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TOPIC: First notes, Henry VI, Part Three

First notes, Henry VI, Part Three 4 months 2 weeks ago #7448

  • Steve Minkin
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Let's look at the last Wednesday in August for our reading of 3HVI, August 30.

Joe M's schedule for his translation of the next Venetian operatic revival is more forgiving than he anticipated. Unfortunately we will lose Linda on that late August date – she will be headed north to a prime viewing area for the total eclipse. Let me know if any of the rest of you have problems with that date.

This third of the the Henry VI plays picks up where Part II left off, with York in ascendancy and the King and Queen beating a hasty retreat out of town.

There is a particularly poignant pair of set pieces in II, v on the horrors of civil war – a son enters, realizing that he has just killed his father; a father enters a few lines later, realizing he has just killed his son.

This play sees the emergence to full power of the two heavyweights of the First Tetralogy – Queen Margaret and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (son of York and the future Richard III).

At the midpoint of the play, III, ii, Richard (Gloucester) makes a revealing speech ("Shakespeare's first great soliloquy." Auden), noting that he was not born to be a lover:

"Why, love forswore me in my mother’s womb;
And for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,
To shrink mine arm up like a wither’d shrub,
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size,
To disproportion me in every part,
Like to a chaos, or an unlick’d bear-whelp
That carries no impression like the dam.
And am I then a man to be belov’d?
O monstrous fault, to harbor such a thought!
Then since this earth affords no joy to me
But to command, to check, to o’erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I’ll make my heaven to dream upon the crown,
And whiles I live, t’ account this world but hell,
Until my misshap’d trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown."

He notes that many people stand between him and the throne, but he will mow them all down, and while he does so he can
" . . . smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'Content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
I’ll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall . . ."

This is the play that Greene referenced with his "...there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country." (Greenes' Groats-worth of Witte, bought with a million of Repentance -- 1592)

The lines reference York describing Margaret. York has just learned that the Queen has killed his son Rutland, and she now offers him a handkerchief dipped in Rutland's blood to dry his tears. York says:
"O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide!
How couldst thou drain the lifeblood of the child,
To bid the father wipe his eyes withal,
And yet be seen to bear a woman's face?
Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible;
Thou stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.
Bid'st thou me rage? Why, now thou hast thy wish.
Wouldst have me weep? Why, now thou hast thy will."
I, iv

In the play's next to last scene, Richard confronts King Henry, who tells him
"Thy mother felt more than a mother's pain,
And, yet brought forth less than a mother's hope,
To wit, an indigested and deformed lump,
Not like the fruit of such a goodly tree.
Teeth hadst thou in thy head when thou wast born,
To signify thou camest to bite the world"
V, vi

Two lines later, Richard stabs him to death, and a few lines after that he explains why he will have no problems with eliminating his two brothers en route to the throne:
"I have no brother, I am like no brother;
And this word 'love,' which graybeards call divine,
Be resident in men like one another
And not in me: I am myself alone."

Let me know if that late August date doesn't work for you.

Thanks,
Steve

Peggy Seeger:

Pepper Adams:
Last Edit: 4 months 2 weeks ago by Steve Minkin.
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