Shakespearean Mnemonics: Histories

Published on Thursday, January 24, 2008 in , , , ,

William ShakespeareWhile playing the Shakespeare Quiz from Sporcle.com's games section, I managed to work out my own mnemonics for remembering all of his plays. Shakespeare wrote three different types of plays: histories, tragedies and comedies. I'll teach you these mnemonics over three posts, starting with this one on the histories.

The mnemonics I'll be teaching, for the most part, don't require any knowledge of the plays themselves. If you're familiar with any or all of the plays, you can embellish the mnemonics with those scenes and/or characters.

The Shakespearean histories consist of King John, Richard II, Richard III, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI and Henry VIII. All those names and numbers would seem to make it difficult, but they will actually make it easier to remember!

There's only three different names to remember: John, Richard and Henry. I remember this as a name, John Richard Henry, or J. R. Henry, for short. That's simple enough, but how about the numbers?

Fortunately, there are some simple rules to remember. First, each Roman numeral, I through VIII (1 through 8), is only used once, if you consider King John to be John I. Second, the number VII (7) is never used. Now, we can move on to remembering which numbers go with which names.

We'll proceed through the names in the order we've remembered them, first John, then Richard, then Henry. John is in the first position, so there's only one John. Since he's the first, he also doesn't have a number, so just remember him as King John.

Richard is in the second position, so we can remember that there are two Richards. We already have a king for I (1), so the two Richards must be Richard II and Richard III.

All the remaining numbers, IV through VIII (4 through 8), without VII (7), are Henrys. At this point, you've got all of the histories down with a little practice. However, if you want to be more technically correct, two of the Henrys are multi-part plays. Henry IV is in 2 parts, and Henry VI is in 3 parts. This is easy to remember, as they're both even, and they both have a number of parts equal to half their respective king's number (4/2 = 2 parts, 6/2=3 parts). Just remember that Henry VIII doesn't have 4 parts.

Practice the histories a few times in your mind, and then test yourself at the Shakespeare Quiz when you think you've got it. In my next post, I'll teach the tragedies.

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1 Response to Shakespearean Mnemonics: Histories

8:08 AM

If there were more than 9 monarchs, would it be a case of "Carry On Henry?"