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Shakespeare's English Kings: History,…

Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama (1977)

by Peter Saccio

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My summer project was to read each of Shakespeare's ten history plays along with their respective chapters in this book. I failed, in that I just couldn't be assed to read King John. Screw that play, I hear it sucks. It doesn't even talk about the Magna Carta, wtf?

Anyway...the idea was to say hi to Shakespeare, and also to get a grasp on 15th-century English history. Saccio's book goes through the
latter, alerting you when Shakespeare's being particularly accurate (Richard II) and when he's totally making shit up (Henry VI).

It also attempts to make sense of the bedlam of nobles who spend all ten plays jockeying with and betraying each other. That's a particularly tall order; anyone who's read one of Shakespeare's histories knows that there are several dozen Buckinghams, Gloucesters, etc. per play and you never have any idea what they're sucking up or bitching about. You skimmed the scenes featuring lots of nobles talking, didn't you? Of course you did. Everyone did.

Saccio succeeds pretty admirably, though. I found the book engaging, and when I subsequently read each play I found that I got more out of it because I more or less understood each player's position and back story.

I now have a much deeper love for Shakespeare's later tetralogy - Richard II, Henry IV 1 & 2, and Henry V. Seriously man, that shit is awesome. I have even less love for Henry VI 1-3; those plays legitimately suck, with the sole exception that it's sortof fun reading Shakespeare's enthusiastically brutal character assassination of Joan of Arc. Richard III stands up and retains its position as one of my favorites. And no one should ever read Henry VIII.

So: dorktastic project, cool book; I had fun. I give it the thumbs up. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Methinks the truth should live from age to age.

(chapter 1)
In Memoriam

James Leslie Steffensen, Jr

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This book recounts English history during the reigns of eight Plantagenet kings and one Tudor. (Prefatory Note to the First Edition)
This new edition is not prompted by fresh discoveries about the rudimentary facts of English medieval history: the same kings fought the same battles and died in the same years. (Prefatory Note to the Second Edition)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195123190, Paperback)

Far more than any professional historian, Shakespeare is responsible for whatever notions most of us possess about English medieval history. Anyone who appreciates the dramatic action of Shakespeare's history plays but is confused by much of the historical detail will welcome this guide to the Richards, Edwards, Henrys, Warwicks and Norfolks who ruled and fought across Shakespeare's page and stage. Not only theater-goers and students, but today's film-goers who want to enrich their understanding of film adaptations of plays such as Richard III and Henry V will find this revised edition of Shakespeare's English Kings to be an essential companion.
Saccio's engaging narrative weaves together three threads: medieval English history according to the Tudor chroniclers who provided Shakespeare with his material, that history as understood by modern scholars, and the action of the plays themselves. Including a new preface, a revised further reading list, genealogical charts, an appendix of names and titles, and an index, the second edition of Shakespeare's English Kings offers excellent background reading for all of the ten history plays.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:19 -0400)

For theatre goers, filmgoers, students. Who are appreciative of the play's dramatic action but are confused by much of the historical detail of the Richards, Edwards, Henrys, Warwicks and Norfolks.

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