The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1256 Tuesday, 7 May 2002
From: Brian Willis <
Date: Monday, 6 May 2002 10:57:46 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Henry VI
I would love to discuss the Henry VI plays. I think that the plays are
highly underrated and highly underperformed, so much so that when they
are performed, one wonders why they are not performed more often.
I suppose one reason for this is that they are 3 plays. Hard to perform
all three if you are not the RSC or a very dedicated Shakespeare
company. It takes a lot of time to condense them into one or two plays
as well. Also to consider is the extreme condensation of time and the
intricate nature of the relations between characters.
Henry VI has some remarkable characters. First of these, and usually
forgotten amongst the great Shakespearean characters, is Queen Margaret.
Usually, she's "that crazy old woman" from Richard III or just cut. When
you do the entire sequence, it's hard to ignore this monumental
character. She ranges from quiet exploited innocent Frenchwoman to
adulterer and schemer to warrior-woman to butcher to poignant and
battered to defeated and heart broken. Absolutely stunning.
Henry VI is underrated because his role takes all of an actor's subtlety
and range to play. Richard Duke of York is powerful and heroic, yet also
scheming (wonderfully played by Clive Wood at the RSC last year). The
plays can be a bit uneven at times, but there are moments of profound
feeling and dramatic power which are difficult for me to forget. To this
date, one of my ultimate theatrical experiences has been seeing these
plays performed in sequence.
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