BB: Richard II, Act IV

Artwork - Daniel J. Rowe
Artwork – Daniel J. Rowe

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! (trumpets sound)

This week, we bring you act IV of Shakespeare’s The Life and Death of Richard the Second. We know that’s not the catchiest title so we figured we’d give Shakespeare the Bard Brawl boost and help him find a better title. Cast your vote for your favourite alternate title here!

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

Only one scene in act IV but it’s a long one!

Bolingbroke ‘s gathered with his supporters in Westminster Hall in London and it’s time to start settling scores. Bolingbroke accuses Bagot of killing the Duke of Gloucester but Bagot, who’s pretty sure his number is up, is looking to take someone with him so he accuses Aumerle of conspiring against Gloucester and Henry Bolingbroke.

Of course, Aumerle denies the whole thing and challenges Bagot to a fight but Bolingbroke forbids them from fighting.

Sounds familiar?

Then Fitzwater accuses Aumerle of lying so Aumerle threatens to fight it out with him. Henry Percy jumps in on Fitzwater’s behalf and Surrey steps in for Aumerle. Bolingbroke puts his foot down: no vigilante justice this time because Aumerle is going to stand trial.

And then the Duke of York arrives and announces that Richard is giving up his throne and names Henry Bolingbroke to be the new king.

Thing is, the Bishop of Carlisle isn’t too happy about this. Kings are supposed to be chosen by God. You don’t get to just swap them out when you feel like it. Even the king can’t make a new king. So after he’s finished giving his speech about it, they arrest him for treason. Naturally.

To make sure no one can challenge Henry’s claim, they bring Richard out so he can formally hand over the crown. You know, so everyone will know that everything is above-board. Just to be sure, they have Richard confess to a list of crimes which Bolingbroke and company has so thoughtfully prepared for him to read.

It seems Richard’s having second thoughts about the whole thing. He’s taking stock of his life, trying to figure out what’s next for this unpopular, deposed ruler. Customer service representative? Life coach? Long-haul truck driver?

Or probably just a royal corpse.

Richard tries to stall but time’s up. Once he’s made everything official, they cart him off to the Tower.

As soon as everyone leaves, Aumerle turns to the Bishop of Carlisle: “So, we got a plan to get rid of this jackass Bolingbroke?”

This should be good!

The Lord of St. Leonard, Mark Della Posta, returns to the pod and delivers sonnet 39 with all the cunning and style of Roberto “the Manimal” Luongo.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is OUT NOW.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

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Richard II, Act III

The ambience for this week's podcast provided by the food for Sir Herman Stern, first toad-kind Bard Brawler.
The ambience for this week’s podcast provided by the food for Sir Herman Stern, first toad-kind Bard Brawler.

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Hey Brawlers! It’s been a while but summer’s finally (ugh) over so it’s time to get back to our Bardic business. Bear with me for a second while I get my bearings…

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! (trumpets sound)

To celebrate our historic achievement, we bring you Shakespeare history play The Life and Death of Richard the Second. It’s also called Richard II, or R II if you really know your Bard.

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

So here we go.

Act III, scene 1. Henry Bolingbroke and his allies have holed up at Bristol castle and they’ve taken two of King Richard’s cronies captive, Bushy and Green. Hank B’s not too pleased that these two brown-nosers have been spreading rumours that got him banished and that they’ve been living it up on the profits of his stolen lands. To show the world that he is a gentleman (meaning a true-blooded badass and not to be f****d with), he has them killed.

In the mean time, King Richard’s been off in Ireland fighting and comes back to England to discover that Bolingbroke’s back for what’s his. Richard’s followers are afraid that he’s in danger of losing the crown. But the Bishop of Carlisle reassures him that since God made him king, that there’s no way that God would let that happen, right? Provided that he stop whining like a baby, stopped hiding out in this castle in Wales and actually tried to do something about it!

Richard’s not worried though because he knows that the presence of his mighty, supernatural, divine awesomeness will break the rebellion!

But then comes the bad news.

He’s got no army. Worse, a bunch of the nobles who were supposed to back him have switched to Bolingbroke’s side.

Not feeling so mighty now, eh?

Bolingbroke’s forces march their way to Flint castle in Wales where Richard is holed up so Bolingbroke can make his formal demands. He kneels and swears fealty to the king and promises to service him faithfully if he gets his lands back and has his banishment repealed. But just in case, he does remind King Richard that he’s got a pretty big posse ready to kick down the doors and take what he wants by force.

Does Henry mean it when he says he didn’t come here for the crown? I’m not sure but it certainly does remind me of a few other “No, no. Really, I don’t want the absolute power” moments in Shakespeare. There was a certain Richard Gloucester (you know, Richard III) who refused to rule. And also this guys Julius Caesar which you might have heard about.

Finally, the queen’s pretty bummed about all of this Bolingbroke business and her lady is trying to distract her from her doom and gloom thoughts. She’s not having much success. When some gardeners show up to work on the queen’s garden (get your mind out of the gutter!) the two hide to overhear them. Of course, they’re talking about the latest news which is that Richard is probably going to be deposed. She takes it out on the messenger and runs off to find Richard in London.

(Here’s what really going on with all of the gardening crap. It’s an allegory for the kingdom. They’re really describing how Richard II was a bad ruler who couldn’t weed out the dangerous plants and snakes from his garden. He just assumed that being anointed king was enough and that everything would just sort itself out because, hey, he’s the king. Then along comes Henry Bolingbroke looking to graft himself into the royal family tree as king, get it? Sure you do. You’re pretty smart)

That’s it for act III but stay tuned for act IV soon!

The brawl welcomes back the lovely voice of Kayla Cross, who digs into and delivers sonnet 54 like only she can.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is OUT NOW.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: King Richard II, Act II

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Greetings Brawlers!

Those of you keeping up with our Twitter page will know that with summer (sadly) winding down (dang I still have to put up that birdhouse), we’ve finally been able to gather the crew and record the next act of Richard II.

However, the next episode isn’t going to be ready for a few days so in the mean time, we thought you might like a little refresher on what’s gone down for the first two acts of the play.

Feel free to check out reviews of some of the Shakespeare Plays the brawlers have checked out over the summer.

Here’s act II again. If you haven’t already, go ahead and check out Act I.

Enjoy!


 

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

This week we have act II of Richard II where you might just see exactly how not to act if you’re an unpopular ruler in search of money.

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

With John of Gaunt (the Duke of Hereford) on his deathbed and his son Henry Bolingbroke banished, King Richard swoops down on Ely house in scene 1 to listen to the dying words of the most popular man in the kingdom.

(BTW, it’s pronounced ‘Eel-y’ House. So says Bard Brawler Niki Lambros whose expertise on the subject of places named after eels we are willing to stipulate to while admitting that zero effort has been made by myself to verify its authenticity. But sounds plausible.)

When the king does arrives, Gaunt has just finished telling the Duke of York that he’s got some harsh words for Richard. Gaunt thinks that the fact that he’s dying is going to make Richard pay attention but the Duke of York’s not so sure that Richard wants to hear about how he’s gone and ruined England.

Yup. Richard doesn’t really dig being called “landlord of England,” that his father would be ashamed of him, that… well, you should really just click on the video of Patrick Stewart here and have a look for yourselves.

After his speech, Gaunt’s carted off and pronounced dead. In the words of his most caring lord, King Richard II, “So much for that.”

Time to cash out!

Richard declares that he’s taking everything Gaunt owns to fund his wars. Problem is, Gaunt has a son, Henry Bolingbroke, and this stuff’s supposed to be his by law.

Now, I’m no expert but stealing someone’s inheritance might just get a few people thinking, “Well, what’s to stop him from taking my lands whenever he wants to.” York tries to talk some sense into Richard but I guess Richard figures he’s got 6 years to come up with a convenient excuse to fix this.

Except for the fact that the way news travels in some of these history plays, there’s a small chance that Bolingbroke will have heard of this even before Richard announced he was taking the money.

Why, who’s that disembarking with an army at Ravenspurgh?!

We’re not even done with the act when a few of the other lords at Ely House decide, “To hell with this chump!” and head off to Ravenspurgh to give their support to Henry Bolingbroke… with the sole intention of helping him reclaim the lands he hadn’t yet lost when he set sail. And in no way shape or form do any of them have any plans to back him should he decide to take the throne.

That ought to work out perfectly.

But what if Henry, supported by a cast of rebellious upstarts like the New York Rangers does in fact have his eye on the crown? Can this Henrik “The King” Lundqvist truly challenge what Mike Richards‘ so-called Kings have taken for granted is theirs? (Ed. So that joke seems a little less timely now… Dang that LA Kings team is good.)

Anyhow.

Change of scenery in scene 2. Richard’s yes-men Bushy and Bagot are trying to comfort the queen. Seems she’s got a bad feeling that things aren’t going to work out for King Dick II. Then Green arrives and informs everyone that Bolingbroke’s back and bleeding Richard’s support so things look damn shitty. And the Duke of York, who’s been left behind to keep the peace while the king is in Ireland, knows it. In fact, he’s torn up: on the one hand, he took and oath to the king. On the other hand, Richard’s an asshole and Bolingbroke is kind of awesome.

Still, he commits to fighting the rebels because that’s the kind of guy he is. The king’s cronies – Bushy, Bagot and Green – just bail of course and go into hiding hoping they’ll still have heads when this is finally done.

Meanwhile, in a forest somewhere in Gloucestershire, Henry Bolingbroke is leading a growing army towards Berkeley. (Here, not here.) He’s joined along the way by some of the other lords who think he’s been shafted by Richard. His main allies are Earl of Northumberland and his son, Henry Percy. It just so happens they hate Richard’s guts so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to stick it to him.

The Duke of York arrives and demands to know what he #$%@ is going on. Smooth-talking Bolingbroke tries to talk his way around the problem but York’s not having any of it: he accuses him of treason. Henry tells him that he’s come to take his lands by force only because the king can’t be reasoned with. And of course he pinky swears that he’s not at all interested in the crown “no sir, just my lands please and thank you.”

York’s not convinced but he knows that he can’t beat them so he just decides he’s going to stay out of it… but there’s no harm in inviting everyone in for tea and a sleep-over, right?

Finally, just when we thought it was looking bad enough for the king, we learn in scene 4 that some of the last of his supporters are sick and tired of waiting around for what is going to be a fight they’re bound to lose. The earl of Salisbury, one of the few nobles still loyal to Richard, calls the fight before the first round even starts: seeya later Dick.

Welcome back to the land of the brawlers Jack Konorska, who lends his musically blissful voice to sonnet 32.

So now what? I bet you’ll find out in the next episode of the Bard Brawl.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is OUT NOW.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB Rerun: King Richard II, Act I

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Greetings Brawlers!

Those of you keeping up with our Twitter page will know that with summer (sadly) winding down, we’ve finally been able to gather the crew and record the next act of Richard II. However, the next episode isn’t going to be ready for a few days so in the mean time, we thought you might like a little refresher on what’s gone down for the first two acts of the play.

Here’s act I again, and we’ll repost act II in a few days so.

Enjoy!

Welcome Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! To celebrate our historic achievement, we bring you Shakespeare history play The Life and Death of Richard the Second. It’s also called Richard II.

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

We haven’t even started yet and you’re already confused, aren’t you? You’ve listened to our Henry VI part I podcasts and thought “I like that all these heads are rolling but I just wish I knew who they belonged to!”

I hear that.

Lucky for us, Shakespeare learned quite a bit about writing history plays between writing his first tetralogy (Henry VI parts I, II and III, and Richard III) and the second tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and II, and Henry V)

If you need a reminder about the chronology of the plays, check out the first part of introduction to Shakespeare’s history plays about the War of the Roses.

Here the short version though: first tetralogy was written first but describes events which happen at the end of the War of the Roses (ie: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings). The second tetralogy was written later but the events take place at the start of the War of the Roses (The Hobbit).

Boom. Now you know everything.

Turns out that fewer characters, clear motivations for characters and a stronger plot arch combine to make a much better play. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of death and betrayal.

The play starts at King Richard’s court. Henry Bolingbroke (the Duke of Hereford) is accusing Thomas Mowbray (the Duke of Norfolk) of treason. Specifically, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester as well as stealing royal funds. The two men want to be allowed to settle the matter with a duel. They play a little ‘he said, she said’ and the king asks his uncle John of Gaunt (who is also Henry Bolingbroke’s father) to help calm everything down. When that fails, the King sets a date for a trial by combat, the only civilized way of putting an end to the finger-pointing and the name calling.

The Duchess of York is pleading with John of Gaunt to take a direct hand in avenging the death of Gloucester in scene 2. She’d like nothing more than for Gaunt to grab a buddy like Carl Weathers or Bryan Genesse and go Street Justice on Mowbray.

He tells the Duchess to forget the uncouth vigilante curb stomp. They’ll just have hope that Bolingbroke kills Mowbray for them.

So scene 3. We’re at the Coventry grounds which is the jousting a duelling field where the big trial by compact is about to take place. Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray are all armoured up, on horseback, lances levelled at the opponent’s chest, ready to charge. The herald-ringside announcers introduce them, the intro music plays and the trumpet sounds the charge, this is it!

And then the king stops the fight and orders the fighters back to their corners.

Instead of a nice clear fight where this would be settled once and for all, one way or another, the king decides he’s just going to banish both of them. Seeing that he’s such a fair guy though and doesn’t want to play favourites (we know he’s fair because King Richard tells us, right?) he decides that he will banish Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for 10 years. Of wait! Is that John of Gaunt I hear crying? No worries, let’s make it six years for Bolingbroke.

I’m sure everyone will agree that this is totally and completely fair and that no bad feelings whatsoever will ever come out of this.

As soon as Henry Bolingbroke leaves in scene 4, Richard starts thinking about how popular Henry is with the common people of England. He starts wondering if this is going to be a problem when Henry comes back in 6 years. (It will be.)

What do the King’s right hand men do?

Change the subject.

“Hey, remember all this fighting we need to do in Ireland? We might want to get started on that.” The king agrees with him but, seeing as he’s short on cash from throwing too many parties, he sets up an aggressive taxation scheme which I am sure will not at all make him more unpopular with the people of England.

Before they leave, however, Sir John Bushy arrives with an announcement that John of Gaunt is on his deathbed. Did someone say free money? Seeing as John of Gaunt is one of the richest men in England, King Richard “The Vulture” flies to Ely house, ready to scoop up his lands when he dies.

If you’re still having a hard time following along, here’s a list of the major characters which appear in this act:

  • King Richard II: The king of England and a cousin of Henry Bolingbroke. He’s got a reputation of spending money irresponsibly and trying to recoup the loses in taxes. Not a very popular guy with the people
  • John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: One of the most popular nobles in England, he’s also stinking rich. He’s Henry Bolingbroke’s father and Richard II’s uncle.
  • Henry Bolingbroke (sometimes spelled Bullingbrook): He’s the son of John of Gaunt. He gets banished from England but when the King snatches his lands away from him, he comes back to England to take back what’s his. He will become Henry IV by the end of the play.
  • Thomas Mowbray: The Duke of Norfolk. He’s accused of treason by Bolingbroke and banished from England for life.

I wonder how Henry Bolingbroke will feel about the king taking his inheritance away from him like that?

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! It’s the Bard Brawl’s first ever journal. You’ll never regret or forget it.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: King Richard II, Act II

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! This week we have act II of Richard II where you might just see exactly how not to act if you’re an unpopular ruler in search of money.

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

With John of Gaunt (the Duke of Hereford) on his deathbed and his son Henry Bolingbroke banished, King Richard swoops down on Ely house in scene 1 to listen to the dying words of the most popular man in the kingdom.

(BTW, it’s pronounced ‘Eel-y’ House. So says Bard Brawler Niki Lambros whose expertise on the subject of places named after eels we are willing to stipulate to while admitting that zero effort has been made by myself to verify its authenticity. But sounds plausible.)

When the king does arrives, Gaunt has just finished telling the Duke of York that he’s got some harsh words for Richard. Gaunt thinks that the fact that he’s dying is going to make Richard pay attention but the Duke of York’s not so sure that Richard wants to hear about how he’s gone and ruined England.

Yup. Richard doesn’t really dig being called “landlord of England,” that his father would be ashamed of him, that… well, you should really just click on the video of Patrick Stewart here and have a look for yourselves.

After his speech, Gaunt’s carted off and pronounced dead. In the words of his most caring lord, King Richard II, “So much for that.”

Time to cash out!

Richard declares that he’s taking everything Gaunt owns to fund his wars. Problem is, Gaunt has a son, Henry Bolingbroke, and this stuff’s supposed to be his by law.

Now, I’m no expert but stealing someone’s inheritance might just get a few people thinking, “Well, what’s to stop him from taking my lands whenever he wants to.” York tries to talk some sense into Richard but I guess Richard figures he’s got 6 years to come up with a convenient excuse to fix this.

Except for the fact that the way news travels in some of these history plays, there’s a small chance that Bolingbroke will have heard of this even before Richard announced he was taking the money.

Why, who’s that disembarking with an army at Ravenspurgh?!

We’re not even done with the act when a few of the other lords at Ely House decide, “To hell with this chump!” and head off to Ravenspurgh to give their support to Henry Bolingbroke… with the sole intention of helping him reclaim the lands he hadn’t yet lost when he set sail. And in no way shape or form do any of them have any plans to back him should he decide to take the throne.

That ought to work out perfectly.

But what if Henry, supported by a cast of rebellious upstarts like the New York Rangers does in fact have his eye on the crown? Can this Henrik “The King” Lundqvist truly challenge what Mike Richards‘ so-called Kings have taken for granted is theirs? (Ed. So that joke seems a little less timely now…)

Anyhow.

Change of scenery in scene 2. Richard’s yes-men Bushy and Bagot are trying to comfort the queen. Seems she’s got a bad feeling that things aren’t going to work out for King Dick II. Then Green arrives and informs everyone that Bolingbroke’s back and bleeding Richard’s support so things look damn shitty. And the Duke of York, who’s been left behind to keep the peace while the king is in Ireland, knows it. In fact, he’s torn up: on the one hand, he took and oath to the king. On the other hand, Richard’s an asshole and Bolingbroke is kind of awesome.

Still, he commits to fighting the rebels because that’s the kind of guy he is. The king’s cronies – Bushy, Bagot and Green – just bail of course and go into hiding hoping they’ll still have heads when this is finally done.

Meanwhile, in a forest somewhere in Gloucestershire, Henry Bolingbroke is leading a growing army towards Berkeley. (Here, not here.) He’s joined along the way by some of the other lords who think he’s been shafted by Richard. His main allies are Earl of Northumberland and his son, Henry Percy. It just so happens they hate Richard’s guts so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to stick it to him.

The Duke of York arrives and demands to know what he #$%@ is going on. Smooth-talking Bolingbroke tries to talk his way around the problem but York’s not having any of it: he accuses him of treason. Henry tells him that he’s come to take his lands by force only because the king can’t be reasoned with. And of course he pinky swears that he’s not at all interested in the crown “no sir, just my lands please and thank you.”

York’s not convinced but he knows that he can’t beat them so he just decides he’s going to stay out of it… but there’s no harm in inviting everyone in for tea and a sleep-over, right?

Finally, just when we thought it was looking bad enough for the king, we learn in scene 4 that some of the last of his supporters are sick and tired of waiting around for what is going to be a fight they’re bound to lose. The earl of Salisbury, one of the few nobles still loyal to Richard, calls the fight before the first round even starts: seeya later Dick.

Welcome back to the land of the brawlers Jack Konorska, who lends his musically blissful voice to sonnet 32.

So now what? I bet you’ll find out in the next episode of the Bard Brawl.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is due out soon. Stay tuned.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: King Richard II, Act I

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! To celebrate our historic achievement, we bring you Shakespeare history play The Life and Death of Richard the Second. It’s also called Richard II.

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

We haven’t even started yet and you’re already confused, aren’t you? You’ve listened to our Henry VI part I podcasts and thought “I like that all these heads are rolling but I just wish I knew who they belonged to!”

I hear that.

Lucky for us, Shakespeare learned quite a bit about writing history plays between writing his first tetralogy (Henry VI parts I, II and III, and Richard III) and the second tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and II, and Henry V)

If you need a reminder about the chronology of the plays, check out the first part of introduction to Shakespeare’s history plays about the War of the Roses.

Here the short version though: first tetralogy was written first but describes events which happen at the end of the War of the Roses (ie: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings). The second tetralogy was written later but the events take place at the start of the War of the Roses (The Hobbit).

Boom. Now you know everything.

Turns out that fewer characters, clear motivations for characters and a stronger plot arch combine to make a much better play. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of death and betrayal.

The play starts at King Richard’s court. Henry Bolingbroke (the Duke of Hereford) is accusing Thomas Mowbray (the Duke of Norfolk) of treason. Specifically, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester as well as stealing royal funds. The two men want to be allowed to settle the matter with a duel. They play a little ‘he said, she said’ and the king asks his uncle John of Gaunt (who is also Henry Bolingbroke’s father) to help calm everything down. When that fails, the King sets a date for a trial by combat, the only civilized way of putting an end to the finger-pointing and the name calling.

The Duchess of York is pleading with John of Gaunt to take a direct hand in avenging the death of Gloucester in scene 2. She’d like nothing more than for Gaunt to grab a buddy like Carl Weathers or Bryan Genesse and go Street Justice on Mowbray.

He tells the Duchess to forget the uncouth vigilante curb stomp. They’ll just have hope that Bolingbroke kills Mowbray for them.

So scene 3. We’re at the Coventry grounds which is the jousting a duelling field where the big trial by compact is about to take place. Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray are all armoured up, on horseback, lances levelled at the opponent’s chest, ready to charge. The herald-ringside announcers introduce them, the intro music plays and the trumpet sounds the charge, this is it!

And then the king stops the fight and orders the fighters back to their corners.

Instead of a nice clear fight where this would be settled once and for all, one way or another, the king decides he’s just going to banish both of them. Seeing that he’s such a fair guy though and doesn’t want to play favourites (we know he’s fair because King Richard tells us, right?) he decides that he will banish Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for 10 years. Of wait! Is that John of Gaunt I hear crying? No worries, let’s make it six years for Bolingbroke.

I’m sure everyone will agree that this is totally and completely fair and that no bad feelings whatsoever will ever come out of this.

As soon as Henry Bolingbroke leaves in scene 4, Richard starts thinking about how popular Henry is with the common people of England. He starts wondering if this is going to be a problem when Henry comes back in 6 years. (It will be.)

What do the King’s right hand men do?

Change the subject.

“Hey, remember all this fighting we need to do in Ireland? We might want to get started on that.” The king agrees with him but, seeing as he’s short on cash from throwing too many parties, he sets up an aggressive taxation scheme which I am sure will not at all make him more unpopular with the people of England.

Before they leave, however, Sir John Bushy arrives with an announcement that John of Gaunt is on his deathbed. Did someone say free money? Seeing as John of Gaunt is one of the richest men in England, King Richard “The Vulture” flies to Ely house, ready to scoop up his lands when he dies.

If you’re still having a hard time following along, here’s a list of the major characters which appear in this act:

  • King Richard II: The king of England and a cousin of Henry Bolingbroke. He’s got a reputation of spending money irresponsibly and trying to recoup the loses in taxes. Not a very popular guy with the people
  • John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: One of the most popular nobles in England, he’s also stinking rich. He’s Henry Bolingbroke’s father and Richard II’s uncle.
  • Henry Bolingbroke (sometimes spelled Bullingbrook): He’s the son of John of Gaunt. He gets banished from England but when the King snatches his lands away from him, he comes back to England to take back what’s his. He will become Henry IV by the end of the play.
  • Thomas Mowbray: The Duke of Norfolk. He’s accused of treason by Bolingbroke and banished from England for life.

I wonder how Henry Bolingbroke will feel about the king taking his inheritance away from him like that?

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! It’s the Bard Brawl’s first ever journal. You’ll never regret or forget it.brassknucklestshirt1.png

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BB: Henry VI Part 1, the Speeches

Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Welcome to the speeches of Henry VI, Part I.

Listen to the podcast – here

Download the podcast.

Unlike with our previous play, The Taming of the Shrew, we had no trouble finding speeches to fill an episode.

Really, as we’ve been saying all along with one, Henry VI, part 1 deserves a closer look. Hopefully some of these speeches can encourage you to go back and listen to the episodes you missed. (Not that you missed any, right?)

“How I am braved and must perforce endure it!” Act II, scene 4, lns 112-127
Speakers: Richard Plantagenet (and eventual Duke of York), Warwick
This excerpt is from the flower-picking scene in act II. Here we learn that Richard Plantagenet, whose father was accused of being a traitor and stripped of his titles, is likely to be restored to his family’s former status as Duke of York. Warwick seems certain of it. Warwick’s short speech also ends with a prophetic foreshadowing about the War of the Roses: “this brawl to-day, / Grown to this faction in the Temple-garden, / Shall send between the red rose and the white / A thousand souls to death and deadly night.” That does about sum it up. (Also, big plus on the use of the word “Brawl,’ Bard!)

“Thus the Mortimers, / In whom the tide rested, were suppress’d.” Act II, scene 5, lns 91-118
Speakers: Mortimer, Richard Plantagenet
Mortimer only appears in one scene on this play but it is a very crucial scene. We pick up on the end of their discussion but Mortimer provides the necessary history earlier. The current king Henry VI is the descendant of Henry IV who actually usurped the throne of Richard II. Mortimer himself, connected with the old regime, has spent most of his life imprisoned or banished. Now Mortimer informs Richard Duke of York that he is in fact descended from the previous line of kings. While Mortimer cannot see yet how to topple the house of Lancaster, he counsels York to bide his time until an opportunity should present itself.

“Look on thy country, look on fertile France…” Act III, scene 3, lns 44-85
Speaker: Pucelle, Burgundy
This is the scene where Joan la Pucelle convinces the Duke of Burgundy to ally himself with the French cause. What we found particularly interesting in this passage is Burgundy’s short response in the middle of Pucelle’s longer speech: “Either she hath bewitch’d me with her words, / Or nature makes me suddenly relent.” It’s a very good question. Which is it? Is Burgundy simply doing the natural thing in seeking to defend the ‘country’ of his birth? Is he in fact French, or is he English? It’s easy for us to say that Burgundy is French but the whole point here is that Burgundy easily could have remained an English territory. And Burgundy’s actions are largely the reason it went to the French. So, was any of this ‘natural?’

“Come hither, you that would be combatants” Act IV, scene 1, lns 133-173
Speaker: King Henry VI
King Henry doesn’t say much in the play and when he does speak, he generally just shows us how ineffectual a ruler he is. We picked this passage though because it showcases one of the few moments where King Henry actually gets it at least partially right. One the one hand, the first part of Henry’s speech is spot on; the English court is in france fighting the Dauphin’s forces. Showing a strong, united front is necessary in order to discourage any further rebellion from the French forces. However, he grossly misunderstands the nature of the division in his forces. We’ve seen the argument boiling and bubbling under the surface just waiting to erupt but Henry seems entirely oblivious to the extent of the division in his court. This scene really shows us Henry’s character as an idealist ill-suited to the throne.

“O, my dear lord, lo, where your son is borne!” Act IV, scene 7, ln 17-32
Speakers: Servant, Talbot
Talbot really is the central point of most of the play. He drives the war effort in France and he sends the French forces packing at the very mention of his name. Unfortunately, York and Suffolk’s squabbling leaves him unsupported and he and his son are overwhelmed and killed in battle. This is Talbot’s final speech. His dead son is brought in and he cradles him in his arms as he dies. I wrote about his passage when we did act IV. I mentioned that Talbot mentioned Daedalus and Icarus, flying towards the sun but what would that look like? Two angels floating up to Heaven. I think it’s a great little speech.

“First, let me tell you whom you have condemn’d…” Act V, scene 4, lns 36-59
Speakers: Pucelle, York, Warwick
This is Joan la Pucelle’s execution scene. While her burning doesn’t actually happen on stage, this is the preamble leading up to it. Here she is trying to convince York not to burn her. She first starts by suggesting that she may be of noble birth and she insists that she is a virgin. When she sees that this is not working, she changes her tune and states instead the she is pregnant. This is a very strange scene. On the one had, we just saw Joan speaking with demon a few scenes ago so we now have a pretty good idea that she is a witch. On the other hand, this scene shows us a group of powerful, older men trying to burn a young (and potentially pregnant) woman alive. As Daniel has pointed out, this would be a tricky scene to stage for a contemporary audience. Come to think of it, it’s almost criminal to think that no one has written a play inspired by this scene which deals precisely with these gender and power issues.

And that’s it for Henry VI, part 1!

Stay tuned for the next play – you definitely won’t want to miss it.

Bonus sonnet 24 read by first time sonneteer Erin Byrnes.

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

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Artwork - Leigh McRae
Artwork – Leigh McRae

BB: Henry VI Part 1, Act V

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Welcome to the final act of Henry VI, Part I.

Listen to the podcast – here

Download the podcast.

After the deadly siege of Bourdeau and the deaths of Talbot and his sons, at the start of act V the English nobility is gathered in London to hear a letter from the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. (The War of the Roses takes place before England becomes protestant. Catholic is the only kind of Christian around.) They strongly suggest that England and France work out their differences. The French Duke of Armagnac, who also signs this letter, offers to have his daughter marry Henry to cement this peace. Henry’s not pleased at that thought but he agrees to do what’s best for his country. We also discover that the bishop of Winchester has since bought a cardinal’s office and that with his increased authority, he intends to undermine Gloucester‘s authority.

Back to France. At the start of scene 2, the French forces are gathered at Anjou and prepared to march to Paris to support the locals fighting there but a messenger arrives and informs them that the English army – routed earlier – has since regrouped and is ready to fight.

The next scene stars with Joan alone on stage. She is pleading, not with agents of God but rather with fiends from the “regions under earth.” She asks them for one last favour, which would drive the English from France but they abandon her.She leaves the stage and when she returns, she’s fighting with the Duke of York who manages to capture her. The French forces flee as soon as she is taken. She curses both York and Charles before she’s carried off to be burned at the stake for witchcraft. The stage is cleared and Suffolk comes on with his ‘prisoner,’ Margaret, daughter of Reignier. (You’ll remember, and this will be important in a bit, that while the King of Naples has an impressive title, it’s a title almost devoid of actual power.) The rather creepy Suffolk, who is in love with Margaret but who is also married, decides to woo her an Henry’s behalf. He convinces her to agree to marry the king (where he hopes he will be free to pursue an adulterous love affair with her). He then tells Reignier who is all too happy at the thought of his daughter marrying a king.

Scene 4 is the scene of Joan’s burning. She’s escorted in by a guard and is accompanied by a shepherd who claims to be her father. Joan denies this, claiming descent from aristocracy. he tries to get her to repent. She tells him off so he just says, the hell with it, burn her! She tries to convince York that she is noble born but he doesn’t seem either to belive her or care. Warrick asks them – because she’s a virgin – to make it a big fire so it will be over quickly. Seeing that this has had no effect, she tells them that she’s pregnant. York seems to have guessed she would say that, and suggests that she’s the furthest thing from virginal. She then names pretty much every member of the French court as potential fathers. York has heard enough and orders her to be carried off and burned (No, we don’t get to see it). Winchester then arrives from England and informs York and the others that there will be a peace treaty and the that wars in France are over. York is worried this means they’ll lose france, but Warrick is more optimistic. The French court join them in the camp. The cardinal delivers the terms: if the French swear fealty to henry, he’ll let Charles govern France as viceroy. He agrees.

We return to the palace in London for scene 5. Suffolk is hard at work convincing Henry to marry Margaret. The king – who seemed more interested in books before – now becomes obsessed with marrying this woman he has never seen. Henry asks Gloucester to give his consent. He refuses, reminding Henry how, in the interest of peace with France, he is supposed to marry the Duke of Armagnac’s daughter. Suffolk tries to play in Reignier’ title as King of Naples but Gloucester deflates him by mentioning that, despite his titles, the King of Naples is a broke nobody. Suffolk plies the king hard and he eventually convinces henry to marry Margret, regardless of what Gloucester says.

So much for peace.

I’ve been trying to make a case for what works in this play. But here are some of the problems.

One of the confusing aspects of this play is how many plot events appear to come out of nowhere. This whole business with the marriages in the final scene feels a little tacked on and, after the tragic deaths of Talbot and son, is a bit of a downer. Fact is though, this isn’t a problem of just this so-called “bad play.” Even some of our favourites suffer from some plot problems like this. In fact, we’ve said this about act V in Coriolanus which is a Bard Brawl favourite. I’m tempted to call this the “Act V Slump.”

Also, the Cardinal of Winchester-Gloucester subplot seems to go nowhere. The play opens with this power struggle between them, and their forces come to blows over the course of the play, but nothing seems to come of it. Even at the end of the play, after he’s been made cardinal by the Pope, Winchester is still talking about how he’ll show Gloucester. Except we’ve heard this about five acts ago and nothing has changed since. He said he would steal the king, that he would be a force of evil against England… but here he is in act V delivering the peace terms as ordered. The only sinister thing in the scene is how he tells the legate to take the cash he needs to pay the Pope for his office. Not exactly the “chiefest stern of public weal” he vowed to be back in act I! In fact, lust-sick Suffolk seems to do a much better job of screwing the kingdom and the Lord-Protector than Winchester ever even comes close to doing in this play.

And of course, there’s the Joan of Arc problem which comes up in this act. In act V, scene 3, Shakespeare pretty explicitly confirms the English’s interpretation of Joan of Arc as a sorceress when he has her speaking and pleading with demons. Up until this point, it was entirely possible to side with either the English or the French, to think of her as either a witch or a saint. This is probably one of the moments which are the least “Shakespearean” in the play and which – despite the many enjoyable part so the play – make it inferior to some of his later history plays.

As a rule, Shakespeare is much more interested in asking questions than in providing answers. His plays rarely seem to completely support one interpretation over another, especially when it comes to controversial figures. Like Joan of Arc. Remember how, when I wrote about act II of Coriolanus, part of the appeal was that the play asked us to decide what to make of Coriolanus: despot or war hero? Same thing with Shylock, or Antonio’s ‘mercy’ in The Merchant of Venice. the interpretation is up for grabs.

By writing in this scene the way he does in Henry Vi, part 1 he robs us of that decision. That weakens the tension and the drama of the play by breaking things up into clear categories of good and bad. If he had written this play later in his career, I’m pretty sure that this scene would have been changed or left out.

(In my opinion, this type of ‘talking to demons’ scene is much more typical of Marlowe. Very much Doctor Faustus stuff. Fun fact: Doctor Faustus would likely have been staged around the same time – within a year or so – as Henry VI, part 1. Could it be that demons were just the “in” thing that year?)

Next week, we’ll go over some of our favourite moments of this play.

Sonnet 12 read by Kayla Cross.

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

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BB: Henry VI Part 1, Act IV

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Welcome fellow Bardophiles to act IV of Henry VI, part 1!

Listen or download the podcast.

This act is a prolonged, action-packed epic battle in which the fate of the English holdings in France will be decided forever. However, act IV starts in Henry VI’s palace in Paris. Gloucester, Winchester and the other nobles are present at a coronation intended to remind the French governor who is his rightful king. While they are gathered together, they learn of Burgundy’s defection to the French and Talbot swears that he will make him pay for his betrayal. After Talbot leaves to take the field, Vernon (white rose, Yorkist) and Basset (red rose, Lancastrian) show up asking to be allowed to duel for the honour of their respective lords. (Remember them from our last episode?) King Henry, completely missing the whole point, says that there’s no significance in wearing roses and then he puts on a red one (Lancastrian). He dismisses the whole thing and orders everyone to be friends. The Duke of York does not appreciate the king’s choice of rose.

In scene 2, Talbot comes on stage before the gates of Bourdeaux and demands the French general defending the city accept Henry VI as his sovereign. He refuses. As the general is letting Talbot have it, Charles the Dauphin’s forces are heard approaching and Talbot readies his forces for war.

Not far away in Gascony, the Duke of York is stationed with his men when scene 3 starts. He is waiting for Somerset to send the knights he has promised so they can ride to Talbot’s aid. Lord Lucy arrives to urge him to come to Talbot’s aid anyhow but York refuses, saying that it’s a lost cause. He blames everything on Somerset.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Gascony, Lord Somerset faces a similar choice and decides not to send his men either. He blames York and Talbot for being too brash and attacking before he was ready. Lord Lucy blames them both, and their quarrel, for the immanent death of Talbot (oops).

But Talbot hasn’t breathed his last! He is reunited with his son, whom he hasn’t seen in several years, at the start of the next scene. Talbot senior sees that the situation is grim and he tries to plead with his son to flee the camp. Junior wants nothing to do with that and says that he will die with honour like the Talbot he is. Talbot senior is resigned (and probably secretly pleased) and father and son promise to live or die fighting together. (Sorry. It doesn’t look good, folks.)

They take to the field in scene 6 to what I have to assume was one of Shakespeare’s loudest alarums! Talbot junior is surrounded by the enemy and dad runs in a rescues him. Senior tries to convince his son to run away one more time but he refuses and they both rush back into the fray.

When Talbot next walks out on stage to start the last scene of the act, he is severely wounded and being led around by a servant. He asks about his son and some soldiers arrive carrying John Talbot junior’s body. Talbot gives a great speech comparing himself and his son to Daedalus and Icarus, before he also succumbs to his wounds. It’s a very powerful scene despite Talbot junior showing up just a few scenes earlier. (Listen for this one in the speeches podcast for sure!) Lord Lucy arrives a little too late and is met with the French and Joan of Arc who rub Talbot’s death in Lucy’s face. Nevertheless, they honour the codes of war and allow Lucy to collect the bodies of their dead.

The more time we spend with this play, the more interesting it gets! Who got to decide there was nothing valuable in this play? They clearly never read it!

This is, in my view, one of the best acts of the play. Talbot’s speeches are particularly good, I think, worthy of the near-mythic, superhero reputation he would have enjoyed.

Here’s part of the speech I mentioned just a few lines back:

Thou antic death, which laugh’st us here to scorn,
Anon, from thy insulting tyranny,
Coupled in bonds of perpetuity,
Two Talbots, winged through the lither sky,
In thy despite shall ‘scape mortality.
O, thou, whose wounds become hard-favour’d death,
Speak to thy father ere thou yield thy breath!
Brave death by speaking, whether he will or no;
Imagine him a Frenchman and thy foe.
Poor boy! he smiles, methinks, as who should say,
Had death been French, then death had died to-day.

He mentions that he and his son shall escape mortality despite their deaths. Certainly at the time Henry VI, part 1 was first staged, Talbot was a very popular and well-known historical figure. It’s too bad that this play has fallen to the wayside in the wake of the other set of Henry plays (Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V). Maybe a comic book is the solution?

Any brawlers out there want to volunteer to illustrate?

Also very interesting in this act: Lords Exeter and Lucy seem to have developed prophetic powers! At the end of scene 2, Exeter seems able to read the Duke of York’s mind and even goes so far as to commend him on not letting on about his secret ambition to take the throne. At the end of scene 3, Lucy moralizes about the fact that Henry V is only recently deceased and already the English have messed things up and lost most of what he conquered.

Dark tidings!

In the infamous words of Lord Wessex from Shakespeare in love: “How is this to end?” (Spoiler alert: not so good for Joan la Pucelle!)

You’ll have to listen to act V to find out!

Need to figure out how we got here? Listen to Act I, Act II, and Act III to get up to speed.

Those confused with the history can check out David Starkey‘s documentary series Monarchy. The end of the first series involves the War of the Roses.

Sonnet 22 read by Maya Pankala

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