War of the Roses

Entertainment that's also educational? We'll believe it when we read it, Shakespeare.

American LiteratureAll American Literature
AuthorAdler - Warren Adler
FormNovel
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureAmerican Literature

Transcript

00:21

The English were also getting a little nervous about the country’s future, since Queen

00:24

Elizabeth the first was hardly a spring chicken, and had no kids in the on deck circle.

00:31

Plenty of good material here for a dramatic play, right? But the plot thickened when Her

00:35

Majesty banned all political commentary. Darn censorship…

00:40

So… how do you make witty observations about current affairs when your axe-happy ruler

00:45

is breathing down your neck? The answer is to go back to a similarly dysfunctional

00:50

period in history: the War of the Roses.

00:52

Sure, it sounds like a catfight at a garden party, but it was more like a really bloody

00:57

game of tug of war over the crown of England.

01:00

Check out this Game of Thrones... the House of Lancaster and the House of York were having

01:05

a major disagreement over who should be the rightful ruler of England.

01:10

Instead of agreeing to disagree, there was a flurry of army-gathering, king-capturing,

01:14

drawing up of evil plans, and tacking-on of Roman numerals.

01:18

This cloud did have one warm and fuzzy lining; each faction had a rose as their symbol…

01:24

white for York supporters, red for Lancaster… which definitely made it the prettiest-sounding

01:29

war ever.

01:31

30 years and lots of dead noblemen later, a future playwright had his cast of characters.

01:38

That was easy! Going back in time was a good way for Shakespeare

01:41

to weasel out of Queen Elizabeth’s gag order, but it was also a way to lay some knowledge

01:46

on the masses.

01:47

As you may have gathered, the 16th and 17th centuries had little in the way of media outlets.

01:52

If you wanted to brush up on your history, you couldn't turn to the Biography Channel

01:56

or ask Siri a question.

01:59

Sure, there were books around, but those were for rich people who could, you know… read.

02:04

Shakespeare’s plays had plenty of entertainment value, but some ticketholders may have been

02:08

watching for educational purposes. 

02:10

Shakespeare’s plots take some liberties here and there…

02:13

...but many of the characters in his War of the Roses plays are legit. When folks packed

02:18

into a theatre for Richard III or one of those never-ending Henry sequels…

02:21

...they learned a little about kings and queens of long ago. And came away with some pretty

02:26

cool new insults, to boot. So what’s the key to the Bard’s secret

02:30

code?

02:30

Do his historical plays connect England’s past to Shakespeare’s present?

02:35

Was the War of the Roses the perfect way to outfox the queen?

02:39

Are Shakespeare’s plays an attractive way of sneaking some history into your diet?

02:43

Or did he just really like the name “Henry?” Shmoop amongst yourselves.