Edward III (1596) by Thomas Kyd and William Shakespeare

A play written in part by Shakespeare, but not in whole, “Edward III” is rarely found in published Shakespeare collections, even though theoretically it would slot nicely between “Richard II” at the start of the first Henriad histories cycle. But, like “King John”, which as a history chronologically before “Richard II” would hypothetically be a logical read before it, the lack of any real connection to the Henriad cycles means there’s no meaningful connections or reason to read them in sequence. I’ve heard that’s the same for “Henry VIII”, the history chronologically after “Richard III (some good time after to be fair) too.

Right, so “Edward III”. It’s pretty meandering stuff. Feels very formless. There are a few scenes I enjoyed in isolation, and when I researched the play a bit after reading it I found that they were the ones Shakespeare is thought to have written, but overall it’s just a fairly dull mess. Even “King John”, often cast as one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays, has thematic focus and coherency, it’s just not developed as well as his later works. But this apocryphal work lacks any of that. It’s just a rote dramatisation of history.

The scenes that did work for me were those revolving around Edward and the Countess of Salisbury. Those felt like the genuine Shakespeare they apparently are, and there were some great lines there. I also really liked the part where Edward deals with writing a sonnet for the Countess. In a kind of neat meta moment, he overbearingly coaches the courtier he designated to write the actual sonnet, and it feels like a playful commentary on playwriting (or writing in general I suppose) itself. Fun, clever stuff.

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Overall, the play is a bore though. I give it two sonnets, and a war camp.

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