"The War of the Roses", the "Battle of Bosworth", and the "Princes in the Tower"; the century and a half covered by Shakespeare's history plays - from the recently authenticated "Edward III" and "Richard III" -is so full of incident that dramatic licence might seem unnecessary. But as this survey of the period shows, Shakespeare's dramas - which have influenced popular history for centuries - are prone to depart from the facts. By illuminating the enthralling political, military and dynastic events which supplied the raw material for the greatest dramatist in the English language, and the artistic, political and practical considerations that determined his approach to that material, John Julius Norwich does a great service both to lovers of traditional narrative history, and to all those interested in Shakespeare and his work.
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If Shakespeare's complicated portrayal of the teeming womb of royal kings ( Richard II) of England in his history plays has always confused you, then John Julius Norwich's Shakespeare's Kings is one solution to your problems. Recalling watching Henry IV as a young boy, Norwich remembers asking, where did history stop and drama begin? It is this question that Shakespeare's Kings seeks to answer, as it chronicles the historical events of the reigns of the monarchs of England dramatised in Shakespeare's plays. Beginning with Edward III, Norwich details the turbulent reign of Richard II, the rise of Henry IV and the triumphs of Henry V, the disastrous reign of Henry VI, the Wars of the Roses, the evil of Richard III and the painful birth of the Tudor monarchy.
Norwich sheds interesting light on what Shakespeare did with his sources (particularly Holinshed), as he provides chapters that detail the history of a particular monarch, which is then tested against Shakespeare's play of that particular king. This throws up some interesting points, such as the fact that the great nationalist John of Gaunt in Richard II was actually a deeply unpopular, patrician figure. The book also contains some wonderful illustrations and excellent tables of family trees, maps and an appendix that offers the entirety of Edward III, only recently (and still controversially) accepted into the canon by Shakespeare scholars.
However, the general reader should also treat Norwich's claim to historical objectivity with some caution. Shakespeare's Kings is almost completely ignorant of recent critical and historical studies of either Shakespeare or historical studies of the monarchs under consideration. Norwich claims that Shakespeare would never have claimed historical accuracy--and to establish just how close to it he came has been one of the principal purposes of this book--but then he was not an historian; he was a dramatist. But this obscures the extent to which history and fiction are invariably entwined and nowhere more so than in Shakespeare. But there's the rub. --Jerry BrottonAbout the Author:
John Julius Norwich was born in 1929. He joined the British Foreign Service after studying French and Russian at Oxford, and left the service in 1964 to become a writer. He has also worked extensively in radio and television, hosting the popular BBC radio panel game My Word! for several years, and writing and presenting historical documentaries. His many books include an acclaimed Byzantium trilogy., John Julius, 2nd Viscount Norwich, was born in 1929, the son of the statesman and diplomat Alfred Duff Cooper (1st Viscount) and the Lady Diana Cooper. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. In 1952 he joined the Foreign Service, where he remained for twelve years, serving at the embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and with the British Delegation to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva. In 1964 he resigned from the service in order to write. His many and varied publications include two books on the medieval Norman Kingdom in Sicily, The Normans in the South and The Kingdom in the Sun, which are published by Faber Finds; The Architecture of Southern England; Glyndebourne; and A History of Venice, originally published in two volumes. He is also the author of a three-volume history of the Byzantine Empire. He has written and presented some thirty historical documentaries for television, and is a regular lecturer on Venice and numerous other subjects.
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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 140249133