Originally, I planned to try to run both today and tomorrow, thinking I could thereby bring my December mileage total up to 110, but I knew early on in today's run that two consecutive days of running just wasn't going to happen — that it would be stupid to force it. Generally, I try to go at least six miles on any one run, but today I couldn't even get that far. It didn't help that it was like 9 degree out there at 5:00 this morning (thankfully there was no wind, though), and it took a full two miles of manically flexing my fingers while running for my hands to warm up; but when they finally did, it left me free to enjoy all of the other aches that were going on in various parts of my geezerly body during the run, loudly and furiously vying for my full attention: in my calves; in my feet; in my toes; all around my frozen chin (fucking drool!). The worst part of running in this weather was knowing it is expected to go up to 40 degrees later today.
So thus endeth my 2010 running career.
Yesterday was a planned day off from work — I had to stay home to watch Ian — and I was thinking that at some point, I'd have to take him to the local middle school to go sledding down the big hill to keep him entertained. But instead, Ian went across the street to his friends' house and disappeared in there all day. Which left me free to read the last couple of acts of Henry VI, Part I.
You'll read (e.g., here, as well as in the Riverside Shakespeare's Introduction to the Henry VI plays) variations on the claim that HVIPI is "regarded by some as the weakest play in Shakespeare's oeuvre" but I actually enjoyed reading it. It was especially interesting reading 1 Henry VI immediately after reading The Comedy of Errors, since the latter play is about the only Shakespeare drama that adheres to Aristotle's so-called Classical Unities of Time, Place and Action1: the play takes place in Ephesus and only Ephesus; the action takes place in one day; and the play is nearly bereft of any sub-plots, with the possible exception of the budding romance between Antipholus of Syracuse and Luciana, which is far from fully developed and seems almost irrelevant; while HVIPI is more or less all over the place: it spans decades, seemingly (though it's hard to say for sure, since Shakespeare plays nearly as fast and loose with historical chronology as he does historical accuracy); much of the play's action is centered on the sub-plot of the petty rivalries and jealousies that would lead to the War of the Roses (whereas the main plot concerns England's on-going attempts to consolidate its territorial gains in France); and the action takes place in various localities in both England and France.
Shakespeare was already showing he was a far better playwright when he ignored the so-called rules or just made up his own. Good Shakespeare is almost invariably sprawling and messy Shakespeare.
This is not to say that HVIPI doesn't have its problems. Most of the language is, for Shakespeare, blandly uninspired — which, however, brings with it the advantage of making it far easier to follow what is going on.
Shakespeare's portrayal of Joan of Arc (called "Joan la Pucelle" in the play) is flat-out weird. She is portrayed not as a saint inspired by God, but instead as a sorceress2 ... although this is not shown explicitly until the very end of the play when her "fiends" make their first and only appearance, merely to abandon her. This is understandable; Shakespeare, after all, was an Englishman and thus not predisposed to depict a French heroine in a favorable light. But the character of Joan is just odd and not particularly persuasive. At one point, she tells Charles, the French Dauphin (or "Dolphin", as he is called in the play, not unreasonably since that's exactly what "Dauphin" means), that she can persuade Burgundy to abandon the English side and join the French, which she does with a not particularly inspired or powerful speech. And even she seems to realize how improbable all of this is, because right after Burgundy agrees to switch sides, she, a French woman, insults him, in an aside, for being typically French:
BURGUNDYThis insult — in essence: Pfffttt! Typical Frenchman! — would make sense if uttered by an Englishman but here, uttered by Joan? Just kinda weird and inexplicable.
I am vanquished; these haughty words of hers
Have batter'd me like roaring cannon-shot,
And made me almost yield upon my knees.
Forgive me, country, and sweet countrymen,
And, lords, accept this hearty kind embrace:
My forces and my power of men are yours:
So farewell, Talbot; I'll no longer trust thee.
JOAN LA PUCELLE
[Aside] Done like a Frenchman: turn, and turn again!
If there is a hero in this play, it would have to be the English warrior Talbot. Talbot's brave, warrior's death3 is all the more affecting because it occurs just after his own son's death in battle. Young Talbot dies in his father's arms, having acquitted himself well in his first battle. The elder Talbot had tried to convince his son to flee the battlefield so that he and the Talbot name could live on (Talbot knows that he himself is fated to die in this battle), but young Talbot refuses. The two Talbots hash out their various arguments regarding who should fight and who should flee in rhyming couplets, and continue to do so for quite some time, even while fighting, which, admittedly, sounds a bit over-the-top, but the scene worked for me and was, in fact, my favorite in the entire play.
The problem for me is that Young Talbot pretty much just shows up out of nowhere. There is no mention of him (as far as I can tell) before he just appears to argue, and then die, with his father in battle.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed 1 Henry VI despite the fact that I am constitutionally incapable of keeping Who Belongs To Which Royal House in the War of the Roses straight. It's tough to make sense of all of those names and suss out who is aligned with whom and keep track of who sprung from whose loins while trying to remember that the Duke of this is also the Earl of that and he may be referred to by about six other names as well and to me all of this is like being compelled to take a course in Teh Genealogy of Inbred British Royal Fucktards, which holds like zero interest for me. I don't even care about my own family's genealogy, which is equally confusing to me because my family, being Irish Catholic, had more than its share of fruitful loins and, quite possibly, inbreeding4. For example, I kept thinking this play's Richard Plantagenet (later, Duke of York), was the dude who would later become Richard III, and I'm wondering, So why is no one in this play talking about his hunchback? But it turns out this play's Richard is the Evil Humpback's dad. Not that it is essential to know that to understand this play.
I think I'm going to read the other two Henry VI play before anything else, now.
1 Which Mediaeval scholars tended to fetishize, misreading them as Aristotle's rules for good drama, whereas, in fact, they were merely his description of what Greek dramatists seemed to value. That is, Mediaeval scholars got it exactly backwards, thinking Classical Playwrights were following Aristotle's rules; but in reality, Aristotle derived those rules from what the playwrights were already doing in their plays.
2 Later interpolation/clarification: Stated thus bluntly above, this is false: The English see Joan as a whore and a sorceress; the French as a saint. At the end of the play, though, she reveals herself to be a witch, a liar, and a coward. She hopes to save her own skin, be spared execution, at the end of the play by claiming to be a virgin. When that doesn't work, she claims she's pregnant with the child of one French nobleman, and when that fails to soften the Englishmen's hearts, she says the father is another French Nobleman ... then another.
The scene between Joan and the "fiends" is, to my mind, a lot like the scene between Young and Old Talbot, in that it comes out of nowhere.
3 SPOILER ALERT!1! Talbot dies.
4 Not really.