Eleanor: Out Eleanor... in Alais. Why? Henry: A new wife, wife, will bear me sons. Eleanor:That is the single thing of which I would have thought you had enough.
Henry: What shall we hang, the holly or each other?
A 1966 play written by James Goldman about the troubles in the family of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry's three sons, John, Geoffrey and Richard, all aspire to be king. (A fourth son, Henry the Young King, is recently deceased.) Both he and his wife favour a different son; since she has instigated rebellion against him before, Henry had her locked up for ten years, but this experience hasn't dampened her spirit. The power play begins in earnest in 1183, when this lovely family goes to celebrate Christmas in their palace at Chinon with Philip Capet, King of France, whose older sister Alais is Henry's mistress.The play was made into a film released in 1968, starring Peter O'Toole as Henry and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor; James Goldman wrote the adapted screenplay. It was also the film debut of Timothy Dalton (as Philip of France) and Anthony Hopkins (as Richard). In 2003, it was adapted again for TV, with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close.
The Lion in Winter provides examples of:
Arranged Marriage: Princess Alais and Richard, to fulfill an old bargain between Henry and Philip. Richard refuses to go through with it if it means giving up the Aquitaine.
Black Vikings: In the 1999 Broadway revival of the play, African-American actors Laurence Fishburne and Chuma Hunter-Gault were cast as Henry and Richard, respectively. The actors who played Eleanor, Geoffrey and John were white.
Bloodless Carnage: Only one character is actually killed on screen in the 1968 film: the guard outside the cellar where Henry's sons are locked in. Despite the lack of blood, the scene is brutal and disturbing.
Butt Monkey: John. Historical in that as the youngest son he'd traditionally inherit the least (hence the real-life nickname of "Lackland"). Made painful in this telling because Henry's attempts to favor him over Richard and Geoff have turned John into a clueless spoiled brat.
John: Who says poor John? Don't everybody sob at once! My God, if I went up in flames there's not a living soul who'd pee on me to put the fire out!
Cue the Flying Pigs: When Eleanor warns Henry that his sons will rise against him if he goes to Rome, he says it will happen "the day that pigs get wings." "There'll be pork in the treetops come morning," Eleanor says.
Curtain Camouflage: Lampshaded by Philip when he hides multiple people behind multiple hangings.
Dawson Casting: A rare inversion, as Peter O'Toole was 36 when the movie came out. His character claims to be 50. (In contrast, Katherine Hepburn was in her sixties at that time.)
Deadpan Snarker: Henry, Eleanor and Geoffrey have honed their sarcasm into fine-cutting weapons. Philip and Richard aren't as clever with words but can give as well as they can take. If you're John and Alais, you can't keep up.
Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted: Philip made more and more people hide behind a curtain and then exposed things with every newcomer, while also showing the latest curtain-inhabitant that he was overheard himself. (Good job if you understood that sentence after reading it only once!).
Like an Old Married Couple: They are, but despite the constant bickering, it's clear Henry and Eleanor still have feelings for each other.
The Lost Lenore: Rosamund Clifford, who has been dead for seven years but still remembered for being more beautiful and more loved by Henry than Eleanor. Eleanor likes to pile abuse on her for being Welsh, though.
Requisite Royal Regalia: Largely averted. Henry, despite being the King Of England, always wears rather simple, unadorned clothing, with fingerless gloves and a rather unkempt appearance. When he goes out to greet the King of France (who is dressed well in royal blues), an extra coat and a simple crown is all he dons.
Revenge: Philip went through a LOT of trouble to screw Henry over... just because Henry constantly picked on Philip's daddy years prior. Could also be a very subtle case of Feuding Families.
Succession Crisis: Primogeniture was not the law in 1183, and Henry is worried that his sons might fight a civil war after he dies. It doesn't help that the parents can't agree about which son should inherit: Henry prefers John while Eleanor prefers Richard. Making it worse is Henry's idea of having more children with Alais.
Sword Over Head: Henry, having passed judgment on his three sons for treason, raises his sword to strike Richard down...