Scene Analysis (Dialogue)

from The Lion in Winter
by James Goldman

Theater Arts 16: Acting for the Camera
Susan Stuart and Tony Santangelo (as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II)
December 17, 2002

Scored Script

Beat Subtext Text Blocking


E:  We're a team!

H:  You won't catch me.

Obj (E):  Try to make a connection with H so she can find out what he is going to do.

Obj (H):  Parry.

Henry:  To your interminable health!
Well, wife, what's on your mind?
H brings goblets, hands one to E. Toasts, drinks. E just sets goblet down.
Eleanor:  Oh Henry, we have made a mess of it. H walks behind E to chair, camera right.
Henry:  Yes, haven't we? H sits.
Eleanor:  Could we have done it worse?
Henry:  You look like Doomsday.
Eleanor:  Late nights do that to me. Am I puffy?
Henry:  Possibly: it's hard to tell--there's all that natural sag.


E:  What's going on?

H:  You still won't catch me.

Obj (E):  Broach the real subject (again, trying to find out what's on H's mind).

Obj (H):  Deflect and parry.

Eleanor:  I've just seen Richard. They remain seated.
Henry:  Splendid boy.
Eleanor:  He says you fought.
Henry:  We always do.
Eleanor:  It's his impression that you plan to disinherit them.
Henry:  I fancy I'll relent. Don't you?


E:  Trust me.

H:  I ain't buying.

Obj (E):  Persuade H that she's not dangerous, that she no longer has a stake in the game. Garner sympathy.

Obj (H):  Keep his guard up.

Eleanor:  I don't much care. In fact, I wonder, Henry, if I care for anything. I wonder if I'm hungry out of habit and if all my lusts, like passions in a poem, aren't really recollections. They remain seated.
Henry:  I could listen to you lie for hours. So your lust is rusty. Gorgeous, gorgeous.
Eleanor:  I'm so tired, Henry.
Henry:  Sleep, then. Sleep and dream of me with croutons. Henri a la mode de Caen.
Eleanor:  Henry, stop it.
Henry:  Eleanor, I haven't started.


E:  You've won!

H:  Oh, have I?

Obj (E):  Persuade H that the fighting is over, and that he's won.

Obj (H):  Avoid being taken in.

Eleanor:  What is it you want? You want the day? You've carried it. It's yours. I'm yours. E rises.
Henry:  My what? You are my what? H rises.
Eleanor:  Your anything at all. You want my name on paper? I'll sign anything. You want the Aquitaine for John? It's John's. It's his, it's yours, it's anybody's. Take it.
Henry:  In exchange for what?
Eleanor:  For nothing, for a little quiet, for an end to this, for God's sake sail me back to England, lock me up and lose the key and let me be alone. You have my oath. I give my word. Oh. Well, well, well. E sits. H looks forward.


E:  OK, enough screwing around. What's going on?

H:  All right, then. You want the truth?

Obj (E):  Play it straight and try to get H to play it straight too.

Obj (H):  Drop the bomb.

Henry:  Dear God, the pleasure I still get from goading you. H turns to E.
Eleanor:  You don't want John to have my provinces?
Henry:  Bull's eye.
Eleanor:  I can't bear you when you're smug. E rises.
Henry:  I know, I know.
Eleanor:  You don't want Richard and you don't want John. E crosses to H.
Henry:  You've grasped it.
Eleanor:  All right, let me have it. Level me. What do you want?
Henry:  A new wife.


E:  I never expected this. The game hasn't split us up before.

H:  Isn't this the obvious way out?

Obj (E):  Express perplexity and pain.

Obj (H):  Find out how E will react, what she will do.

Eleanor:  Oh. Crumples, turns away, takes a few stumbling steps.
Henry:  Aesthete and poetaster that you are, you worship beauty and simplicity. I worship with you. Down with all that's ugly and complex--like frogs or pestilence or our relationship. I ask you, what's more beautiful and simple than a new wife?
Eleanor:  So I'm to be annulled, am I? Well, will the Pope annul me, do you think? Turns back to H.
Henry:  The Pontiff owes me one Pontificate; I think he will.
Eleanor:  Out Eleanor, in Alais. Why?
Henry:  Why? Not since Caesar, seeing Brutus with the bloody dagger in his hand, asked "You, too?" has there been a dumber question.
Eleanor:  I'll stand by it. Why?
Henry:  A new wife, wife, will bear me sons.


E:  I don't believe it. What a preposterous idea.

H:  I mean it.

Obj (E):  Show him he can't be serious.

Obj (H):  Show her he is serious: the realm needs a worthy successor.

Eleanor:  That is the single thing of which I should have thought you had enough. Laughs. They begin to close in on each other.
Henry:  I want a son.
Eleanor:  Whatever for? Why, we could populate a country town with country girls who've borne you sons. How many is it? Help me count the bastards.
Henry:  All my sons are bastards. In her face.


E:  They're all you have.

H:  They're not good enough. Not nearly.

Obj (E):  Emphasize the connection between H, his sons, and herself.

Obj (H):  Prove that their sons are unworthy to be King. (And therefore he has no choice but to try again.) Express his anger (especially his anger concerning John, which he could never admit to before).

Eleanor:  You really mean to do it. Takes a step backwards.
Henry:  Lady love, with all my heart. H says his line, then turns away.
Eleanor:  Your sons are part of you.
Henry:  Like warts and goiters--and I'm having them removed.
Eleanor:  We made them. They're our boys.
Henry:  I know--and good God, look at them. Young Henry: vain, deceitful, weak, and cowardly. The only patriotic thing he ever did was die. Turns to front.
Eleanor:  I thought you loved him most.
Henry:  I did. And Geoffrey--there's a masterpiece. He isn't flesh: he's a device; he's wheels and gears. Turns to E (on "I did"). Walks to table, pours wine. Paces during the rest of this beat.
Eleanor:  Well, every family has one.
Henry:  But not four. Then Johnny. Was his latest treason your idea?
Eleanor:  John has so few ideas; no, I can't bring myself to claim it.
Henry:  I have caught him lying and I've said he's young. I have seen him cheating and I've thought he's just a boy. I've watched him steal and whore and whip his servants and he's not a child. He is the man we've made him.
Eleanor:  Don't share John with me; he's your accomplishment.


H:  You helped ruin Richard--who, I'm now willing to admit, was the best candidate.

E:  Yes, perhaps, but it was your fault too.

Obj (H):  Admit Richard was best; blame E for ruining him.

Obj (E):  Defend herself.

Henry:  And Richard's yours. How could you send him off to deal with Philip? Turns to E.
Eleanor:  I was tired. I was busy. They were friends. Turns away, weak.
Henry:  Eleanor, he was the best. The strongest, bravest, handsomest and from the cradle on you cradled him. I never had a chance.
Eleanor:  You never wanted one.
Henry:  How do you know? You took him. Separation from your husband you could bear. But not your boy.
Eleanor:  Whatever I have done, you made me do.
Henry:  You threw me out of bed for Richard. In her face.
Eleanor:  Not until you threw me out for Rosamund. Right back at him.
Henry:  It's not that simple. I won't have it be that simple. Turns front, walks towards the camera.


E:  I love you.

H:  I don't believe you. I don't want to believe you.

Obj (E):  Re-attach the chains.

Obj (H):  Avoid admitting the connection between E and himself.

Eleanor:  I adored you. Takes a step towards H.
Henry:  Never. Looking front, away from E.
Eleanor:  I still do. Takes another step closer.
Henry:  Of all the lies, that one is the most terrible. Turns, looks into E's eyes.
Eleanor:  I know: that's why I saved it up for now. Embrace.


H:  You were right.

E:  You were right too.

Obj (H):  Admit his role in ruining everything.

Obj (E):  Forgive--and re-establish closeness.

Eleanor:  Oh Henry, we have mangled everything we've touched. Walk back to bench, sit.
Henry:  Deny us what you will, we have done that. And all for Rosamund. On "And all for Rosamund," looks camera right, down.
Eleanor:  No, you were right: it is too simple. Life, if it's like anything at all, is like an avalanche. To blame the little ball of snow that starts it all, to say it is the cause, is just as true as it is meaningless. H looks up at E.


H:  We've had better times. We loved each other once.

E:  Remember that.

Obj (H):  Seek emotional release by remembering better, more hopeful times.

Obj (E):  Re-attach the chains.

Henry:  Do you remember when we met? This beat mostly delivered forward, with sidelong looks.
Eleanor:  Down to the hour and the color of your stockings.
Henry:  I could hardly see you for the sunlight.
Eleanor:  It was raining, but no matter.
Henry:  There was very little talk as I recall it.
Eleanor:  Very little.
Henry:  I had never seen such beauty--and I walked right up and touched it. God, where did I find the gall to do that? Touches her face.
Eleanor:  In my eyes.
Henry:  I loved you. Forward.


E:  Checkmate!

H:  Is it?

Obj (E):  Close the trap.

Obj (H):  Play dumb.

Eleanor:  No annulment.
Henry:  What? Forward.
Eleanor:  There will be no annulment.
Henry:  Will there not? Turns to E.
Eleanor:  No; I'm afraid you'll have to do without.
Henry:  Well--it was just a whim.
Eleanor:  I'm so relieved. I didn't want to lose you.


H:  You are no part of me.

E:  Yes, I am--and we both know it.

Obj (H):  Deny the connection. Push her away, with increasing fervor (and cruelty).

Obj (E):  Assert the connection. Let him know that she sees through him.

Henry:  Out of curiosity, as intellectual to intellectual, how in the name of bleeding Jesus can you lose me? Do you ever see me? Am I ever with you? Ever near you? Am I ever anywhere but somewhere else? Stands ("as intellectual to intellectual"), moves away, looks at her only on the last of his rhetorical questions.
Eleanor:  I'm not concerned about your geographical location.
Henry:  Do we write? Do I send messages? Do dinghies bearings gifts float up the Thames to you? Are you remembered?
Eleanor:  You are. Stands.
Henry:  You're no part of me. We do not touch at any point. How can you lose me? Turns away, takes a step forward (toward camera).
Eleanor:  Can't you feel the chains? Comes up behind him, looming; puts her hands on his shoulders (or perhaps her arms around him).


E:  This can't work; time is on our side; we've got you; you can't win.

H:  I hope she's not right. She can't be right.

Obj (E):  Show H that his plan can't work. Corner him.

Obj (H):  Resist.

Henry:  You know enough to know I can't be stopped. Does not move away or try to escape from E's touch. ("Be that as it may, you can't stop me.")
Eleanor:  But I don't have to stop you; I have only to delay you. Every enemy you have has friends in Rome. We'll cost you time. E breaks the contact, faces off with H at "I don't have to stop you"; circles to camera right.
Henry:  What is this? I'm not moldering; my paint's not peeling off. I'm good for years.
Eleanor:  How many years? Suppose I hold you back for one; I can--it's possible. Suppose your first son dies; ours did--it's possible. Suppose you're daughtered next; we were--that, too, is possible. How old is Daddy then? What kind of spindly, ricket-ridden, milky, semi-witted, wizened, dim-eyed, gammy-handed, limpy line of things will you beget? Backs H toward camera left.
Henry:  It's sweet of you to care.
Eleanor:  And when you die, which is regrettable but necessary, what will happen to frail Alais and her pruney prince? You can't think Richard's going to wait for your grotesque to grow? Corners him.
Henry:  You wouldn't let him do a thing like that?
Eleanor:  Let him? I'd push him through the nursery door.
Henry:  You're not that cruel.
Eleanor:  Don't fret. We'll wait until you're dead to do it.


H:  You've got me. What are your terms?

E:  No terms! You've left me with nothing but my hope in my sons.

Obj (H):  Try to open negotiations.

Obj (E):  Let H know that she's not open to negotiation; too much is at stake for me--and it's his doing. Also: express anger at his ongoing injustice toward her.

Henry:  Eleanor, what do you want? Cornered, camera left.
Eleanor:  Just what you want: a king for a son. You can make more. I can't. You think I want to disappear? One son is all I've got and you can blot him out and call me cruel. For these ten years you've lived with everything I've lost and loved another woman through it all. And I'm cruel. I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice. Nothing I could do to you is wanton; nothing is too much. Occupies whole frame.


H:  You say I'm old. I am. Pity me.

E:  Nothing doing, you treacherous old bastard.

Obj (H):  Get around her by being pitiful.

Obj (E):  Not let him get away with it.

Henry:  I will die some time soon. One day I'll duck too slow and at Westminster, they'll sing out Vivat Rex for someone else. I beg you, let it be a son of mine.
Eleanor:  I am not moved to tears.
Henry:  I have no sons.
Eleanor:  You've got too many sons. You don't need more.


H:  With or without your support, it's a done deal. Bye, love!

E:  You can't!

Obj (H):  Try a new tack: bluff. Goad her and see how she reacts.

Obj (E):  Stop him.

Henry:  Well, wish me luck. I'm off. Considers. Crosses camera right, behind E. Taps her shoulders in mock-fond farewell.
Eleanor:  To Rome?
Henry:  That's where they keep the Pope. H stops, turns.
Eleanor:  You don't dare go.
Henry:  Say that again at noon, you'll say it to my horse's ass. Lamb, I'll be rid of you by Easter; you can count your reign in days. Aproaches E, delivers line close, turns and begins to stride away.

Script Analysis


Overall objective (spine):

Eleanor:  Continue to exert influence on Henry, her sons, and (through them and her other friends) the future of the kingdom.
Henry:  Ensure the succession to a worthy son, so that his life's work doesn't evaporate when he dies.


Eleanor:  Imprisonment, Henry's mistrust, her sons' inadequacies.
Henry:  His sons' inadequacies, opposition of his wife.

Objective in this scene:

Eleanor:  Find out what Henry intends to do after the evening's revelations. Stop him from doing anything foolish. Soothe him, win him back by reinforcing their bond, and if all else fails, threaten him. Above all, ensure one of her sons succeeds to the throne.
Henry:  Find out how Eleanor will react to his plan. Neutralize or at least anticipate any trouble she may cause.

Obstacles in this scene:

Eleanor:  Henry's evasiveness and determination.
Henry:  Eleanor's brilliance and tenacity; the threat of her considerable influence; the bond he still feels with her; the inherent weakness of his plan.

Dramatic Values


The mood of this scene is tense, powerful, and dynamic, with the emotions shifting between weariness, deliberate antagonism, and genuine tenderness.


The theme of this scene and play is power and mortality--how even a most bold, majestic power is still too weak to achieve immortality, and how the complexity of family bonds can both serve and undermine this goal.

Character: Eleanor

Eleanor is determined, confident, cunning, and wise. She knows Henry on a level no one else does, and is determined to reinforce the bonds of their marriage--and ultimately, their family. She has just managed to elicit sorrow from her "surface" antagonist--Henry's mistress, Alais--and even had the strength to comfort her through it. Hence, Eleanor’s mindset at the start of this scene is both one of genuine weariness at their plight, and of tactical cunning for using that weariness to prove to Henry her "surrender." But after this scene, when Henry appears to have won, her cunning and determined side turn to a rather sick cruelty in a desperate attempt to stop Henry from casting off his family bonds.

Character: Henry

Henry is a magnificent King, strong, bold, devoted to the welfare of his country, and intellectually brilliant. In this play, he realizes that his endgame has begun. He has to choose a worthy successor, or his life's work (and his country) will be undone--either by internal weakness or under the assault of French arms.

He knows that Eleanor is the only "match" he will find on earth, but he no longer trusts her political manoeuvering, and the needs of the realm come first.

In his struggle with Eleanor, he shows cunning, anger, genuine affection, frustration, and a steely will bent on giving the realm a worthy successor--and ensuring that his life and life-work will in some sense continue beyond his own approaching death.


Eleanor has come to Henry to have a serious talk about the succession--which is to say, a negotiation. The scene is a complex series of power plays on this topic, each side trying to get the other to break. The scene ends when Henry announces he is leaving for Rome--which at this moment, is only another bluff, but later turns into a serious intention.

This is a crucial scene, in which Henry and Eleanor both admit and try to deal with their sons' inadequacies. This scene sets in motion the events leading to the crisis in the dungeon which is the climax of the play.


The language of this play (like many classical plays) fully reflects--one might almost say that it creates--the characters who speak it: Johnny's foolishness, for example, is made plain in the things he says and the way he says them.

This richness of language creates opportunities and challenges for actors. (So much can be conveyed by the voice! So much has to be!)

In this scene, Eleanor and Henry confront each other with perfect lucidity and vigor of expression. They make heavy use of rhetorical patterning deliberately, for several different purposes: to heighten the expression of their feelings (as when Henry repudiates his former favorite: "I have caught him lying..."); to hide their real emotion behind the expression of a different one (as when Henry tries to deny his connection with Eleanor: "Do you ever see me?..."); or to corner an opponent in debate (as when Eleanor gradually hems Henry in: "Suppose I hold you back for one...").

Even when their speeches are not highly patterned, they often use vivid turns of phrase ("her pruney prince"), telling images ("I could peel you like a pear..."), plays on words ("the Pontiff owes me one Pontificate"; "from the cradle on you cradled him"), and classical references ("Not since Caesar..."). All these are devices the characters use to express (or conceal) their thoughts and feelings.

But the playwright is also speaking: when Henry compares Eleanor to the betrayed Caesar, he is unconsciously confessing his own betrayal.

There are lots of small set-piece mini-speeches, but there are also several passages of stichomythia, where the characters return line for line at each other: "Whatever I have done, you made me do." -- "You threw me out of bed for Richard." -- "Not until you threw me out for Rosamund." In fact, much of the dramatic rhythm of the scene can be mapped by looking at the variations in the length of each character's lines.