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December 05, 1965 - Image 26

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The Michigan Daily, 1965-12-05
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David-Rhys Anderson as King Henry TI

Era of Chaos
IN PRESENTING Shakespeare's trilogy of "Henry VI" the University Players have
embarked upon an overwhelmingly ambitions task. The complete trilogy, per-
formed in one season, has seen production only four times, and never by a student
group. The play presents several major drawbacks which have accounted for the rarity
of performance.
To begin with, it covers a large and extremely complicated period in English
history; from the childhood of Henry VI and the conclusion of the 100 Years War
to the political and social chaos of the Wars of the Roses and the events leading to
the accession of Richard III. In details of military action and political intrigue, this
is the most complex and obscure of Shakespeare's plays. The events presented are
not as well known to modern audiences and the personalities not as striking or
powerful as those in the surrounding chronicle plays; "Henry IV," "Henry V," and
"Richard III." The latter is due probably to the immaturity of writing. In fact, 19th
century scholars attributed a large part of the text to other playwrights. It is now,
though, accepted as an early Shakespearean effort, possibly the rewriting of a con-
temporary play.
"Henry VI" is of greatest interest as an example of Tudor propaganda. Strangely,
there are no contemporary historians for the reign of Henry VI or Edward IV. The
histories of that period, taken as gospel until recently, were written by men in the pay
of Henry Tudor (Henry VII). In an effort to strengthen the Tudor claims to the
throne, which were based more on possession than heredity, every conceivable atrocity
was laid at the feet of Richard III whom Henry VII had deposed. At the same time,
the Lancastrians, especially Henry V, from whom Henry VII claimed descent, were
praised and idealized.
THE MOST authoritative history of the period was that of Sir Thomas More, until
people began to question the source of his information. At the time of Richard's
reign, they recalled, he had been only a young child, later serving as Archbishop under
Henry VIII. His source was found to be Thomas Morton, councillor to H'enry VII and
thus the originator of the propaganda campaign. Crimes such as Richard III's murder
of Henry VI and of his nephews, the "princes in the tower," have now been strongly
questioned. Thus, Shakespeare's "Richard III" and "Henry VI" have to be viewed and
understood as products of that era of Tudor mudslinging.
The success of the University Players production will depend heavily on the skill-
fulness of the revision and cutting which was planned to make the play more inter-
esting and easier to follow. The minor military detail, especially that of the indecisive
battles in Part II have been cut. Instead 300 lines of "Richard III" were added in
order to include the key incidents which led to the accession of King Richard to the
throne. This makes it possible to get a more complete picture of the action and con-
sequences of this period. To make events more graphic, the stage setting will include
two tapestries: one a family tree, the other a map of England and France.
"Henry VI" will be the 25th Shakespearen play produced during the 50-year
existence of University Players. One reason given for the present production, despite
its shortcomings, is that University Players hopes to work its way, in the future,
through the full Shakespeare First Folio of 36 plays.

Robert McGill as Richar

Calvin Rice as Duke

Lillian Casey as Queen Margaret

Stephen Wyman as Jack Cade with his rebel group

Cade gang plots rebellion Richard of York defies King Henry

Page Six


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