Till a Richard Killed Who?

So, the BBC announced it will be filming Henry VI and Richard III as a follow-up to their Hollow Crown series. Excitement!

I love Shakespeare's history plays. Henry V was my first real Shakespeare love, and when the Royal Shakespeare Company stopped by my hometown of Ann Arbor, MI in 2001 to put on the first history play tetralogy (the three parts of Henry VI, followed by Richard III), I nearly flipped out with excitement. I had never seen the Henry VI plays before, but I had a vague sense of the history involved and was really eager to see it come to life. 

We watched all three parts of Henry VI in a single day (which was hard on the posterior, but great for the soul), followed by Richard III on the next day. In that performance of Richard III I heard a fantastic passage that is often cut, but which so perfectly encapsulated the entirety of the tetralogy. Here it is, featuring Margaret of Anjou, the Duchess of York, and Queen Elizabeth:

It's hysterical. It's just an endless litany of Edwards and Richards and Henrys getting killed by each other. That's the Wars of the Roses for you. Here's the full text:

If ancient sorrow be most reverend,
Give mine the benefit of seniory,
And let my woes frown on the upper hand.
If sorrow can admit society,
Tell o'er your woes again by viewing mine:
I had an Edward, till a Richard killed him;
I had a husband, till a Richard killed him:
Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard killed him;
Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard killed him;

I had a Richard too, and thou didst kill him;
I had a Rutland too, thou holp'st to kill him.

Thou hadst a Clarence too, and Richard killed him.
From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death:

Anyways, after watching that marathon RSC performance (which you can read about in actor Nick Asbury's book, Exit Pursued by a Badger, which I highly recommend) I quickly read up on all the history behind the Henrys and Edwards and Richards, which was in many ways even more ludicrous than what Shakespeare put on stage. The Histories have been my favorite plays ever since.

See you on Monday! It's going to be LEAR time!