Titus Andronicus ★✬☆☆☆

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Title: Titus Andronicus
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 219
Words: 63K


From Wikipedia

Shortly after the death of the Roman emperor, his two sons, Saturninus and Bassianus, quarrel over who will succeed him. Their conflict seems set to boil over into violence until a tribune, Marcus Andronicus, announces that the people’s choice for the new emperor is Marcus’s brother, Titus, who will shortly return to Rome from a victorious ten-year campaign against the Goths. Titus arrives to much fanfare, bearing with him as prisoners Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her three sons Alarbus, Chiron, and Demetrius, and her secret lover, Aaron the Moor. Despite Tamora’s desperate pleas, Titus sacrifices her eldest son, Alarbus, to avenge the deaths of twenty-five of his own sons during the war. Distraught, Tamora and her two surviving sons vow to obtain revenge on Titus and his family.

Meanwhile, Titus refuses the offer of the throne, arguing that he is not fit to rule and instead supporting the claim of Saturninus, who then is duly elected. Saturninus tells Titus that for his first act as emperor, he will marry Titus’s daughter Lavinia. Titus agrees, although Lavinia is already betrothed to Saturninus’s brother, Bassianus, who refuses to give her up. Titus’s sons tell Titus that Bassianus is in the right under Roman law, but Titus refuses to listen, accusing them all of treason. A scuffle breaks out, during which Titus kills his own son, Mutius. Saturninus then denounces the Andronici family for their effrontery and shocks Titus by marrying Tamora. Putting into motion her plan for revenge, Tamora advises Saturninus to pardon Bassianus and the Andronici family, which he reluctantly does.

During a royal hunt the following day, Aaron persuades Demetrius and Chiron to kill Bassianus so that they may rape Lavinia. They do so, throwing Bassianus’s body into a pit and dragging Lavinia deep into the forest before violently raping her. To keep her from revealing what has happened, they cut out her tongue and cut off her hands. Meanwhile, Aaron writes a forged letter, which frames Titus’s sons Martius and Quintus for the murder of Bassianus. Horrified at the death of his brother, Saturninus arrests Martius and Quintus and sentences them to death.

Some time later, Marcus discovers the mutilated Lavinia and takes her to her father, who is still shocked at the accusations levelled at his sons, and upon seeing Lavinia, he is overcome with grief. Aaron then visits Titus and falsely tells him that Saturninus will spare Martius and Quintus if either Titus, Marcus, or Titus’ remaining son, Lucius, cuts off one of their hands and sends it to him. Though Marcus and Lucius are willing, Titus has his own left hand cut off by Aaron and sends it to the emperor. However, a messenger brings back Martius’s and Quintus’s severed heads, along with Titus’s own severed hand. Desperate for revenge, Titus orders Lucius to flee Rome and raise an army among their former enemy, the Goths.

Later, Lavinia writes the names of her attackers in the dirt, using a stick held with her mouth and between her arms. Meanwhile, Aaron is informed that Tamora has secretly given birth to a mixed-race baby, fathered by Aaron, which will draw Saturninus’s wrath. Though Tamora wants the baby killed, Aaron kills the nurse to keep the child’s race a secret and flees to raise his son among the Goths. Thereafter, Lucius, marching on Rome with an army, captures Aaron and threatens to hang the infant. In order to save the baby, Aaron reveals the entire revenge plot to Lucius.

Back in Rome, Titus’s behaviour suggests he might be deranged. Convinced of Titus’s madness, Tamora, Demetrius, and Chiron (dressed as the spirits of Revenge, Murder, and Rape, respectively) approach Titus in order to persuade him to have Lucius remove his troops from Rome. Tamora (as Revenge) tells Titus that she will grant him revenge on all of his enemies if he convinces Lucius to postpone the imminent attack on Rome. Titus agrees and sends Marcus to invite Lucius to a reconciliatory feast. Revenge then offers to invite the Emperor and Tamora as well, and is about to leave when Titus insists that Rape and Murder stay with him. When Tamora is gone, Titus has Chiron and Demetrius restrained, cuts their throats, and drains their blood into a basin held by Lavinia. Titus tells Lavinia that he will “play the cook”, grind the bones of Demetrius and Chiron into powder, and bake their heads into two pies.

The next day, during the feast at his house, Titus asks Saturninus if a father should kill his daughter when she has been raped. When Saturninus answers that he should, Titus kills Lavinia and tells Saturninus of the rape. When the Emperor calls for Chiron and Demetrius, Titus reveals that they were baked in the pie Tamora has just been eating. Titus then kills Tamora and is immediately killed by Saturninus, who is subsequently killed by Lucius to avenge his father’s death. Lucius is then proclaimed Emperor. He orders that Titus and Lavinia be laid in their family tomb, that Saturninus be given a state burial, that Tamora’s body be thrown to the wild beasts outside the city, and that Aaron be hanged. Aaron, however, is unrepentant to the end, regretting only that he did not do more evil in his life. Lucius decides Aaron deserves to be buried chest-deep as punishment and left to die of thirst and starvation, and Aaron is taken away to be punished thus.

My Thoughts:

The last time I read some Shakespeare was last year in August when I made it through Richard III. I needed a break and so of course, once I’m back, I start out with Titus Andronicus, possibly the most violent, the most disturbing and the most outlandish of all his plays. I’m going to keep the “Synopsis” and “My Thoughts” format for Shakespeare even while I’ve abandoned it for all the rest of the books I read. I want a place I can put the entire synopsis from Wikipedia and then easily hide it with the details code. I don’t ever plan on reading Shakespeare again but I do want to know what each play is about.

Ugh. Titus murders his own son. His daughter is raped and maimed. He chops off his own hand. Another son is sent into exile. He kills the men who raped his daughter, bakes their flesh into a pie and feeds it to the mother of the men. He then dies himself.

Good times on the Good Ship Lollypop, eh? Not even Shirley Temple could have tap danced this into a happy story. There were several times I was just about ready to call it quits on Shakespeare and to let him rot in his mouldering grave. But I forged ahead because I was wearing my Big Boy Pants and that’s what you do. All I can say is that whatever I read next from Shakespeare had better be better than this play.


Shogun (The Asian Saga #1) Unrated DNF@68%

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Title: Shogun
Series: The Asian Saga #1
Author: James Clavell
Rating: Unrated / DNF@68%
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 1113 / 757
Words: 438K / 298K

When I read this in 2010, I loved it. It wasn’t perfect but the utter foreignness of the setting (1600’s I think, in Japan) made for an enthralling read.

This time, all I could read were the sailors swearing like sailors. The biggest part was that they would claim to be Christians and then take Jesus’s name in vain as part of their daily routine. I’m not blaming Clavell for including it, which is why I’m leaving this unrated, but it is not something I want to get comfortable with. It was starting to bug me and then it happened with several of the characters multiple times in just a few pages, so I decided I had had enough and dnf’d the book.

I don’t know why it bothered me so much this time and not so much back in ‘10. While I am older, I don’t feel like I can say I am more mature as a Christian, if anything I realize just how much in the shallow end of the pool I really am. My own temptation to swear at work is waaaaaay greater and thus harder to fight against. I’m less involved at church. I didn’t think much about it when I just dnf’d it, but now that I am writing, it is a puzzling aspect to me. I haven’t come to any conclusion but now I am curious. Something changed in me and I don’t know what it is. I’ll have to keep on cogitating on it.

I definitely won’t be re-reading the rest of the Asian Saga, as I remember not enjoying them nearly as much as I did Shogun back then. So another re-read that didn’t quite work out. I seem to have gone through a list of books like that in the last month or two. Good thing my tbr is close to 300!

Unrated DNF@68%

Richard III ★★★✬☆

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Title: Richard III
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 312
Words: 90K


From Wikipedia

The play begins with Richard of Gloucester describing the re-accession to the throne of his brother, King Edward IV of England, eldest son of the late Richard, Duke of York (implying the year is 1471):

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Richard is an ugly hunchback, “rudely stamp’d”, “deformed, unfinish’d”, cannot “strut before a wanton ambling nymph”, and says he is “determined to prove a villain / And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” Through a prophecy, that “G of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be”, he has contrived to have his brother Clarence conducted to the Tower of London (the king interpreted the prophecy as George of Clarence, but the prophecy could just as easily refer to Richard of Gloucester). Speaking to Clarence en route, Richard blames the queen and says that he will himself try to help Clarence. Richard continues plotting:

I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter.

What, though I kill’d her husband and her father?

Lady Anne attends the corpse of Henry VI with Trestle and Berkeley going from St Paul’s Cathedral. She bids them set down the “honourable load” then laments. Richard appears, and Lady Anne says that “Henry’s wounds […] bleed afresh”. He confesses the murder, and she spits at him. He offers himself to her sword, but she drops it. He offers to kill himself at her order, but she accepts his ring. Richard exults at having won her over so and tells the audience that he will discard her once she has served his purpose.

The atmosphere at court is poisonous. The established nobles are at odds with the upwardly mobile relatives of Queen Elizabeth, a hostility fueled by Richard’s machinations. Queen Margaret, Henry VI’s widow, returns, though banished, and she warns the squabbling nobles about Richard, cursing extensively. The nobles, all Yorkists, unite against this last Lancastrian and ignore the warnings.

Richard orders two murderers to kill Clarence in the tower. Clarence relates a distressing dream to his keeper before going to sleep. The murderers arrive with a warrant, and the keeper relinquishes his office. While the murderers are pondering what to do, Clarence wakes. He recognises their purpose and pleads with them. Presuming that Edward has offered them payment, he tells them to go to Gloucester, who will reward them better for having kept him alive. One of the murderers explains that Gloucester hates him and sent them. Pleading again, he is eventually interrupted by “Look behind you, my lord” and stabbing (1478).

The compacted nobles pledge absent enmities before Edward, and Elizabeth asks Edward to receive Clarence into favour. Richard rebukes her, saying: “Who knows not that the gentle duke is dead?”. Edward, who has confessed himself near death, is much upset by this news and led off. Richard blames those attending Edward. Edward IV soon dies (1483), leaving Richard as Protector. Lord Rivers, Lord Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan, have been imprisoned. The uncrowned Edward V and his brother are coaxed (by Richard) into an extended stay at the Tower of London.

Assisted by his cousin Buckingham, Richard mounts a campaign to present himself as the true heir to the throne, pretending to be a modest and devout man with no pretensions to greatness. Lord Hastings, who objects to Richard’s accession, is arrested and executed on a trumped-up charge of treason. Richard and Buckingham spread the rumour that Edward’s two sons are illegitimate and therefore have no rightful claim to the throne, and they are assisted by Catesby, Ratcliffe, and Lovell. The other lords are cajoled into accepting Richard as king despite the continued survival of his nephews (the Princes in the Tower).

Richard asks Buckingham to secure the death of the princes, but Buckingham hesitates. Richard then recruits Sir James Tyrrell who kills both children. When Richard denies Buckingham a promised land grant, Buckingham turns against Richard and defects to the side of Henry, Earl of Richmond, who is currently in exile. Richard has his eye on Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s next remaining heir, and poisons Lady Anne so he can be free to woo the princess. The Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth mourn the princes’ deaths. Queen Margaret meets them. As predicted, Queen Elizabeth asks Queen Margaret for help in cursing. Later, the Duchess applies this lesson and curses her only surviving son before leaving. Richard asks Queen Elizabeth to help him win her daughter’s hand in marriage. She is not taken in by his eloquence, and stalls him by saying that she will let him know her daughter’s answer in due course.

The increasingly paranoid Richard loses what popularity he had. He faces rebellions, led first by Buckingham and subsequently by the invading Richmond. Buckingham is captured and executed. Both sides arrive for a final battle at Bosworth Field. Prior to the battle, Richard is sleeping and visited by the ghosts of his victims, each telling him to “Despair and die”. They likewise attend and wish victory on Richmond. Richard wakes, screaming “Jesus”, then realises that he is all alone and cannot even pity himself.

At the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485), Lord Stanley (who is also Richmond’s stepfather) and his followers desert Richard, whereupon Richard calls for the execution of George Stanley, hostage and Lord Stanley’s son. But this does not happen, as the battle is in full swing, and Richard is at a disadvantage. Richard is unhorsed on the field, and cries out, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”. Richmond kills Richard and claims the throne as Henry VII.

My Thoughts:

I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would. Richard is a despicable character and I enjoyed seeing his rise to power because I knew his fall was sudden and immediate (at least in the play. In real life, no idea). At the same time, he is a mesmerizing character and it was baffling to see others fall into his clutches because of his honeyed tongue while his actions were in direct contradiction. He was a great example of unchecked power

However, this was very long. A play at over 300 pages seems excessive to me and trying to cram Richard’s entire rise and fall into one play, well, Shakespeare gave Henry VI 3 plays for goodness sake!Of course, if somethings had been cut altogether, it probably would have been better.

This play, while I enjoyed it, made me realize that my capacity for Shakespeare has definite limits. As such, I’m going to give him another break until next year. Then I’ll have to decide whether to do a 6month stint or to space them further apart (or is that “farther”? That’s one of those things I simply cannot get my head about. I’m good with “to”, “two” and “too” but further/farther, I’m lost). Any thoughts?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Henry VIII ★★✬☆☆

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Title: Henry VIII
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 261
Words: 75K


From Wikipedia

The play opens with a Prologue (by a figure otherwise unidentified), who stresses that the audience will see a serious play, and appeals to the audience members: “The first and happiest hearers of the town,” to “Be sad, as we would make ye.”

Act I opens with a conversation between the Dukes of Norfolk and Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny. Their speeches express their mutual resentment over the ruthless power and overweening pride of Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey passes over the stage with his attendants, and expresses his own hostility toward Buckingham. Later Buckingham is arrested on treason charges—Wolsey’s doing.

The play’s second scene introduces King Henry VIII, and shows his reliance on Wolsey as his favourite. Queen Katherine enters to protest about Wolsey’s abuse of the tax system for his own purposes; Wolsey defends himself, but when the King revokes the Cardinal’s measures, Wolsey spreads a rumour that he himself is responsible for the King’s action. Katherine also challenges the arrest of Buckingham, but Wolsey defends the arrest by producing the Duke’s Surveyor, the primary accuser. After hearing the Surveyor, the King orders Buckingham’s trial to occur.

At a banquet thrown by Wolsey, the King and his attendants enter in disguise as masquers. The King dances with Anne Bullen.

Two anonymous Gentlemen open Act II, one giving the other an account of Buckingham’s treason trial. Buckingham himself enters in custody after his conviction, and makes his farewells to his followers and to the public. After his exit, the two Gentlemen talk about court gossip, especially Wolsey’s hostility toward Katherine. The next scene shows Wolsey beginning to move against the Queen, while the nobles Norfolk and Suffolk look on critically. Wolsey introduces Cardinal Campeius and Gardiner to the King; Campeius has come to serve as a judge in the trial Wolsey is arranging for Katherine.

Anne Bullen is shown conversing with the Old Lady who is her attendant. Anne expresses her sympathy at the Queen’s troubles; but then the Lord Chamberlain enters to inform her that the King has made her Marchioness of Pembroke. Once the Lord Chamberlain leaves, the Old Lady jokes about Anne’s sudden advancement in the King’s favour.

A lavishly-staged trial scene (Act II Scene 4) portrays Katherine’s hearing before the King and his courtiers. Katherine reproaches Wolsey for his machinations against her, and refuses to stay for the proceedings. But the King defends Wolsey, and states that it was his own doubts about the legitimacy of their marriage that led to the trial. Campeius protests that the hearing cannot continue in the Queen’s absence, and the King grudgingly adjourns the proceeding. (Act III) Wolsey and Campeius confront Katherine among her ladies-in-waiting; Katherine makes an emotional protest about her treatment.

Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, and the Lord Chamberlain are shown (Act III Scene 2) plotting against Wolsey. A packet of Wolsey’s letters to the Pope have been re-directed to the King; the letters show that Wolsey is playing a double game, opposing Henry’s planned divorce from Katherine to the Pope while supporting it to the King. The King shows Wolsey his displeasure, and Wolsey for the first time realises that he has lost Henry’s favour. The noblemen mock Wolsey, and the Cardinal sends his follower Cromwell away so that Cromwell will not be brought down in Wolsey’s fall from grace.

The two Gentlemen return in Act IV to observe and comment upon the lavish procession for Anne Bullen’s coronation as Queen, which passes over the stage in their presence. Afterward they are joined by a third Gentleman, who updates them on more court gossip – the rise of Thomas Cromwell in royal favour, and plots against Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Scene 2) Katherine is shown ill; is told of Wolsey’s death; has a vision of dancing spirits. Caputius visits her. Katherine expresses her continuing loyalty to the King, despite the divorce, and wishes the new queen well.

Act V. The King summons a nervous Cranmer to his presence, and expresses his support; later, when Cranmer is shown disrespect by the King’s Council, Henry reproves them and displays his favour of the churchman. Anne Bullen gives birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth. In the play’s closing scenes, the Porter and his Man complain about trying to control the massive and enthusiastic crowds that attend the infant Elizabeth’s christening; another lush procession is followed by a prediction of the glories of the new born princess’s future reign and that of her successor. The Epilogue, acknowledging that the play is unlikely to please everyone, asks nonetheless for the audience’s approval.

My Thoughts:

The edition of The Complete Shakespeare I am reading has these “History” plays in alphabetical order instead of chronological order, so we skipped right over Richard III. That’ll probably be next.

I didn’t actually care. I cared less about this than I did for the entire Henry VI trilogy, which I didn’t think was possible.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 3 ★★★☆☆

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Title: Henry VI, Part 3
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 266
Words: 77K


From Wikipedia

The play begins where 2 Henry VI left off, with the victorious Yorkists (Duke of York, Edward, Richard, Warwick, Montague [i.e. Salisbury] and Norfolk) pursuing Henry and Margaret from the battlefield in the wake of the First Battle of St Albans (1455). Upon reaching the parliamentary chambers in London, York seats himself in the throne, and a confrontation ensues between his supporters and Henry’s. Threatened with violence by Warwick, who has brought part of his army with him, the King reaches an agreement with York which will allow him to remain king until his death, at which time the throne will permanently pass to the House of York and its descendants. Disgusted with this decision, which would disinherit the King’s son, Prince Edward, the King’s supporters, led by his wife, Margaret, abandon him, and Margaret declares war on the Yorkists, supported by Clifford, who is determined to exact revenge for the death of his father at the hands of York during the battle of St Albans.

Margaret attacks York’s castle at Wakefield, and the Yorkists lose the ensuing battle (1460). During the conflict, Clifford murders York’s twelve-year-old son, Rutland. Margaret and Clifford then capture and taunt York himself; forcing him to stand on a molehill, they give him a handkerchief covered with Rutland’s blood to wipe his brow, and place a paper crown on his head, before stabbing him to death. After the battle, as Edward and Richard lament York’s death, Warwick brings news that his own army has been defeated by Margaret’s at the Second Battle of St Albans (1461), and the King has returned to London, where, under pressure from Margaret, he has revoked his agreement with York. However, George Plantagenet, Richard and Edward’s brother, has vowed to join their cause, having been encouraged to do so by his sister, the Duchess of Burgundy. Additionally, Warwick has been joined in the conflict by his own younger brother, Montague.

The Yorkists regroup, and at the Battle of Towton (1461), Clifford is killed and the Yorkists are victorious. During the battle, Henry sits on a molehill and laments his problems. He observes a father who has killed his son, and a son who has killed his father, representing the horrors of the civil war. Following his victory, Edward is proclaimed king and the House of York is established on the English throne. George is proclaimed Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, although he complains to Edward that this is an ominous dukedom. King Edward and George then leave the court, and Richard reveals to the audience his ambition to rise to power and take the throne from his brother, although as yet he is unsure how to go about it.

After Towton, Warwick goes to France to secure for Edward the hand of Louis XI’s sister-in-law, Lady Bona, thus ensuring peace between the two nations by uniting in marriage their two monarchies. Warwick arrives at the French court to find that Margaret, Prince Edward and the Earl of Oxford have come to Louis to seek his aid in the conflict in England. Just as Louis is about to agree to supply Margaret with troops, Warwick intervenes, and convinces Louis that it is in his interests to support Edward and approve the marriage. Back in England, however, the recently widowed Lady Grey (Elizabeth Woodville) has come to King Edward requesting her late husband’s lands be returned to her. Edward is captivated by her beauty and promises to return her husband’s lands to her if she becomes his mistress, but Lady Grey refuses. The two exchange sexually-charged banter, but Lady Grey continues to refuse Edward on the grounds of preserving her honor. Edward declares that, besides being beautiful, she is also clever and virtuous, and decides to marry her against the advice of both George and Richard. Upon hearing of this, Warwick, feeling he has been made to look a fool despite service to the House of York, denounces Edward, and switches allegiance to the Lancastrians, promising his daughter Anne’s hand in marriage to Prince Edward as a sign of his loyalty. Shortly thereafter, George and Montague also defect to the Lancastrians. Warwick then invades England with French troops, and Edward is taken prisoner and conveyed to Warwick’s brother, the Archbishop of York, while heavily pregnant Lady Grey (now Queen Elizabeth) flees to sanctuary.

However, Edward is soon rescued by Richard, Lord Hastings and Sir William Stanley. Henry, having been restored to the throne, appoints Warwick and George as his Lords Protector. News of the escape reaches Henry’s court, and the young Earl of Richmond is sent into exile in Brittany for safety. Richmond is a descendant of John of Gaunt, uncle of Richard II and son of Edward III, and therefore a potential Lancastrian heir should anything happen to Henry and his son; hence the need to protect him.

Edward reorganizes his forces and confronts Warwick’s army. Before the walls of Coventry, George betrays Warwick, and rejoins the Yorkists; this is lauded by Edward and Richard, and furiously condemned by the Lancastrians. The Yorkists achieve a decisive victory at the Battle of Barnet (1471), during which both Warwick and Montague are killed. Meanwhile, Edward’s forces have captured Henry and sent him to the Tower of London.

Oxford and the Duke of Somerset now assume command of the Lancastrian forces, and join a second battalion newly arrived from France led by Margaret and Prince Edward. In the subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury (1471), the Yorkists rout the Lancastrians, capturing Margaret, Prince Edward, Somerset and Oxford. Somerset is sentenced to death, Oxford to life imprisonment, Margaret is banished, and Prince Edward is stabbed to death by the three Plantagenet brothers, who fly into a rage after he refuses to recognise the House of York as the legitimate royal family. At this point, Richard goes to London to kill Henry. At Richard’s arrival at the Tower, the two argue, and in a rage Richard stabs Henry. With his dying breath, Henry prophesies Richard’s future villainy and the chaos that will engulf the country.

Back at court, Edward is reunited with his queen and meets his infant son, who was born in sanctuary. Edward orders celebrations to begin, believing the civil wars are finally over and lasting peace is at hand. He is unaware, however, of Richard’s scheming and his desire for power at any cost.

My Thoughts:

Henry the VI is a pussy and it gets him and his son killed. Henry the V is probably rolling in his grave at what a jackass his son was.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 2 ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VI, Part 2
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 276
Words: 80K


From Wikipedia

The play begins with the marriage of King Henry VI of England to the young Margaret of Anjou. Margaret is the protégée and lover of William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, who aims to influence the king through her. The major obstacle to Suffolk and Margaret’s plan is the Lord Protector; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who is extremely popular with the common people and deeply trusted by the King. Gloucester’s wife, however, has designs on the throne, and has been led by an agent of Suffolk to dabble in necromancy. She summons a spirit and demands it reveal the future to her, but its prophecies are vague and before the ritual is finished, she is interrupted and arrested. At court she is then banished, greatly to the embarrassment of Gloucester. Suffolk then conspires with Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Somerset to bring about Gloucester’s ruin. Suffolk accuses Gloucester of treason and has him imprisoned, but before Gloucester can be tried, Suffolk sends two assassins to kill him. Meanwhile, Richard, 3rd Duke of York, reveals his claim to the throne to the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, who pledge to support him.

Suffolk is banished for his role in Gloucester’s death, whilst Winchester (Cardinal Beaufort) contracts a fever and dies, cursing God. Margaret, horrified at Suffolk’s banishment, vows to ensure his return, but he is killed by pirates shortly after leaving England, and his head sent back to the distraught Margaret. Meanwhile, York has been appointed commander of an army to suppress a revolt in Ireland. Before leaving, he enlists a former officer of his, Jack Cade, to stage a popular revolt in order to ascertain whether the common people would support York should he make an open move for power. At first, the rebellion is successful, and Cade sets himself up as Mayor of London, but his rebellion is put down when Lord Clifford (a supporter of Henry) persuades the common people, who make up Cade’s army, to abandon the cause. Cade is killed several days later by Alexander Iden, a Kentish gentleman, into whose garden he climbs looking for food.

York returns to England with his army, claiming that he intends to protect the King from the duplicitous Somerset. York vows to disband his forces if Somerset is arrested and charged with treason. Buckingham swears that Somerset is already a prisoner in the tower, but when Somerset enters (“at liberty”), accompanied by the Queen, York holds Buckingham’s vow broken, and announces his claim to the throne, supported by his sons, Edward and Richard. The English nobility take sides, some supporting the House of York, others supporting Henry and the House of Lancaster. A battle is fought at St Albans in which the Duke of Somerset is killed by York’s son Richard, and Lord Clifford by York. With the battle lost, Margaret persuades the distraught King to flee the battlefield and head to London. She is joined by Young Clifford, who vows revenge on the Yorkists for the death of his father. The play ends with York, Edward, Richard, Warwick and Salisbury setting out in pursuit of Henry, Margaret and Clifford.

My Thoughts:

This is exactly why I don’t read history for fun. People being incredible jackasses while claiming the moral high ground in any area they can.

As one anonymous blogger would say “Why did Shakespeare even get out of bed in the morning to write this stuff”? I have no idea. If my ego wasn’t so big that I wanted to be able to say that I’d read all of Shakespeare’s works, I’d stop reading him right now.

But my ego IS that big and I didn’t actively hate this, so the journey of 10,000 papercuts continues!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Flashman ✬☆☆☆☆

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Title: Flashman
Series: The Flashman Papers #1
Authors: George Fraser
Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 231
Words: 100K


From Wikipedia.org

Plot introduction

Presented within the frame of the discovery of the supposedly historical Flashman Papers, this book chronicles the subsequent career of the bully Flashman from Tom Brown’s School Days. The book begins with a fictional note explaining that the Flashman Papers were discovered in 1965 during a sale of household furniture in Ashby, Leicestershire.

The papers are attributed to Harry Paget Flashman, the bully featured in Thomas Hughes’ novel, who becomes a well-known Victorian military hero (in Fraser’s fictional England). The papers were supposedly written between 1900 and 1905. The subsequent publishing of these papers, of which Flashman is the first installment, contrasts the public image of a (fictional) hero with his own more scandalous account of his life as an amoral and cowardly bully.

Flashman begins with the eponymous hero’s own account of his expulsion from Rugby and ends with his fame as “the Hector of Afghanistan”. It details his life from 1839 to 1842 and his travels to Scotland, India, and Afghanistan.

It also contains a number of notes by the author, in the guise of a mere editor of the papers, providing additional historical glosses on the events described. The history in these books is largely accurate; most of the prominent figures Flashman meets were real people.

Plot summary

Flashman’s expulsion from Rugby for drunkenness leads him to join the British Army in what he hopes will be a sinecure. He joins the 11th Regiment of Light Dragoons commanded by Lord Cardigan, to whom he toadies in his best style. After an affair with a fellow-officer’s lover, he is challenged to a duel but wins after promising a large sum of money to the pistol loader to give his opponent a blank load in his gun. He does not kill his opponent but instead delopes and accidentally shoots the top off a bottle thirty yards away, an action that gives him instant fame and the respect of the Duke of Wellington.

Once the reason for fighting emerges, the army stations Flashman in Scotland. He is quartered with the family of textile industrialist Morrison and soon enough takes advantage of one of the daughters, Elspeth. After a forced marriage, Flashman is required to resign the Hussars due to marrying below his station. He is given another option, to make his reputation in India.

By showing off his language and riding skills in India, Flashman is assigned to the staff of Major General William George Keith Elphinstone, who is to command the garrison at the worst frontier of the British Empire at that time, Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he meets a soldier who relates the narrow escape he made in November 1842, on the first night of the Afghan Uprising. After Akbar Khan proclaims a general revolt which the citizens of Kabul immediately heed, a mob storms the house of Sir Alexander Burnes, one of the senior British political officers, and murders him and his staff. The soldier, stationed nearby, manages to flee in midst of the confusion.

This tale sets the tone for Flashman’s proceeding adventures, including the 1842 retreat from Kabul and the Battle of Jellalabad, in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Despite being captured, tortured and escaping death numerous times, hiding and shirking his duty as much as possible, he comes through it with a hero’s reputation … although his triumph is tempered when he realizes his wife might have been unfaithful while he was away.

My Thoughts:

The byline by one paper’s review (on the cover but probably illegible at that size) is “Villainy Triumphant”. That is the most apt description for this book.

This was a vile piece of filth, a vomitorium of trash, something so wrong that it left me sputtering because I couldn’t finds to express my utter disgust and horror that something like this could exist.

Flashman lies, cheats, murders and rapes his way through this book and is not only unrepentant but glad he did everything he did. He also considers anyone not looking out exclusively for themselves as idiots of the first order. While Flashman might be a fictional construct, the author thought this up and I trust he will be judged in the end for having created something so vile.

Evil and vile are the two words that spring to mind. I am sickened and appalled that someone would write something like this for entertainment.

This month is not turning out well for me and books.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Prey ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Prey
Series: Sharpe #5
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 246
Words: 103K


From Wikipedia.org

The year is 1807, and Richard Sharpe is at a very low point in his life. His beloved aristocratic lover, Lady Grace Hale, has died in childbirth, along with their newborn son. Her family’s lawyers then took all of Sharpe’s wealth (loot he obtained fighting in India), claiming it was Grace’s and that it now reverts to her family. Destitute and relegated to the menial job of quartermaster, Sharpe is on the streets of London, contemplating leaving the army.

First though, he revisits the foundling home where he was raised to get his revenge. He robs and kills Jem Hocking, his childhood tormentor.

Then a former commanding officer, Major General David Baird, finds him in a pub. Captain John Lavisser was assigned a bodyguard for a secret mission to Copenhagen, but the bodyguard was killed, supposedly by a common footpad, and a replacement is needed immediately. Baird persuades Sharpe to take the job. Lavisser does not want a bodyguard since he already has a huge servant named Barker, but orders are orders. Lord Pumphrey of the Foreign Office gives Sharpe a contact in case he runs into trouble.

Denmark is neutral, but has a powerful fleet. Napoleon wants to replace the ships France lost at the Battle of Trafalgar, and Britain is equally determined to see to it that does not happen. Lavisser’s task is to bribe the Danish crown prince to hand over the fleet for safekeeping. (Lavisser’s grandfather is the prince’s chamberlain, and they are also related by marriage.) If that fails, the British will have to seize the ships by force.

When they go ashore in Denmark, Sharpe narrowly escapes being killed by Barker. He walks to Copenhagen and goes to see Ole Skovgaard, the emergency contact. Skovgaard turns out to be the main spy for Britain in Denmark. Meanwhile, Lavisser defects to the Danes and “confesses” that the British have sent an assassin to kill the crown prince. Skovgaard reads this lie in the newspaper and locks Sharpe in a room to await Lavisser. Sharpe escapes just in time. Lavisser turns out to be in the employ of the French; he and his men torture Skovgaard for the names of his contacts throughout Europe. Sharpe manages to kill some of Lavisser’s henchmen and drive the rest off. During his stay at Skovgaard’s house, he and Skovgaard’s beautiful widowed daughter, Astrid, become attracted to each other. They eventually sleep together, and Sharpe contemplates settling down in Copenhagen with her.

When the British besiege Copenhagen, Sharpe joins them. The Danes refuse to surrender their fleet, so the British bombard the city. Sharpe, by now knowing the general layout of Copenhagen, guides a small force to the Danish ships, which have been prepared for burning in case the British break in. The men hide aboard the ships and safeguard them against burning. Meanwhile, Sharpe goes to Skovgaard’s, only to find he has been captured and tortured again by Lavisser, who obtains the names of the British spies. Sharpe rescues Skovgaard, kills Lavisser and Barker, and gets the list of names. The city surrenders, and the Danish fleet is captured intact.

Skovgaard will no longer work for the British after what they have done to his city. He also orders Astrid to break up with Sharpe, which she does. Lord Pumphrey has Sharpe sent back to England, as he does not want the rifleman to learn that he must have the Skovgaards killed; they know too much.

My Thoughts:

My issues with Sharpe and his behavior continue and as such I think I’m going to call it quits. I also really disliked that Cornwell, the author, kills off a woman and child to propel Sharpe on his continued path of anti-hero. Just like I discussed last month in the “Project X – V” post, villains are bad, and anti-heroes are not much better in my eyes.

So while the writing is great, the over all story is engaging and very interesting and I like reading these adventures, the in your face immorality of Sharpe and Cornwell’s philosophy of anti-hero’ness are too much to overcome.

If neither of those things bother you, then I would recommend trying out this series if you want some action packed historical fiction. If you would like a more positive set of reviews, Jenn at Eternal Bookcase has been reviewing the Sharpe books as well.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Henry VI, Part 1 ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry VI, Part 1
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 249
Words: 72K


From Wikipedia

The play begins with the funeral of Henry V, who has died unexpectedly in his prime. As his brothers, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, and his uncle, the Duke of Exeter, lament his passing and express doubt as to whether his son (the as yet uncrowned heir apparent Henry VI) is capable of running the country in such tumultuous times, word arrives of military setbacks in France. A rebellion, led by the Dauphin Charles, is gaining momentum, and several major towns have already been lost. Additionally, Lord Talbot, Constable of France, has been captured. Realising a critical time is at hand, Bedford immediately prepares himself to head to France and take command of the army, Gloucester remains in charge in England, and Exeter sets out to prepare young Henry for his forthcoming coronation.

Meanwhile, in Orléans, the English army is laying siege to Charles’ forces. Inside the city, the Bastard of Orléans approaches Charles and tells him of a young woman who claims to have seen visions and knows how to defeat the English. Charles summons the woman, Joan la Pucelle (i.e. Joan of Arc). To test her resolve, he challenges her to single combat. Upon her victory, he immediately places her in command of the army. Outside the city, the newly arrived Bedford negotiates the release of Talbot, but immediately, Joan launches an attack. The French forces win, forcing the English back, but Talbot and Bedford engineer a sneak attack on the city, and gain a foothold within the walls, causing the French leaders to flee.

Back in England, a petty quarrel between Richard Plantagenet and the Duke of Somerset has expanded to involve the whole court. Richard and Somerset ask their fellow nobles to pledge allegiance to one of them, and as such the lords select either red or white roses to indicate the side they are on. Richard then goes to see his uncle, Edmund Mortimer, imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mortimer tells Richard the history of their family’s conflict with the king’s family—how they helped Henry Bolingbroke seize power from Richard II, but were then shoved into the background; and how Henry V had Richard’s father (Richard of Conisburgh) executed and his family stripped of all its lands and monies. Mortimer also tells Richard that he himself is the rightful heir to the throne, and that when he dies, Richard will be the true heir, not Henry. Amazed at these revelations, Richard determines to attain his birthright, and vows to have his family’s dukedom restored. After Mortimer dies, Richard presents his petition to the recently crowned Henry, who agrees to reinstate the Plantagenet’s title, making Richard 3rd Duke of York. Henry then leaves for France, accompanied by Gloucester, Exeter, Winchester, Richard and Somerset.

In France, within a matter of hours, the French retake and then lose the city of Rouen. After the battle, Bedford dies, and Talbot assumes direct command of the army. The Dauphin is horrified at the loss of Rouen, but Joan tells him not to worry. She then persuades the powerful Duke of Burgundy, who had been fighting for the English, to switch sides, and join the French. Meanwhile, Henry arrives in Paris and upon learning of Burgundy’s betrayal, he sends Talbot to speak with him. Henry then pleads for Richard and Somerset to put aside their conflict, and, unaware of the implications of his actions, he chooses a red rose, symbolically aligning himself with Somerset and alienating Richard. Prior to returning to England, in an effort to secure peace between Somerset and Richard, Henry places Richard in command of the infantry and Somerset in command of the cavalry. Meanwhile, Talbot approaches Bordeaux, but the French army swings around and traps him. Talbot sends word for reinforcements, but the conflict between Richard and Somerset leads them to second guess one another, and neither of them send any, both blaming the other for the mix-up. The English army is subsequently destroyed, and both Talbot and his son are killed.

After the battle, Joan’s visions desert her, and she is captured by Richard and burned at the stake. At the same time, urged on by Pope Eugenius IV and the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, Henry sues for peace. The French listen to the English terms, under which Charles is to be a viceroy to Henry and reluctantly agree, but only with the intention of breaking their oath at a later date and expelling the English from France. Meanwhile, the Earl of Suffolk has captured a young French princess, Margaret of Anjou, whom he intends to marry to Henry in order that he can dominate the king through her. Travelling back to England, he attempts to persuade Henry to marry Margaret. Gloucester advises Henry against the marriage, as Margaret’s family is not rich and the marriage would not be advantageous to his position as king. But Henry is taken in by Suffolk’s description of Margaret’s beauty, and he agrees to the proposal. Suffolk then heads back to France to bring Margaret to England as Gloucester worryingly ponders what the future may hold.

My Thoughts:


While not exactly how things start, it does start with Henry V’s untimely death, while the French are rebelling. So Henry VI has to take over and nobles are squabbling and fighting and betraying and in general it’s a right mess!

This was about 70% longer than Henry V and it is only Part 1 (I believe there are 3 parts). Ol’ Shakes really let himself go here. In other plays he’ll dismiss a whole battle or 2 years with a simple line or two. Not here though. We get the down and dirty on the whole shebang, to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Everyone is a horrible person to boot.

I did wonder what happened to the Queen Mother. She’s french and this whole English/French thing is a pretty big deal. Then throw in the damned Roman Catholic Church (and as an SDA I mean that damned literally) and my goodness, this was horrible.

So why the 3stars? Because it is still Shakespeare, you dunderhead! My goodness, bunch of barbarians out there. Show some class. Or I’ll pound yer head in for ya!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Trafalgar ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Trafalgar
Series: Sharpe #4
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 306
Words: 131K


From Wikipedia.org

In 1805, Richard Sharpe is to sail to England from India aboard the East Indiaman Calliope to join the 95th Rifles. He is swindled after purchasing supplies for the voyage. After finding out, he gets not only his money back, but also helps fellow victim Royal Navy Captain Joel Chase do the same, saving Chase from great financial embarrassment. Chase wants to show his gratitude, but is under orders to destroy a French 74 named the Revenant that is raiding the Indian Ocean.

The Calliope’s passengers include the lovely, young Lady Grace Hale and her much older husband, Lord William Hale. Sharpe is also astonished to find aboard Anthony Pohlmann, a renegade and former Maratha warlord (defeated by Arthur Wellesley in Sharpe’s Triumph), traveling under a false identity – Baron von Dornberg – but sees no reason to denounce his former foe.

Peculiar Cromwell, captain of the Calliope, spots the jewels (looted from an Indian ruler) Sharpe has sewn into his clothing and insists that Sharpe leave them with him for safekeeping, to avoid tempting his crew.

Sharpe becomes obsessed with Lady Grace, but his attempts to become better acquainted are unsuccessful, at first. However, she later questions him in private about “Dornberg”; while Cromwell and Dornberg denied knowing each other, she has observed them conversing frequently. Sharpe protects Dornberg as best he can. When Lady Grace gets up to leave, a sudden movement of the ship causes her to stumble, and Sharpe ends up with his arm around her waist. They eventually become secret lovers.

Cromwell leaves the safety of a slow convoy with his fast ship. Lady Grace becomes worried that they are sailing near French-held Mauritius. She ends up spending the first of several nights with Sharpe. Malachi Braithwaite, Lord Hale’s secretary, finds out and is angered, as he is attracted to Lady Grace too. Sharpe threatens to kill him if he tells anyone.

The Revenant appears. Before the Calliope is captured, Sharpe hurries to retrieve his jewels from Cromwell’s safe, but they are not there. Sharpe suspects both Cromwell and Pohlmann aided the French; both men board the Revenant. A prize crew starts sailing the Calliope to Mauritius. Later, the lieutenant in charge tries to rape Lady Grace; Sharpe goes to her rescue and kills the Frenchman in a swordfight. The French understand and do not punish Sharpe. One day, another ship is spotted. Sharpe manages to cut the tiller ropes controlling the rudder, slowing the Calliope. This enables Captain Chase’s Pucelle to capture the Calliope.

Chase invites Sharpe to transfer to his ship; Sharpe is reluctant to accept, until he discovers that Lord Hale has insisted on switching to the faster Pucelle, along with his wife. Chase confides to Sharpe that a French agent, probably Dornberg’s “servant”, negotiated a secret treaty with the ablest of the Indian Maratha leaders. If it is delivered to Paris, the French might send arms to the Marathas to start a new war against the British.

Chase does everything in his power to overtake the Revenant. Sharpe trains with the Marines for shipboard fighting and is introduced to a seven-barreled Nock gun (a weapon which future friend Patrick Harper will favour). A ship is spotted. The Pucelle gives chase, but loses it.

Meanwhile, Lady Grace tells Sharpe that Braithwaite is trying to blackmail her. He ambushes the man. Braithwaite produces a pistol and tries to negotiate, claiming he left a letter describing Sharpe’s affair, but Sharpe kills him. When the corpse is found, people assume Braithwaite had a fatal fall.

The Revenant is spotted, and a long chase commences. One night, Lady Grace hesitantly informs Sharpe that she is pregnant with his child, unsure of his reaction. He is delighted.

Just when it seems that the Revenant will get away, the combined French and Spanish fleets sortie, with Admiral Horatio Nelson’s fleet in pursuit. The Revenant joins the enemy fleet, while the Pucelle comes under Nelson’s command. When Nelson summons Chase to a meeting, Chase brings Sharpe along and introduces him to his friend the admiral.

When the British attack the enemy fleet, commencing the Battle of Trafalgar, Chase points out the Revenant to Sharpe. Chase sends the Hales to safety, over Lord Hale’s protest, while Sharpe joins the Marines. The Pucelle and the Revenant pound each other. The Revenant is captured. Pohlmann is killed by a cannonball. Sharpe finds the French agent and tosses him into the sea; the man cannot swim. Cromwell survives; Sharpe retrieves his jewels before reluctantly handing him over to Chase.

When Sharpe goes to find Lady Grace, he discovers that she has killed her husband. While the battle was raging, Lord Hale had confronted his wife over Braithwaite’s letter. He eventually told her that he would kill her and make it appear a suicide. He also promised to sabotage Sharpe’s life secretly. Sharpe sees to it his body is taken up on deck so it will seem that he was killed in the fighting. Upset at first, Lady Grace realises she is now free to do as she pleases.

My Thoughts:

In some ways this was better than previous books (no blasphemous Hakeswill misusing Scripture) but at the same time, it was worse as Sharpe commits adultery blatantly as can be and commits murder to cover it up. It reminded me of King David and Bathsheba, but sadly, without the repentance at the end.

I did enjoy the naval aspect of the story, which was quite different from Sharpe’s usual infantry fights. There’s a quick ending with the Battle of Trafalgar where the Frenchies got their backsides handed to them and Napolean’s dream died.

Overall, I had a good time reading this but am continuing to have issues with Sharpe as a person. I’ll try one more book, as I am enjoying these, but from everything Inquisitor Jenn has said, Sharpe stays the same, so I’m not expecting to go beyond the next book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.