This week we continued with the Second Part of Henry the VI. At the time this was written it was actually the first of two parts, instead of the middle installment. I cannot disagree with the scholars who claim the first part is the weaker of the plays. The second part definitely felt much stronger.
While the conflict in the first part focuses on England trying to maintain control of France, the conflict in these two parts is entirely internal as various nobles begin to make power plays and achieve control.
For this play I read it myself first, then re-read it while listening to the Arkangel Shakespeare production. If you ever have the opportunity to listen to these audio productions, I highly recommend it. I’m not typically one for audio books, but the fact is: Shakespeare was meant to be heard, not read. Listening to the language gives phrases a whole new mean and helps you understand in a way you can’t just by reading the text. The Arkangel productions are especially well done. And the Henry the VI plays have the added bonus of David Tennant as Henry VI.
One random thought I couldn’t avoid while reading this play: was Eleanor’s walk of shame the inspiration for the writers of Game of Thrones? (Though Cersei’s walk was much more humiliating – nearly to the point of making me actually feel sorry for her. Nearly.) Or was this a typical punishment for women at the time? I haven’t done much research, and it wasn’t mentioned in either of the commentaries I’ve read.
I’m also extremely interested in Queen Margaret. On the one hand, she seems to manipulative to be likable, but on the other hand she is strong-willed and knows what she wants. I love strong female characters, so I’m extremely interested to see what happens with her in the next installment (and though I’ve read Richard III years ago, I do not remember her character, so I’m curious about her there as well).
Overall this play was very exciting, and had many elements of of what would make a great summer blockbuster today – love triangles, battles, death scenes, demons.