War of the Roses
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Entertainment that's also educational? We'll believe it when we read it, Shakespeare.
|American Literature||All American Literature|
|Author||Adler - Warren Adler|
The English were also getting a little nervous about the country’s future, since Queen
Elizabeth the first was hardly a spring chicken, and had no kids in the on deck circle.
Plenty of good material here for a dramatic play, right? But the plot thickened when Her
Majesty banned all political commentary. Darn censorship…
So… how do you make witty observations about current affairs when your axe-happy ruler
is breathing down your neck? The answer is to go back to a similarly dysfunctional
period in history: the War of the Roses.
Sure, it sounds like a catfight at a garden party, but it was more like a really bloody
game of tug of war over the crown of England.
Check out this Game of Thrones... the House of Lancaster and the House of York were having
a major disagreement over who should be the rightful ruler of England.
Instead of agreeing to disagree, there was a flurry of army-gathering, king-capturing,
drawing up of evil plans, and tacking-on of Roman numerals.
This cloud did have one warm and fuzzy lining; each faction had a rose as their symbol…
white for York supporters, red for Lancaster… which definitely made it the prettiest-sounding
30 years and lots of dead noblemen later, a future playwright had his cast of characters.
That was easy! Going back in time was a good way for Shakespeare
to weasel out of Queen Elizabeth’s gag order, but it was also a way to lay some knowledge
on the masses.
As you may have gathered, the 16th and 17th centuries had little in the way of media outlets.
If you wanted to brush up on your history, you couldn't turn to the Biography Channel
or ask Siri a question.
Sure, there were books around, but those were for rich people who could, you know… read.
Shakespeare’s plays had plenty of entertainment value, but some ticketholders may have been
watching for educational purposes.
Shakespeare’s plots take some liberties here and there…
...but many of the characters in his War of the Roses plays are legit. When folks packed
into a theatre for Richard III or one of those never-ending Henry sequels…
...they learned a little about kings and queens of long ago. And came away with some pretty
cool new insults, to boot. So what’s the key to the Bard’s secret
Do his historical plays connect England’s past to Shakespeare’s present?
Was the War of the Roses the perfect way to outfox the queen?
Are Shakespeare’s plays an attractive way of sneaking some history into your diet?
Or did he just really like the name “Henry?” Shmoop amongst yourselves.