Wednesday, 3 February 2010

On this day...

John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster died in 1399. Perhaps it might at first glance seem an innocuous link to literature, yet the historical figure, and his descendents, play a major role in some of Shakespeare's most successful and popular plays. Father of Henry 'Bolingbroke' IV, and grandsire to Henry V, Gaunt can even caim the illustrious House of Tudor as being directly from his lineage, thus inadvertently inspiring Shakespeare's eponymous works, 'Henry IV part I and II', 'Henry V' and the later 'Henry VIII'. Gaunt himself, appears as a character in 'Richard II'.

The original historical tetralogy was written approximately 200 years after the first events which were portrayed; and indeed the events were vastly important. The overthrow and muder of Richard, the Battle of Shrewsbury and the Battle of Agincourt all feature, and all to some extent, especially 'Henry V', have been seen in a patriotic light since. Introducing the young Prince Hal and jovial Falstaff, the plays are ever popular, and indeed The Globe is staging both parts of Henry IV, in their 2010 season.

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