Sunday, January 9, 2011

The First Part of King Henry the Sixth Background Info


oh boy. the histories begin. i want to read the sets together, so basically the next 3 plays will be histories. i hope i dig Henry 6 or it's going to be a lonnnnng month. the good news is i liked Henry V way back when and i LOVE Richard III. should be a good sign, right?

a little history:
during the 15th century in England, civil war was tearing the country apart. these Wars of the Roses stemmed from dispute between 2 ruling families- the Yorks and the Lancasters. see what had happened was that Henry IV gained the throne by having his cousin Richard II executed. it was believed by many that this act brought God's wrath upon England. the unfortunate sequence of events that occured afterward were thought to be punishment from God for England's 'ambition, arrogance, and disloyalty.' (496) Henry V died unexpectedly and Henry VI (for which our play was named) took the throne as an infant. in later years, Henry VI's right to the throne was challenged by Richard and war broke loose.
so there's a basic bit of back story. not too painful.

i see from the cast list that there are 40-something characters. and only 2 women. so i guess our examination of Shakespeare's development of female characters will have to be put on pause. interesting though that so far we have poorly-developed women in 2 of his works and now a piece removing the female equation all together. i repeat that i understand the time period and the role of women during that time, but i am looking to see how women develop across the canon.

i think it's important for us to realize that these 3 Henry VI plays may not have been written in this order. some suggest that this first play we are about to read was actually written last of the 3. we can talk more about this later, but i wanted to point it out. of course i chose to read them 1, 2, 3 rather than 2, 3, 1 so that my brain doesn't explode. i hope that's cool with everyone reading this, which may in fact be no one, but what are you gonna do?

it is also possible that these plays were co-authored in one way or another. it is hard to say what is true, but the idea is noted. it is probable that it is in great part due to these plays that history plays became so popular in England. get it Shakespeare.

all right, let's do this. i believe in us and our ability to not get lost in the events of this play. go team!

quote of the day:
'why oh why did i give myself so much reading for tomorrow? it's the first day of school and rehearsal. crap crap crappedy crappp.'
-me; day 9, lines 1123-1790

for tomorrow: 1 Henry VI, act 1


  1. Funny quote.

    I just remembered (because I tend to forget) that boys played all of the women then. I wonder how that may have limited the number of female characters written in the plays.

  2. what was the whole deal with people getting a punishment from God for England's ambition?

  3. i think people thought that they were being punished because the ambition was selfish. for instance, Henry killed a family member out of ambition. England was attempting to expand its empire through war. these negative actions were thought by some to be punishable by God. so different from how most people think of things now!

  4. How can you determine which play came first? And how it would be easier to understand the situations in chronological order?

    I agree, people were being punished because of the attempt of expansion regarding any consequences, at least thats what i absorb from the previous comment.

  5. It's amazing to see how religion doesn't change much, although people do think differently now, there's still people that think God is punishing the innocents because of government and societal behavior

  6. I agree Daniela, with your last comment. There are many that believe that AIDS is an act of God punishing people for homosexuality, despite the statistics on heterosexuals and even infants that are infected. I have heard comments after every natural disaster that God is "punishing" people. I don't believe in a punishing God. I do believe in the free will choices of mankind that create horrendous situations--epidemic disease, rampant promiscuity etc.

    If we want to reflect on ruthless ambition, wait until Macbeth AND Richard III. Ambition runs amouck (how do you spell that?)in those plays in particularly but in many of the others as well. The Tempest comes to mind.