Friday, February 25, 2011

How 3 Henry VI is like the Star Wars Prequels

In both the movies and the Henry VI plays an incompetent ruler is the source of the central conflict. Chancellor Valorum in episode 1 and King Henry VI in all three plays. Chancellor Palpatine rises to power just like the Yorkists. First he declares the current ruler incompetent in Episode one, making himself chancellor. In Part I, the whole court already sees Henry as incompetent because he is too young to rule. This allows the Duke of Gloucester and Cardinal Beufort to take control of the kingdom.

In Episode II, the Chancellor creates a galactic emergency as an excuse to create a huge army, then he corrupts a powerful warrior to get on his side, and then, when he has all the power in the universe, he declares himself Emperor and uses the military and his Sith lord to destroy the Republic. The Yorkists operate in much the same way. In Henry the Sixth, Part II, Richard Duke of York is proclaimed protector of the Realm. Similarly in Part II, the rebellion of Jack Cade is similar to the Separatist movement that allows Chancellor Palpatine to create an uprising as an excuse to create a vast army to defeat them.

In Part III, York uses his army, along with his powerful sons to conquer the kingdom. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, like Darth Vader, is wholly committed to evil and will stop at nothing to destroy the Lancastrians. When the Duke of York dies, all three of York’s sons become consumed with desire for revenge and vow to conquer the kingdom to revenge their father. Richard, like Vader, is also deformed from his sheer hate. Although Shakespeare dramatizes Richard as being born with deformity, the Elizabethans viewed deformity as a sign of evil from birth.

In both the plays and the movies, the ambitions of individual people raise an evil empire, seeking power and revenge. Just as the Sith wished to revenge their exile from the Jedi council, the Yorkists wish to revenge the deposing of King Richard II a generation earlier. In addition Richard Duke of York’s seeks revenge for the Lancastrians proclaiming his father a traitor.

And like the Star Wars prequels, the worst atrocity of The Wars Of the Roses is the slaughter of children. When Clifford kills York’s 10 year old son Rutland, and when the Yorkists kill Prince Edward, it is clear that both sides have gone to the Dark Side.

The great communist writer Jan Kott described this play as a dramatization of people who manipulate the Great Machine of history, and either thrive with its help, or become ground up in it. Over the course of the evening, the audience sees the rise and fall of two noble houses, as well as a series of civil conflicts that cover England in blood. Begun this Rose War has.

--Paul Rycik, dramaturgy intern for3 Henry VI

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