Friday, June 14, 2013

Weeks 4 & 5, King Henry VI Parts 3 & 1

In which we--oh hey, what's that over there?

Okay, everyone, I'm back. You can stop panicking. I got a late start last week and as I was feeling sort of generally uninspired I thought I'd do a combined entry on King Henry VI Part 3 and Part 1. Reading Part 3 and then Part 1 may sound like utter nonsense, but that's the order in which Shakespeare supposedly wrote the plays. At least according to the source I'm using, which is the Wikipedia article on the subject (it uses the chronology from the Oxford Shakespeare but notes that all the major collections of Shakespeare's work have presented different chronologies but that "none of the major chronologies has any real authority over any of the others").

Now for the portion of our program where I wish I could draw, because I don't have anything in particular to say about these plays. They're sort of boring, honestly. In Part 3, we've got a billion scheming characters double crossing each other and then getting themselves killed. Not to mention the kind of confusion one experiences when there is a character named Prince Edward but there's also another Edward who is supposed to actually inherit the crown due to the politically un-bright but sort of honorable deal Henry VI makes with the Duke of York. That's Richard Plantagent, Duke of York, not to be confused with Richard Plantagent,  who becomes Duke of Gloucester (not to be confused with Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), who later becomes Richard III. That's the second Richard who becomes Richard III. Richard's son Richard. Not Richard's father Richard. Got it? Okay. Good.

In Part 1, I mostly found myself not giving a fuck because I'd just watched all the characters die either in Part 2 or in Part 3. The characters who hadn't died in Parts 2 or 3 proceeded to die in Part 1. Honestly, there's so much death in these plays that I can only remember who's alive at the end because I've read Richard III. Contributing to my dearth of fucks to give is the fact that this is Not His Best Work. I mean, I have to assume that some people get REALLY into these, because it's Shakespeare, and bad Shakespeare is still okay, but man, some of this was just a chore. Witness this passage when John Talbot goes to help his dad in a hopeless military situation and Talbot tells his son to get the eff outta here:

TALBOT: Upon my blessing I command thee go.

JOHN: To fight I will, but not to fly the foe.

TALBOT: Part of thy father may be saved in thee.

JOHN: No part of him but will be shame in me.

TALBOT: Thou never hadst renown, nor canst not lose it.

JOHN: Yes, your renowned name: shall flight abuse it?

TALBOT: Thy father's charge shall clear thee from that stain.

JOHN: You cannot witness for me, being slain.
             If death be so apparent then both fly.

TALBOT: And leave my followers here to fight and die?
                  My age was never tainted with such shame.

JOHN: And shall my youth be guilty of such blame?
--King Henry VI Part 1 4.4.36-47

That's just an excerpt of the rhyming couplets from that scene; it goes on for pages, or I guess minutes. Shakespeare as Fezzick. At first, I thought the elevated stress on form was meant to reflect the elevated sentiment of both characters, but the other character to use rhyming couplets in the play (Joan of Puzel, better known as Joan of Arc) turned out to be a witch and a coward, so I don't know what to think.

On the bright side, I'm pretty sure I found the most hilariously bad sentence in all of Shakespeare. Ready? Here you go:

"O, were mine eyeballs into bullets turned,
That I in rage might shoot them at your faces."
--King Henry VI Part 1 4.4.191-192

Just imagine I've drawn a hilarious cartoon of someone's eyeballs popping out of their head like bullets and hitting someone in the face.

NEXT WEEK: Titus Andronicus, which will be way more entertaining, if for no other reason than that I'll have more media.

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