The Lion in Winter
by James Goldman
Directed by Johnny Brewer
February 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24 & 25, 2024
All Show Times 7pm except Sundays @ 2pm
Patron Tickets can be purchased at any time.
General Admission Tickets on sale starting February 1, 2024
The Lion in Winter is a 1966 play by American playwright and screenwriter James Goldman. Based on the life of King Henry II, who ruled over England and Ireland during the twelfth century, it concerns a number of fictional events that take place during a Christmas feast Henry II throws for the new King of France. The feast is attended by Henry’s three sons, each of whom schemes to usurp the throne. Their plots are complicated by those of additional characters, including Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, an insidious woman temporarily freed from house arrest for trying to supplant Henry with her own private army. The family, ironically, tries to hide their dysfunction from the King of France as Henry and Eleanor pit their sons against each other in a complex political battle. The play was acclaimed for departing from the seriousness of typical works about Henry’s reign, instead, comprising a comedic drama about the universality of family dysfunction.
The play is set during Christmas of 1183, in Chinon, France, where King Henry II has a palace. Henry convenes with his secret lover, Alais, to talk about the party that will happen later that day. Henry expresses anxiety that his wife is being released from prison for the event. They also discuss Henry’s wishes for the future of his sons. The king reveals that he hopes for his youngest, John, to succeed him as King. Eleanor, in contrast, wants Richard to take the throne. Henry also relates that he made a promise to Philip, the Prince of France, that Richard will marry his sister, Alais. He assures her that they can still see each other nonetheless.
The scene shifts to a different room in the castle. Henry’s three sons squabble over who will take the throne, and their mother soon joins the fray, followed by Alais and Henry. Henry complains that they are distracting themselves from enjoying the festivities. Richard demands that he be the next king because he is the eldest and most experienced. John, however, is confident that he will be king because Henry favors him. Geoffrey grows sad, feeling unacknowledged. The three boys leave along with Alais, while Henry and his wife remain in the room. They continue to argue, and later in the evening, the husband and wife deploy their respective plans to strip each other of authority and end up with the crown. Henry facetiously tries to earn the respect of all three of his sons by implying that each one might be king, while Eleanor implements the same strategy. Their convoluted plans make it difficult to establish the truth about anyone’s intentions.
Henry II – King of England, husband of Eleanor, father of Richard, Geoffrey, and John, and has taken Alais as his mistress. At an age where most men are old or dead, he is enjoying a final rush of vigor and wit that sometimes comes before decline. Desires to keep the kingdom he has built together and not split it between his sons. Favors John for the throne.
Alais – Sister of Phillip, raised by Eleanor, and mistress of Henry. Contracted to marry Richard to secure an alliance between England and France. In love with Henry, though she knows she is a pawn in his and Eleanor’s schemes.
John – The youngest son, pimply and immature. Knows he is Henry’s favorite for the throne and enjoys taunting his brothers with that, even as he is aware he is not their equal in skill.
Geoffrey – The middle son, charming and intelligent. Is not being considered for the throne and is both resentful and accepting of that fact. As a result, has put schemes of his own into motion so that whoever ends up on the throne, he is the power behind them.
Richard Lionheart – The oldest son, powerful and confident. A proven leader and warrior, and Eleanor’s choice for the throne. Led a failed rebellion again Henry with Eleanor years before.
Eleanor – Queen of England, Duchess of Aquitaine, formerly Queen of France, mother of Richard, Geoffrey, and John, and imprisoned by Henry. The most powerful European woman of her time and has been a queen for nearly fifty years. Possessed of great temperament, authority, and presence. Favors Richard for the throne and helped him lead a rebellion against Henry years before which resulted in her imprisonment.
Phillip – King of France, brother of Alais. A young king and new to the throne but has already proven himself a capable leader. Wants to see Alais married to Richard to solidify an alliance between England and France.