The Rose Tattoo was written by Tennessee Williams in 1950 and 1951; it is the third of his “Ten Things I Love About You” stories. Following its Chicago premiere on November 29, 1950, he subsequently made further changes to the story for the Broadway premiere on March 2, 1951, and the subsequent publication of Ten Things I Love About You by New Directions the same year.
The play itself consists of ten sections: the first, titled “Roses of Ophelia”, tells of the death of Queen Victoria's mistress Ophelia, who becomes an object of longing to King Edward VIII. King Henry VI attempts to regain his lost love and promises her return, but Ophelia refuses to return home. On the other hand, in the second section entitled “Carmen”, a young woman named Carmen, the mistress of King Henry VI, seduces King Edward for the second time. As Carmen and King Henry VI's son Prince Arthur attempt to reconcile, Arthur is killed by the queen.
King Henry VI's son Thomas King, who is in love with Carmen, is captured by King Edward. Edward offers Thomas a chance at reconciliation, but Thomas refuses. Instead of reconciliation, King Henry VI dies, leaving his son and his lover as the sole heirs to the throne. Arthur is crowned King. King Arthur then travels to France and England, where he begins to rule over his kingdom with an iron fist, until his wife dies while she is pregnant. Arthur mourns the loss of his beloved wife and begins to have an affair with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the mistress of Sir Francis de Salisbury.
In the third section, entitled “Daughter of Cleopatra”, King Arthur falls in love with Cleopatra, the daughter of Alexander the Great. However, Cleopatra is the daughter of the Egyptian pharaohs and thus does not have the royal title she has when Alexander the Great is her father.
In the fourth section, entitled “The Battle of Alcazar”, King Arthur and Cleopatra wage a war against King Phillip II of Spain and the French. In this battle, Arthur faces his greatest crisis as he battles King Phillip II, who has allied himself with Queen Marie of Romania. King Phillip II gains the upper hand and threatens to take the throne of England.
Following the conclusion of this storyline, King Arthur and his lover are forced to flee to Cyprus and the island of Cyprus in the fifth section, “The Battle of Chalcedon”. The fourth section, entitled “The Battle of Alcazar and The Battle of Chalcedon” continues the story and tells the true story of the two lovers and their relationship.
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