Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reader's Diary #303- William Shakespeare: The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth (FINISHED)

While it was just a typo that had me searching for "King Henry the Sith" the other night, it then occurred to me how Shakespearean Star Wars themes are. But thanks to some geeks wonderful people out there, that's been explored more than necessary sufficiently already.

And why was I searching for King Henry the Sixth in the first place? Because I had finished the second part and honestly, didn't really understand it. I'm not the first student of Shakespeare to go running for Cliff Notes or the Internet I'm sure. For what it's worth, I don't have a problem with those things as long as they are used in tandem, not in lieu of.

My biggest problem was keeping everyone in order. With all the dukes and earls I found it exceedingly difficult to keep track of who each one was. I did grasp that just about everyone was after King Henry's throne, and that at least, made it a little easier to understand. But then, the intricacies of each plot would have remained tangled for me had it not been for some great summaries I found online- and in hindsight, those made me appreciate the play a little more.

I still don't think it was one of his better plays. At times I found the abundance of metaphors laughable. Take this particular speech by King Henry:

"And thinks he that the chirping of a wren,
By crying comfort from a hollow breast,
Can chase away the first-conceived sound?
Hide not thy poison with such sugar'd words:
Lay not thy hands on hands on me; forbear, I say;
Their touch affrights me as a serpent's sting."

A wren, poison, and a serpent all within a few lines of one another? These wanton figurative forays made it so remembering the literal-that King Henry believes the Duke of Suffolk might be a murderous liar- was almost as hard as keeping all the characters in track.

Asides from that, my only other issue was the same as I had for the first part of this play a while back: that King Henry sucks as a title character. Asides from everyone trying to get rid of him, he's a pretty dull guy (and a lousy leader to boot). If it wasn't for Queen Margaret (why are so many of Shakepeare's female characters the most interesting in the play?) and the psychopathic John Cade, I'd say the play was a complete bust. Fortunately those two made it entertaining enough to hold my (albeit confused) interest.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I don't know this play at all, to tell you the truth, but I would actually watch King Henry the Sith.

Jodie Robson said...

I think you've probably put your finger on why it isn't performed very often!

(Just love "wanton figurative forays"...)

John Mutford said...

Barbara: As would I!

Geraniumcat: Though seeing it performed would probably help keep the characters separated better.