The Contention: Shakespeare's History Plays

Shakespeare wrote ten plays on English history, eight of which form a continuous narrative. ISC will be combining and condensing these eight plays into a series of five productions over the next two years, performed in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016. These productions will alternate between indoor shows at the Hangar Theatre and outdoor productions each summer at Cornell Plantations.

Don't let the term "history plays" fool you. These are not dry, dusty, confusing history lessons. They are the original Game of Thrones: wild, exciting, full of life and battles, and featuring one of the greatest female roles (Queen Margaret) and the greatest comic character (Falstaff) that Shakespeare ever created.

When these plays were first published, the titles of some of them included some variation of the phrase "The Contention Between The Houses Of Lancaster And York." We have taken "The Contention" as the overarching title of our sequence of five productions of these astonishing plays.

You don't want to miss these shows.

Richard II: The Death Of Kings
February 2015

The play that starts it all. When Richard abuses his power as king, Henry Bolingbroke rises up against him — and sets in motion the cycle of conflict and rebellion that will lead England into the chaos of civil war during the Wars of the Roses.

Featuring some of Shakespeare's most beautiful and moving poetic speeches, Richard II is the tale of two kings — one who must lose everything in order to find himself, and another whose actions sow the seeds for the conflict that will engulf the nation for nearly a century.

Henry IV: Banish All The World
July 2015

Having taken the throne for himself, Henry Bolingbroke must deal with rebellions on every side — including those led by the very allies who helped him gain the throne. Making matters worse, his unruly son would rather spend his time carousing in the taverns with Falstaff than behave like a prince.

The most popular of Shakespeare's plays in his own time, Henry IV is comedy, drama, history, and adventure all rolled into one. The rowdy comedy of Falstaff and his tavern mates blends into a moving exploration of the relationship between father and son, all leading up to a climactic battle between the two greatest warriors in the country...and a heartbreaking decision for young Prince Hal.

Henry V: The Port Of Mars
February 2016

Following his father's dying advice, the newly crowned Henry V leads his country to war in France, wrestling with the responsibilities of kingship while he attempts to mould his forces into a true band of brothers...before they must face a much stronger enemy at the battle of Agincourt.

Henry V is both a patriotic play and an anti-war play, the culmination of the coming-of-age story begun in Henry IV and a complex examination of leadership, warfare, and political morality. It has romance and comedy, some of Shakespeare's greatest speeches, and a devastating battle sequence that is unlike anything else that Shakespeare wrote.

Henry VI: A Tiger's Heart
July 2016

When Henry V dies and leaves his young son on the throne, the divisions in the kingdom break open and England erupts into civil war. The Wars of the Roses pit the house of Lancaster against the house of York — one led by one of Shakespeare's most formidable women, and the other driven by the ominous rise of the future Richard III.

Drawing on material from all three parts of Shakespeare's Henry VI, this sweeping epic features the first appearance of Richard III, two of Shakespeare's strongest women in Queen Margaret and Joan of Arc, the scene that gave birth to the phrase "the Wars of the Roses," a popular rebellion with the slogan "Let's kill all the lawyers!", and some of the most thrilling and intense conflicts that Shakespeare ever created.

The game of thrones heats up to boiling point in this show, so don't miss it!

Richard III: The Winter Of Our Discontent
July 2017

The Wars of the Roses are over, and England is at peace...until Richard of Gloucester begins maneuvering against his own family to take the throne for himself. In this stunning finale to the history series, Shakespeare's most fascinating villain sends the country spiraling back into civil war, leading to a final confrontation in which the living and dead alike must battle for the soul of the nation.