it, is excellent. Our confusion adds to the dramatic tension. The confusion is increased for us by the use of family names -- Plantaganet, Poole, instead of the more familiar titles.

Poetically, the red/white contrast is exploited in every possible way. But note the use of "colour",

I love no colours, and without all colour
Of base insinuating flattery
I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet.

Red is a colour, while white is an absence of colour, but also "colour" here means, in the first quoted line, first "bias", and then "taint", and in warfare it meant the military ensigns and standards you follow. I think S is referring back to this scene in the strange exchange between Maria and Feste in Twelth Night,

Feste: Let her hang me: he that is well hanged in this world needs to fear no colours.
Maria: Make that good.
Feste: He shall see none to fear.
Maria: A good lenten answer: I can tell thee where that saying was born, of 'I fear no colours.'
Feste: Where, good Mistress Mary?
Maria: In the wars; and that may you be bold to say in your foolery.

Incidentally the idea of painting the red rosed white, in,

Prick not your finger as you pluck it off,
Lest bleeding you do paint the white rose red
And fall on my side so, against your will.

clearly (I now realise) is where the "painting the roses red" in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (in another garden scene) comes from.

I think you could go on finding things in this scene forever. I've read it over several times in the past week, and found more every time.


message 43: by Martin (new)

Martin | 5 comments There are still gardens attached to the Temple Courts. See for example

http://www.gardenvisit.com/landscape_...


message 44: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2537 comments Mod
Ha har! Barbarossa...a wild cross-ver might be kind of funny with an Asian acton flick feel to the Renaissance. (I am a fan of both A Knight's Tale and Shang High Noon movies which play with anachronisms)

Matthew, thanks for your experiences about sword fighting. I can see the value of studying fighting if the stereotype or lazy choreography is just x-sword boring. It is much like dancing to practice a good fight isn't it?

Martin, I too was noticing the colours in the scene you describe. I felt a sense of significance but wasn't sure where to start.

I took some of this dialogue to relate a little to what II was thinking as I read Everymn's post earlier. About the idea that we might paint an outside seen as different...but still the life is a common flower between the countries, no?

I took it to allude to "history depends on who tells the story" or depending on what side you are...is how you label the other sideOr difference.

It seems to me that the verses are messing around with how we measure and compare...in general.

I also read "colours" as "taint" or "bias"...in the sense of again, who is on what side deciding who/what battle is backed by God, or the "correct side".


message 45: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Is this the first ref to this looming civil war as The War Of The Roses? I know it's not explicitly named as such in the text, but assume the audience would get the ref...or is this just a poetic device old Bill introduces and only after is it known as TWOTR due to this scene? York and Lancaster didn't use roses as armorial devices in the 1400s.


message 46: by Martin (last edited Mar 11, 2010 12:31AM) (new)

Martin | 5 comments Barbarossa, I never knew the roses weren't used as armorial devices then. What we need is a mediaeval expert ... usually Asmah fills in the history for us, and Everyman seems pretty well informed here. My knowledge of this period is pretty terrible, and I'm not reading any edition with notes.

There is a danger of course that introducing too much historical background creates plot spoilers.

Anyway I had assumed the scene is a poetical explanation of the use of the roses in the War, but wikipedia suggests you are right here, and that the expression "wars of the roses" goes back to this scene in Shakespeare. Poetry power!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wars_of_...

Interesting, when you think how the symbols are alive still today. I once went to Bosworth (I'm from Leicestershire), and people had put white roses for Richard III on the memorial marking the battle site.

We can lose sight of the deliberate gaps in H6.1 through too much historical interpolation perhaps. For example, we know from Everyman's message #12 that Henry 6 is a baby when the play opens, but (as far as I can recall) Henry is not only absent in the first two acts, but is nowhere mentioned by name.

[Actually he is, once, "and then I shall proclaim young Henry king":]


message 47: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Martin wrote: "Barbarossa, I never knew the roses weren't used as armorial devices then. What we need is a mediaeval expert ... usually Asmah fills in the history for us, and Everyman seems pretty well informed h..."

Might have been faction badges, but fairly sure they weren't used in coats of arms. Think it was a boar and dragon or lion. Don't have ref works near by.


message 48: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Matthew wrote: "In addition to acting and directing, fight choreography was one of my most beloved disciplines in my theatrical days. I had been fencing for only about a year when I did Henry V..."

Your description of "fight choreography" by Yuen Wo-Ping, William Hobbs, Rick Sordelet, and B.H. Barry was informative about a behind-the-scenes specialty. Their contributions to a play or film are one reason for the exhaustive list of credits.


message 49: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Martin wrote: "...The sense of confusion here is deliberate: we don't know what the legal case is, we don't know the characters, who are all new in this scene, and we don't see the divisions and realignment until it happens...Our confusion adds to the dramatic tension. The confusion is increased for us by the use of family names -- Plantaganet, Poole, instead of the more familiar titles.
..."


Act 1's ties between Gloucester/Bedford and Exeter/Winchester were mostly clear from the New Folger's simplified family tree until Act 2 began. But, the extensive tree at Wikipedia's War-of-the-Roses site might help to clarify who's who in Acts 2-5.


message 50: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (languagelearner) Old-Barbarossa wrote: "...So far in my unlimited budget version Joan is played by Uma and dressed like the Bride in Kill Bill...and Talbot is Clint Eastwood as in Unforgiven...."

Interesting analogy. Dynamic Uma fits better the 1983 made-for-TV BBC version with Jane Howell's Joan than humorless Clint at least so far in Acts 1 and 2. Who can forget Talbot's guffaw when Countess Auvergne corners him?
The play is also dramatized on Arkangel audio CD.


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