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|Friday, 22 April 2005 06:16|
Richard II: Royal Shakespeare Company, May 1987. Richard II: Jeremy Irons; Director: Barry Kyle; Designer: William Dudley; Photographer: Janet Arnold. Courtesy AHDS.
STAGING KING RICHARD IIThis play is accepted as the first in a planned series of four, including the two parts of Henry IV and Henry V, though it never had the visibility that these succcessors won as a result of their exploitation of the comic effect of Falstaff and his associates. It is also considered to reflect Shakespeare's decision to examine the political antecedents to his first tetralogy, Henry VI-Richard III, which begins with Henry V's funeral. Though his emotional role is often seen as anticipating Hamlet, Richard's fluency is usually shown to be overshadowed by the political dexterity of the usurper Henry Bolingbroke: the play's impact depends primarily on their interaction as representatives of traditional medieval attitudes to kingship and more "modern" ones respectively. Current interpretations usually favor the cynical mastery of Henry at the expense of the more sentimental Richard, but Richard's historical sophistication is often reflected in highly ornamental staging of the ambience of his court which is reinforced by the predominant versification of the script, compared to the increasing prose of the play's successors. Whatever modern literary critics may assert, historically Henry IV's reign was pretty much of a disaster, and read carefully it is clear that it appears so in the two parts of Henry IV, with their endless tumults, which may encourage directors not to slant the earlier script too much in Bolingbroke's favor.
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