Henry IV Part I

Why Don’t Men Read More Female Authors?

We took our boys to see the plays Henry IV Part I and Sense and Sensibility.

But while Shakespeare is considered the universal playwright, Austen is supposedly the pioneer of chic lit.  Why is Austen so often categorized as a women’s writer?

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It’s not fair.

Henry IV is hardly a play that gives equal attention to the sexes.  While the men play a king, a prince, several earls, and a fat guy that steals the show, the women play a wench, a few singing Welsh women, and a wife.  They have maybe 1% of all of the lines of the play.  None of these women have any power or influence.  Only men are allowed in the rooms where the politics are really going on.

Sense and Sensibility, the girlie book, is stuffed with male leads.  There’s the charming, but untrustworthy Willoughby, the ever loyal Colonel Brandon, the stumbling but endearing Edward Ferrars, and the loud and generous Sir Middleton. The male leads are actually given quite a few lines which just proves that a woman wrote the story because we all know that men don’t talk that much.  (But Austen can feed women their deepest fantasies, can’t she?  A man that reads poetry? Sigh.)

While I had no problem going to see Henry IV, my youngest boy threw fits about Austen while the other two seemed uneasy about it, like they were worried someone they knew might see them going into the theater.

After the play was over, I asked my oldest what he thought.  He was sitting in the passenger seat of our van, looking out the window.

“I liked it,” he said.

“You did?!” I answered too excitedly.

“I mean, well actually, you know Austen is all the same though.  It’s like the same plot every time.  Why did she have to write six books?  She could have just written one.”

“You liked it!” I sang.  Ha! Ha!

I can’t think of a time where Austen is more relevant, especially to boys.  The book/play is a comedy of manners, and Austen’s whole message seems to be, “This is how you treat people.”

Be polite even when you’re feeling cross.

Help your local farmer when he’s stuck int he mud.

Ask people about themselves.

My youngest son was still groaning about the play afterwards,but today, when I stopped on the side of the street to pick him up from school, he asked, “Should we offer those girls a ride?  They live in our neighborhood.”  Then he actually rolled down the window and did it.   Money well spent if you ask me.

Do you know men or are you a men that read books written my women?  What are some of your favorite books?

 

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And Your Kids Can Enjoy Shakespeare Too!

Phew!  I’m here at the library if you can believe it.  Alone.  I don’t know what to do with myself.  Ah, but I do!
We had a breakthrough this weekend, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  As you know, I’m a blogger with great ideas, but the execution is a bit challenging.  But this 101 children’s classics idea had to be a sure winner.  After all, I love to read, and it’s such a noble goal to read 101 classics to my kids, right?  But then I posted sporadic entries moaning about how crazy life was and that government institutions were requiring birth certificates and immunization records, and everyone must think I am very good at filling out forms because they sure keep handing them to me.  It was hard to get to that reading.
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We made it to the festival!

Ah! But then there was light.  We went to the Shakespeare Festival in our big red van, and as much as they tried, the boys just couldn’t wander off too far from me.  Grabbing the opportunity, I told them all about Henry IV Part One.  Either I was a good story teller, or else I had seized all of their iPods (it’s hard to tell), but I actually held their attention!
Henry IV is such a guy’s play.
You’ve got Hotspur who acts like he’s all that and wins all of his battles, but he has a really hard time keeping control of that temper! He’s also dealing with anxiety and even trying to stave off depression.  He’s basically an insecure jock.
Then you’ve got Prince Hal who is your classic underachiever.  He’d rather party than face his royal responsibilities.  Deep down he has no respect for his loser friends, and he despises himself for not manning up.  But when he does finally accept his noble birthright, he is a shining star.
Hotspur stages a rebellion against the prince and everyone must choose sides fast!  Then you add Gandalf, a crazy king, some good Welsh/Elvin songs, a funny fat guy, thieves, lots of sword play, and you’ve got something boys like.  You also know where Tolkien got all of his ideas.
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Debi loving the puppet show!

Here’s an example of how to summarize a scene of Shakespeare so your kids will get it.
“So Hotspur is now freaking out because his dad and Gandalf are not showing up to the battle.  The only guy that is showing up is the spy.   Hotspur’s all,  ‘So is Prince Hal so drunk he’s falling off of his horse?’  The spy answers  ‘The prince looks GRRRR-e-a-t!  Like a knight in shining armour!  A Greek God!’  So yeah, Hotspur is flipping out now, but he’s still got to hold it together for the rest of the team.”
My boys get these characters, and they want to know how Hal and Hotspur deal with all of their emotional junk.  The two H’s have got to keep up a good front while still trying to suppress their fear, failure, jealousy, and self-doubt. Shakespeare’s really good at showing that internal struggle which is one of the reasons he’s a certified genius.  Sure beats Ironman.
Anyway, the story captured my boys.  They want to be cool, win their games, pull off a good practical joke, and find some awesome friends.  Henry IV teaches them how to do all of that.
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I had to get these two girls together. Aren’t they beautiful?

We got to the play in plenty of time to fish and chips, smoked turkey legs, and shortbread.
Did the boys actually like the play that night?  Some more than others.  The captain loved it too and then shared some brilliant insights that were worthy of a PhD dissertation.
Am I going to count this as one of their 101 Classics?  Yes!  After all, they heard the whole play did they not?