Richard II

Content Group

Overview
Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1987

This 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 successors 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.

Images
Richard II, 1981
Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1987
Richard II, Act V Scene 1: RSC 1981: Alan Howard, Richard II; Domini Blythe: Queen; Bruce Purchase, Earl of Northumberland.
Richard II: Beerbohm Tree as Richard II, Lily Brayton as his Queen
Richard II: Derek Jacobi as King Richard II, John Gielgud as John of Gaunt
Richard II: His Majesty's Theatre, 1910
King Richard II: Played by John Gielgud
Richard II: Derek Jacobi as Richard II, John Gielgud as John of Gaunt
Richard II Staged by Beerbohm Tree, 1910
Slideshows
Bibliography

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Brantley, Ben."This Star of England, in Person." [London productions of R2,H5, Cor.] Arts & Leisure, 1,5. New York Times, 2/2/14.

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Mnouchkine, Ariane, trans. Richard II. Paris: Solin, 1983.

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Richard II at Talkin' Broadway.

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Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond