I feel like I'm learning lots of new stuff here. First of all I had to look up "Manichaean." I am still not convinced that Richard fits any of John's various evils – comic, Manichaean, or Satanic. But it probably doesn't matter what I think. No doubt the average groundling would have seen certain characters as evil, even though these plays presented them with historical figures. I wonder if our frequent comparison to Iago isn't a bit off base. Would a 16th-century theater-goer have put the fictional character in the same terms as the historical? Perhaps Ernst can send me a bit more enlightment on the use of stock characteristics like Vice in the portrayal of fictional and non-fictional characters.
What I'd really like to find out more about is Shakespeare's perception of evil. Any ideas?
Gil's fathers and sons piece also left me with a lot to think about. I was especially interested in the Blake analogy with innocence represented by Henry VI and experience by Richard. The lamb and the tyger. Again I am left with curiosity about Shakespeare. Religion is so rarely center stage in his plays. Do we read the Henry VI plays as 'Henry, who happens to be devout, is a weak king'? Or is it more like an equation: religious king = weak king?
As we go on, I'd like to keep an eye out for the Shakespearean view of religion.
Fathers and sons, too. We'll see them again in the other Henry plays, and again, albeit in a fictional context, in Hamlet. Here, Gil sees a disruption of a natural order -- the son should succeed the father and to have it otherwise brings disharmony and chaos. I see it a bit more cyclical. Henry VI is not half the king his father was (and should not succeed him). It is clear from his few lines that young Prince Edward has the makings of a solid king, capable of handling the transition of power even as Henry was not:
"Speak like a subject, proud ambitious York!
Suppose that I am now my father's mouth;
Resign thy chair, and where I stand kneel thou" (3 Henry VI, 5.5.17-19)
Would that he were his father's heart instead. Likewise, the Duke of York strikes me as a more kingly character than his son whose vengeances and Machiavellian strategems make him completely unfit for kingship. I see a pendulum here that suggests, perhaps, the law of primogeniture produced dubious results. Maybe that's why the shift from Richard II to Bolingbroke goes uncondemned.
So, is Shakespeare a political radical?
If I only had a time machine,
Gerard Manley Hopkins and Shakespeare
20 hours ago