Thursday, June 3, 2010

Edward III - Character Matters

Randall writes:

I opened our discussion of Edward III with some questions about structure and contemporary attitude. I'd like to add a few inspired more by the play's characters.

Where does the Countess of Salisbury fall in our experience of Shakespearean women and/or Elizabethan or Tudor drama? Is she a type, a stock character? Or is she more fully developed? Given the usually peripheral roles women tend to play in historical dramas (Joan of Arc and Margaret in Henry VI, Lady Percy in Henry IV, Katherine in Henry V, Queen Isabel in Richard II, and Lady Anne in Richard III), how does the Countess shape our experience of Edward? If you were to pick an actress to play her in your production, who would it be?

Edward undergoes a grand temptation in Act 2, then retreats to occasionally worrying about or stoically ignoring his son. Is he the play's central character? (If not, who is?) As an audience presented with a piece of our vital history, what does this particular king teach us? Given our modern desire for stories with central heroes or at least clear protagonists, how do we react to an Edward III?

And Edward, the Black Prince. I guess if you've got a Hal, you can have a Ned. Despite the many parallels though, our Ned is not quite so deftly realized in the text. How is the prince not like Hal? What makes him fit to be king? What impresses the playwright most about him?

Does King John of France emerge at all as a notable character? Are there any real villains in the play? Or mostly opposing forces?

And is there one of those enjoyable outsider characters, the one who comments -- chorus-like -- on a particular proceeding, someone like the Bastard in King John?


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