“Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends”: Shakespeare’s Power To Create Equality


The Past Catches Me

While going through my possessions and trying to decide what to take to grad school, I came across a pile of old ticket stubs and playbills. These priceless pieces of paper contain my memories from a short period of four weeks in 2009 when I was lucky enough to be studying theater in London. When I was there, everything seemed like a blur to me; taking classes, completing assignments all over the city, and going to one show after another. I lived it one moment at a time. If I understood the magnitude of my experiences then like I do now, I would have been overwhelmed.

Discoveries After Reflections

The playbills represent only one snapshot from my life, but what I realize now is that those four weeks – the productions that I saw – will always represent my piece of the London theater community. It is a piece of documented history that will always be my own. And yet it also belongs to so many other people – the other audience members, the actors, the theater spaces, the lines of dialogue, the costume designers, the set builders, and the city of London itself. I am part of their history and they are part of mine.

One of the things that I have truly come to love about theater and more specifically, Shakespeare, is that they are a powerful force for creating equality within a community. As I and many others have probably said before, Shakespeare’s plays endure because they are filled with universal human experiences. He tells stories that are beautiful in a sense that they are about what most everyone understands to be love, hurt, friendship, family, loss, vulnerability, and the joys to be had in simply living. Under the right conditions, an African woman who is a mother, and a white, male American CEO could go to see Romeo and Juliet.  They come from two very different places. However, the woman is moved because she’s a mother and the man is moved because Juliet might remind him of his wife.  For the span of 2-3 hours, the distances or breaches between both their life experiences don’t matter anymore because they are just two human beings enjoying Shakespeare. They might not have interpreted the story in the same way, but now they are equals in one respect: they have shared the experience of being moved by the same play.  Shakespeare emphasizes the fact that as humans we all have things in common and it is those universal emotions that can create equality.  Relational gaps or breaches made between us by differences in privilege, race, gender, and sexuality might be filled when suddenly we are moved at the same time by the same story.

I have found that one of Shakespeare’s plays in particular represents the idea that shared experiences can bind people together despite their differences.  The play is Henry V.  Henry has the challenge of uniting the men of England to a single cause which is winning back English lands from the French.  He must bring his men together and yet he also faces the questions: How can England be one united country when I am a privileged king standing above everyone else?  How can I be a leader amongst my men instead of a leader over them?  Henry V solves the problem as Shakespeare’s plays have done, by showing his followers that they have things in common.  First of all, that they are all human.  Second of all, that their shared experience of feeling passionate for their cause has made them all equal to the king.  Before battle Henry states, “For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother (Shakespeare, Henry V 4.3.61-2).”  Despite the differences and breaches between us we are the same in the sense that we are all human and we all bleed.  Shakespeare creates complete equality amongst every man through the the fact that the history of England rests in all their hands.

I think the King is but a man, as I am. The violet smells to him as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man […] Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are (Shakespeare, Henry V, 4.1.102-10).

A Perfect Theater Community

Perhaps the best example of how an (ideally) accessible theater community can create equality among people would be my own experiences in London. (Plus, there is a tiny bit of me that wants to brag.)  This is what I did.  I went to performances in the theater district.  I saw Judi Dench in Madame De Sade at the Donmar Warehouse – the same place where Jude Law would perform in Hamlet a day after I left, where Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Hiddleston performed Othello the year before, and where five years into the future Mark Gatiss and Tom Hiddleston would perform in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.  I saw Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in a play called Waiting for Godot and James McAvoy in Three Days of Rain.  I went to the madly popular productions of Wicked and Les Miserables.  I saw Romeo and Juliet performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. I also went to tiny community theaters on the outskirts of London where actors (possibly driven by nothing but their own passions) performed in upper levels of cafes and spaces small enough to seat less than 100 people.  The cafe had bragging rights to the fact that some of the above mentioned celebrities had eaten their food and attended their performances.  I went to shows at the National Theater on the Thames where War Horse (to become a blockbuster film 3 years later that would feature Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston) was performed.  I spent multiple evenings listening to free musical concerts in the lobby of the same theater.

In addition, there are some things that I found out (I admit to being somewhat of a stalker) that relate to my experiences.  I have talked about the documentary Muse of Fire in previous posts.  It is a film  about the universal nature of Shakespeare.  I have come to conclude that the documentary was being made at or around the same time that I spent in London.  The movie features interviews with Jude Law about his experiences in Hamlet – the production that I would miss seeing by a day or two.  In an interview, Alan Rickman talks about how wonderful the same production of Romeo and Juliet that I had seen was for him.  In other interviews not related to Muse of Fire, Tom Hiddleston has talked about seeing War Horse at the National Theater, possibly within the same time and within the same space where I experienced London theater and those fantastic free concerts in the lobby.

The point of telling you all this is to show that the London theater community is varied, concentrated within a geographic area, and incredibly accessible to everyone involved within it.  I am not a wealthy person.  I’m from small-town Indiana – farm country – and yet I was able to go to the same theaters, to the same shows to which Alan Rickman and Tom Hiddleston were going to.  Indeed, the fact that the musical performances were free (though not of the same quality of Les Miserables) meant that anyone off the street could come in and enjoy entertainment in the same space in which the rich and famous have.  At the same time, celebrity actors I was seeing on stage were going to small theater performances that would be the common fare in my tiny hometown.  It seems like a long shot even still, but in terms of the theater community, could I not say that during my four weeks in London, I was an equal to Alan Rickman, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Tom Hiddleston, Pattrick Stewart, and James McAvoy?  We have the shared human experiences of enjoying Romeo & Juliet, of sharing the same stories within the same spaces.  Are we not all humans feeling the same emotions together?  Has theater and Shakespeare been a force that has closed the breaches in gender, nationality, and social classes between us?

And its not just about me now because there were also tons of school children watching Romeo & Juliet at The Globe.  There were old people and young people.  People from different countries who knew different languages.  Now they are also all equals under the understanding that they have all experienced universal human emotions through the same Shakespearean play.

I wonder now if a community like this one exists anywhere else in the world.  Could it exist in the United States?  London seems to be a unique situation and still not completely an ideal one.  In order for a theater community to work perfectly in order to create equality, it would have to be even more accessible to everyone both financially and intellectually.  And it would have to be highly promoted to everyone.  The random person on the street would have to want to see Shakespeare just as much Kenneth Branagh would want to.

In Today’s World

In June 2015, nine African Americans died after being shot by a white male during a Bible study inside of their own church in Charleston, South Carolina.  This tragedy has led the U.S. to a current struggle over the question of whether or not the Confederate Flag should be removed from certain government facilities.  To many people the flag is a representation of racial segregation and slavery.  To many others it is a symbol of historical and cultural identity that should be valued in honor of the men who died during the Civil War.

In Shakespeare’s play Henry V, King Henry V’s goal was to bring his countrymen together as one united force.  The king had to make himself an equal to any man who stood beneath him in order to gain victory for his entire country.  His is a mission of true patriotism.  The king declared that every single one of his men where equals in all ways because they had the universal experience of fighting for their country.

The Hollow Crown: Henry V film, 2012.  Henry V by William Shakespeare (4.3.61-2)

The Hollow Crown: Henry V film, 2012. Henry V by William Shakespeare (4.3.61-2)

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s goal was to bring his countrymen together as a single united nation.

Henry V achieved this goal through valuing universal human experiences.

Today we are still divided by different perspectives of which no one wants to let go.  It is difficult to make progress in resolving a conflict when everyone is pushed apart by their differences and refuses to see commonalities between themselves and others.

Different races, cultures, religions, and perspectives all exist together in the United States.  That is one thing that makes living here so wonderful.  I can write what I want to on a blog and people have the right to disagree with what I say.  Everyone has equal right to be different.  But sometimes it is also beneficial to remember that we are all the same in other ways – we all live in the same country, have families and friends here, know what it is to love and hate each other.  It is these human similarities which the freedom and equality in our country sought to honor.  Our shared experiences should not be forgotten because they are what have allowed us beautiful differences.

I would hope that in the end, we can say that we are all humans.  No matter what we look like, what we believe in, and where we come from, we still all feel the same emotions and have the same organs.  Because if it is true, think about how important it would be to our world.  What could we gain from Shakespeare and theater in a world where countrymen kill each other over skin color and argue about the symbolism of a flag?

Developing The Raven Cycle: Character Profiles (Part Two)


Black Text = The Raven Boys

Green Text = The Dream Thieves

Red Text = Spoilers (see bottom of post if you want to read spoilers)

Blue Sargent

Appearance/Traits/Quirks:  She’s five feet tall and has short, black hair.  Her style is trashy chic.  She is vain about her appearance.  She is sensible for a teenager.  Blue is judgmental and prejudiced against raven boys or students that attend Aglionby Academy.  She is creative – her room is decorated in feathers, leaves and paper trees.  Most of her clothing is something she’s made herself or altered.  Blue also likes to help people.  We can see that in her many odd jobs some of which include being a waitress at the pizzeria, Nino’s, teaching penmanship to third graders, walking dogs, and helping elderly ladies with their gardens (57).

She has a short temper (11). 

Transportation: bicycle

Tarot Card:  Page of Cups – represents someone who is open to opportunities, new experiences, and new relationships.  She is ready to receive guidance and advice from others.  She is defined by togetherness and thoughtfulness.  This card is related to reaching out to someone and mending relationships.

Death:  To Blue death is part of a reverse fairy tale because of the prophecy that she will kill her love by kissing him.  She doesn’t put too much weight on the prophecy until she meets the living Gansey when he comes for a card reading at her house.  After seeing him alive, the consequences of killing Gansey seem more real.  Any romantic relationship that Blue may have will in some way be related to death.  She struggles to tell her prophecy to anyone she might be romantically interested in.  Telling her crushes about the prophecy also comes with the assumption that they are her true love.  This becomes a problem because she doesn’t love them.


Privilege:  Blue and her family are most likely middle-class.  She is not as rich as Gansey, but she is probably richer than Adam.  She is prejudiced against the raven boys because of their wealth and assumes that they are all arrogant and self-centered.  She made two rules: “One, stay away from boys, because they were trouble.  And two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards” (10).  This influences her relationships with Gansey, Ronan, Noah, and Adam.  When she first meets Gansey, he asks her to sit with the guys at a table at Nino’s.  He makes the mistake of offering to pay her to do it.  She responds appropriately, “I am not a prostitute” (62).  She does not accept charity from the condescending raven boys.

She starts to see privilege differently.  Privilege is instead an act of kindness and allowing someone into her life.  When Gansey comes to her house he is now a “privileged tourist” (98).  You can make someone privileged by giving them something special.  However, Blue also starts to see herself as separate from the raven boys because she is a girl.  She will never be able to share their experiences at Aglionby.  She wants the boys to treat her like an equal friend despite her gender.  She tells Adam, “Well, I don’t want to be just someone to kiss.  I want to be a real friend, too.  Not just someone who’s fun to have around because – because I have breasts!” (345). 

Family:  Blue has a very large family of female psychics.  She lives in a house with her mother, Maura, her mother’s two friends, Calla and Persephone, her half-aunt Neeve, her aunt Jimi, and cousin Orla.  There are probably more that are unnamed.  Her home is full of warmth and chaos.  Out of all the characters she has the most positive experiences with her family.  Blue often feels like her family uses her like a tool because of her ability to magnify psychic energy.  She feels like she has no talents that she can call her own and is always looking for what she calls her something more.  Blue doesn’t know much about her father except that his name is Artemus,  that he might have come out of Cabeswater, and that he disappeared.

Neeve has left a negative energy in her home.  Blue sees her family as whoever belongs inside of her house.  This now includes the raven boys.  “For Blue, there was family – which had never been about blood relation at 300 Fox Way – and then there was everyone else.  When the boys came to her house, they stopped being everyone else” (98).

Beliefs/Dreams:  Blue thinks that most people do not believe in psychics and so she has always felt that other people see her as being crazy.  She also thinks that it is better not to know the future.  She sees Cabeswater as a dream world.  Stiefvater writes, “She felt like she was a part of a dream this place was having, or it was part of a dream of hers” (225).  In Cabeswater, the friends find a hollow tree.  When they go inside of the tree, Gansey, Blue, and Adam each have their own dream or vision.  Blue’s vision shows her what it might be like to actual kiss Gansey.

Nature/Ley Line:  Blue’s favorite place is outside under the beech tree in her backyard.  The inside of her house is so busy that for her the outdoors is the only place she can have privacy.  There is a strong connection between nature and psychic energy.  Stiefvater uses images of nature when she describes Blue watching Neeve scrying (34-5).  Blue’s bedroom is also decorated like a forest.  The trees at Cabeswater knew what her name was.

Glendower:  Blue feels an attraction to Gansey’s journal about Glendower because it represents new possibilities to her.  She feels that finding Glendower is something that runs deeper than just getting the favor from him.  She has become involved in the search for Glendower because it was her fate.  She will find him because she is meant to find him.

Relationships with Others:  Blue thinks that her half-aunt is intense.  She is curious about Gansey at first, but then finds him to be “annoyingly impressive.”  She calls him President Cell Phone.  After a while she starts to see that Gansey has a mask that he takes on and off.  One Gansey is polite, formal, and condescending, the other Gansey doesn’t know very well, but wants to know more.  She also has nicknames for the other boys.  Noah is Smudgy Boy.  Ronan is Soldier Boy.  Adam is Elegant Boy.  She sees Adam as attractive and endearing – not at all like the other raven boys.  I think that most of her interest in Adam is because he is the first boy to show a romantic interest in her.

She realizes that she is physically attracted to Gansey, but still doesn’t love him (7).  She likes having the boys at her house because it gives her the upper hand since they don’t know much about psychicsSecret*2.


Richard “Dick” Campbell Gansey III

Appearance/Traits/Quirks:  Gansey is clean and well dressed.  He wears very expensive clothes with ease and his school uniform looks perfect.  He is tan with tousled brown hair and hazel eyes.  He wears glasses when he doesn’t have his contacts in.  He is a leader and a control freak.  He is oblivious to how other people feel about his money and his attitude, but is trying to pay more attention to the reactions of others.  People say he is much older than he looks – an old soul.  Gansey has made scholarship into an art form.  He smells like mint because of all the mint leaves that he chews.  He also unconsciously rubs his bottom lip with his thumb.   He suffers from insomnia possibly because his mind is always busy with his obsession with Glendower.  Gansey is a member of the Aglionby rowing crew.

Gansey is persuasive (36).  We see more of the masks and this could be related to the fact that he has grown up in a family with politicians.  Gansey is very good at appealing to whomever he meets.  In order to do this he puts on the mask that will most suit the individual with whom he is speaking.  He quits the rowing crew. 

Transportation: A classic orange Camaro with two black stripes down the middle.  Gansey calls it The Pig.  The car is constantly breaking down.  Secret*3  The Pig is similar to Glendower in the way that is always dying and then being revived again.

A car is a wrapper for its contents, he thought, and if he looked on the inside like any of the cars in this [his rich father’s] garage looked on the outside, he couldn’t live with himself.  On the outside, he knew he looked a lot like his father.  On the inside, he sort of wished he looked more like the Camaro (295).

Tarot Card: Death – This card can represent someone in a state of change or transition.  They are closing one door and opening another.  They are going into the unknown from something familiar and shedding old attitudes.

Death: First of all, we know that Gansey will die because Blue saw his spirit on St.Mark’s Day.  In regards to Glendower, Gansey sees death as something that is not permanent.  He believes that Glendower is similar to King Arthur and will someday come back to life or wake up (45).  According to Gansey it is the fact that Glendower is buried on the ley line which keeps him from being entirely dead (215).  We also know that Gansey has died once already.  He is deathly allergic to bees.  When he was 10 years old, a swarm of hornets attacked him.  While he was dying he had a vision concerning Glendower – a message from the ley line.  Secret*4.   This experience makes Gansey like Glendower who has died and will come back to life.  His experiences can also explain his concern for Ronan who has attempted suicide.  Gansey has to remind himself that, “death isn’t as close as you think” (111).  He sees death as possibility – it is a look at what may happen.  This fascinates him and Ronan finds him staring at a bee in their apartment.  His second chance at life makes it more important that he do something meaningful like finding Glendower.

Privilege:  He was born into a family of millionaires. Gansey feels the need to take care of his friends’ financial burdens because he has the means to do so.  He is somewhat careless with material objects because he knows he can just go buy a new one.  Gansey believes that he owes it to the world to discover Glendower again because he has the time and the money to do research while others do not (24).  He does not always realize that while he sees giving away his money to people as kindness and love, others see it as condescending and insulting.  However, he becomes more aware of other people’s perspectives on his privilege after meeting Blue who is always angry with him for throwing around his money.  Gansey starts to worry that all people will see of him is his money.  He states, “I am only my money.  It is all that anyone sees, even Adam” (133).

Gansey begins to relate privilege to not only being rich in money, but rich in love.  He compares himself and Blue; who have had loving families, to Adam who has had to experience domestic abuse (362).  Gansey starts to see that he has been blessed in more ways than one.  He no longer tries to give Adam or Blue money.

Family:  His father is a congressman and his family lives in a mansion in Washington D.C.  He has a sister named Helen whom he gets along with.  They are equals through the fact that they both have the problem of sharing the same parents.  Gansey shares his father’s name and he hates it.  This is why he won’t allow anyone to call him Richard.  Visiting home causes him to compare himself to his family and he feels the weight of everything he hasn’t yet achieved.  His family reminds him that he is becoming more like the masks that he puts on rather than his true self.  His real family is his friends and anyone who is helping him to find Glendower.

His mother is also running for congress which means that Gansey has to appear a certain way so that his mother can appear a certain way to the public.  More masks.

Beliefs/Dreams: Gansey believes that in to make new discoveries, you must believe in what you are looking for.  He does not believe in coincidence.  Everything happens for a reason or it happens as a result of cause and effect.  Inside the hollow tree in Cabeswater, Gansey sees a vision of what Glendower will look like when/if they find him (289).

He believes that finding one impossible thing makes it easier to find more impossible things (187).

Nature/Ley Line:  Gansey is connected to nature by the fact that his near death experience was caused by an insect.

Gansey is disturbed by Cabeswater’s disappearance.

Glendower:  His obsession with Glendower is a painful longing.  He has documented his entire search inside a journal which has become part of his being.  He has put so much love and work into the journal that he feels imcomplete without it.  Glendower is the one thing that Gansey wants that does not come with a price tag.  He wants to find Glendower in order to prove that he is more than just his money. 

Relationships with Others: Gansey sees Ronan as trouble.  He is afraid that Ronan will learn to be nothing.  Gansey wants to find the Ronan that he was friends with before Ronan’s father died.  He believes that Adam works too hard and is concerned for Adam’s health.  It’s hard for Gansey to see Adam with injuries that Gansey knows Adam’s father gave him.  However, Gansey cannot offer Adam help without Adam feeling like Gansey is being condescending.  Gansey thinks that Adam is a genius who is too busy feeling sorry for himself.  He wants Adam to realize how great and fantastic Adam really is.  Gansey thinks Blue is evil, but yet he still wants her to like him because her approval will prove to himself that he is not just an arrogant Aglionby bastard.  He calls Blue “Jane.” (They are collectively now Dick and Jane).  In general, Gansey feels like his friends do not appreciate him in the same way that he cares for them.

In the end he was nobody to Adam, he was nobody to Ronan.  Adam spit his words back at him and Ronan squandered however many second chances he gave him.  Gansey was just a guy with a lot of stuff and a hole inside him that chewed away more of his heart every year.  They were always walking away from him.  But he never seemed able to walk away from them (351).

His opinion of Blue has improved.  He now sees her as fanciful, but sensible (77).  Blue becomes a representation of Henrietta for Gansey.  She is everything about the town that he has come to love.  When he wants to think about Henrietta he calls her instead of his other friends.  And she tells him what is happening at her house (288).  Gansey has a fight with Adam at Gansey’s house.  Afterwards Gansey is convinced that Adam hates him (287).


Ronan Lynch (Greywaren)

Appearance/Traits/Quirks:  Ronan has a sharp nose, thin mouth, blue eyes, and buzzed hair.  He has tattoo on his back and neck.  He’s described as handsome.  He is of Irish origin.  Ronan likes to make other people feel uncomfortable by creating awkward silences and by staring at people for too long.  Ronan also tends to be insincere when he knows that everyone else is being serious.  He tells the blunt truth even if you don’t want to hear it.  Ronan is true to his word.  If he says he will do something, then he will do it.  He acts like he despises everyone.  He likes Latin, loud music, boxing, and swearing.  Ronan is a dare-devil and enjoys doing stunts.  He is very nurturing toward animals and his pet raven, Chainsaw.

He chews on his leather wrist bands.  Ronan despises cell phones and sufferes from insomnia.  However, unlike Gansey who can’t sleep because his mind is busy with Glendower, Ronan doesn’t sleep in order to avoid his dreams.  Ronan and Gansey have a lot of midnight gatherings with one another.

Transportation:  A black BMW which belonged to his father.  Secret*5

Tarot Card:  N/A  Ronan tries to stay away from tarot cards as much as he can because he sees Blue’s family as being involved in the occult or black magic.

Death: His father, Niall Lynch, was murdered and Ronan found the body in the driveway.  Had a near death experience in which he almost bled out.  Noah found his body and Gansey assumed the incident was attempted suicide.

The Orphan Girl from Ronan’s dreams tells him that she is a psychopomp (127).  A psychopomp is a creature or spiritual being which guides the souls of deceased from earth to the after life.  In some cultures, a raven is also a psychopomp.  Secret*6  When Ronan starts dreaming with Kavinsky, Kavinsky gives him a little green pill for which, “dying is a boring side effect” (312).  The pill throws them into sleep. 

Privilege:  Ronan’s money comes to him from the fact that his father died and he was given money in his father’s will.  This maybe the reason for Ronan’s bitterness towards his privilege.  He hates the stereotype of being condescending and self-centered that Blue assigns to him. The world expects him to be a certain way because he is rich, but Ronan refuses to meet these expectations.  However, he still doesn’t know what he wants for himself.  He tells Gansey, “I don’t know what I want.  I don’t know what the hell I am” (75).  The only way that Ronan meets the stereotype of being a privileged individual is in his love for the Latin language.  Latin is not a language that’s used for any practical function, so learning it fluently is something that someone with time and money might do.  Knowing Latin seems to me like something a snobby scholar would wave in the face of another scholar.

We learn that Ronan has actually inherited 3 million dollars from his father along with their family property.  However, he cannot access it until he is 18.  If Ronan ever returns to his home, the money will be forfeit (34).  Returning home also includes never seeing his mother again.  Unlike Gansey’s family home which is rich in an untouchable and intimidating way, Ronan’s family home is what he calls “shabby rich” (155).  Ronan’s family is rich not because they own shiny things, but because they can afford to buy every warm and comfortable thing you could imagine.  Instead of Gansey this time, Ronan secretly helps Adam with Adam’s rent.  This seems like part of a turing point for Ronan.  It perhaps means that he is becoming more comfortable with who is and who privilege has made him.  Instead of being stuck in confusion about his identity, he is now acting on it and maybe using Gansey as a guide for the person he wants to be.  Church is the one place where Ronan actually feels privileged to hate himself for the sins he’s committed.  “Ronan gave in to the brief privilege of hating himself, as he always did in church.  There was something satisfying about acknowledging this hatred, something relieving about this little present he allowed himself each Sunday” (91). 

Family: Ronan is the middle of three sons.  He has an older brother, Declan, and a younger brother, Matthew.  Declan controls Ronan’s funds until Ronan turns 18.  Ronan hates Declan.  Their mother stopped speaking after the death of their father.

Ronan’s family has lots of secrets.  Niall had a mysterious job for which he spent a lot of time traveling.  Like Ronan, Niall could bring objects into reality from his dreams.  Like Gansey shares his father’s name, being able to create dream objects gives Ronan the curse of being just like his father.  We learn that Ronan’s family farm is called The Barns because all of many barns on their property.   Ronan feels guilt at not discovering his father’s body in time to save his father (91).  He realizes that Gansey is more of a brother to him than his real brothers (154).  Declan is incapable of telling anyone the truth and Matthew is slow of mind, but everyone’s sweetheart including Ronan’s.  His mother is living in a type of fairy tale.  Like Glendower, she is in a state of sleep.  In order to wake up she must go back inside of a dream.  Or in other words, Ronan must take her into Cabeswater.

Beliefs/Dreams:  We learn that Chainsaw the raven is something that Ronan took out of his dreams.

Ronan is what is called the Greywaren.  It’s a title that Cabeswater gives him.  There a many people that can steal objects out of their dreams, but only Ronan can speak the language of dreams.  When Ronan dreams he enters Cabeswater where the Orphan Girl helps him take dream objects into reality.  The Orphan Girl wants Ronan to take her out of the dreams, but he doesn’t.  Some other dream objects include: keys to The Pig, a remote control air plane that runs without batteries, blue lilies, the translating puzzle box, and his night terrors which are creatures that I imagine to be part raven, part man, part demon.        He has repeated dreams about driving to the barns and multiple nightmares about bad things happening to Matthew.  Some other dreams include Gansey being attacked by hornets and Adam being overcome by a mask (the dream about Adam can symbolize how Adam feels about sacrificing himself to the ley line).  The dream beasts that Kavinsky and Ronan summon to fight each other reflect the characters’ self-hatred.  We find out that when a dreamer dies, all of their dream objects that are living fall into a sleep (The Barns seems to be under a sleeping spell since Niall died).  “Non mortem, somni fratrem” (146).  Not death, but his brother sleep.  Sounds like Glendower. 

Ronan is Catholic and believes in heaven and hell.  He believes that he once saw the devil talking to his father inside of a barn.

Nature/Ley Line:  He has a pet raven named Chainsaw.  Chainsaw reveals to us what Ronan might have been like before Niall died.  “Ronan’s smile cut his face, but he looked kinder than Blue had ever seen him, like the raven in his hand was his heart, finally laid bare” (304).  Ronan can speak in Latin to the trees of Cabeswater.

Taking things from his dreams is like the power nature has to produce new life.  Again we see Ronan’s true heart through the respect and love he has for animals.  We find out that creating dream objects sucks the energy out of the ley line.  Ronan’s and Kavinsky’s dreaming has been adding to the erratic behavior of the ley line with burst of energy followed by no energy at all.  Their dreaming contributed to Cabeswater disappearing.

Glendower:  Ronan wants to find Glendower because Gansey wants to find Glendower (21).  Ronan imagines that finding Glendower will be like dying in the sense that it will be similar to finally seeing God.

Relationships with Others:  It seems that Ronan enjoys spending time with Noah more than any other character does.  Secret*7

Ronan sees that Gansey is pretending that Adam did not disobey him by waking the ley line.  Gansey is just ignoring the fact that he’s mad at Adam because Adam decided to go his own way, stepping further away from Gansey.  Ronan also notices that Gansey is attracted to Blue when Gansey himself doesn’t know it yet (141).  Ronan loves when Gansey acts like a normal boy – Gansey’s opposite extreme from the masks Gansey wears.  His relationship with Gansey is a reminder of what Ronan wants to be.  He’s concerned about what Gansey may think about his actions.  Destroying The Pig is like destroying Gansey.  Ronan thinks that Adam doesn’t feel right if Adam’s life isn’t agony (71).  Ronan is digusted by Blue’s clothes.

Adam Parrish

Appearance/Traits/Quirks: Adam is self-conscious about his appearance.  He wears a second hand Aglionby uniform.  He is fine boned with blue eyes.  He looks fragile.  He is at the top of his class at Aglionby.  Adam is cynical and hard working.  He is a proud and a dreamer.  Adam enjoys fixing cars and works at an automotive mechanic’s shop.

He has prominent cheek bones and deep set eyes (8).  Adam is feels self-pity and he has lost hearing in his left ear.

Transportation: bicycle.  He gets a tri-colored, junky car from Helen, Gansey’s sister.

Tarot Card: The Magician – This card represents someone who does what needs to be done and carries out a plan.  The magician is totally committed to a cause.  He has the power to draw on a variety of forces and use them in creative ways.  He is magic because his achievements seem to be miracles.

Death: In the hollow tree inside Cabeswater, Adam has a vision of himself causing Gansey’s death.  This is part of what prompts him to make his sacrifice to the ley line.

Death is what makes everyone equal.  “Only death couldn’t be swiped away by a credit card” (65).  Adam starts to see ghosts.  The spirits are messages the ley line is trying to send him, but he understand what they are telling him.

Privilege: Adam is part of the lower-class and lives in a trailer.  He has to work three jobs in order to afford to pay tuition at Aglionby.  He fears that Gansey will in a way own him if Adam accepts Gansey’s charity.  This is a problem because, “success meant nothing to Adam if he hadn’t done it for himself” (132).  Privilege is something Adam has to earn on his own.  Adam experiences a fierce wanting for everything in his life (41).

Adam is convinced that it was Gansey who is responsible for lowering his rent (64).  This causes more arguments between them.  Adam is also convinced that the people at Gansey’s party will somehow know that he lives in a trailer – that his poverty is something people just know because of how he acts or looks.  Adam states that he will only help Gansey if they can help each other as equals (282).

Family: Adam’s father is an alcoholic and sometimes beats Adam.  They are proud family in the way that what happens in their family stays in their family.  Adam and his mother don’t want to talk about the behavior of their father/husband.  His family is a part of his strong wanting.  Adam desires to find a place where he belongs.

He was full of so many wants, too many to prioritize, and so they allfelt desperate.  To not have to work so many hours, to get into a good college, to look right in a tie, to not be hungry after eating the thin sandwich he’d brought to work, to drive the shiny Audi that Gansey had stopped to look at with him once after school, to go home, to have hit his father himself, to own an apartment with granite countertops and a television bigger than Gansey’s desk, to belong somewhere, to go home, to go home, to go home” (370).

Adam lives in an apartment above St.Agnes church rectory.  Like the other boys, Adam faces the challenge of not being like his father.  He has struggles to control his anger (66-7).

Beliefs/Dreams:  It is hard for Adam to believe in the supernatural.  He has too many worries about the reality he is living to think too much about magical possibilities.  Sometimes he feel that he is sleepwalking in the life he lives with Gansey.

Nature/Ley Line:  Adam sees images of nature when Gansey tells other people about Glendower.  He sacrifices his hands and eyes to the ley line in order to wake it up.  When this happens there is an earthquake.  Adam believed that waking the ley line would somehow make him equal to Gansey.

The ley line is messing with Adam’s senses, trying to send him a message.  He has an episode of what is called transient global amnesia (306).  He walks somewhere and he can’t remember why he’s going there or for what purpose.  He is aware that he can’t remember, but yet he can’t stop walking.  He now has the ability to detect the location of the ley line without using any electronic devices.  He learns with the help of Persephone that, because he made his sacrifice, it is now his job to maintain the ley line.  His task is compared to what a priestess might have done at Stonehenge – to take care of the ley line through rituals.  The earthquake that occurred after his sacrifice caused energy leaks along the ley line.  It is Adam’s job to find and fix the leaks so that Cabeswater will have enough energy to return.  He learns how to communicate with the ley line by using tarot cards.

Glendower: Adam wants to find Glendower in order to be granted the favor from the king.  This will grant him some of his wants.

Relationships with Others: Like Blue, Adam realizes that there are multiple versions of Gansey.  Adam thinks that Gansey should get out of Ronan’s business and let Ronan make his own decisions.  Gansey and Adam have a relationship in which Adam is trying to get away from Gansey and Gansey is always trying to draw nearer because he fears that Adam will leave him.  Adam is also bitter and envious of Ronan.  He’s envious of Ronan’s privilege and bitter because Ronan seems to be wasting it.

Adam is still attracted to Blue. “Blue Sargent was pretty in a way that was physically painful to him” (58).  We learn more about the history of the boys’ friendships.  Gansey met Ronan first before Ronan’s father died.  After the death of Niall, Ronan moved in with Gansey.  Sometime after that Adam stopped to help Gansey with the Camaro which had broken down on the side of the road.  Adam thought Gansey would be cruel to him and didn’t want to help at first, however, they became instant friends after they started talking.  Adam believes that Ronan is unable to express emotion with words so Ronan uses actions to express himself.  The sacrifice Adam made to the ley line sets him apart from his friends.  They will never be able to understand Adam’s new connection to the ley line.

maj01Noah Czerny

Appearance/Traits/Quirks: Noah is gray, rumpled and faded.  He is very observant and good at finding things.  He is quiet, mild, content, loyal, and easy-going.  He is good at producing unexpected humor.  His hands are restless and moving.

Transportation: Red Mustang

Tarot Card: N/A

Death: Secret*8

Discovered Ronan when Ronan was dying.

Privilege:  He was once a student at Aglionby Academy, but now privilege doesn’t apply to him.

Family:  He has a mother, father, and sister.

Beliefs/Dreams:  Starts going to mass with Ronan (89).

Nature/Ley LineSecret*9

Glendower: Noah is just along for the ride.  He is looking for Glendower because his friends are looking for Glendower and he wants to spend time with them.

Relationships with Others:  Noah seems to spend the most time with Ronan.  He has a fascination with Blue’s hair and is always petting her head.  It is other characters that make Noah what he is.  “Without Blue there to make him stronger, without Gansey there to make him human, without Ronan there to make him belong, Noah was a frightening thing” (371).

He tells Blue that he would ask her on a date if he were able.



1.  In The Dream Thieves, Blue is able to have her first kiss with Noah because he is already dead (244).

2.  Blue realizes that she has a crush on Gansey and not Adam. (Thieves, 240).

3.  Ronan wrecks Gansey’s car and brings back an identical version of The Pig which Ronan has taken from his dreams.  Also in The Dream Thieves, the friends find a tire from The Pig in a man-made pond, but the tire is several hundred years old.

4.  We learn that Gansey was brought back to life in exchange for Noah’s life which was given as a sacrifice to the ley line.

5.  His father’s BMW is also a dream object that Ronan’s father created.

6.  Ronan did not attempt suicide, but was attacked in his dreams by his night terrors.  He allowed Gansey believe that he had tried to kill himself (135).

7.  Ronan seems to be the only person who went through a grieving process for Noah after they find out that Noah had been murdered (Raven, 285).

8.  Noah is a ghost.  He was murdered seven years ago and his death was a sacrifice to the ley line.  His death is what brought Gansey back to life after Gansey was attacked by hornets.  Noah is a shadow of what he used to be while alive.  Noah shows us that death is what we make of it because even though he is a ghost, to his friends he is not truly dead.

In The Dream Thieves, Noah disappears entirely.  He’s not even an invisible spirit.  Noah often re-enacts his own death without knowing it.  He doesn’t care about how his spiritual form exists or why.

9.  Noah is related to nature by the fact that his body is literally in the earth.  The presence of his spirit depends on the fact that his body is buried on the ley line.

Noah’s spirit vanishes like Cabeswater vanishes.  His presence also depends on how much energy is flowing through the ley line. (Thieves, 123)


Stiefvater, Maggie.  The Raven Boys.  New York: Scholastic, 2012.  Print.

Stiefvater, Maggie.  The Dream Thieves.  New York: Scholastic, 2013.  Print.

Developing The Raven Cycle: The Novels of Maggie Stiefvater (Part One)

imagesIt was one in the morning.  A Yankee candle burned on the table next to me, the scent of home filling the room, it flickered small in the darkness of empty space.  The night itself nor the time mattered since they fell beyond my bubble of light, which shone on the book in front of me.  I saw then in a deep part of my mind as I read the words in front of me,  that discovering a story that I loved was kind of like the cliché that when you kiss someone – and the kiss is really, really good – then the entire world disappears and it’s just you and the person you’re kissing.  With that realization, the emptiness of the world vanished and I was just someone sitting next to a candle with a book.  The book was called The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, the first novel in her series The Raven Cycle.

After much thought I’ve decided that the best way to describe Stiefvater’s books is by stating that they are a combination of the student camaraderie and youthful community of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter,  the mixing of European and American folklore of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and the strong sense of place and the shared experiences of growing up surrounded by paranormal events in Stephen King’s It.  The story is about five teens who all live in Henrietta, Virginia.  Four of them; Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah, are students at the all boys private boarding school called Aglionby Academy.  The school is home to boys who come from extremely wealthy households – the sons of politicians, bankers, and possibly criminals.  Gansey, the leader of their friend group, harbors a leisure and money fueled obsession of finding the tomb of the Welsh king, Owen Glendower.  Whoever finds and awakens the king will be granted a favor.  Historical and supernatural theories have led Gansey and his search to Henrietta.  Gansey believes that Henrietta lies on what is called a ley line, or a pathway of spiritual energy running through the earth which connects locations of importance such as Stonehenge and Washington D.C. (Derry, Maine as well. :) ).  Each of the boys have their own reasons for finding Glendower which have entangled them together.

The fifth main character in the story is Blue Sargent.  All of the women in her family have psychic abilities and they all live in the same house.  From the time Blue was born, her family had assigned to her a prophecy that Blue would kill her true love if she kissed him.  Blue doesn’t put too much weight on her fortune until St. Mark’s Day.  On the night of St.Mark’s Day, Blue goes with her half-aunt, Neeve, to a ruined church where spirits arise and walk the ley line.  These are not the spirits of those who have died, but the ghosts of who will die within the year.   Blue’s family records the names of the spirits so that they can inform their clients of who will be dying.  Blue herself cannot see the apparitions.  Her only psychic talent is increasing the energy sensed by other psychics.  However, this year, Blue sees the ghost of a boy.  She asks the spirit what his name is and he tells her it is Gansey.  Neeve later explains to Blue that there are two reasons why she could see him: one, he’s Blue’s true love; or two, Blue will kill him.

After Gansey, Adam, and Ronan seek advice on the supernatural from the Sargent household, Blue is inevitably caught up in the boys’ quest to discover Glendower.

In my opinion, characters are the most interesting part of Stiefvater’s novels.  They are definitely not perfect people, but I love them anyway.  I don’t think I’ve read many young adult novels that feature relationships between characters that are as complex and deep as what I find in The Raven Cycle.  For this reason, I’ve been trying to come up with a way of posting information about each character in a way that shows connections between the characters and connections between the character and important ideas in the novels.  It has taken me forever to find the right way to do this.  Anyway, what I’ve done is created a profile for each of the five characters.  The categories I’ve included in the profile are important motifs from the books.

The categories on the profiles include: appearance/traits/quirks, transportation, tarot cards, death, privilege, family, beliefs/dreams, nature/ley line, Glendower, and relationships with others.  I’ll explain some of the categories to you and the reasons why I’ve picked them.   I’ve chosen to write about transportation because cars become an essential part in describing the people who own them.  The novels are about rich, teenage boys who can buy whatever car they want.  Therefore, they pick vehicles that tell us exactly what type of people they are. As for the tarot card category, some cards in the tarot deck, both the face cards and the major arcana, are used not only to represent ideas or actions, but can symbolize a literal person.  If you work with tarot cards at all, you may find that one card in particular represents yourself (mine is Temperance for example).  In the same way, Steifvater has assigned different cards which are used to represent the characters.  By “privilege” I’m referring to the fact that some of the characters were born with wealth and an extravagant lifestyle while other characters have to work in order to earn everything that they own.  Privilege is not something the characters ask for, but they are given it when they are born.  Therefore, each character has a relationship with and opinion of their own privilege.  Each character also reacts differently to the fact that other characters are more privileged than they are.  Privilege changes how they feel and interpret each others actions.   I’ve chosen to pair “nature” and “ley line” together because the two things seem to be strongly connected.  The ley line is essentially part of the earth.  Natural objects like rocks and streams seem to increase or define its energy.  The forest called Cabeswater is located at the most powerful point of the ley line and Cabeswater’s presence depends on the line’s energy.  No energy, no forest.  A character’s relationship with nature describes their relationship with the ley line.  The rest of the categories I think are more self-explanatory.

I’ve created these profiles for each of the five characters, but they also span the space of what is for now two books (The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves), the first two books of the series.  This will document the development or changes in the characters after they experience events in the novels.  Anything on the profiles that is in black text refers to The Raven Boys while any text in green refers to The Dream Thieves.  In addition, I wanted the profiles to be complete without revealing too many spoilers to those who haven’t read the books.  For that reason, I’ve marked certain things on the profiles as “secret” followed by a number.  The secrets are then listed at the bottom of each profile with their corresponding number.  That way you can choose to read the spoilers or not.  If you don’t read them, you will still know that there is some information in a category that I have left out.  I will have the profiles posted tomorrow before the release of the third novel on Tuesday.

As far as I know the Raven Cycle is projected to be a four book series.  The third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, will be released on Tuesday October 21, 2014.  I will be adding more to my profiles and re-posting them as more of the books become available.  Thanks for reading.  I hope you follow my progress with the character profiles.

Theology and Characters in Shakespeare’s Richard III


It’s been a while since I posted about a history play so it might be a little confusing as far as how the characters in Richard III are related to the characters in the Henry VI plays.  In the Henry VI plays, King Henry goes up against the usurper Richard Duke of York.  Richard Duke of York is Richard III’s father.  Richard III’s mother is the Duchess of York.  Richard III has two brothers that you should be concerned about.  One of those brothers is King Edward IV who takes the throne at the end of 3 Henry VI.  Richard III’s other brother is George, Duke of Clarence.

The next most confusing thing about the characters in Richard III is that the children of the characters mentioned above have the same names.  King Edward is married to Queen Elizabeth.  They have two sons named Richard and Edward.  They also have a daughter named Elizabeth.  These children are often refered to as the young princes and princess.

At one point Richard III desires to marry a young woman called Lady Anne.  Anne was married to Henry VI’s son who was also called Edward.  Richard III then murdered her husband and her father-in-law King Henry VI.

Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret is also in the play Richard III.  She is no longer queen and should not be confused with Queen Elizabeth.

George, Duke of Clarence has two children who are called “Boy” and “Girl” in the play, but their real names are Edward and Margaret.

The characters Marquess of Dorset and Lord Grey are Queen Elizabeth’s sons from a previous marriage before she became queen.

Henry, Earl of Richmond who opposes Richard III will later become King Henry VII.

Don’t let these confusions keep you from reading the play.  Once you start to get to know the characters, it is much easier to keep track of who they are.  If you do get confused, the list of characters (usually found at the beginning of the play) can be extremely helpful.  The best way to figure out who the characters are is to just jump in and start reading.

Another interesting tidbit of news is that in Sept. 2012, archeologist believe that they found the body of Richard III buried under a parking lot in Leicester.  They believe it was Richard’s body because the skeleton had a curved spine and showed signs of battle wounds.  However, they still haven’t confirmed whether or not it was the remains of Richard that they found.

Richard III’s Character

David Bevington, the editor of the text that I’m using, offers several interpretations of Richard III’s character that are either religious and “psychological.”  Bevington makes it clear that Richard III contains a representation of the fight of good against evil with Richard as the “villain-hero” and Richmond as “righteous agent of devine and poetic justice.”  He states that Richard’s role as a treacherous and ever-changing character is based on the character of Vice in earlier morality plays.

The two interpretations stand mainly on how the reader views Richard’s relationship with his deformity.  From a psychological point-of-view, a reader might say that Richard’s deformity is the cause for his evil behavior and the need to control others.  Because his ugliness has caused others to disregard and ostracize him, he has a great need to prove himself through trickery and manipulation.  The religious interpretation is that Richard was born with his deformities because he was evil.  His evilness was an innate quality in him even before his birth.  This evilness is then manifested in his twisted form.  If one wants to take on this interpretation, than you can also view all the behaviors and fates of the characters to be that of devine will.  As much as Richard believes himself to have power over other characters, he is still subject to even greater powers controlling the universe.

My own interpretation of Richard’s character falls somewhere in between these two possibilities offered by Bevington.  The following comes basically from a paper that I wrote for my Shakespeare class during my undergraduate studies.

According to the Folger Shakespeare Library, William Shakespeare probably wrote the play Richard III sometime between 1592 and 94 (Folger).  Not long before this in the late 1580’s, England experienced conflict with Spain and in 1588 defeated the Spanish armada.  The cause of this war was not a simple matter, but it is certain that the conflict was in part caused because of religious unrest between Catholics of Spain and Protestants of England (British History).  In some ways Richard III reflects the religious conflict of this historic event.  Just as in the war against Spain, the play features a battle in its final acts in which everything works out for the best for England.  This battle in the play can then also be connected to religious matters.  Soon we learn that Richard has murdered at least two men before the play begins and he proceeds in causing the deaths of nine others before the play is over.  His character is the heart of evil in the play and can be described in theological terms as demonic.  Richmond, on the other hand, could represent the forces of good within the play.  At the final moments of the story he appears as a savior, killing Richard and ending the battle.  He also declares to have God on his side and receives blessings from the ghosts as if they were angels (V.iii.227-33, 240-2).  It is possible then that Richard III could be a representation of the Spanish Catholics whose religion threatened Protestant England.  The image Shakespeare has created of Richard being possessed by a kind of demon adds an interesting dimension to Richard’s character.  Shakespeare portrays Richard as being demonic and therefore Richard is a human character with inhumane character traits.

Richard appears to be demonic because he takes pleasure in his disfigurement and because of the way the other characters curse him.  Shakespeare gives readers the impression that Richard’s form must be in some ways terrifying.   Richard describes himself as “deformed, unfinished, sent before my time”(I.i.20).  The very last part of this line contains an idea related to people being sent to earth from God.  For some reason Richard was forced into the world by a divine power before the completion of his physically development.  In Shakespeare’s time a possible reasoning behind these kinds of birth deformities could be that there is sin or some form of evil connected to the child.  The child is then a manifestation of this evil.  Shakespeare could be using this idea to enhance the connection that Richard is in part coming from hell.  Another of Richard’s lines states, “that dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (I.i.23).  Often times it is thought that animals have a stronger ability to sense a hostile or demonic presence.  It could be that the dogs aren’t just barking because Richard is so unattractive, but because they sense danger or the demonic nature that Richard embodies.  The reaction to his deformity becomes a physical representation of his demonic character.

It is not just Richard’s deformity that causes his character to be demonic, but the fact that he takes pleasure from this deformity of evil.  Richard uses his deformity in order to get what he wants.  When he desires the death of Hastings, Richard uses his twisted arm to incriminate his believed enemy declaring, “Look at how I am bewitched!  Behold my arm!” (III.iv.68).  Richard’s ready use and revealing of his misshapen body shows that Richard is not ashamed of his disfigurement.  He takes pride in showing other people his evil nature and what this nature has done to his body.  His exclamation of his being bewitched can be interpreted not as disgust, but as excitement – like a child showing off a large insect they’ve just discovered.  He uses his deformity to draw attention to himself instead of hiding it with shame.  We also see the joy he takes in his deformity through Shakespeare’s use of shadows in connection to Richard.  He loves to see his shadow because of the way it reflects his appearance and inner darkness.  Richard tells us that he has “no delight to pass away the time / unless to see my shadow in the sun” (I.i.25-6).  This line could mean that he enjoys seeing the shadow because it resembles his own crippled body or it could be more of a metaphorical contrast between good and evil.  The sun here would represent the good and God while the shadow of his figure is the demonic taint on the world of God.   Later, after convincing Anne to marry him, he again makes light of his deformity, joking that he must be handsome if Anne accepted him.  He requests “shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass / that I may see my shadow as I pass”(I.ii.265-6).  Again Richard wants to see his own irregular appearance in a mirror so that he might enjoy it.  This not only shows that he likes his evilness, but in a way has a sense of vanity, a sin, in connection with it.  These lines give us an image of Richard’s deformity or evil and tell us that Richard is happy to be possessed of a demon because of the delight he takes in seeing his dark deformity in contrast to the sunny world around him.

The most convincing way in which Shakespeare gives the audience the idea of Richard as coming from hell is the language other characters’ use when referring to Richard.  At the death of her husband, Anne says to Richard, “Foul devil, for God’s sake hence and trouble us not / for thou hast made the happy earth thy hell”(I.ii.50-1).  These lines seem to be a type of exorcism declaring Richard is the devil creating a hell and that he should leave.   In the same scene Anne declares, “no beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.”  Richard replies “But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”  According to Bevington, Anne interprets this line to mean that Richard is neither man nor beast and must be the devil (652).  She responds to Richard’s comment saying “Oh, wonderful, when devils tell truth” (I.ii.71-3).  In the next scene, Queen Margaret calls Richard “the slave of nature and the son of hell”(I.iii.230).  The first part of the line refers to how Richard is by nature deformed.  This makes a direct connection between Richard’s deformity and the fact that he is demonic by next stating his connection to hell.

Being possessed by a demon gives Richard the inhuman characteristic of lacking pity or emotion.  Through part of the play, Richard is keeping two young men locked in the Tower.  These men are Edward and Richard, the sons of Queen Elizabeth and King Edward’s heirs.  Even though the princes are fairly young, Richard of Gloucester shows no pity when he bluntly states, “Shall I be plain?  I wish the bastards dead” (IV.ii.18).  This bluntness in speech shows that Richard feels no guilt at his desire for the princes’ deaths.  He shows no emotion for the young men, not even much anger – just the simple desire for their deaths.  This lack of any sort of emotion makes Richard seem less like a human.  In another situation Richard is beating on a messenger that brings him bad news about Richmond’s armies.  Richard states as he is hitting the messenger “there, take thou that, till thou bring better news” (IV.iv.508).   This shows us that Richard has no empathy for the situations of other humans.  He doesn’t take into account that the messenger is not at fault and was just performing a task Richard had asked of him.  The two young princes are defenseless against any attack, and yet Richard lashes out regardless of the pain he is causing his innocent victims.   He even tells us that “tear falling pity dwells not in this eye” (IV.ii.65).  He explains to us that he feels no emotion, that no matter how much in pain someone might be, he would not be moved.  This lack of empathy can be explained by the demon inside Richard.  It is possible that this demon inside of Richard makes him inhuman to the point in which he can no longer understand the pain of others.

Right before the battle, we can see that Richard’s demon is fighting against the human part of Richard, which begins to feel doubt and guilt.  Richard tells his men “let not out babbling dreams affright our souls / conscience is but a word that cowards use” (V.iii.308-9).  The ghosts that Richard dreams of spark doubt into Richard’s mind about the wrongful actions he has taken against others.  But we can see that he is still fighting against his feelings and that the demon is trying to remind Richard that conscience of feeling is a weakness that should not be indulged in.

Although we can see that Richard is demonic, a human part of him is still present when his character can understand human nature in order to persuade other characters and in the vulnerability he shows before the battle.  One way that Richard persuades other characters is by falsely convincing them that he is on their side.  This is seen in Richard’s dealings with his brother Clarence.  When Richard is actually the man who is sending Clarence to the tower, he convinces Clarence otherwise by saying “I will deliver you, or else lie for you” (I.i.115).  This makes Clarence believe that Richard is trying to help him.  Richard may not be able to understand the pain of other humans, but he does seem to understand what will comfort a person.  Richard understands that people have vulnerabilities and at times need to be reassured.  Therefore he uses the human parts of his character to indulge the ambitions of the demonic and inhuman side of his nature.

Another way in which Richard manipulates other characters is by convincing them that he will make amends for his past actions.  When Richard is trying to persuade Queen Elizabeth to help him woo her daughter, Elizabeth refuses because of the trouble Richard has caused in the past.  However, Richard responds with the argument that if he makes Elizabeth’s daughter queen, this will make up for the death of Elizabeth’s other children. He speaks about the throne saying “to make amends I’ll give it to your daughter” and later that “all the ruins of distressful times” will be “repaired with double riches of content” (IV.iv.295, 318-9).  Despite the wrongs Richard has already done, he convinces Elizabeth by telling her he can now replace and give her what she had wanted – a child on the throne.  His human nature allows him to see what other characters desire.  His evil nature then uses this information to get what it wants no matter the costs that the characters have to pay.  Because Richard placates her desires and worries, Elizabeth is lead to believe that Richard will be able to provide something good for the future. He uses this method again when convincing Tyrrel to murder the princes.  Richard says “say it is done / and I will love thee and prefer thee for it” (IV.ii.80-1).  Here Richard is telling Tyrrel that if he performs these murders than in the future he will have the benefits of being in good standing with the king.  Richard’s humanness understands that Tyrrel might want positive attention from the king, so Richard uses that in order to carry out his evil plot of the princes’ murders.  This also shows that Richard can connect to the human need for comfort and the need for knowing that things will be better in the future.  He is able to make this connection because he himself feels human weakness.  However, he uses this human nature to perform vile demonic acts like murder.

The point at which Richard’s human half is strongest is before the battle against Richmond.  The angel-ghosts come to bless Richmond, but they also help Richard realize the part of him that is still human and separates this humanness from his evil intentions.  After the visit of the ghosts, Richard starts to see what he has done wrong and the human part of him starts to fear the demon he has inside.  Whereas he used to delight in seeing his shadow or the physical image of his evil, now the shadow acts as a reminder of his guilt and scares him.  Richard reveals his doubts to Ratcliff saying, “I fear, I fear!” Ratcliff then responds “Nay, good my lord, be not afraid of shadows” (V.iii.214-5).  Finally, Richard replies:

“By the apostle Paul, shadows tonight

Have struck more terror to the soul of Richard

Than can the substance of ten thousand soldiers” (V.iii. 216-8).

This shows that Richard is more afraid of his own evil self than he is of losing the battle to Richmond.  The shadows start to appear as the ghosts of the people Richard has killed and this shows that Richard is feeling guilt for his action rather than being completely emotionless.  The human of Richard is realizing the demon of Richard.  Again the quotation “let not out babbling dreams affright our souls / conscience is but a word that cowards use” (V.iii.308-9) tells us that what Richard fears is the guilt that his human conscience finally recognizes.  Richard is reassuring himself in this line.  He is saying “I’m not a coward so I can’t be feeling guilty about what I’ve done.”  The fact that he needs reassurance shows that he is worried about his guilty feelings.  It is possible that Shakespeare gave us a foreshadowing of this realization in a speech about Richard given by Queen Margaret.  Margaret speaks of Richard as “that dog, that had his teeth before his eyes” (IV.iv.49).  Margaret could be explaining to us that Richard does not see his wrongs and that he acted before seeing what he had done.  However, because his eyes are coming behind the teeth or actions, Margaret is saying that it will be possible for Richard to realize what he has done.  This fear that Richard expresses shows us that his human self is battling his evil self and that the human portion of him is now unsure of what to do about the demonic portion of him.

This characterization of Richard as partially demon and partially human is best summarized by a speech made by the Duchess.  In this speech Shakespeare uses a list of words with opposing meanings to describe Richard.  The Duchess states “dead life, blind sight, poor mortal-living ghost” (IV.iv.26).  “Dead life” can represent Richard’s unfeeling and emotionally dead traits compared to his understanding of life and the human need for comfort.  “Blind sight” shows us that Richard is blind and shameless towards his demon self and then as he becomes more human at the end of the play he finally sees the evilness of his shadowed figure.  Finally, “mortal-living ghost” gives us a contrast between the earthly human part of Richard and the theological nature of his evilness as a demonic spirit.

There should be a conclusion here, but I decided to leave it off.


“British History Timeline.” BBC: British History in Depth. Website.

“Richard III.”  Folger Shakespeare Library.  1996. Website.

Shakespeare, William.  “The Tragedy of King Richard the Third.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Battles on Stage in Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI

The Death of Prince Edward

Battles, Death, And Revenge

The Third Part of King Henry the Six is one of Shakespeare’s most battle rich plays.  The narrative covers the time period from 1460-1471.  In those eleven years and only a few hours on stage, Shakespeare includes four large battles and several other fights.  This results in the question: How did Shakespeare make battles on stage seem realistic?  He couldn’t have had enough actors to represent several armies fighting each other and there certainly was not enough space on stage for a battlefield.  Some of the battle has to occur off stage or in the mind of the audience.  This was done with music and alarums which called the soldiers to arms.  As many actors as possible we asked to fight each other.  They made rapid entrances and exits from the stage to make it appear as if there were more soldiers.  The Elizabethan playhouse often times had an upper gallery or balcony to the stage.  This gallery would represent the defensive walls around cities where more fighting could take place.  In addition, battles were represented by one-on-one confrontations between the hero figures of both sides of the conflict.

Revenge is a huge part of this play and the cause for much of the gruesome violence in the narrative.  The relationships between fathers, sons, and brothers is especially important.  The deaths of fathers and brothers lead to sons and other brothers seeking vengeance.  First, the young man, the Earl Rutland, is murdered by Lord Clifford.  The Duke of York is laughed at and forced to wear a paper crown before facing his death.  Clifford then dies with an arrow through his neck.  Prince Edward and King Henry are ruthlessly stabbed multiple times.  Prince Edward is stabbed by several individuals one right after the other while Henry’s body is stabbed even after he is already dead.

3 Henry VI is mostly about how the male relationships in the play lead to violence and revenge.  The ultimate result of this is more grief for everyone including those who are more innocent.


Act 1 – The play begins with the Yorkist faction in parliament.  Richard Duke of York, Edward; York’s eldest son, Richard; York’s 2nd youngest son, the Earl of Warwick, Marquess Montague, and the Duke of Norfolk are all present.  They talk about how King Henry left his army behind and fled to London.  We learn that the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Clifford, Lord Stafford, the Duke of Somerset, and perhaps the Duke of Buckingham are all dead in the battle.  York is forward enough to sit on Henry’s throne.  The Lancastrian faction enters.  King Henry, Northumberland’s son, Clifford’s son, the Earl of Westmoreland, and the Duke of Exeter find York seated on the throne.  Northumberland’s son, Clifford’s son, and Westmoreland all swear to get revenge against York for killing their fathers.  Exeter moves to the Yorkist faction.  Henry makes an agreement with York.  For the rest of Henry’s life, York will leave Henry alone.  In exchange Henry will allow York’s sons to inherit the throne after Henry’s death.  Northumberland (the son), Clifford (the son), and Westmoreland curse Henry for disinheriting the prince.  Queen Margaret and Prince Edward enter.  Both of them are also angry at Henry.  The Queen divorces herself from Henry’s table and bed.  She hopes to raise her own army to fight against York.

Richard convinces York, his father, to break the deal he made with Henry.  York did not swear his oath in front of magistrates so it is technically not binding.  The Queen’s army moves to attack York’s castle.

Clifford, “the butcher,” kills York’s youngest son, the Earl of Rutland.

The Queen’s army defeats York.  Both of York’s uncles are killed in the battle.  Clifford, Northumberland, and the Queen capture York.  The Queen tells York that Rutland is dead.  York is deeply grieved.  Clifford kills York.  This means that York’s son, Edward, is the new Duke of York and also Henry’s main rival for the throne.

Act 2 – Richard and Edward find out that their father is dead.  Richard swears to get revenge against Clifford.  Warwick enters.  He tried to attack the Queen, but failed.  Warwick has taken his forces along with the army of the Duke of Norfolk to join up with Edward’s soldiers.  Edward will take the combined forces to London where Henry’s previous oath is trying to be annulled.  We learn that the Queen is getting ready to attack the Yorkists again.

In the town of York, Henry tells God that York’s death was not his fault.  Clifford says that Henry is a weak and bad father.  Henry defends himself by stating that he would rather leave his son a moral character than a crown.  Prince Edward is knighted and reinstated as Henry’s heir.  The Yorkists arrive.  It is obvious at this point that Queen Margaret is the true commanding entity in the defense of England’s throne.  A battle at York begins.

Warwick’s brother, who is not an acting character in the play, is killed and Warwick is moved to avenge him.

Richard and Clifford fight each other.  Warwick comes to the aid of Richard.  Clifford runs away and Richard is angry at Warwick for not allowing him to fight his own battles.

Queen Margaret does not let Henry participate in the battle.  Instead he is sitting around wishing he could be a shepherd.  Henry spots a son who has unknowingly killed his father in the war.  Then a man arrives who has unknowingly killed his son in the war.  Father, son, and king all grieve together.  The Queen’s army runs away to the border of Scotland.

Clifford dies with Richard’s arrow shot through his neck.  Edward, Richard, and Warwick head to London in order to claim the throne.  So far we know that Richard the Duke of York had several sons.  Edward is the oldest.  The next oldest is George.  Then there is Richard and the murdered Rutland.  At this point in the play, Edward makes George the Duke of Clarence and Richard becomes the Duke of Gloucester.

Act 3 – Two gamekeepers near Scotland find King Henry wandering around.  From Henry we learn that Queen Margaret and Prince Edward have gone to France in order to beg help from King Lewis of France.  Warwick is also on his way to King Lewis to ask that Lewis’ daughter, Bona, marry Edward the new King of England.  The gamekeepers find out who Henry is and take him prisoner.

Meanwhile, Edward blackmails Lady Grey into agreeing to marry him.  If she does choose to wed him, Edward will return the land to her children which was owned by her now dead husband.  Lady Grey has no choice but to accept or her children will have nothing.  Richard starts to make a plan to take the crown for himself.

In France, Warwick arranges Edward’s marriage to Bona.  A messenger arrives and tells King Lewis that Edward is already married to Elizabeth Grey.  King Lewis and Warwick than choose to support Queen Margaret and Henry.  Warwick’s daughter is to be married to Prince Edward.  France sends an army to England.

Act 4 – Richard and George greatly disapprove of Edward’s choice in marrying Lady Grey.  Edward has married off Lady Grey’s children to lesser lords instead of offering them to his brothers.  This moves the line of inheritance away from the York family.  Edward prepares an army to meet the one Warwick is bringing back from France.  George and the Duke of Somerset decide to join Warwick and the Lancastrian faction.

Edward’s troops are carelessly guarded in Warwickshire.  Warwick and his men attack them by surprise.  George is to marry Warwick’s other daughter.

Warwick and his soldiers capture Edward and take the crown away from Edward.  Next they will go to London to free Henry from where he was being held in the Tower of London.

Edward’s wife, Queen Elizabeth Grey, is pregnant.  She decides to hide from the fighting in a church sanctuary.

Richard, Lord Hastings, and Sir William Stanley save Edward from where he is being kept prisoner by the Archbishop of York.

Henry is released from the Tower.  He appoints Warwick and George the Duke of Clarence as Protectors of England while Henry lives out the rest of his life in seclusion and peace.  Warwick and Clarence learn of Edward’s escape.  Henry prophesies that Henry Earl of Richmond will one day be king (Henry VII).  The Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Oxford take Richmond to Brittany so that Richmond will be protected.

Edward has gone to Burgundy in France and raised an army.  He is now staying at York.

Edward re-captures Henry and goes after Warwick.

Act 5 – Warwick’s army is at Coventry.  The Earl of Oxford, Marquess Montague, and the Duke of Somerset arrive with soldiers to reinforce Warwick’s forces.  Edward arrives.  Clarence chooses to rejoin his brother.  Edward and Warwick agree to have a battle at Barnet.

Warwick and Montague die.

Edward goes to meet Queen Margaret’s army at Tewkesbury.

Prince Edward and Edward Duke of York give speeches to encourage their troops.  Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, the Earl of Oxford, and the Duke of Somerset are all taken prisoner by Edward.

Oxford is sent as a prisoner to France.  Somerset is beheaded.  Edward, Richard, and Clarence all stab Prince Edward to death in front of Queen Margaret.  Margaret begs them to killer her also, but they refuse; saying that she must live with her grief.  Richard leaves to go to the Tower of London where Henry is being held captive.

Richard stabs Henry to death in the Tower.  He continues to stab Henry’s body after Henry is dead.  Richard then tells us that he is planning on killing his brother Clarence next.

Edward is now King of England and calls for celebrations.  Queen Margaret is sent back to live with her father in France.


Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VI,_Part_3

Text: Shakespeare, William.  “The Third Part of King Henry The Sixth.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Quotes from Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI

Richard Duke of Gloucester [to Edward Duke of York]: “Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun,

Not separated with the racking clouds,

But severed in a pale clear-shining sky.

See, see!  They join, embrace, and seem to kiss,

As if they vowed some league inviolable.

Now are they but one lamp, one light, one sun.

In this the heaven figures some event (2.1.26-32).”

Before a battle Edward saw three suns in the sky.  He saw this as a good omen and so he represented himself in battle with an image of the sun .  In this above speech by Edward’s brother, Richard, the word sun could also be a play on words.  “Sun” could also mean “son.”  If this is true, the speech is also about the three sons of the Duke of York in this play or there are three sons who are joining together to seek revenge against the York family for killing their fathers.

Warwick [to Edward Duke of York]: “Then let the earth be drunken with our blood!

I’ll kill my horse, because I will not fly.

Why stand we like softhearted women here,

Wailing out losses, whiles the foe doth rage,

And look upon, as if the tragedy

Were played in jest by counterfeiting actors?

Here on my knee I vow to God above

I’ll never pause again, never stand still,

Till either death hath closed these eyes of mine

Or fortune given me measure of revenge (2.3.23-32).”

Here we see a common irony of Shakespeare’s to talk about his plays as plays in the performance.

Son: “Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.

This man, whom hand to hand I slew in fight,

May be possessèd of some store of crowns;

And I, that haply take them from him now,

May yet ere night yield both my life and them

To some man else, as this dead man doth me (2.5.55-60).”

This is an interesting way to think about war and mortality during times of war.  “Crowns” are a type of money – a coin.  “Haply” here means “by chance.”

King Henry [to Second Keeper]: “My crown is in my heart, not on my head;

Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones,

Nor to be seen.  My crown is called content;

A crown it is that seldom kings enjoy (3.1.62-4).”

I included this passage because I think it is a good description of King Henry’s character.  “Indian stones” are gems, in this case, most likely from India.

Richard Duke of Gloucester: “Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,

And cry “Content” to that which grieves my heart,

And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,

And frame my face to all occasions (3.2.182-85).”

This is also a good passage that describes the character of Richard, the son of Richard Duke of York.  Richard Duke of Gloucester is an actor who knows how to manipulate other characters into giving him what he wants.  There is more of this in Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Warwick [to Richard Duke of Gloucester]: “I had rather chop this hand off at a blow,

And with the other fling it at thy face…(5.1.50-1)”

This is just a funny image.

Warwick: “Ah, who is nigh?  Come to me, friend or foe,

And tell me who is victor, York or Warwick?

Why I ask that?  My mangled body shows,

My blood, my want of strength, my sick heart shows,

That I must yield my body to the earth

And, by my fall, the conquest to my foe.

Thus yields the cedar to the ax’s edge,

Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle,

Under whose shade the ramping lion slept,

Whose top branch overpeered Jove’s spreading tree

And kept low shrubs from winter’s powerful wind.

These eyes, that now are dimmed with death’s black veil,

Have been as piercing as the midday sun

To search the secret treasons of the world.

The wrinkles of my brows, now filled with blood,

Were likened oft to kingly sepulchers;

For who lived king, but I could dig his grave?

And who durst smile when Warwick bent his brow?

Lo, now my glory smeared in dust and blood!

My parks, my walks, my manors that I had

Even now forsake me, and of all my lands

Is nothing left me but my body’s length.

Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?

And, live we how we can, yet die we must (5.2.5-28).”

I love the end of this speech by Warwick.  It again is an interesting way of thinking on our own mortality.

King Henry [to Richard Duke of Gloucester]: “And thus I prophesy, that many a thousand,

Which now mistrust no parcel of my fear,

And many an old man’s sigh and many a widow’s,

And many an orphan’s water-standing eye –

Men for their sons’, wives for their husbands’,

Orphans for their parents’ timeless death –

Shall rue the hour that ever thou wast born.

The owl shrieked at thy birth – an evil sign;

The night crow cried, aboding luckless time;

Dogs howled, and hideous tempest shook down trees,

The raven rooked her on the chimney’s top;

And chatt’ring pies in dismal discords sung.

Thy mother felt more than a mother’s pain,

And yet brought forth less than a mother’s hope,

To wit, an indigested and deformèd lump,

Not like the fruit of such a goodly tree.

Teeth hadst thou in thy head when thou wast born,

To signify thou cam’st to bite the world (5.6.37-54).”

These last two speeches are here because they are both extremely foreboding of what is to come in the next play, Richard III.  I also love the above speech by Henry because it contains some great alliteration.  Alliteration in poetry is when multiple words – usually next to each other – repeat the same sounds in the first syllable.  For example: “The night crow cried,” “Dogs howled, and hideous tempest shook,” “The raven rooked,” and “dismal discords sung.”

Richard Duke of Gloucester: “Indeed ’tis true that Henry told me of;

For I have often heard my mother say

I came into the world with my legs forward.

Had I not reason, think ye, to make haste

And seek their ruin that usurped our right?

The midwife wondered and the women cried,

“Oh, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!”

And so I was, which plainly signified

That I should snarl and bite and play the dog.

Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so,

Let hell make crook’d my mind to answer it (5.6.69-79).”

There’s just something so creepy about a baby born with teeth.


Text: Shakespeare, William.  “The Third Part of King Henry The Sixth.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Commoners and Prophecies in Shakespeare’s 2 Henry VI

The Commoners

The common people are some of the most important characters in Shakespeare’s 2 Henry VI.  They manage to convince Henry to banish the Duke of Suffolk and then it is the common people who kill Suffolk for convincing Henry to make a poor marriage.  The commoner John Cade later leads a rebellion against Henry and scares the king and queen away from London.

The character of John Cade works as a parody to the behaviors and thoughts of the higher class lords in the play.  Readers may laugh at Cade’s idea of a utopian society where men drink only the best beer and everyone is dressed exactly the same.  However, this is not less amusing than the lords’ constant attempts to undo one another and gain more power for themselves.  The fickleness of the commoners also matches the the fickleness in which the lords take sides first with one person and then the other.  Through the commoners, Shakespeare has found a way for the entire play to seem ridiculous and entertaining.


Another important part of the play are the prophecies.  As in Greek drama, the predictions made in 2 Henry VI are ambiguous up until the moment in which they are fulfilled.  Prophecies in the play come in several forms.  First the Duchess has what is called a morning dream.  In folklore, dreams in the morning are thought to predict true events.  The conjurers also call forth a spirit which gives several prophecies – first that Suffolk will die by water and secondly that Somerset will die near a castle.  Both of these predictions come true, but not in the way the characters expect (see summary for more details).  These prophecies work as divine judgement showing that those who deserve a foul ending shall receive that foul ending.


Henry VI – In 1 Henry VI, Henry was still a young child who had only a small role in the play.  In 2 Henry VI, Henry is now a married man.  He still greatly relies on his Lord Protector, Gloucester, to make decisions for him.  We see that he is weak and easily influenced by the common people of England.  He is a very pious man who believes that events are God’s will and that God will make things turn out for the best.  Readers could see Henry as being pure of heart, but this reliance on God can also be seen as another weakness.

Duchess vs. Queen – Both of the female characters in the play are struggling to gain more power.  They are both described by male characters as being too proud and ambitious.  I agree that this might be true for the Queen, but not so true of the Duchess.  For some reason the Duchess is much more likeable than the Queen and the Duchess gains more of my sympathies.  The Duchess does seem kind of ridiculous trying to use witchcraft in order to become more powerful, but I have to admire her desire for wanting to continue to improve her life.  The Queen on the other hand is ambitious and also cruel to Henry.  She criticizes Henry for being closer to Gloucester than he is to her.  Yet all the while the Queen is in love with Suffolk.  Her ambitions are more selfish than the Duchess’s.

Alexander Iden – The character of Alexander Iden works in this play to be a contrast to all the other ambitious lords.  Iden is very content living just as he is and likes to have peace more than power.

Lieutenant vs. Master – When Suffolk is beheaded by the mariners there are two characters who are referred to as “captains.”  The Lieutenant is an officer and the Master is the man who actually pilots the ship.


Act 1 – The play opens with the Duke of Suffolk presenting Queen Margaret to Henry.  Suffolk has stood in as a representation of Henry at a marriage ceremony with Margaret in France.  Then Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector, discovers that with Henry’s marriage to Margaret, Henry has lost land in France and was given no dowry.  Gloucester blames Suffolk for this and accuses Cardinal Beaufort of wanting to be Lord Protector in order to control the king.  The Cardinal explains that Gloucester is upset about Henry’s marriage because Gloucester (Henry’s uncle) wants to be heir to the throne.  The Duke of Buckingham suggests that he, Suffolk, the Cardinal, and the Duke of Somerset should join together to get rid of Gloucester.  Somerset warns Buckingham to be wary of the Cardinal.  Then Buckingham says that he or Somerset could double-cross the Cardinal and try to become the Lord Protector instead of the Cardinal.  Next the Earl of Salisbury who is a supporter of the Yorkist faction, suggests that the other Yorkists should lie in wait until Buckingham and Somerset bring down the Cardinal and Suffolk.  Richard, Duke of York, agrees and will wait until the other characters bring about each other’s doom before trying to claim the throne for himself.

Eleanor, the Duchess of Gloucester wants to rule England herself and is using witchcraft to help her achieve this goal.  A priest called Hume is also helping her.  Hume just wants money and was also hired by the Cardinal and Suffolk to get rid of Gloucester by disgracing the reputation of his wife.

Queen Margaret is unhappy with Henry allowing himself to be ruled by Lord Protector Gloucester.  We learn that the Queen has an intense rivalry with Eleanor.  Henry makes Somerset the Regent of France.  Then Peter Thrump an apprentice to the armorer Thomas Horner accuses Horner of treason.  Horner had said that Richard was the true King of England.  Thrump and Horner are to duel each other.

Eleanor has Bolingbroke; a conjurer, Margery Jordan; a witch, and another priest called Southwell bring forth a spirit.  The spirit makes prophecies about Henry and a duke.  Suffolk will die by water and Somerset will die near a castle.  Then York and Buckingham appear and arrest the Duchess and her conjurers for performing dark magic.

Act 2 – Henry and a party are hawking at St.Albans.  Suffolk, the Cardinal, and the Queen start abusing Gloucester for being too ambitious.  Henry tries to make peace between them.  Gloucester and the Cardinal talk about dueling each other without letting Henry hear them.  Then Simpcox, a blind commoner, approaches them.  Simpcox claims that his blindness has been healed by the shrine at St.Albans.  Henry is astonished by the miracle until Gloucester proves that Simpcox is a fraud.  Simpcox and his wife are to be whipped.  Buckingham arrives and announces the arrest of the Duchess.  Gloucester banishes Eleanor from his bed and company.

York explains to Salisbury and the Earl of Warwick why he is rightfully king.  Salisbury and Warwick swear loyalty to York.  York plans to stay out of things while Suffolk, the Cardinal, Buckingham, Somerset, and Gloucester destroy each other.

Margery Jordan is sentenced to burn.  Hume, Bolingbroke, and Southwell are to be hung.  The Duchess is banished to the Isle of Man.  Henry demands that Gloucester give up his office of Lord Protector.  Finally, Peter Thrump kills Thomas Horner.

Gloucester speaks to Eleanor before she must leave.  The Duchess asks Gloucester not to be upset because his doom is coming soon.  Gloucester disagrees and says that he will be fine as long as he is loyal to Henry.  He has committed no crime like the Duchess has.  He doesn’t say good-bye to her.  The Duchess is taken to the Isle of Man by Sir John Stanley.

Act 3 – Henry holds a parliament meeting.  The Queen, Suffolk, the Cardinal, York, and Buckingham warn Henry about Gloucester’s supposed ambition.  Henry won’t listen to them.  Somerset informs Henry that all of England’s lands and titles in France have been lost.  Then Gloucester is arrested on false accusations made by the other lords.  Gloucester is held prisoner by the Cardinal.  Henry is so grieved that he leaves the meeting.  The Queen, the Cardinal, Suffolk, and York plan to have Gloucester murdered.  At this time it is also made known that there is a rebel uprising in Ireland.  York is sent with an army of men to control this uprising.  While York is gone, York will have a commoner called John Cade start an uprising in England.  Cade will use the name John Mortimer.  John Mortimer was entitled to the crown.  York hopes that this will scare Henry.

Gloucester is murdered before his trial.  Henry faints and the Queen complains that Henry loves Gloucester more than her (even though she does not love Henry in the first place).  Warwick arrives and blames the Cardinal and Suffolk for the murder of Gloucester.  Warwick and Suffolk briefly fight each other.  The commoners demand that Suffolk be banished or killed.  If Henry does not do one of these things, the commoners will kill Suffolk themselves.  Henry decides to banish Suffolk.  Next the Queen and Suffolk speak privately of their love for each other.  The Cardinal becomes deathly ill and might be seeing Gloucester’s ghost.  The Cardinal dies.

Act 4 – Suffolk is taken prison by a group of mariners.  He is beheaded by a man named Walter (pronounced “water” and so the prophecy is fulfilled).  Suffolk’s head is taken to Henry.

John Cade and his rebels are introduced.  Sir Humphrey Stafford and his son William are trying to stop the rebels.  Dick the butcher, one of the rebels, kills both of the Staffords.  Cade takes control of London Bridge.  Henry believes Cade to be a threat to him so Henry and the Queen leave London.  The battle moves to Smithfield.  Lord Scales, Lord Saye, and Matthew Gough are now leading an army against the rebels.  Lord Saye is beheaded.  Buckingham and a Lord Clifford arrive and convince Cade’s men to abandon Cade.

York returns to England with an Irish army.  He claims that Somerset is a traitor.  Henry puts Somerset in the Tower of London.

Cade is starving and in hiding.  He is found in the garden of a gentleman called Alexander Iden.  Iden kills Cade.

Act 5 – Henry makes Iden a knight.  Somerset is released from the Tower.  York and his sons (Richard and Edward) finally state that they are trying to take the throne from Henry.  Lord Clifford and his son choose to support Henry.

Battle begins.  York kills Lord Clifford and Clifford’s son swears to get revenge.  Richard, York’s son, kills Somerset under the sign for the Castle Inn (the rest of the prophecy is fulfilled).  Henry and the Queen escape and head back to London.  York and his forces decide to follow Henry back to London as well.


Image from: http://fuckyeahhistoryofbritain.tumblr.com/

Text: Shakespeare, William.  “The Second Part of King Henry The Sixth.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Quotes from Shakespeare’s 2 Henry VI

Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester [to Duke of Gloucester]: “Why droops my lord, like overripened corn,

Hanging the head at Ceres’ plenteous load?

Why doth the great Duke Humphrey knit his brows,

As frowning at the favors of the world?

Why are thine eyes fixed to the sullen earth,

Gazing on that which seems to dim thy sight?

What see’st thou there?  King Henry’s diadem,

Enchased with all the honors of the world?

If so, gaze on, and grovel on thy face,

Until thy head be circled with the same.

Put forth thy hand; reach at the glorious gold.

What, is’t too short?  I’ll lengthen it with mine;

And having both together heaved it up,

We’ll both together lift our heads to heaven

And nevermore abase our sight so low

As to vouchsafe one glance unto the ground (1.2.1-16).”

Eleanor is very ambitious to gain the throne for herself.  She doesn’t just want to be married to a king, she wants to be the king.  She criticizes her husband, the Duke of Gloucester, for not taking steps to improve his social ranking.

Ceres is the goddess of the harvest.  Enchased means adorned and “heaved it up” is referring to the crown.

Duchess of Gloucester: “Were I a man, a duke, and next of blood,

I would remove these tedious stumbling blocks

And smooth my way upon their headless necks;

And, being a woman, I will not be slack

To play my part in Fortune’s pageant (1.2.63-7).”

Duchess of Gloucester [to the Queen]: “Could I come near your beauty with my nails,

I’d set my ten commandments in your face (1.3.141-2).”

The Duchess and the Queen have a fierce rivalry.  The ten commandments were inscribed using fingernails.

Duke of Gloucester: “Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud,

And after summer evermore succeeds

Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold;

So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet (2.4.1-4).”

Duke of Suffolk: “Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep,

And in this simple show he [Duke of Gloucester] harbors treason.

The fox barks not when he would steal the lamb (3.1.53-5).”

King Henry [to God]: “O Thou that judgest all things, stay my thoughts,

My thoughts that labor to persuade my soul

Some violent hands were laid on Humphrey’s life!

If my suspect be false, forgive me, God,

For judgement only doth belong to Thee.

Fain would I go to chafe his paly lips

With twenty thousand kisses, and to drain

Upon his face an ocean of salt tears,

To tell my love unto the his dumb deaf trunk

And with my fingers feel his hand unfeeling.

But all in vain are these mean obsequies (3.2.136-46).”

I chose to include this passage because King Henry has such a strong passion for the Duke of Gloucester.  I found it touching.  I also really like the line, “And with my fingers feel his hand unfeeling.”

“Mean obsequies” means deficient funeral rites.

Duke of Suffolk [to the Queen]: “If I depart from thee, I cannot live,

And in thy sight to die, what were it else

But like a pleasant slumber in thy lap?

Here could I breathe my soul into the air,

As mild and gentle as the cradle babe

Dying with mother’s dug between its lips –

Where, from thy sight, I should be raging mad

And cry out for thee to close up mine eyes,

To have thee with thy lips to stop my mouth.

So shouldst thou either turn my flying soul,

Or I should breathe it so into thy body,

And then it lived in sweet Elysium.

To die by thee were but to die in jest;

From thee to die were torture more than death.

Oh, let me stay, befall what may befall (3.2.388-402)!”

This speech by the Duke of Suffolk is one of the most sensual and romantic speeches by Shakespeare that I can recall reading.  Suffolk has been banished from England, but wants to remain in the country in order to be close to his love, the Queen.

After death, a person’s soul was thought to leave the body through their mouth.  Elysium is where the souls of people go if they are favored by the gods.  So Suffolk is saying that he wishes for his soul to go into the body of the Queen when she kisses his dying lips.  His soul being part of her body would then be like living in a type of heaven.  In a way this is romantically describing sexual intercourse.  There is also a poetic term, la petite mort, which is French for “the little death.” In poetry and literature, la petite mort means that the act of dying is being compared to orgasm.  We see la petite mort in the third to last line of Suffolk’s speech.

John Cade [to his men]: “Be brave, then, for your captain is brave, and

vows reformation.  There shall be in England seven

halfpenny loaves sold for a penny, the three-hooped

pot shall have ten hoops, and I will make it felony to

drink small beer.  All the realm shall be in common,

And in Cheapside shall my palfry go to to grass.  And

when I am king, as king I will be –

All: God save Your Majesty!

Cade: I thank you, good people – there shall be no

money.  All shall eat and drink on my score; and I will

apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like

brothers and worship me their lord.

Dick, the butcher: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers (4.2.62-74).”

I included this passage because of the famous last line, “Let’s kill all the lawyers.”


Shakespeare, William.  “The Second Part of King Henry The Sixth.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Shakespeare’s The First Part of King Henry the Sixth

War of the Roses

The Henry VI series of plays tells the story of The War of Roses so it’s good to have an idea of what this conflict was about before reading these plays.  The War of the Roses was a civil war in England named after the symbols with which the warring factions were represented.  King Henry VI came from the line of Lancastrian kings.  This family line got it’s name from the fact that they for many years possessed the dukedom of Lancaster.  The men who supported Henry VI became known as the Lancastrian faction and used the red rose as a symbol of their support of the king.

Then there was another faction called the Yorkist faction.  The Yorkists were led by Richard Plantagenet or the Duke of York.  Richard had a claim to the English throne through Henry IV’s uncle, Lionel the Duke of Clarence.  Richard and his followers planned to overtake Henry VI and put Richard on the throne.  These Yorkists  used a white rose to represent their faction.

Many of the people in Elizabethan England believed the War of the Roses to be a punishment from God for bad behavior of the English people and their kings. King Henry IV came to the throne by executing his own cousin.  And so the major sinning to gain power had begun.  Shakespeare does not make this idea clear in his Henry VI plays.  The only time it can be seen to come forth is in Richard III, the final play relating to the aftermath of The War of Roses.  This idea that The War of the Roses was a punishment of God, was used mainly as propaganda by the Tudor kings who held the throne after King Richard III.  The Tudor king, Hernry VII’s, coming to the throne was then seen not as another cause for his rivals to rebel, but as God’s divine will.

Notes on Characters

– Henry VI: One thing that makes 1 Henry VI different from the other history plays is that Henry VI is a child throughout the play and is not crowned king until act 4.  Henry VI being a child adds to England’s predicament with the continuing battles with France and the forming of the Yorkist faction against the king.

– Falstaff: The knight called Falstaff in this play is not the same character that Shakespeare used in the Henry IV plays.  However, he could be a starting point for Shakespeare’s further developing the character later on in the Henry IV plays.

Order Of Plays

One important thing to note about Shakespeare’s histories is that the plays were not written in historically chronological order.    Shakespeare wrote the Henry VI series before he wrote the Henry IV series of plays.   Therefore, the order in which they were written is backward from the chronological order in which the events in the plays occurred in history. In fact, 1 Henry VI is thought to be the play that first concretely defined the genre of history play in England.  This fact might help you remember which plays were actually written first.

I have chosen to read the plays in order of historical events.  Choosing this order for reading the plays has made it easier for me to understand and follow the plots in the plays and has taught me a lot about English history.  However, if you’re interested in learning more about the development and changes in the use of language by Shakespeare, I suggest reading the history plays in the order that Shakespeare wrote them (Henry VI and then Henry IV).

Another good thing to remember about the order of the plays is that Richard II acts as a prequel to the Henry IV series and that Richard III is a kind of epilogue to the Henry VI series.


Act 1 – The play begins with the funeral of King Henry V.  On stage are the Duke of Bedford; Henry VI’s uncle and regent of France, the Duke of Gloucester; also Henry VI’s uncle and Lord Protector.  As Lord Protector Gloucester is in charge of ruling England until the young Henry VI is old enough to rule.  Also present on stage at this time are the Duke of Exeter; Henry VI’s great-uncle, and the Bishop of Winchester; another great-uncle to Henry VI.  The four men mourn the loss of King Henry V and ask that the King’s ghost protect England.  We learn that the French have reclaimed the cities Henry V previously won in France.  There is a new king in France, Charles VII, and this means that England has lost all titles in regards to France.  We learn that Lord Talbot, England’s bravest soldier in France, has recently suffered a defeat in France because of the cowardice of one of his knights, Falstaff.  Talbot has been taken prisoner.  Gloucester wishes to crown Henry VI king of England.  Winchester decides that he will try to control the young king in ways that will benefit the Church.  Next, Charles, the Dauphin of France tests Joan of Arc or Joan Le Pucelle to see if she is truly led by the divine.  Charles disguises Reignier, the Duke of Anjou, as the Dauphin.  Joan enters the chamber and immediately sees through Charles’ trick.  Charles decides to trust Joan to lead the French to victory against the English.  A rivalry rises between Gloucester and Winchester and they have an argument.  There is a battle at Orleans, France.  The English Earl of Salisbury is killed along with Sir Thomas Gargrave.  Joan and Talbot fight in the battle.  The French come out victorious and Charles decides to have a celebration.

Act 2 – While the French are unwary after their parties, Talbot attacks Orleans once more.  This time he manages to take back the city for England.  A sexual relationship between Joan and Charles is hinted at.  A funeral is held for the Earl of Salisbury.  Talbot is called to visit the Countess of Auvergne who plans on capturing Talbot.  Talbot, however, shows her his power and she decides to let him go free.  At this point the factions of the house of York and the house of Lancaster are created.  The Yorkists are headed by Richard Plantagenet who wants Henry off the throne.  Richard’s supporters include the Earl of Warwick and and a man named Vernon.  The Lancastrians or supporters of Henry VI include the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Suffolk.  Richard goes to visit his uncle Mortimer at the Tower of London.  Mortimer tells Richard how their bloodline has been undone, which makes Richard more sure of his desire to get rid of Henry.

Act 3 – There is another argument between Gloucester and Winchester.  Henry VI makes Richard the Duke of York before preparing to go to France to be crowned king.  The French gain possession of the city of Rouen.  The Duke of Bedford dies and then England has no regent in France.  Talbot is going to see Henry VI.  Henry VI makes Lord Talbot the Earl of Shrewsbury.

Act 4 – Henry VI is crowned King of England.  The Governor of Paris swears loyalty to England.  Knighthood is taken from Falstaff because he is a coward.  The Duke of Burgundy, a Frenchmen had been fighting for England.  At this point he is convinced by Joan to rejoin the French.  Burgundy does so.  Henry sends Talbot to chastise Burgundy.  Richard is made the new Regent of France.  Somerset is to work with him.  Talbot goes to attack the city of Bordeaux and Charles.  Somerset is supposed to bring extra forces to join Richard’s army.  The combined forces will then go to Bordeaux to help Talbot.  However, Somerset is late in meeting up with Richard.  Richard blames Somerset for Talbot’s defeat while Somerset blames Richard.  Talbot’s son, John arrives to fight at Bordeaux.  Talbot asks John to leave, but John refuses.  John asks his father to leave the battle, but Talbot also refuses.  Father and son end up fighting and dying together.  Charles goes to Paris after the victory at Bordeaux.

Act 5 – Henry is given an offer of marriage to the daughter of the French Earl of Armagnac.  This would be a very good match that will bring power and peace to England.  Winchester, now a cardinal, is still keen on gaining power over Gloucester.  Paris then revolts against England.  The English attack the French city of Angiers.  Joan uses black magic to call upon evil fiends to help her in battle.  The fiends refuse to be of service.  Richard captures Joan.  The Earl of Suffolk falls in love with Margaret, the daughter of Reignier.  Suffolk is already married so he decides to woo Margaret for Henry.  Richard orders Joan to be burned at the stake.  She claims that she is pregnant in order to save her life – pregnant women were not to be executed.  Richard then mocks her for claiming to be a virgin.  Joan then can’t say who the father is.  Richard takes this to mean that she has had so many sexual relationships it is impossible for her to know who the true father is.  He sends her to burn.  England and France come to peaceful terms.  Suffolk tells Henry about the beauty of Margaret.  Henry becomes set on marrying Margaret even though he had already agreed to marry the daughter of Armagnac.  Margaret will not be a beneficial match, but Henry still wants to make her his queen.  The play ends with Suffolk stating his desires for having power over the new queen and the king.


Image from: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30167/30167-h/30167-h.htm#Page_47

Text: Shakespeare, William.  “The First Part of King Henry The Sixth.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Quotes from Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI

Lord Talbot [to Countess of Auvergne] : “No, no, I am but the shadow of myself.

You are deceived.  My substance is not here;

For what you see is but the smallest part

And least proportion of humanity.

I tell you, madam, were the whole frame here,

It is of such a spacious lofty pitch

Your roof were not sufficient to contain’t (2.3.51-7).”

I kind of had a crush on Lord Talbot.  He’s the representation of the ideal soldier-hero who’s reputation of being brave/victorious makes him so much larger than an ordinary man.

Duke of Exeter: “‘Tis much when scepters are in children’s hands,

But more when envy breeds unkind division.

There comes the ruin, there begins confusion (4.1.192-194).”

 1 Henry VI is different from most of the other histories because for much of the play Henry is still a young child.

Lord Talbot: “Oh, negligent and heedless discipline!

How are we parked and bounded in a pale –

A little herd of England’s timorous deer,

Mazed with a yelping kennel of French curs!

If we be English deer, be then in blood:

But rather, moody-mad and desperate stags,

Turn on the bloody hounds with heads of steel

And make the cowards stand aloof at bay.

Sell every man his life as dear as mine

And they shall find dear deer of us, my friends.

God and Saint George, Talbot and England’s right,

Prosper our colors in this dangerous fight! (4.2.44-56)”

Deer are a rather English animal and can be seen as a type of soldier since the king of England was also thought to own the deer which might wander on to his property.  If you kill the king’s deer, you are in deep trouble.

Lord Talbot: “Where is my other life?  Mine own is gone.

Oh, where’s young Talbot?  Where is valiant John?

Triumphant Death, smeared with captivity,

Young Talbot’s valor makes me smile at thee.

When he perceived me shrink and on my knee,

His bloody sword he brandished over me,

And like a hungry lion did commence

Rough deeds of rage and stern impatience.

But when my angry guardant stood alone,

Tend’ring my ruin and assailed of none,

Dizzy-eyed fury and great rage of heart

Suddenly made him from my side to start

Into the clust’ring battle of the French,

And in that sea of blood my boy did drench

His overmounting spirit; and there died

My Icarus, my blossom, in his pride (4.7.1-16).”

There is a very touching argument between Lord Talbot and his son, John.  Lord Talbot wants John to leave the battle, but John refuses.  Father and son both stay to fight the French and end up dying together.  In this passage, Lord Talbot is just realizing that his son is dead.