Author: Richard Carroll

The Art of the Deal

So, in the midst of all the excitement over the imminent Thousand Year Trumpenreich, I thought now would be a good time to read Donald Trump’s popular 1987 book The Art of the Deal. I don’t typically read books written by famous living people, partly because I prefer things that have passed the test of time, and partly because they’re often ghostwritten anyway. Now, Trump did have a coauthor, Tony Schwarz. In these situations, having a coauthor on a memoir often means that the coauthor did most of the actual work while the celebrity uses his name to sell copies. I’ll assume that this is still substantially Trump’s work just because he seems to take a hands-on approach to anything affecting his business, but it’s probably wise to keep this in mind. Also worth pointing out is that in any memoir the author is going to be selective about what he chooses to say about himself. Klemens von Metternich, for example, wasn’t self-revealing at all in his memoirs. Trump doesn’t give one a sense of hiding anything, and this is primarily a business book, not a confession, but again it’s best to be aware that any author will, consciously or sub-consciously, portray himself in the best light.

With that out of the way, overall The Art of the Deal is pretty good. It’s entertaining, reads quickly, has some interesting stories and points about both Trump himself and the business world in New York, and there’s also some decent advice. The book is divided into three parts. In the first, Trump goes through a week, outlining what he does each day, the phone calls he makes, who he meets, what public functions he goes to, and the like. It’s moderately interesting, but felt a little long; one gets a good feel for his daily routine after just a few days. This was published in 1987, but I suspect that his days haven’t changed all that much since then, despite the popularisation of computers, e-mail, and mobile phones. A former employer of mine, who owns a small business, always much preferred calling customers and vendors instead of e-mailing them, both because it was often more efficient and because it was more personable, and allowed him to try some extra salesmanship. Trump strikes me as the type of man who, even today, would rather call someone directly for the same reasons, instead of sending an e-mail and passively waiting for a response.…

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Henry VI Part III, or Two Ways to Fail at Kingship

So, at last we come to Henry VI Part III, or The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York and the Good King Henry the Sixth, even though Richard’s brother Edward seems like a more central character than Richard, and historians would contest how much of it is true, but whatever; far be it from me to question the Bard or Oxford’s editors, and The Historically Dubious Tragedy… isn’t as catchy a title, anyway.

In any case, I mentioned that Part II is a study in bad kingship, and Part III continues that theme with two examples of bad kingship. Starting with Henry VI, he seems like a nice guy; I’m sure he’d have made a fine constitutional monarch. Unfortunately, he’s a sad sack. The Duke of York literally sits right down on Henry’s throne and demands that Henry recognise him as the legitimate king, and the two compromise because Henry agrees to disinherit his son Edward and name York as his heir in exchange for York allowing him to live out the rest of his reign as king. Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem at all; his wife, Queen Margaret, understandably protests and she and Edward go off to gather support, and very quickly we’re back at the civil war game.

I hate to say it, but Henry’s like the Jeb Bush of this contest. Later on York’s supporters, now led by York’s heir, confusingly also named Edward, are arguing with Henry’s (or rather, Margaret and Prince Edward’s) supporters; Margaret tells Henry to be quiet, and Henry objects, “I prithee give no limits to my tongue / I am a king, and privileged to speak.” Everyone else just keeps talking over him, anyway, and he doesn’t say another word for the entire scene. Later on, the Duke of Exeter tells Henry that he fears that Edward (York, not Henry’s son) will seduce their supporters to change sides. Henry says of his subjects:

My pity hath been balm to heal their wounds,
My mildness hath allayed their swelling griefs,
My mercy dried their water-flowing tears.
I have not been desirous of their wealth,
Nor much oppressed them with great subsidies,
Nor forward of revenge, though they much erred.
Then why should they love Edward more than me?
No, Exeter, these graces challenge grace;
And when the lion fawns upon the lamb,
The lamb will never cease to follow him.

“[T]hey love Edward more than” you, Henry, because you don’t inspire them. He gives a monologue at one point about how he wished he could have been born a commoner, which reminded me somewhat of a comment J.R.R. Tolkien once made, that he would like a king whose main interest was something like stamp-collecting. Now, I know what Tolkien was getting at, but Henry VI is an example of why stamp collectors don’t make good kings.

On the other hand, we have Edward, who inherits the claims of his father, the Duke of York, and who provides an example of the opposite problem; he wants and enjoys the powers of kingship too much. It is, of course, ultimately his party that starts the civil war, though Henry provided the opening. We don’t see a lot of what Edward does in power, but he’s clearly not above abusing his position. He meets with Lady Gray, who asks him to give her late husband’s estate to her and her children, which had been confiscated because he had fought for York. He offers to grant her request if she fulfill “an easy task,” that is, “to love a king.” She at first assumes he means the loyalty of subject to sovereign until he clarifies, “To tell thee plain, I aim to lie with thee.” She answers “To tell you plain, I had rather lie in prison.” He offers her marriage, and it’s clear that she’s not going to get her estate back unless she agrees.

Now, after they’ve been married a while, her attitude totally changes and she comes across about as dedicated to his cause as Queen Margaret is to Henry and Prince Edward’s. While Edward was wooing her (sort of), though, he’d already sent Warwick as an emissary to arrange a marriage between him and the daughter of the King of France, and thus threw his own ambassador under a bus and insulted the French King. When Edward’s brothers point this out to him, his only defense boils down to emphasising that he’s the king and can do what he wants, even if it means creating two powerful enemies due to an arbitrary exercise of power.

The original title called him “Good King Henry the Sixth,” and I suppose he was good. At one point he disguises himself as a monk, but that disguise seems so fitting that he’d have probably been happiest just joining a monastery for real. One of the main advantages of monarchy is that it keeps the jackals away from absolute power, but poor Henry is just too nice to do that.

On a final note, I think 3 Henry VI is the best of this trilogy. The first part felt more hit-and-miss from one scene to another, though I did enjoy it. The second was more focused on Henry, which is good, but I like that the third part gives us Edward as a foil for Henry, which makes it feel more thematically coherent than the other two parts.…

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A Change in Schedule

I consider myself an honest man, so by no means did I lie to you about publishing a post every week; it’s just that I wrote a cheque I couldn’t cash. I actually did have something last week that wasn’t posted, and that was because quality control stepped in – the post I had planned just wasn’t very good. As I said on twitter, my blogging policy is, “Do you want it done fast or do you want it done right?”

Anyway, it turns out that weekly updates on a book blog that you run alone isn’t really feasible if you’re going to read anything of any significant length, even if one occasionally strays off-topic. From here on out, I’ll just publish new posts as they’re ready, which theoretically should mean more time to polish each review and thus, posts will be fewer but better. I recommend subscribing to the blog’s RSS feed, though I also promote new posts on my twitter account.

There will be a new post tomorrow, on Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI.

So, my apologies for the delays, but thanks for reading. If it makes you feel any better, here’s something beautiful to look at, a painting by James Tissot of a couple of weeaboos:

James_Tissot_-_Young_Ladies_Looking_at_Japanese_Objects

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Klemens von Metternich’s Memoirs

This is another book that I wasn’t aware of until I stumbled on it in a used bookstore. I was surprised that memoirs by Klemens von Metternich wouldn’t be more talked-about since he’s such a respected figure among the Right, and I went into the book with high expectations, thinking it would be something like a more focused version of Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy.

Now, the book is titled The Autobiography: 1773-1815, but it’s not really an autobiography, since Metternich says very little about his personal life, especially once he begins his diplomatic career. It’s not a history, either, as he says explicitly a few times. I called it a memoir above because it’s mostly a collection of anecdotes, conversations, and commentary on events Metternich was involved in. It’s a bit odd stylistically, but perhaps that’s to be expected; Metternich didn’t publish this himself, and doesn’t seem to have intended for all of it to be published. Rather, it’s a collection of three works edited together by his son, Prince Richard Metternich. Two of them blend together seamlessly, but the third, On the History of the Alliances, does stick out noticeably, and is a more traditional historical narrative of the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1813-15, though still focusing on the events Metternich personally took part in and avoiding well-known explanations of the battles and broader history.

So, those looking for a self-revealing memoir will be disappointed, since Metternich isn’t self-revealing at all, as will those looking for in-depth diplomatic history or theory. However, the book is still worth reading because one does get a fascinating sketch of some of the most influential people of the era by a man who seemed to know everyone of importance. For example, early in his career Metternich met and got along very well with Emperor Alexander of Russia, who requested that he be sent to St. Petersburg as Austria’s ambassador. When Metternich was sent to France instead, the Emperor took some offense. Metternich says, “The Emperor Alexander did not allow of any graduations in the behaviour of another, because he knew none in his own political conduct, as he was always going backwards and forwards from one extreme to another, in the most opposite directions; he therefore suspected me of being altogether on the side of France and of nourishing great prejudices against Russia.”…

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Mischief Making in Two Wonderful Dimensions

MMboxSo, this past week I got a request to review a video game. It’s a bit outside the “bibliophile’s journal” theme I’ve been doing, but since I have posted about a few games before I thought it would be a nice change of pace. Also, this guy suggested that I’d look like some kind of nerd if I only write about books all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t want that. Anyone interested solely in Serious Business can come back next week, when I’ll have a post on Klemens von Metternich, followed by more from William Shakespeare.

Before we get to the main subject, though, let’s go back to the mid-90’s. The PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were the coolest things around, because now, for the first time on home consoles, games were in three dee! The days of side-scrolling in a mere two dimensions were gone, and now we could walk around awkwardly in three dimensions. Let me say, I was in elementary school at the time and was the first kid in my class to get an N64, and my social standing among my peers has never been higher, before or since.

Looking back, those early 3D games have, for the most part, aged pretty badly. Even in cases where the designers got the controls right, which certainly could not be taken for granted, the graphics were hideous. Very blocky with few textures was the house style for those early N64 games. Frankly, Super NES games were far more aesthetically appealing.…

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G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy

Last year, I read G.K. Chesterton’s book Heretics, and just got around to reading the follow-up, Orthodoxy. The earlier volume focuses on criticising modern ideas, essentially “bursting the bubbles of ‘clever sillies,'” as I put it in my last review. Here, he attempts to state his own philosophy in positive terms, and most of the book goes through various ideas that lead him to become a Christian. This isn’t in the form of a Catechism or series of logical proofs like the Summa Theologica or De Romano Pontifice, though. Rather, it’s more of a series of loosely connected observations. As he says, I think accurately, “the evidence in my case… is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts… a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion.” In other words, people aren’t convinced of something because of a powerful proof, but because a number of seemingly disparate observations all point in the same direction.

Unfortunately, though there is some very good material here, it’s a weaker volume than its predecessor. Most of the book is fine, of course, but applying common sense to modern “heresies” is easier than building up a positive case, and the latter requires a more rigorous, traditional sort of approach to philosophy, which isn’t Chesterton’s strong suit. As a result, though the book is still well worth reading, there are a few major arguments that are surprisingly weak.

Let’s start with some of the strong points. Those on the Right today will likely have seen the argument that Progressivism is, in a sense, a “Christian heresy,” and Chesterton makes a broadly similar point about modernity:

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone… For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race— because he is so human.

I’m not sure who Mr. Blatchford is, due to Chesterton’s understandable but annoying habit of not explaining his references, but one senses that he was on the farthest end of a contemporary holiness spiral. Progressives are certainly anti-Christian, as they often claim to be, but Chesterton is correct in this early observation that they attempt to be “holier than Jesus,” so to speak, and try to take certain Christian virtues without the underlying reason behind them. It may be an interesting research project to see who was the first to make this connection between Progressivism or Liberalism and Christianity, but Chesterton is the first that I’m aware of.

Speaking of early observations of modern trends, Chesterton also noticed that Liberals like to appeal to The Current Year as if it’s a decisive argument. He writes, “An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another.” He then makes the obvious point that a dogma is either true or it is not, regardless of what the calendar says. Just because one idea is newer than another or even arose from another does not mean that it has meaningfully progressed, in the sense of improved, in any way. As he says in a later discussion, in a comparison to Darwinian evolution, some men “think that so long as they were passing from the ape they were going to the angel. But you can pass from the ape and go to the devil.”

All good so far, and becoming of the Apostle of Common Sense. Then, we get this discussion:

This is the first principle of democracy: that the essential things in men are the things they hold in common, not the things they hold separately. And the second principle is merely this: that the political instinct or desire is one of these things which they hold in common… The democratic contention is that government (helping to rule the tribe)… is not something analogous to playing the church organ, painting on vellum, discovering the North Pole (that insidious habit), looping the loop, being Astronomer Royal, and so on. For these things we do not wish a man to do at all unless he does them well.…

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Notes on Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice

I’ve noticed that native English-speakers often assume that anything worth reading has either been written in English or, at least, has been translated into English. However, the more one branches out intellectually the more one finds that this is by no means the case. Take, for example, St. Robert Bellarmine’s De Controversiis, which is available only in parts in English. Fortunately, translator Ryan Grant over at Mediatrix Press has been working on a project to translate as much of Bellarmine’s work as possible, beginning with the first part of De Controversiis, called De Romano Pontifice (or On the Roman Pontiff). I’ve just finished the first two books, which Mediatrix Press collects into one volume; the remaining three books will be out in another volume later this year.

I reviewed another part of De Controversiis last year, De Laicis, and it was one of the five best books I read in 2015 and one of the most useful works on politics I’ve ever read. De Romano Pontifice has fully lived up to the expectations set by that work; if someone wants to know how a Christian approaches government, De Laicis is an excellent starting-point, and if one wants to read a defense of the papacy, De Romano Pontifice is, so far, looking like an indispensable resource.

Now, whether it’s the best starting point is another question. Bellarmine is extremely thorough, and in the first two books has spent a few hundred pages addressing basic questions like whether the Church ought to be governed as a monarchy, whether St. Peter was truly given authority over the other Apostles, whether he went to Rome, whether his authority is passed down to his successors, and so on. He also makes sure to answer every objection he’s aware of from the Eastern Orthodox and early Protestant churches to the papacy, typically quoting directly from the authors he’s answering. Generally, Bellarmine begins each section of the book with a question, which he answers, then lists objections, then goes through them one-by-one, primarily relying on Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, but also getting into the meanings of Greek or Hebrew terms, history, and simple logic.…

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The First World War in Colour

WWI_4

Dan Carlin, in an episode of his Hardcore History podcast, called history from Herodotus onward the “colour era” of history, compared to the “black and white” era before Herodotus. The difference comes down to one of style – ancient histories were often little more than chronologies, with some propagandizing, but had relatively little characterisation or storytelling. From Herodotus onward, though, historians began treating their subjects in a more narrative style, which makes their subjects feel more “alive” to the audience.

Some historians are very good at this. Last year, for example, I gave Dan Jones’s The Plantagenets credit for his novelistic writing style, even if it was a bit overdone at times. In my reading, most popular historians do at least make an attempt to avoid getting bogged down in plain facts, figures, and abstractions, to give readers an idea of what the events they describe were like for the people who actually experienced them.

Nonetheless, history often is difficult to imagine for those of us who had no part in the events, especially for the distant past. I think I’m safe in speculating that there’s more interest in relatively recent events like the Second World War than earlier eras because, besides being more obviously relevant, there’s a lot more supplementary material. I can see many photographs and even film of the Second World War, and even listen to speeches by, say, Franklin Roosevelt or Sir Winston Churchill. This is even more true for still more recent history.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and thinking about the First World War, and at this point descriptions of trench warfare have a visceral feel to me; I can imagine myself in the position of the soldiers on the Western Front. I get the same gut reaction, though, to Vietnam’s jungle warfare, even though I’ve spent far less time studying that conflict, because I’ve seen it in colour photographs; this still doesn’t get across the experience, obviously, but it’s much more of a “hook,” so to speak, into the subject. Yes, many photographs exist of the Great War, but colour photography has at least as much more punch to it than black-and-white photos as black-and-white photos have more than painting.

That’s changed somewhat, though, because I just recently learned that colour photographs of the First World War do exist, about 4,500 of them. That’s not a lot, relatively speaking, but I only know about them at all because I stumbled on a collection of them in a used bookstore, The First World War in Colour, by Peter Walther.

Here’s one example, taken during the Battle of the Marne:

WWI_1

When I first saw this, the first thing I noticed was actually the uniforms – every history of the war mentions how the French soldiers’ red pants made them easy for the Germans to spot, and now that I see them, well – no kidding.

Of course, this also just looks like a regular scene of men out camping. These men aren’t just figures in a table of troop numbers, they look like anyone I could meet today. The colour quality isn’t great, but it’s not a great deal worse than some of the commercial cameras used for a lot of my family’s photographs from well within living memory.

Speaking of uniforms that make the soldier easy to spot for the enemy:

WWI_2

That’s a Zouave unit; needless to say, like the main French force, they changed their uniform design fairly quickly.

Now, because of the unwieldy equipment needed and the time-consuming process of just taking these photos, there was no way to capture an ongoing battle. So, there are many images of ruins and landscapes, and all the photos of people were staged. Subjects may have been limited, but I do like the almost pedestrian quality of some of these. For example, this image of some German POWs with hand-made instruments:

WWI_3

One limitation I do find disappointing, though, is that the majority of these images are French. There are some photos of British forces and a few of the Germans, but almost nothing from the Eastern Front or elsewhere. This seems to have been because most of the colour photographers  were French, but it would’ve been nice to have seen more of the many other armies involved in the war. I also could have gone without the photos of amputated limbs.

In any case, I’m very glad to have the book, and if you have any interest in the First World War or the history of war photography, it’s definitely worth checking out.…

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Henry VI Part Two

It took me a minute to find this one in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works because the editors insist on calling it by the original title, The First Part of the Contention of the two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster with the Death of the Good Duke Humphrey. That title rolls right off the tongue, but I think I’ll keep calling it Henry VI Part Two. Also, I have to appreciate the spoiler right in the title.

Anyway, I wasn’t a fan of 1 Henry VI, but that was just an appetizer for the main course. Maybe it’s because the prequel was written later as a collaboration, or he just wanted to bash out something to cash in on the popularity of the original (possibly making 1 Henry VI the Phantom Menace of the Shakespearean oeuvre [okay, maybe it’s not nearly that bad]). Whatever the deal is, 2 Henry VI is closer to the Shakespeare we all know and love.

In Part One, things fall apart for England in the war in France, but here they fall apart in England as King Henry faces internal conspiracies and attempted usurpation – or rather, he gets swept away by conspiracies. In both parts of this story so far, Henry hasn’t really done much himself, except to act on bad or malicious advice, but that seems to be the point. Henry is a rather mediocre king, crowned as a child on his father’s death and, as a young man, still clearly in over his head. He says in Act 4 Scene 8 “Was never subject longed to be a king / As I do long and wish to be a subject,” but he was ready enough to dismiss Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, who had been ruling for him as Lord Protector, and rule in his own right instead.

Speaking of Gloucester, he resembles Lord Talbot from Part One in that he’s the only one in a position to save Henry’s fortunes, but as Talbot was abandoned in a hopeless battle, Gloucester is dismissed after false charges of corruption are brought against him and then, as the spoiler in the original title says, is assassinated. So, instead of having Gloucester to serve as his Metternich, Henry is left to the mercy of the other ambitious, conspiring nobles. I’m guessing that the play is not very historically accurate outside of a basic outline of events, but if Part Three is like the first two one could write a book on leadership by contrasting Henry to the other major characters. Call it, “The Art of Kingship: Don’t Be Like Henry VI.” Gloucester predicts what will happen as soon as he’s dismissed:

Ah, thus King Henry throws away his crutch
Before his legs be firm to bear his body.
Thus is the shepherd beaten from thy side,
And wolves are gnarling who shall gnaw thee first.
Ah, that my fear were false; ah, that it were!
For, good King Henry, thy decay I fear.

Gloucester was mostly thinking of the nobility, but there’s also a peasants’ rebellion led by Jack Cade, which Henry attempts to appease and entreat with, then flee from (albeit only after Saye urges him to leave London), until someone else solves the problem for him. In any case, by the time York’s rebellion actually begins, one has the sense that Henry has lost the Mandate of Heaven anyway.

Speaking of Cade, he’s only in a few scenes, but he’s probably my favourite character in the work. He’s obviously a peasant, but brazenly lies about his heritage to try claiming the throne. Here he attempts to introduce himself, with some interruption from one of his followers, a butcher:

CADE: My father was a Mortimer-
BUTCHER (to his fellows): He was an honest man and a good bricklayer.
CADE: My mother a Plantagenet-
BUTCHER (to his fellows): I knew her well, she was a midwife.
CADE: My wife descended from the Lacys-
BUTCHER (to his fellows): She was indeed a pedlar’s daughter and sold many laces.

Shakespeare’s comedy is hit-and-miss with me, but something about this made me laugh. I don’t know if the butcher is intentionally letting his fellow rebels in on Cade’s scam, or if he just doesn’t realise that he’s exposing the lie, or what. The butcher is also the character who delivers the famous line, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!” Cade does have his comic moments here or in his proud, stubborn philistinism, like when he asks a clerk taken prisoner “Dost thou use [letters] to write thy name? Or hast thou a mark to thyself like an honest plain-dealing man?” However, he’s so brazen in his lies, and bold in everything he does, it’s hard not to give him a little respect. After his followers are convinced to desert him, he spends several days in hiding until forced to scavenge an esquire’s garden for food; the owner finds him and Cade, too famished to fight well, is killed. “For I,” he says, “that never feared any, am vanquished by famine, not by valour.”

So, we’re still not quite up to the heights of Shakespeare’s tragedies, but we’re getting there. Stay tuned for Henry VI Part Three, or whatever the Oxford editors decide to call it.…

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The 2016 Shakespeare Project and Henry VI, Part 1

As longtime readers may already know, I majored in Literature but went to a university with only a token arts and humanities department. The professors I had were generally good, but to give an idea of what the school was like, there was no classicist on the faculty, and I managed to graduate without reading much of anything not originally in English or written prior to 1800 or so. The two best instructors were well aware of this, and though neither of them specialised in the period, they did make sure that one of them would offer a class on Shakespeare every semester – inadequate as the school was, it at least wouldn’t be so inadequate that graduates would entirely miss out on Shakespeare.

So, I do have some basic familiarity with the Bard – I’ve read most of his best-known works, and have seen Richard III and a couple of the comedies performed live. However, everyone who takes English literature seriously needs, at some point, to read all of Shakespeare. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and even mentioned it in December 2014 as a goal for 2015, but I’ve decided that this will be the year I do it. This will be a year-long project, rather than something I do all at once, and I may combine multiple plays into one post if I don’t have a lot to say about them, so don’t worry – you’re not going to get thirty-some consecutive weeks of Shakespeare posts.

Now, I started with Henry VI, Part 1, which I haven’t read before. It’s fine, but it’s not going to be a favourite. It’s set just after the coronation of King Henry VI during the Hundred Years War, though Henry himself doesn’t do a lot during the play. Even the resolution feels like it’s just setting up for the Part 2, since not much seems to have been resolved at the end. Like the handful of Shakespeare’s other histories I know, there’s a fairly large cast of characters, which can make it a bit difficult to follow early on as the reader sorts out who’s who, who’s important, and who’s just a side character. A little historical knowledge of the period helps, but isn’t really necessary. 1 Henry VI is relatively action-packed, though reading action scenes in print isn’t exactly thrilling; I suppose I can’t really fault the author for that since, to be fair, this is supposed to be performed, not just read.

1 Henry VI is a bit weak, at least by Shakespearean standards, but I did like the scene just before the climax where Lord Talbot, commander of much of England’s army in France, finds himself in a hopeless battle because his comrades were too busy with infighting to send him support, and he urges his son, John, to flee and save himself. John refuses, saying:

No more can I be sever’d from your side,
Than can yourself yourself in twain divide:
Stay, go, do what you will, the like do I;
For live I will not, if my father die.

Interestingly, St. Joan of Arc is a major character here, though since Shakespeare wrote from an English perspective, and long before her canonisation, he portrays her as a villain, and near the end it’s revealed that her visions are a result of sorcery, not divine revelations. This portrayal is only surprising now because she seems near-universally admired today; Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Joan, which I wrote about last year, seems closer to what I’m used to.

In any case, it’s rather mediocre start to the year, but there’s still a long way to go. Up next are the other two parts of Henry VI.…

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