The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

What an odd play.

From the introduction contained in the Oxford edition (Wells, Taylor, et. al.) of the Complete Works I gather that this play was a more recent addition to the Works and that only Scenes 2, 3, 12, and perhaps 13 may have been written by the Bard, with the rest having other authors who are not known.

What makes this an odd play is that this was – supposedly – written after Shakespeare’s play about Richard III (which I skipped in the re-read project because it’s still relatively fresh in my memory). However, while Richard III had a clear storyline, a dramatic development, and some gloriously fleshed-out characters – which Richard himself growing ever more into the sniveling creature that RIII has so often been portrayed at – Edward III seems to lack all of this. I would even go so far as to say EIII seems to lack a clear train of thought.

Was the intent to create a biography of EIII? Or to create a character study of him? Was it meant to be a romance – between EIII and the Countess of Salisbury? Was it meant to be a morality play (as the proposed preposterous murders planned by EIII and the Countess were averted at the last minute)?

Was it merely a play about the glory of England when faced with war (with both the Scots and the French this time…oh, and the king of Bohemia,…whatever)?

In short, what the fuck did I just read?

It also didn’t help that I couldn’t find any key points in the play that were of interest … no fabulous speeches along the lines of “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious…”, no interesting ideas, no interesting characters even…and, no, I cannot see anything interesting in the proposal of EIII and the Countess to kill their respective spouses so they can be together… I may have rolled my eyes at this. A lot.

I even had to acknowledge that this would have been infinitely improved if this had taken a Strangers on a Train turn. It didn’t.

I would have loved to have accompanied this reading with a performance of the play. However, the one that I found online seemed to struggle with the verse and the pacing and made following the plot (was there one?) not just difficult but also deeply unpleasant.

So, Shakespeare may have contributed parts to this play, but they aren’t enough to salvage the play as a whole.



Original post: