Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February Reviews and Comments

Overall, I think I enjoyed this second part of Henry VI much better than the first. It was definitely more cohesive and it also gave me more of a sense of Henry as a king. The general trajectory of the play consisted of the powers behind the throne(Queen Margaret, Suffolk, the Cardinal, and York) plotting to get rid the only good guy besides the king, Humphrey of Gloucester, the Lord protector. Once he was killed, everything unravels until only the Queen and York are left--Suffolk is beheaded by a pirate and the Cardinal dies raving about Gloucester's ghost.

Throughout, I felt sorry for King Henry partly because he was powerless but also because he clearly loved and revered Gloucester. He consistently defends him but when he is arrested he bemoans his inability to do anything and trusts that somehow he'll make it through his trial. Part of me wanted to shake him and remind him that he was king, for goodness sake!, but at the same time, he little suspected that his other trusted advisors would have him killed. After Gloucester's death, he does banish one of the malefactors, Suffolk, but still holds out hope for the Cardinal to make a good death and trust in God. I think that at that point he was casting pearls before swine. Throughout, Shakespeare shows that his heart was not in ruling but that he would have done better as a monk. At one point, he has Henry say, "Was never subject long'd to be a king as I do long and wish to be a subject." Iden, a foil for the king, rhapsodizes over his simple, quiet life on his country estate and yet even he is thrust into the court life when he kills the rebel Jack Cade.

I was also struck by how little the queen tried to hide her malice and her love for Suffolk (perhaps invented by Shakespeare). When Gloucester's death is discovered, she doesn't even pretend to comfort her husband who swoons (again, not very kingly) but laments that Henry does not care for her in the same way as he does for Gloucester. She claims he would rather her be dead and that her difficult journey to England was for nothing. However, this "difficult" journey cost the English people 15% of their income and earned her father two territories in France, thanks to Suffolk. Also, when Suffolk is banished, she begs for his release and also grieves openly upon his death.

Not many lines stood out in terms of poetry but I did enjoy the pirate lieutenant's description of night:

The gaudy, blabbing, and remorseful day
Is crept into the bosom of the sea;
And now loud-howling wolves arouse the jades
That drag the tragic melancholy night;
Who with their drowsy, slow, and flagging wings
Cleep dead men's graves, and from their misty jaws
Breathe foul contagious darkness in the air.

The perfect setting for their evil deeds of murdering Suffolk and dealing with their other prisoners.

I realize I didn't really touch on York here but I guess his treachery seemed like a prelude to the next play so I'll address that more after I read the last part of Henry VI (hurray!).

Sorry it's taken me so long to post this! Please link to your reviews of the plays you've been reading this month using Mr. Linky below.


  1. I am definitely not a Shakespeare scholar so make some recommendations on what I should read next.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation of Mid Summers or Much Ado. I think I will try those next.

  3. Thanks for the linky! I finished Lear but haven't gotten to my Lear-related content (A Thousand Acres and a stage production.)

  4. I accidentally linked to the wrong linky... ooops. I've just finished Macbeth, but haven't reviewed yet. I think I need to rest my brain.