Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2 Henry 6: Act 2, Scenes 2-4


here's how the saga in unfolding:
Richard is hanging out at his house with Salisbury and Warwick. he explains to them in detail why he, and not Henry, is the rightful heir to the throne. a lot of it is mush in my brain, but what i do understand, i will explain below. Warwick and Salisbury pledge their allegiance to Richard. Richard tells them to lay low because all those other guys are just going to destroy each other anyway. Warwick re-affirms his allegiance, and Richard promises Warwick that he will be his right hand man when he is crowned.
in scene 3, a trial is held for Eleanor, the witch, and the others that helped with the conjuring. the witch is burnt, the others are strangled, and Eleanor is banished. (fair, right?) Gloucester is completely distraught. Henry tells him that the best thing to do would be to give up his post, and he does so graciously. (see quote below.) the Queen Margaret acts super... ahem... witchy as usual, and York changes the subject. for some reason i can't quite figure out, the armorer and his servant (remember the guy accused of treason?) come in to duel. the armorer is drunk, so he loses. Henry says this was God's way of revealing the truth and sentences him to death.
in the last scene of the act, poor Gloucester has a lovely moment when he talks about the fleeting quality of happiness. he sees his wife paying penance in the streets and is much aggrieved. she kind of half warns him that everyone is after him, but it seems like he can't quite accept that. he is summoned to court mysteriously and Eleanor is taken away to serve her life of banishment.

here's what i've figured out about bloodlines (read as a family tree):

                                                          Edward 3

Edward       William       Lionel (Clarence)       John (Lancaster)       Edmund (York)       Thomas      William

Richard I                       Richard somehow     Henry 4
                                     comes from this
                                     line but i don't           Henry 5
                                     quite get it yet.
                                                                      Henry 6

so you see, if our Richard somehow comes from the line of Edward's third son, he would be ahead for the throne I guess?

i am intrigued by all the talk of witchcraft. maybe it's because i'm working on a show about women accused of witchcraft. women accused of it basically had no way to get out of it. it's the go-to way of getting rid of someone. crazy! just quote the Bible and there you go. i wonder if Shakespeare will make a theme of this. i mean, obviously we have the witches in Macbeth, but other than that? in rehearsal we talk about unruly women. (and we've been talking about that too, yes?) to get rid of an unruly woman, you accuse them of witchcraft. i know we're not getting into witch trials here, but that persecution is still evident. hmm... let's see...

not entirely sure why, but Gloucester is my favorite character. he seems to have the best head on his shoulders to me. he's loyal and unambitious. he's genuine. so, of course, he's the one who gets dragged down. of course. with my luck, he'll die in the next act.

quote of the day:
'as willingly do i the same resign
as ere thy father Henry made it mine;
and even as willingly at thy feet i leave it
as others would ambitiously receive it.
farewell, good King. when i am dead and gone,
may honorable peace attend thy throne!'
     -Gloucester; act 2, scene 3

for tomorrow: act 3, scenes 1 and 2

-rebecca may


  1. Many people are afraid of what they don't understand. I like the hypocrisy of the guys using the info they gained from the witch, even though they arrest her. (Maybe it's more opportunistic than hypocritical.) And I love how losing a duel proved the armorer's guilt in committing a capital crime. Trusting such signs seems like fortune-telling to me, but I guess calling the trusted power God sanctifies the act. However, it would be blasphemy if the accused witch said she consulted God.

  2. This reminds me a bit of the witch hunts in Massachussetts. They would throw a suspected witch in the river and if they drowned, they were proved innocent. They were dead, but their reputations were unsullied.

    Witchcraft was a recurrent theme in the works of Plautus in the Roman theatre and Shakespeare borrowed liberally from his work.

    Interestingly enough, the afore alluded to witch trials (especially the ones we know so well in Salem) parallel the time line of Shakespeare's wrtings of this time. The Crucible is set in 1592. It is believed that Shakespeare wrote this play in 1591. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

  3. Not to be mistaken with the fact that this particular play is historically placed in the early 1400s--the War of the Roses, which it documents so well in the Henry trilogy and supplements in Richard III, ran from 1455 to about 1485 (or close enough) from Henry V, through Henry VI and into the beginning of the reign of Henry VII. Fighting between the two factions of Plantagents--Yorks and Lancasters is documented as far back as 1422.

    Richard III, btw, was born in 1452 so he was three when the war started. It was all he knew. But I have a lot to say about that one when we read it.

  4. susan and dani! really awesome input. seriously. thank you! keep it up!
    also, Vinegar Tom (the play i'm working on right now) takes place in the 17th century, but the book Malleus Maleficarum, The Hammer of Witches that is referenced in the play was written before Shakespeare's time and probably would have been known to him. it's cool how things connect.