- The minority of Henry III (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 9, Number 2, December 1991
- p. pp. 143-144
- View Citation
Reviews 143 In the following chapters' accounts of Tudor and Stuart tyrant plays, many substantial as well as new readings are put forward, early and notable successes being the interpretations of Cambyses and of Baptistes in the third chapter. It might be argued, however, that the subsequent chapter's accounts of Shakespeare's and Jonson's tyrant plays are less successful. The readings of Richard 111 and of Macbeth are interesting: 'In Richard's and Macbeth's cases, we see how gender and sexuality can be used to construct and undermine the tyrant because w e watch those characters ambitiously seek to become kings and then mie unsuccessfully' (p. 131). Even more so is the study of Sejanus, in which Bushnell suggests that the play 'approaches the problem of representing the ambitious tyrant by splitting him into two figures: Sejanus the usurper and Tiberius the legitimate emperor, "excellent wolf (3.347) and "sphinx" (3.64)' (ibid.). Nonetheless, the plays are not adequately contextualized within the other writings of their respective authors. H o w Sejanus, for example, relates to Jonson's images of kingship in his masques and poems is left unexplored. Better contextualized, in that sense, is the account in chapter five of Beaumont and Fletcher's tyrant plays, a discussion in which Bushnell carefully examines apparent support of 'the absolutist ideology that privileges legitimacy over character as an index ofrightfulrule' and its seeming co-existence with apparent criticism of 'absolutism's exclusion of morality from political discourse' (p. 171). The ensuing study of Massinger's The Roman Actor, even though slightly contextualized, brilliantly complements the discussion of Beaumont and Fletcher's works. Bushnell's book is one from which few students of English Renaissance drama will fail to benefit. A. D. Cousins School of English and Linguistics Macquarie University Carpenter, David A., The minority of Henry III, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990; cloth; pp. xxiv, 472; 15 plates, 7 maps, 5 genealogical tables; R.R.P. US$34.95. This book of almost 500 pages covers a bare nine years of English history. That it does so lucidly and informatively is something of a tour deforce. The period takes in the weighty events of Magna Carta and its aftermath, and the turbulent minority of Henry III. O n his succession in 1216 Henry, a boy of nine, inherited a civil war and a throne which had been offered to Louis, heir to the king of France. The minority lasted in theory (apparently) until 1228, though before then Henry's direct control of affairs had begun. And by 1226, the author says, 'the great issues raised by the minority had been settled [and] much of the power and authority of kingship had been restored'. 144 Reviews H o w the highly perilous situation was in the end successfully handled makes a remarkable story, which begins with the vital and intelligent contributions of Pandulf, the papal legate, and of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, who was regent during thefirstdifficult years until his resignation and death in 1218. It remains a cause of much wonder that the kingdom survived the warfare, the opposed ambitions of the magnates, French and English, the substantial changes of control at the top, and the threat of anarchy which was only just avoided. Self-interest played its usual part, as is clear enough from the author's account. Nevertheless the so-called triumvirate of Hubert de Burgh, Pandulf and Peter, bishop of Winchester, established in 1219, followed in 1221 by Hubert's assumption of government as justiciar, with the able co-operation of Stephen Langton, did save the day. But when the royal power was re-asserted i t was a power which acknowledged that 'monarchy was subject to the law'. Here the new grants in 1225 of Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, described appropriately as a 'landmark', were crucial. The king made his concessions, but received a quidpro quo in the form of a tax of one-fifteenth on movables. The author has displayed much skill in handling the massive quantity of dates, events and actors upon the stage. That there is at times some repetition is no bad thing. It...