This is a relaxed week for me. I don’t have any theme. No plans. I’m just taking things one day at a time.
Today’s post is a scene from James Goldman’s, “A Lion In Winter.”
Just about a week ago I tried to describe this scene to a friend of mine. Since I think about this scene a lot, I decided to post it.
“A Lion in Winter” isn’t typical Goblin Universe material. It’s a very funny play—well, not funny, I guess, but, well, smart and amusing—but it is so profoundly cynical I’d never call it a favorite play of mine. However, Henry and Eleanor are portrayed as such monsters—sometimes attractive monsters but monsters nonetheless—that a person could make the case for the play fitting in here.
I first read this play and saw the film version when I was very young. When I was growing up I thought Henry and Eleanor were the cool characters in this play. I liked Henry. I wanted to emulate Henry.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I find myself having more and more in common with all the other characters, the ones who aren’t Henry and Eleanor. I find myself being more and more similar to the other characters (without even trying!). Most surprisingly to me I find myself having more and more affection for all the other characters, the confused and weary ones.
HENRY: (entering with ALAIS; to ALAIS) I’d appreciate a little quiet confidence. I have enough nits picking at me.
JOHN: Father, have you got a minute?
HENRY: What for?
JOHN: If you had a minute, we could talk.
HENRY: I’m busy now. Have you seen Philip?
JOHN: Look: you know that hunting trip we’re taking on my birthday?
JOHN: Forget it. I’m not going.
HENRY: Why not?
JOHN: I’m just not.
HENRY: But, John, the trip’s all planned.
JOHN: (moving to go) I’ll go get Philip for you.
HENRY: You did have a good time last year, didn’t you?
JOHN: I loved it.
HENRY: What’s wrong, lad?
JOHN: You’re busy.
HENRY: True enough, but—
JOHN: You’ve got important things to do.
HENRY: I can’t make things all right if I don’t know what’s wrong.
JOHN: You’re giving Richard everything.
HENRY: You think I’d do that?
JOHN: You don’t love me any more.
HENRY: Don’t pout—and stand up straight. How often do I have to tell you?
JOHN: When’s my coronation?
HENRY: When I say so.
JOHN: That’s no answer. (He starts off)
JOHN: Tell her how much you love her. You’re a wonder with the women. (He exits)
HENRY: What in hell was that about?
ALAIS: He heard you disinherit him upstairs and wondered if you meant it.
HENRY: If I meant it? When I’ve fathered him and mothered him and babied him? He’s all I’ve got. How often does he have to hear it? Every supper? Should we start the soup with who we love and who we don’t?
ALAIS: I heard you promise me to Richard.
HENRY: You don’t think I meant it?
ALAIS: I think you enjoy it, passing me from hand to hand. What am I to you—a collection plate? Or am I all you’ve got, like John?
HENRY: I’ve got to get the Aquitaine for John.
ALAIS: I talk people and you answer back in provinces.
HENRY: They get mixed up. What’s the Aquitaine to Eleanor? It’s not a province, it’s a way to torture me. That’s why she’s upstairs wooing Richard, wheezing on the coals. She’ll squeeze it out of him. God, but I’d love to eavesdrop. (Doing ELEANOR) I taught you prancing, lamb, and lute and flute—
ELEANOR: (entering, carrying a great pile of Christmas boxes) That’s marvelous; it’s absolutely me. (He takes some from her) There you are. I thought as long as I was coming down I’d bring them. Where’s the tree?
HENRY: (leading the way to it) Whatever are you giving me?
ELEANOR: You’re such a child: you always ask.
HENRY: (reading from a package) To Henry. (Weighing it) Heavy. (Delighted) It’s my headstone. Eleanor, you spoil me.
ELEANOR: I never could deny you anything.
ALAIS: You’ve grown old gracefully, you two; I’ll give you that.
HENRY: (as ALAIS starts to go) Don’t go. It nettles her to see how much I need you.
ALAIS: You need me, Henry, like a tailor needs a tinker’s dam.
ALAIS: I know that look. He’s going to say he loves me.
HENRY: Like my life. (ALAIS turns sharply and exits) I talk like that to keep her spirits up.
“A Lion In Winter”