Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0729. Tuesday, 9 October 1996.
Date: Sunday, September 29, 1996 11:55AM
Subject: The Mother of All Henry's Redux
I stayed awake!!! Not normally high praise for a play, but when the play in
question is a four hour combination of the Henry the 6th plays (and I was
operating on little sleep myself) I think it is high praise indeed.
Washington's Shakespeare Theatre is doing Henry the 6th condensed to fit into
one evening, a long evening; but if you've ever had a desire to see the H6
plays, I think this is the way to go. It seems like a cast of thousands, there
is a ton of doubling and tripling, and before it's over, there characters on
stage that I had no idea who they were. On of the more interesting doubles
seemed to me to be Glouster's wife, Eleanor and Edward IV's wife, Lady Grey.
Eleanor's thwarted ambition seems to live on and be realized in Lady Grey. The
boy playing young Henry the 6th in part 1 also returns to play Edward his son
in part 3, leaving you with the peculiar impression of Henry talking to himself
in the scenes they share. Necessity demands that there was a fair amount of
cutting, but I haven't quite figured out where yet. I know I saw less of Joan
of Arc than I remember. Which brings me to my questions:
First, what other Henry the 6th conflations have been tried, and how have they
It also struck me as odd, that in this mess of characters, there doesn't seem
to be any heros (maybe Gloucester, who dies early) and definitely no "central"
perspective to pull you through the play. You would think, as the title
character, Henry would provide some sort of reflecting point for all the action
and the players, but he is so weak and he seems to disappear for long
stretches; I have a hard time caring about him.
Lastly, there seem to be a number of instances of superstition: Joan summoning
demons, Eleanor at the fortune tellers, even the trial by combat of Horner and
Peter. In each case (at least in this staging) they were revealed to be false
superstitions; Joan's demons never come, the fortune tellers are obvious fakes
and God plays no role in Peter's defeat of Horner. Nevertheless, at the
conclusion of Peter's defeat of Horner, Henry declares, God in justice hath
revealed to us the truth and innocence of this poor fellow." It left me
feeling that Henry's religion is also being held out as a mere superstition.
Has anyone commented on the occurrence of Magic in H6 or Shakespeare's
Like I said, it playing in Washington DC and I recommend it. I particularly
enjoyed the performance of Margaret and York and a really weasely Richard
(almost III). There's a Starbucks down the street, you may want to stop by on
your way in.