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Duke of Gloucester

Played by Hugh Bonneville.

Fact title Fact data
Historical figure

Hugh on playing Shakespeare's Gloucester

Were you familiar with the plays before working on The Hollow Crown?

His downfall is ultimately because his wife Eleanor enjoys using the credit card too much!
Hugh Bonneville on Gloucester

It was one of the plays I was least familiar with, although I had seen them performed on stage. They are exciting and rough and sprawling. At the time this was written, the characters would have been vivid in the audience’s imagination and they would have understood the references. Therefore artistic license has been necessary - this is very much a version of the story, which has been condensed to have a clear narrative line and it is only for the better.

Did you research the historical Duke of Gloucester?

It was useful in rehearsals to look at the real history but the plays always develop history for dramatic effect. Shakespeare wrote with a political slant, but of course he would not alienate his audience or his monarch. He understood a good story.

What do you think of your character, Gloucester?

He’s a simple character, caught between the political and the emotional. The history plays are fascinating because they are about family. You see Gloucester devoted to his nephew, devoted to the memory of his brother Henry V. His downfall is ultimately because his wife Eleanor enjoys using the credit card too much!

Describe the heart of these plays.

It is Gloucester’s death that unleashes the Wars of the Roses. The stability he represented was a certain kind of peace. You take out the central pillar of any society then you create a vacuum. In the play you see the dukes piling in, and chaos ensues. This is the heart of the Wars of the Roses.

What are the ramifications of the family quarrels for Gloucester?

The ripples of these family feuds shape nations and have ramifications for centuries to come. The history plays have profoundly truthful family relationships playing out. In Gloucester’s case, he can see the woman he loves bringing a bad image to the central family and to the court.