Shakespeare's HenRy VI
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These plays are most definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Slow Moving Giants
However, he is a human being; and this means that sometimes he chooses play material that stretches the regular human brain a little too far for comprehension. I love Shakespeare--like all authors who have written prolifically, I like some of his plays better than others. I have just learned, for example, why we rarely see more of Henry VI trilogy being performed in theaters. It is absolutely enormous--the entire tale is actually split into three plays, and it spans at least two countries. Chronicling England's history from the death of Henry V though the end of the War of Roses and then to the rise of power of Henry VII, this trilogy of plays make a ridiculous, highly politically intricate, and slow-moving giant. This, coupled with Shakespeare's always gorgeous and sometimes hard-to-comprehend language, makes it a sometimes cumbersome read. These plays are most definitely not for the faint-hearted, as they stretch the brains of even more seasoned Shakespeare readers almost to breaking point. Nor is it for a busy Shakespeare reader, someone who likes to get through an act or so on the train and has forgotten precisely what is going on in the story between the first and second train ride. In a play like Henry VI, that kind of forgetfulness (not at all Shakespeare's fault and all to do with my own stupidity) necessitates a lot of going back and re-reading. It also requires a lot of referring to the list of characters provided at the front of the script, just to remind myself every once in a while who is who. When dealing with this many characters, and when their relationships with each other are so important politically, that list was extraordinarily helpful. And still, I felt sometimes that the reading was going far too slowly for my liking.
All that said, I'm glad I read them. I am also probably not going to read them again anytime soon. The Henrys are the plays to read maybe once or twice so that you can say you have, and then it's time to move on to friendlier Shakespeare. As I said, he is brilliant and I love his work. But he was a human being, just like the rest of us.
Shawn Palmer, : Shawn Palmer, a Magna Cum Laude graduate from Connecticut College, is an actor, writer, and singer. While at school she was a frequent soloist with the Connecticut College Orchestra and understudied several roles with the Connecticut Lyric Opera. She also studied away at the British American Drama Academy during her junior year. Acting credits include Catherine (Proof) and Lucia (Mad Forest). In college she worked as a writing tutor, and her play Amontillado (based on Edgar Allan Poe's short... (more...)