All posts by Bill Walthall

After graduating from UCLA with a degree in English and a teaching credential, Bill Walthall returned to his hometown in Ventura County, California, to teach English and drama at Oxnard and Hueneme High Schools. Having spent a decade in the classroom, he took a year off to recharge his batteries, but was pulled into the private-sector rat race as a technology consultant. In the last handful of years, however, he has rekindled his passion for literature and education. He launched his blog, The Bill / Shakespeare Project, where he brings not only a fun, accessible yet still scholarly approach to a play-by-play analysis of Shakespeare’s works, but also the latest and greatest in Willy Shakespeare headlines every week in his “This Week in Shakespeare” podcast.

Progress Report

Just for scat and laughs, I did a little data mining tonight… as of today:

  • 130 days
  • 140 entries, with over 100,000 words written (100,619 to be exact)
  • 4 plays read (we’re over ten percent done)
  • 15 podcasts (over three hours of content)
  • 3570 blog visits
  • 2127 podcast downloads
  • 308 subscribers to our podcast RSS feed; another 94 (either through RSS or Atom) to the blog itself
  • 240 Facebook fans
Up until this week, the podcast has been syndicated on fluctu8, podcastblaster, podcastalley, and zencast (… and we will be appearing on iTunes beginning next week!).
Thanks for joining the project… hope you’ve had fun, thus far… and we ARE JUST GETTING STARTED!

Joan of Arc: Historical

Jeanne d’Arc was born in or around 1412 to Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée in Domrémy, a village in eastern France, where her parents owned about 50 acres of farm land.  Her later testimony stated that she began to have her visions at age 12, when the voices of the Archangel Michael, the “good martyr” Saint Catherine, and the virgin Saint Margaret, told her to defeat the invading English army and drive them from French soil, allowing for the Dauphin Charles to go to Reims for a true coronation.

In 1429, at age 16, in an interview with Count Robert de Baudricort, she predicted a turnaround in the military situation at Orleans.  When this came to pass, he gave her an escort to go to Chinon to meet with Charles.  In this meeting, she was able to convince the Dauphin to allow her to dress as a knight (she had already been disguising herself as a man) and travel with the army.
Continue reading Joan of Arc: Historical

Gloucester vs. Winchester: Sexual Mudslinging

For the first half of The First Part of Henry the Sixth the main interpersonal conflict is between Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester.  As noted earlier in the month, the two are related, and their quarrel is over who shall have access to and control over the young king.  And while Winchester’s attacks are mostly on religious (“vizier” [I.iv.29]) and political (“most usurping proditor” [I.iv.31]) grounds, Gloucester’s responses are much more earthly and sexual.
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Act One, Scene Three: The Play(-ing)’s the Thing…

In performance, Act One, Scene Three of The First Part of Henry the Sixth is crucial; it’s the first scene that drives the plot forward and does not depend on its expository nature (the funeral of Henry V, news from France; the French nobles prepare for the assault).  Here, we see the first French defeat of the play (in a play filled with battlefield momentum swings), and we have the introduction of one of the main characters of the play: Joan la Pucelle.

The question, then, is how do we play the scene?
Continue reading Act One, Scene Three: The Play(-ing)’s the Thing…

Podcast 15: The First Part of Henry the Sixth DVD Review

This week’s podcast includes a DVD review for The First Part of Henry the Sixth, plus a recap of this week’s blog entries.

Errata:
1:06 — text should be “November” instead of “December”
Continue reading Podcast 15: The First Part of Henry the Sixth DVD Review

Shakespeare Comes to UCLA (my alma mater!)

No, it’s not a production… it’s kinda even better.

The Clark Library of UCLA (my alma mater and the best damn university in the world [OK, so I’m a *LITTLE* biased!]) is about to receive a $2 million collection of 72 books related to Shakespeare.  The Library, which I’m chagrined to say I’ve never heard of, is located off-campus in the West Adams area (for those of you who know LA), and houses a number of rare books.
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The War of the Roses

As we mentioned yesterday in our discussion of historical inaccuracies in The First Part of Henry the Sixth, the term “the War of the Roses” became popular only in the nineteenth century after its use in Sir Walter Scott’s Anne of Geierstein, or The Maiden of the Mist (1829); the phrase is said to be have been based on the Rose Briar scene (Act Two, Scene Five) of 1HenryVI, in which Plantagenet and Somerset ask their followers to show their allegiance by their choice of flowers (white for the followers of York, red for Lancaster).
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Henry the Sixth is History: Not So Much (or: Historical Inaccuracies)

For the last few days, we’ve been loading up on timelines, both historical and military, of the events that took place during the time period covered in The First Part of Henry the Sixth.  Today, let’s see how those factual events mesh (and more importantly don’t mesh) with what’s in the play.
Continue reading Henry the Sixth is History: Not So Much (or: Historical Inaccuracies)

Sources

According to most critics, the source material for most of Shakespeare’s histories (including The First Part of Henry the Sixth) was Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland.  Holinshed was only one of a three main authors of the work (the other two being William Harrison and Richard Stanyhurst), and their work was first printed in 1577, about fifteen years before the composition of 1HenryVI.
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Podcast 14: The First Part of Henry the Sixth Introduction

This week’s podcast includes an introduction to and a plot synopsis for The First Part of Henry the Sixth, plus a recap of this week’s blog entries.

Errata:
17:46 — Text should be “English retake the city” instead of “French retake the city”
Continue reading Podcast 14: The First Part of Henry the Sixth Introduction

Act Five

Was Henry at this point too young to read?  We’ll take a look a chronological time later in the month…

Act Five of The First Part of Henry the Sixth begins with Henry asking Gloucester if the Lord Protector has read the letters from the pope and the Earl of Armagnac. The letters request that Henry end his military excursion into France and to enter a time of peace.  Henry agrees that this makes sense.
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Act Four

Act Four, Scene One of The First Part of Henry the Sixth begins with Henry’s coronation on French soil.  Before Gloucester can secure an oath of loyalty from the Governor of Paris, however, Sir John Fastolf (not Falstaff) arrives with a letter from Burgundy.  The mere presence of Fastolf (a man widely regarded–within the play–as a coward) enrages Talbot so that he tears the badge of the Order of Garter off Fastolf.  After both Talbot and Gloucester berate Fastolf, King Henry banishes him from England “on pain of death” (IV.i.47).
Continue reading Act Four