Lion in the Winter

This book, The Lion in Winter is a play about a messed up family at Christmas. Goldman

effectively uses references to the jungle and its creatures in portraying all the characters of this play.

The characters divined by Goldman are indeed “jungle creatures”, making intrigue, fueled by ambition,

desire and good old-fashioned family dysfunction. As Eleanor observes in matter-of-fact way, “It’s 1183,

and we are barbarians.” All the characters in this story are simply hungry for power: Henry, Eleanor,

Richard, John, Geoffrey, and Phillip. Throughout the story, there are many ultimatums, underlying

motives, and broken promises which equal out to total manipulation.

This play explores themes of dysfunctional family, dogmatic movement, war and peace, as well

as aging, death and inheritance. As the principle characters plot, scheme, conspire, and counter-plot

between each other, the entrenched emotional ties between them start to show in the radical arena,

such that sibling rivalry and marital jealousy translate into civil war, treason, and perhaps even murder

among the members of a royal nuclear family.

Goldman gets the attention of his audience immediately and effectively by making it obvious

that power is a central theme that defines the whole plot of his play. Every single character is struggling

for power, some quite skillfully. Perhaps the least skillful character is Alais. With an economy of words,

Henry's first line to Alais — "You must know that's a futile gesture. Come along" (108; 2, 4). — sets the

audience up for power struggles ahead. Alais would like to be Queen and also to be Henry's wife. But

compared to the incredibly scheming Eleanor, she totally out of her game.

Bigger than Alais's wish for the crown, however, is the intense power struggle between Henry

and Eleanor. Two willful, conniving, and intelligent people, locked in a struggle for power, who also still
love each other...