History Cycle

About Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s “History Cycle”

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Sponsored by:

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Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Richard II was the beginning of an ambitious plan to present Shakespeare’s 8 play “history cycle” about the stories of the crown passed on through five kings and a century of history, dramatized by Shakespeare, a feat that has only been done one other time in the United States.

The History Cycle refers to a series of chronological historical plays written by Shakespeare spanning over 100 years of British history, also known as “The War of the Roses”, consisting of Richard II, Henry IV: Parts 1 & 2, Henry V, Henry VI: Parts 1, 2 & 3 and ends with Richard III. The War of the Roses refers to a long, repetitive, and destructive civil war, based on a struggle for the English crown by the members of two distinct factions in the English royal family (called the Plantagenet’s, who had ruled for over two hundred years). Strictly speaking, the Wars of the Roses applies only to the latter half of this conflict, but it is commonly used to describe the entire internal fight.

The events of war’s origins are seen in Richard II in a quarrel between Richard II and his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, as a result of which Richard II was murdered after Henry became Henry IV. Richard’s murder brought about civil war, which continued until Henry IV’s son ascended the throne as Henry V. He restored a short interval of glorious military victory in France and peace at home. Upon Henry V’s early death, the wars of succession resumed. Henry’s son, Henry VI, who led the branch of the family called the Lancastrians (the party of the Red Rose) was challenged by the Yorkist branch of the family (the party of the White Rose). Success in the war alternated for a number of years, until the Yorkists prevailed, and Edward IV came to the throne. Upon the death of Edward, his brother Richard became King Richard III.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company will not only mount these 8 plays over the course of 5 years, but members of their resident ensemble will reprise their roles as these historical figures throughout the cycle of plays!