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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Henry, Earl of Richmond
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1695  Friday, 10 September 2004

From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Sep 2004 08:12:47 EDT
Subject: 15.1682 Henry, Earl of Richmond
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1682 Henry, Earl of Richmond

 >>why did Shakespeare never write a history play on Henry
 >>VII (there's actually an article with this question, I think).
 >
 >I had always assumed that it was because a Henry VII play would be:
 >a) too boring (efficient, ruthless government not a good draw)
 >b) too dangerous (at least during Elizabeth's reign) or see a).

As to reason a), Henry Bolingbroke and Richard Gloucester were purveyors
of ruthless government but were not deemed too boring for dramatization.
Furthermore, Robert Wilson [perhaps with others unnamed] wrote two parts
of *Henry Richmond* for the Lord Admiral's players in 1599. A bit of the
plot of Part II survives. [See Foakes & Rickert's ed. of Henslowe's
Diary, pp. 126, 287-8.]  Apparently the play began with Henry's
encounter with Richard III, but since the plot breaks off after Act I
the rest of their treatment of Henry's story is lost.

Due to reason b) one presumes that Wilson's Henry Richmond plays
provided a positive slant on his person and reign. For a more nuanced
Henry, we have to wait for John Ford's *Perkin Warbeck", written after
the Tudors were gone.

Of course Shakespeare did write of Henry Richmond, in the last acts of
*Richard III*.  But by 1600 he had written 10 English history plays in
perhaps 10 years, wanted to turn his attention elsewhere, and just
didn't feel compelled to devote an entire play to the subject.

Bill Lloyd

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