Cover image for Berryman's Shakespeare
Title:
Berryman's Shakespeare
Author:
Berryman, John, 1914-1972.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Shakespeare
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
lxviii, 396 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Shakespeare's early comedy -- Shakespeare at thirty -- Pathos and dream -- The world of action -- All's well -- The crisis -- The tragic substance -- The end -- Shakespeare's last word -- Project: an edition of King Lear -- Textual introduction [King Lear] -- Staging [Lear] -- The conceiving of King Lear -- Letters on Lear -- William Houghton, William Haughton, The Shrew and the Sonnets -- The sonnets -- The Comedy of Errors -- 1590: King John -- 2 Henry VI -- 3 Henry VI -- The Two Gentlemen of Verona -- On Macbeth -- Shakespeare's poor relation : 2 Henry IV -- Shakespeare's reality.
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780374112059
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The author began as a protege of the Shakespearean scholar Mark Van Doren & developed into a perceptive critic whose advantage was his own experience as a major poet. His voluminous writings on the Bard have now been collected & edited. After the opening section on Shakespeare's dramatic early years, the book continues with the author's brilliant reconstruction, "Shakespeare at Thirty," & seven other lectures, including "The Tragic Substance" & "Shakespeare's Last Word" (about The Tempest). The next section is devoted to King Lear, to a discussion of the difference between the quarto & folio texts of this masterpiece, & to the absorbing correspondence about the play's problems between the author & another of the greatest Shakespeare scholars, W. W. Greg. The fourth section investigates William Haughton as possible being "Mr. W. H." of the sonnets & a collaborator on The Taming of the Shrew. After a group of essays on various plays, including Henry VI & Macbeth, the book concludes with "Shakespeare's Reality," which the author apparently intends to be the end of his unfinished full-length study of Shakespeare.


Author Notes

John Berryman's poetry has a depth and obscurity that discourages many readers while it entices critics. His major work, The Dream Songs (1969), forms a poetic notebook that captures the ephemera of mood and attitude of this most mercurial of poets. Born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1914 and educated at Columbia University and Clare College, Cambridge, he later taught at several universities.

Berryman received the Shelley Memorial Award (1948), the Harriet Monroe Award (1957), the Loines Award for poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1964), and the fellowship of the Academy of American Poets (1966). In 1964 he won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for 77 Dream Songs (1964). His short story "The Imaginary Jew" received the Kenyon-Doubleday Award and was listed in Best American Short Stories, (1946). He also wrote Stephen Crane (1950) and is the author of a novel, Recovery (1973). Often listed along with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton as a major confessional poet, he was as much concerned with literary artifice as he was with personal revelation.

His works include The Freedom of the Poet, Henry's Fate & Other Poems, 1967-1972, Collected Poems 1937-1971, Berryman's Shakespeare, and Selected Poems.

Berryman committed suicide in 1972.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Best known for his poetry, notably his 1956 masterpiece Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, Berryman was a dedicated student of Shakespeare. Teaching at various universities throughout most of his adult life, he toiled on one project or another related to the bard: a critical edition of King Lear, a series of lectures on the plays, a large critical-biographical work on Shakespeare. Sadly, much of this work was unfinished when he committed suicide in 1972. This anthology, edited by Berryman biographer Haffenden, gathers the most complete of Berryman's writings on Shakespeare, including eight lectures on such topics as Shakespeare's incredibly prolific thirties, his tragic vision, and his last plays. Also included are uncompleted essays on the sonnets, the narrative poems, King Lear, and sundry other plays. The depth of Berryman's scholarship is impressive, his ideas are insightful, and his writing style is vigorous and readable enough to make one wish that Berryman, a tragic alcoholic, had seen all his Shakespearean projects through to the end. --Jack Helbig


Publisher's Weekly Review

Issued in the wake of major books on Shakespeare by Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler, this compendium of admiring, cogent and reflective essays, which have remained uncollected since Berryman's suicide in 1972, testifies to the unusually resilient and enduring value of the Bard's oeuvre. A poet known primarily for his sequence poem The Dream Songs (1969), Berryman gave three lecture series on Shakespeare but left his ambitious written projects, including an annotated edition of King Lear and a critical biography, unfinished. Given these circumstances, readers will be grateful for Haffenden's extensive introduction, which helpfully contextualizes the bibliographical ambiguities of the extant editions of the plays. The book's five sections afford readers an opportunity to examine Berryman's lifelong obsession with Shakespeare's characters, imagery, plots and, crucially, the textual puzzles that convinced him that poets make better annotators than editors. The introduction and notes to his edition of Lear are included, as is his correspondence (a letter to his mother illustrates his healthy, wry sense of humor, imagining Shakespeare "now merry with wicked joy peeping over Olympus at sorrowful scholars"). In essays arranged both chronologically and by individual play, Berryman offers readings of the plays that are not only fresh and immediate but reflect his own literary personae. He identifies prevailing themes, examining in the tragedies both "sexual loathing" and "the Displacement of the King"; in The Tempest he notes "how often, and with what longing, sleep is invoked." Like the writings of Coleridge and J.V. Cunningham, this is a book that relishes its resources, by a poet-critic who felt Shakespeare's language on the pulse. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

When one great poet decides to study and write on the work and life of another, magic can occur. Berryman, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, conjured some powerful magic with his examination of Shakespeare. Collected and edited by Haffenden (The Life of John Berryman, LJ 12/15/82), these writings, produced from the late 1940s until the poet's death in 1972, offer insight into both the works of Shakespeare and the mind of Berryman. Divided into five parts, the book also collects Berryman's biographical studies, eight lectures (most notably "Shakespeare at Thirty"), eight essays, and his last writing on the Bard, "Shakespeare's Reality." Public libraries may not want to go beyond Harold Bloom's recent Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (LJ 10/1/98), but Berryman's work should be a required purchase for all academic libraries. It seems destined to become as much a part of Berryman's legacy as his poetry.‘Neal Wyatt, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

The result of more than 20 years' labor, Haffenden's edition honors both Berryman and Shakespeare, but especially Berryman as scholar-critic in addition to poet. Distinguished by awards for his poetry (Pulitzer, 1965; Bollingen, 1967; National Book, 1969), Berryman was meantime producing thousands of pages on Shakespeare (pages now in the manuscript collection of the University of Minnesota Libraries). Haffenden (Univ. of Sheffield, UK) selects the most polished essays and lectures composed between the late 1940s and Berryman's death by suicide in 1972 and organizes them into five chapters: biographical studies, lectures, essays and correspondence on King Lear (Berryman's inspiration behind Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, 1956), speculation on the identity and importance of "Mr. W.H.," and essays on the sonnets and selected plays. An appendix, "Shakespeare's Reality," is a brilliant fragment of a book never finished. Most striking are Berryman's painstaking scholarship, his courage in challenging established scholars, and his genius for intuiting the nature of the man behind the text. Though overwhelmed by Shakespeare, "that multiform and encyclopedic bastard," Berryman gives the reader the sense that he knew the man, "the thing itself." Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. H. Sims; emeritus, University of Southern Mississippi


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Shakespeare's Early Comedy THE DRAMATIST'S GRANDFATHER was probably a Richard Shakespeare, who farmed in a small way at Snitterfield in Warwickshire, renting from the wealthy Robert Arden of Wilmcote, the other grandfather. The surname had long been common in the Midland counties, since one William Shakespeare [Sakspere] of Gloucester was hanged for robbery in 1248. Richard had at least two sons: John, who moved four miles to the market town of Stratford-on-Avon about 1551, and Henry, who remained at Snitterfield farming and died there poverty-stricken in December 1596, his widow, Margaret, following him six weeks later. By the time Richard died in 1560, John Shakespeare was prospering as a glover and butcher, had married above him, and purchased two freehold tenements in Henley Street (next door to the building now known as the Birthplace) and Greenhill Street, both with gardens. Mary Arden brought some property with her, not much, belonging to a lesser branch of one of the county's most influential families. The couple's third child, William--two daughters had died in infancy--was baptized on April 26, 1564. The father cured and dressed skins, sold barley and timber; he slaughtered, and dealt in both wool and malt, the town's chief commodities. He was active in civic life. When his son was four, he was elected bailiff (or mayor) of two thousand souls. He signed with a mark and kept the Corporation accounts for years; scarcely anyone now thinks he could not write. (Christopher Marlowe's father was supposed illiterate, because he signed his will with a mark, until an excellent signature--prior to the will--turned up in 1937. A mark, originally a cross, was ceremonial.) Other children followed William--Gilbert, Joan, Richard, Edmund; Anne died at seven, when her most gifted brother was fourteen.     Whether William Shakespeare entered the free Grammar School at five or seven is a mystery for all Professor Baldwin's thousands of pages. The least inhuman enquiry into his schooling is still Baynes's; it consisted of handwriting (the English "secretary" hand) and Latin --William Lily's grammar, the Sententiae Pueriles , Mantuanus' eclogues, Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Terence, etc. French he must have picked up by himself at some point, enough to use it obscenely in Henry V . Some critics think he knew Italian. He certainly read the Bible, in the Genevan version of 1560, from an early age. He certainly read, all his life, everything he could get his hands on. He played games, fished, hunted, observed rural life as it has rarely been observed by anyone else. Baynes also wrote the most pleasing summary account we have of the influence of the Stratford country--woodland north, champaign south--on senses and a spirit supernaturally keen. How long the boy lived there is doubtful. When he was twelve his father's way of life altered. Having missed only one Corporation meeting in thirteen years (that is, before January 23, 1577), during the next ten years he attended just one, and he did not attend church services. Circumstantial argument lately has failed to shake the evidence that his business affairs were declining; but new evidence has made it clear that he had remained a Catholic. A testament of faith in his name found under the roof tiling of his house in the eighteenth century, transcribed and lost, is now shown to be a translation--brought to England by Jesuit missionaries in 1580--of an Italian testament [by St. Charles Borromeo] composed in Milan shortly before. As of a man who had married near the end of Mary's reign, Catholicism must not disturb us, and many Ardens were Catholics. But the heterodox loyalty helps to explain John Shakespeare's withdrawal from public life; and with regard to his eldest son's training it is of real importance, as arguing an alternation of Catholic influence at home and Protestant influence at school--the latter being further complicated, as de Groot has shown, by an alternation of Protestant and more or less Catholic schoolmasters. The profound balance of sympathies which became one of this writer's marked characteristics had thus an early root. By thirteen or fourteen it may be doubted that William Shakespeare had any more to learn from the one of his masters [Simon Hunt] about whom we know almost nothing, and the tradition that his father--with five younger children to support--withdrew him from school to help in the business is plausible enough. To this age, nothing has been transmitted to us about the boy except that he was eloquent at a dramatic stunt called "Killing the Calf" (you go behind a curtain and act both calf and butcher). He had also, now or later, unless John Aubrey was misled, a friend his own age as talented as himself, and another butcher's son, who died young.     Now, I think, begin the so-called lost years.     Why it should be thought a conservative notion that Shakespeare stayed in Stratford until his marriage I have no idea. Throughout life he returned there from time to time, and very little time is required for either a marriage or the consummation of a marriage. We lose sight of him perhaps at about fifteen. His marriage, in fact, at eighteen, to a woman twenty-six from a hamlet near Stratford, was hasty and probably forced: six months after a bond against impediments was registered at Worcester [November 28, 1582], a daughter was christened Susanna [May 26, 1583]. A nuptial pre-contract amounting to marriage, such is Shakespeare actually mentions in Measure for Measure , has been conjectured, and it is true that both practice and law were opposed, in this matter, to ecclesiastical teaching. In any event, from the likelihood that he had to marry it does not follow that he was unwilling to. Anne Shakespeare's impressions of the poet have not survived. He did not make a faithful husband, and was seldom at home, but he was after all a husband of whom it is not too much to suppose that a wife could readily be proud, and in time he would flourish. As for Shakespeare's feelings: his portraits of wives are not notably sympathetic except for Hotspur's, Imogen, Hermione, and they include a shrew in The Comedy of Errors , Gertrude, Goneril and Regan, and Lady Macbeth. A young Shakespearean student in Ulysses insists that the poet's wife was unfaithful to him, probably with one of his brothers back home in Stratford. But his notorious bequest to her of their "second-best bed" is not evidence against the quality of the marriage. She had been an old maid, and loose; more we cannot say. There is no evidence that she ever joined him in London or elsewhere, for instance on tour. But he always returned to her, and one hopes their last years together were happy. Twins followed the daughter by twenty months, early in 1585, and were named after Hamnet (or Hamlet) Sadler, a baker in High Street, and his wife, Judith. There were no more children.     About a century after these events, the son of an actor who had been with Shakespeare's theatrical company in 1598 told Aubrey that the poet "had been in his younger yeares a Schoolmaster in the Countrey." This would be as an usher, presumably, not a school-master proper, and not necessarily for long. A reflection of the supposed experience has been seen in Love's Labour's Lost (where Holofernes strikes me as imagined from the point of view of a victim rather than that of a colleague--not to mention his immediate origin in the Pedant of the commedia dell' arte ). It may be. Failing historical support, this remote assertion is on little better footing than modern theses that he was a soldier, a law clerk, a traveller, a printer, an apothecary, and so on. Possible, any of them, or even several, but I can imagine nothing more futile than pinning one's faith to a hypothesis which does not even bear upon the fundamental problem: the transition from provincial obscurity to prominence by 1592 in the London theatre. A tradition that he began by holding gentlemen's horses at the stage door is worth mention.     The deer-stealing episode which has fixed itself in the public mind is doubly attested and may represent actual experience. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare's first editor and biographer, wrote in 1709: He had, by a Misfortune common enough to young Fellows, fallen into ill Company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of Deerstealing, engag'd him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong'd to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot , near Stratford . For this he was prosecuted by that Gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill Usage, he made a Ballad upon him. And tho' this, probably the first Essay of his Poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the Prosecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig'd to leave his Business and Family in Warwickshire , for some time, and shelter himself in London . A late-seventeenth-century Gloucestershire vicar, Richard Davies, adds that Sir Thomas had the poet "oft whipt & sometimes Imprisoned," for which Shakespeare satirized him as the foolish Justice Shallow of The Merry Wives of Windsor , who comes to make a Star Chamber matter of a deer poaching and whose "old coat" bears a "dozen white luces" (pikes, that is, punning on louses), Lucy's arms being "three luces hauriant argent."     I indicate now briefly the four other lines of possibility most attractive in the present state of our knowledge.     The first and vividest is Northern. In the autumn of 1581 died Alexander Houghton, a Lancashire gentleman who kept players; leaving to his brother Thomas if he will keep players--if not, to Sir Thomas Hesketh--instruments and costumes, and specially commending to them William Shakeshafte and another, who now live with him at Lea, evidently players; and leaving to this pair of servants also annuities of two pounds. Now one of the variants of the name used by Shakespeare's grandfather was Shakeshafte. Sir Edmund Chambers, who noticed this will in 1923 and forgot it in his great work of 1930, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems , later on--jogged by Oliver Baker--took up the matter again. The Houghtons, and Hesketh at Rufford, were on close terms with the Stanleys, whose great house, Knowsley, lay nearby. Hesketh almost certainly kept players and had them there with him in December 1587. He died a year later. Both the Stanleys--the fourth Earl of Derby and his son Ferdinando, Lord Strange--of course kept players who made up one of the leading English companies, sometimes under one name, sometimes the other. I must enter a little on their history. They performed at Stratford in 1578-79 and 1579-80; may have been the unnamed players at Knowsley thrice in 1588-90 when Lord Strange was there; were eighteen months at the Rose Theatre in London with Philip Henslowe, the manager, early in 1592: giving twenty-three plays, mostly old ones by Marlowe, Robert Greene, George Peele, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Kyd (ten performances of The Jew of Malta , thirteen of The Spanish Tragedy ), but five new ones including "harey the vj" (evidently 1 Henry VI , fifteen performances); for several weeks early in 1593 they were there again, and five men who were next year to join Shakespeare in the most famous company of the age (William Kemp the clown, Thomas Pope, John Heminge, Augustine Phillips, George Bryan) were with him when they were given a special license in May and left on tour. Derby died that September, and next spring, during the week before Shakespeare's thirtieth birthday, Derby's son died, April 16, 1594. The company used the Countess's name at Winchester on May 16, 1593, but in the summer reshuffled (Edward Alleyn, remaining personally the Lord Admiral's servant, had been at their head for some time) and dispersed. If the William Shakeshafte of 1581 is Shakespeare at seventeen, it is clear that he might have passed readily thence to Strange's Men, where most critics used to locate him and some (among them Sir Walter Greg) still do. Possibly in the present paragraph we have seen him lose three, four, or even five patrons.     This Houghton will is the first document ever to emerge suggesting, what many have hoped, that he may have been early familiar with a distinguished house; where, they fancy, he acquired the knowledge of books and manners that his plays evince. I see myself no difficulty in his reading almost anywhere, and I think with H. Granville-Barker that he learnt about life from writing plays about it. But this Lancashire avenue is undeniably interesting. The first thirty-five years of George Chapman's life were a total blank until 1946, when we learnt that he was long attendant on a member of the Privy Council, Sir Ralph Sadler, whether brought up by him, as Michael Drayton was by Sir Henry Goodere, or domesticated later in life, as was Samuel Daniel at Wilton.     A frailer line of enquiry has opened up even more recently. An imperfect copy of Edward Hall's chronicle has come to light containing some four hundred marginalia (3,600 words) which are claimed as Shakespeare's; this is the edition of 1550, which he is known to have used. They occur mostly over the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V. It wants critical examination, paleographic and linguistic.     The third line was suggested at the end of the last century by Judge [D. H.] Madden and has been developed by Caroline Spurgeon, in appendices to their pioneering studies ( The Diary of Master William Silence and Shakespeare's Imagery ). Shakespeare in 2 Henry IV knows Gloucestershire remarkably well: games, husbandry, the "sedgie" Severn. By then, if not long before, he had travelled over half England playing; but he names people (who we find lived there) at places near Berkeley Castle, which he also knows not only well (in Richard II ) but emotionally , as Miss Spurgeon has made clear with an analysis of his martlet images; and both he and his wife appear to have had relatives there in the Cotswolds. Berkeley's Men played at Stratford in the year before he married and again in the year after he married.     A fourth surmise concerns the Queen's Men, the most powerful company of the 1580s. A. W. Pollard points out that Shakespeare took over later the substantive materials of at least three of their extant plays, handling them not so much like a man who had merely read the plays as like one who had acted in them years before, with a strong grasp of situation but negligible verbal congruity. The objection that he might equally have just seen them acted is more satisfactory, I venture to think, with respect to The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth and King Leir than with respect to The Troublesome Reign of King John . This company mostly broke up on the comedian Richard Tarlton's death in 1588. DRAMATIC BEGINNINGS WE DO NOT KNOW whether Shakespeare began literary work for the stage with original plays or with collaborations or by revising existing plays; and we do not know whether he started with history or comedy. It is not very likely that all his early dramatic work is preserved or has been recognized as his. Only twenty-five plays by anybody survive now assignable to the crucial decade, which was not the 1590s, as most modern authorities suppose, but the 1580s. The chief contenders in the canon, for his initial surviving efforts, are probably the Plautine farce The Comedy of Errors and the chronicle known to us by the misleading title given to it long afterwards by the editors of the Shakespeare Folio in 1623, 2 Henry VI . Later it will be convenient to deal with it [ 2 Henry VI ] and 3 Henry VI together, as a two-part history, but the first part is so much more impressive and inspired than its sequel that I want to consider it first alone. It has not been often praised by critics--Coleridge never mentioned it, nor Edward Dowden, except to canvass in a footnote the division among scholars up to his time in regard to authorship; only E.M.W. Tillyard devotes fifteen pages to it as "a fine piece of construction ... a fine whole." It is little read and seldom performed. But I took a friend, the poet and playwright Louis MacNeice, to a production at the Old Vic in 1953 and he agreed with me afterwards that it is a damned good play. It is also, in its extensive Shakespearean part, one of the most original plays of the decade, preceded--so far as we know--only by the miserable Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (about 1586). The English chronicle play sprang out of nowhere, without either classical or native models. We must abandon the long-established view of Shakespeare as a mere perfecter, though rehandling here, it is true, the work of other men: Greene, Peele, and perhaps Marlowe, collaborating in the original version of the play. Dover Wilson finds Shakespeare's hand in eighteen of its scenes, and thinks he wrote three alone. Chambers's dating, 1590, is certainly too late. Perhaps it belongs to 1588 or earlier, just after Marlowe's 1 Tamburlaine of 1587, to the verse of which 2 Henry VI in its heroic speeches (only) is clearly indebted. Marlowe's influence on Shakespeare, though real, has long been greatly exaggerated; the judicious Clark Lectures of F. P. Wilson, published as Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare (1953), embodied and strengthened a reaction to the traditional view.     How to characterize this new, frequently unmistakable voice? Already in fluent verse he can reason, mourn, exult, rebuke, curse, quarrel; already his prose, in the Cade scenes of Act IV, is flexible, vigorous, individual. Already his persons are distinct beyond their actions. Already both pathos and irony are ready to hand. Already a bewildering, unprecedented variety of human experience is deployed without confusion: intrigue, ambition, pride, penance, a raving death, wrangling, the supernatural, the amusing inconsequence and brutality of the common people, hawking, murder, domestic life, treachery, nobility, resignation, the businesslike (curt, natural, manly), the ominous, the contemptuous, the exalted. Already he is a young master of both the amplitude and the expressive conciseness in which he was to outdo almost all other writers, rivalling in the one the poet of the Iliad and in the other the poet of the Commedia . I take from the wealth of the play two tiny strokes, the first of understatement, the second of Shakespearean psychological inwardness. When the Duchess of Gloucester's resort to black magic is discovered in I.iv, her exposer comments on the disastrous consequences to her husband, the most powerful man in the realm, with one satisfied, grim line: "A sorry breakfast for my Lord Protector."     My second instance also follows on an exposure--a telling dramatic device to which Shakespeare would be devoted throughout his career. In the next scene (II.i) the royal party is introduced to a "miracle": a beggar, with his wife, pretends to have been blind and to have recovered his sight. When Gloucester exposes him and orders their punishment, the poor wife moans: "Alas Sir, we did it for pure need." This gratuitous touch of the playwright's sympathy does not save her, but a glimpse of helpless suffering has been afforded.     As we enjoy this well-invented episode, we are also aware that the secure and penetrating Gloucester and his wife, as high as the beggars are low, are just about to be disgraced and punished. The play is rich already in foreshadowing, double awareness, contrast, out of the reach of his contemporaries, His rendering of death scenes shows, I think, enjoyment as well as skill: an evil cardinal's deathbed babbling (III.iii), the spoiled and mighty Suffolk's lonely, ignominious end (IV.i). The author's dawning, enthusiastic ability to convey complex character I reserve till later in the chapter, when we come to his first major achievement, Richard III . The personality of this vivid man seems to have engaged Shakespeare from the outset, his sudden introduction in V.i: Rich . Oft haue I seene a hot ore-weening Curre,        Run backe and bite, because he was with-held,        Who being suffer'd with the Beares fell paw,        Hath clapt his taile, betweene his legges and cride,        And such a peece of seruice will you do,        If you oppose your selues to match Lord Warwicke. Clifford . Hence, heape of wrath, foule indigested lumpe,        As crooked in thy manners, as thy shape. His leaps-and-bounds development through 3 Henry VI is one of that play's keenest strands of interest.     2 Henry VI intertangles four themes: Suffolk and the Queen, Gloucester's dominance and fall, York's claim to the crown, Cade's rebellion; three of which are brought to a conclusion, the Yorkist third dominating then the second play, where Warwick is the unifier of the contention, insofar as one can be found in a rather random performance that looks forward to Richard III even more explicitly than the preceding play looked forward to it. Richard is the focus whenever he appears. He teases the hesitant York onward in I.ii: How sweet a thing it is to weare a Crowne, Within whose Circuit is Elizium , And all those Poets faine of Blisse and Ioy. His announcement of and wrestling with his own ambition, in the long fine soliloquy that concludes III.ii, provides midway the play's high point: I, Edward will vse Women honourably: Would he were wasted, Marrow, Bones, and all, That from his Loynes no hopefull Branch may spring, To crosse me from the Golden time I looke for: And yet, between my Soules desire, and me, The lustfull Edwards Title buryed, Is Clarence, Henry , and his Sonne young Edward , And all the vnlook'd-for Issue of their Bodies, To take their Roomes, ere I can place my selfe: A cold premeditation for my purpose. And the difficulties multiply upon him, until: And I, like one lost in a Thornie Wood, That rents the Thornes, and is rent with the Thornes, Seeking a way, and straying from the way, Not knowing how to finde the open Ayre, But toying desperately to finde it out, Torment my selfe, to catch the English Crowne: And from that torment I will free my selfe, Or hew my way out with a bloody Axe. His confusion, in this middle of his speech, accommodates itself to the weak King's confusion over his identity. The polarity of the two characters is the single most salient element in what form Shakespeare has been able to impose upon the play. Henry gives himself credit for royal virtues--before the battle of Barnet (IV.viii) he says of his people:                    my meed hath got me fame: I haue not stopt mine eares to their demands, Nor posted off their suites with slow delayes, My pittie hath beene balme to heale their wounds, My mildnesse hath allay'd their swelling griefes, My mercie dry'd their water-flowing teares. --but he is aware that these are not the proper qualifications for rule in the turbulent world he inhabits, and when this grievous reflection calls into question his very self-image (III.i) he can only, in reply to their questioning, say that he is More then I seeme, and lesse then I was born to: A man at leaste, for lesse I should not be ... Whereas Richard, by the end of his soliloquy, has thrown off his irresolution and is himself again: Why I can smile, an murther whiles I smile, And cry, Content, to that which grieuves my Heart, And wet my Cheekes with artificial Teares, And frame my Face to all occasions. Ile drowne more Saylers then the Mermaid shall, Ile slay more gazers then the Basiliske, Ile play the Orator as well as Nestor , Deceiue more slyly then Vlisses could, And like a Synon , take another Troy. I can adde Colours to the Camelion, Change shapes with Proteus , for aduantages, And set the murtherous Macheuill to Schoole. Can I doe this, and cannot get a Crowne? Tut, were it farther off, Ile plucke it downe. (Continues...) Copyright (c) 1999 Kate Donahue Berryman. All rights reserved.

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