Sunday, January 23, 2011

2 Henry 6: Act 1, Scenes 1-3


for your sake, as well as mine, i am trying to figure out who is who and who everyone is allied with. i don't have it worked out yet, but i will fill this in more clearly as i go. here's what i have so far:

Lancaster (red rose)               York (white rose)                       anti-Henry's with questionable alliances
Henry VI                                Richard, Duke of York               Buckingham and Somerset
Gloucester- ally                       Salisbury- ally?                           Suffolk
                                               Warwick- son of Sal & ally?      Cardinal (formerly known as Winchester)

this might not be terribly helpful yet, but i will try and pin this thing down.
okay. here we go:
our play begins in the royal court of London.  Suffolk has brought Margaret to England for Henry, who is very happy with her. she appears to feel the same. Suffolk presents Henry with the deal he made with Reignier and everyone is totally pissed off. they're mad that Henry married this poor nobody, gave up Reignier's lands, and called for a truce with France for 18 months. most of the people at court feel that all the fighting that Henry V and all of them did for all that time was for nothing. even Gloucester is displeased. Richard feels like Henry is incompetent and he would handle all of this much differently. after Gloucester leaves, the Cardinal tells everyone to watch out for Gloucester. he is the next in line for the crown, after all. after he leaves, Somerset and Buckingham decide to also be wary of Cardinal. after they leave, Salisbury and his son Warwick decide to play friends with Gloucester and be careful with all of them. and after they leave, Richard complains that he has to sit around waiting while Henry screws everything up. he is anxious to gain the crown. (see quote below.)
in scene 2, we move to Gloucester's house. G is upset over a dream he had and shares it with his wife, Eleanor. he dreamt that his badge of rank (as Protector of Henry) is ripped in half by the Cardinal and that the heads of Somerset and Suffolk are on the two broken pieces. freaky stuff. Eleanor shares her dream, in which Gloucester has all the power and she is the queen instead of Margaret. Gloucester chides her, but she tells him it was only a dream. he leaves and we learn that her ambitions are true. she plans to gain that power somehow. a messenger comes in from the cunning woman and conjurer she sent him to. they told him that the answers to Eleanor's questions about gaining the throne will be answered by spirits. she is pleased. after she leaves, this messenger admits that he was paid by Suffolk and the Cardinal to tell her that. they are on to her, and will bring her down.
in scene 3 we head back to court, where Margaret complains to Suffolk about Henry. she doesn't understand why Gloucester has so much sway with him and wishes Henry was more like Suffolk. she also HATES Eleanor. Suffolk tells her not to worry, to pretend like everything is a-ok, and eventually they will 'weed them' all out. (line 99) Henry comes in, trying to choose a regent to France. York and Somerset both vie for the position. everyone fights about it and Eleanor and Margaret have a little cat fight. then Suffolk brings in a man who accuses his master of treason. according to this person, his master was saying he wished Richard was king instead of Henry. the master denies it, but it still seems fishy to everyone. Gloucester advises Henry to send Somerset to France in light of this suspicious activity. he also advises to have the master and accuser duel each other to settle this argument. Henry agrees and all exit.
the name of the game for me right now is to juggle all these names and really understand what the hell is going on. if we can do this, we can get through this play. if anyone has any insight as we go, please share! if anyone has questions, please ask! this is a forum for questioning as much as it is for sharing.

we have two new female characters, right? Eleanor, the duchess/wife of Gloucester and Margaret, the new queen. as of right now, i can't distinguish any major differences between the two. they are both power-hungry and seem to care little for their husbands. they are super sneaky and definitely don't follow the rules. let's see how these characters flesh out before we get into this.

quote of the day:
'watch thou and wake when others be asleep,
to pry into the secrets of the state
till Henry, surfeiting in joys of love
with his new bride and England's dear-bought queen,
and Humphrey with the peers be fall'n at jars.
then will i raise aloft the milk-white rose,
with whose sweet smell the air shall be perfumed,
and in my standard bear the arms of York,
to grapple with the house of Lancaster;
and force perforce i'll make him yield the crown,
whose bookish rule hath pulled fair England down.'
     -Richard, Duke of York; act 1, scene 1

for tomorrow:
act 1, scene 4 and act 2, scene 1

-rebecca may


  1. Attempting to keep track of these various alliances and counterplots seems like diagramming sentences. (Do students still do that?) I'm realizing how it's sometimes easier to remember characters when watching them on stage or screen. (Ex: Okay, the one with the bushy hair is X, and he's plotting against the king. The one with the scruffy goatee is Y, and he's a double agent.) If I were reading this play, I might come up with a color coding system for the key players to give me a visual cue. (Ex: I underline X's name with red before each of his lines and highlight Y's name in yellow.)

  2. susan, i think it's really important for anyone reading shakespeare to come up with a system for remembering all the names. for me, writing them down in my own writing in columns or clumps works. color coding is a good idea too. family trees might work as well. point is, coming up with a system is key. if you don't figure it out right away, you will be lost the whole time!

  3. Usually, I write it all down--a page for each alliance. Heck, i figure if we can keep track of all the alliances and misalliances in television shows like Survivor or Big Brother, we should be able to keep track of Sheakespeare.

    Seriously though, there are some appendices to Shakespearean literature that have these diagrams already completed, and while it is not quite as crafy and fun as doing your own, they are generally easy to follow, pretty to look at and much less time consuming for those who are pressed in such a fashion.

  4. I thought about "Survivor" the other day when I was reading one of Rebecca's descriptions of the various alliances in this play.