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Read Edward III, as "prequel" to Richard II

 "Shall the large limit of fair Bretagne

By me be overthrown, and shall I not

Master this little mansion of myself?"

An early history play set in the 14th century, and involving, surprise surprise, war with France over British claims to the French crown.  Also attempted royal seduction of a married countess, ethical dilemmas, tough love, a valiant prince, and troubles with Scots. 

"What’s this Edward, but a belly-god,

A tender and lascivious wantonness,

That th’other day was almost dead for love?"


"I did not bid thee talk of chastity…

For I would rather have her chased than chaste."


"As easy may my intellectual soul

Be lent away, and yet my body live,

As lend my body, palace to my soul,

Away from her, and yet retain my soul."

"Edward III" can serve as a lead-in to the tetralogy of Shakespeare's history plays beginning with "Richard II" and continuing through "Henry V".  Edward was king just preceding Richard II, and both Richard II and Henry IV (who took the crown from him) were Edward's grandchildren. The "Wars of the Roses" between the houses of York and Lancaster, which continued through Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III up until Henry VII and the Tudors, were all about which descendants of Edward III had the best claim to the English throne. The claim Henry V makes to the French throne is identical to and based on the one Edward III makes.

"Death's name is much more mighty than his deeds:

Thy parcelling his power hath made it more.

As many sands as these my hands can hold

Are but my handful of so many sands:

Then, all the world - and call it but a power - 

Easily ta'en up, and quickly thrown away.

But if I stand to count them sand by sand

The number would confound my memory."

This is an early play which has recently been included in more and more Shakespeare editions.  Most recent scholarship seems to conclude that Shakespeare wrote at least a substantial part of it, possibly all of it. The play was published anonymously; it's been suggested that anti-Scottish sentiments in the play kept it from being performed under King James and thus it was forgotten at the time of the first folio being printed. 

"How much they will deride us in the North,

And, in their vile uncivil skipping jigs,

Bray forth their conquest and our overthrow,

Even in the barren, bleak and fruitless air."


"And never shall our bonny riders rest,

Nor rusting canker have the time to eat

Their light-borne snaffles, nor their nimble spurs,

… till your king

Cry out 'Enough, spare England now for pity!'"

Location and Logistics:  We'll meet at the Queen Anne Branch of Seattle Public Library at 400 W. Garfield St., in the meeting room. (This event is not sponsored by the Seattle Public Library.) See here for directions : http://www.spl.org/locations/queen-anne-branch/qna-getting-to-the-branch There's street parking available. Metro bus routes 2 and 13 go there.

We can bring food into the meeting room as long as we clean up afterwards.  Allow time for distributing parts, taking an intermission and optional discussion at the end.  This is a longish play.

This text is harder to come by - it is not in many of the older editions of the collected works, and the public library systems have only one copy each.  It's available on-line ( at http://www.shakespeareswords.com/King-Edward-III and elsewhere).  You might be able to find or order a physical copy for yourself. One source for low-cost book ordering is http://www.bookfinder.com (though time is getting tight for shipping).

If you can read ahead it's always helpful, but it's not required. If you can't find a copy but are interested, just come anyway - I'll bring a few extra copies of the text from UW library. 

There is a synopsis here: http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Play-Synopse.aspx?IdPlay=14

"An evil deed, done by authority,

Is sin and subornation: deck an ape

In tissue, and the beauty of the robe

Adds but the greater scorn unto the beast….

Dark night seems darker by the lightning flash;

Lilies that fester smell far worse then weeds."


"If the touch of sweet concordant strings

Could force attendance in the ears of hell,

How much more shall the strains of poets’ wit

Beguile and ravish soft and human minds?"


"I will make you shrink your snaily horns!" 



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  • Anne W.

    Fun friendly group, gret reading, lovely setting, thoughtful discussion. I appreciated the welcomes, inclusiveness, and light snacks with plentiful tea! Will definitely come back.

    2 · January 4, 2014

    • Caryl C

      I enjoyed reading with you, "daughter!" Hope to see you again soon!

      January 5, 2014

  • Barbara

    Great to see the regulars, and great to see some new faces.

    1 · January 4, 2014

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