Absorbing national history into crafted play with characteristic ingenuity, Shakespeare exposes the idiosyncratic quality of historical construction. To substantiate the narrative bulk of 1 King Henry IV, Shakespeare used the Holinshed Chronicles, an ambitious record of English history published in the late sixteenth century. Departing from the Chronicle’s narrowed occupation with succession, war and insurrection — cue Marx: “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” — the play includes a distinctive breadth that initiates an interrogation of the historical subject.
For those new to Shakespeare’s history plays, a swarm of confused questions accompanies the opening passages of I Henry IV, even as the masterful strokes of drama and debauchery tempt readers and viewers into its universe: What, in claiming history, is Shakespeare actually representing? Would the King have spoken anything like this, or any of the characters for that matter? How much of this is factual, or how much fact is even possible in an early modern society with limited literacy to record history? What impulses or visions direct the embellishments? Simply put, what can one confidently tell a friend about history after reading Part I of Henry IV? These questions are more easily left dormant in reading Shakespeare’s other fictional plays, with the casual assumption that the fictions of the play stage fantasized elements of Shakespeare’s real environment. But in a play that aspires to historicity, some theoretical framework is needed to comfortably reconcile this tension between fiction and history. Continue reading
Who is King Henry IV of England? As a lover of European history, I assumed I would know something about him. But I didn’t. I knew absolutely nothing. In fact, I only am familiar with his name because of his presence as the stabilizing protagonist and namesake of two of Shakespeare’s plays, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.
Shakespeare is remembered as a great playwright. But he was more than just that. We must remember that Shakespeare didn’t just write about English history, he helped create the history of England for the people of the Elizabethan era and beyond. We often believe history to be fact, but in fact history is really just what information was written down or stored at a certain time and passed down to today. Because of their popularity and endurance, Shakespeare’s plays therefore play a huge role in shaping our perception of English history. Shakespeare crafted his plays about Henry IV to make political points about 16th century Elizabethan England, and these plays became a primary source of history to his audiences. We must therefore keep his biases in mind when reading the plays as “history.” Continue reading
The Rothschild family has been recently highlighted in the media due to the very recent nuptials of young James Rothschild to Nicky Hilton, “hotel heiress” daughter to the famous Hilton family, and sister to the infamous reality star and socialite Paris Hilton. The two were married this past weekend on July 10th. Although Hilton is likely a more familiar name to many Americans (or at least associated with more notoriety), the Rothschild family has a history much longer and a fortune much grander than the Hiltons’.
In fact, the Rothschild family is one of the oldest and largest banking families in the world. They also happen to be Jewish. Continue reading