Our play-reading group has just finished The Lion in Winter, James Goldman's famous dramatization of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. It's a powerful work and I felt drained after some of the scenes. But that comes from playing Henry with the shadows of Peter O'Toole, Patrick Stewart (in the movie remake), and Robert Preston (the original stage Henry) all looking over your shoulder at once.
One scene of bitter conflict with the princes ends with Henry describing what his biography will say of him: Eleanor "bore him many children - but no sons. King Henry had no sons. He had three whiskered things but he disowned them." He curses them and then he breaks down: "My boys are gone. I've lost my boys." Reading that with the power it deserves is quite the challenge.
Later Henry comes up with another explanation for his problems: "I want no women in my life." At this point I succumbed to the temptation to ad-lib: "My name is Henry, my last name is Higgins, and I want no women in my life."
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