How Richard II Lost the English Throne

How Richard II Lost the English Throne


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On 21 June 1377 Edward III died. In his 50-year reign he had transformed medieval England into one of the most formidable military powers of Europe, with major victories in the early part of the Hundred Years’ War leading to the favourable treaty of Brittany. His reign had also seen the establishment of the House of Commons in the English Parliament.

However, Edward III’s death came after that of his son – Edward the Black Prince – who had died in June 1376. The Black Prince’s eldest son had died at the age of five from the Bubonic Plague, and so his younger son Richard was crowned King of England. Richard II was just 10 years old at the time of his coronation.

Regency and crisis

A late 16th-century portrait of John of Gaunt.

Richard’s reign was first overseen by his uncle, John of Gaunt – the third son of Edward III. But by the 1380s England was falling into civil strife, reeling from the effects of the Black Death and the Hundred Years’ War.

The first political crisis came in the form of the Peasants Revolt in 1381, with rebellions from Essex and Kent marching on London. While Richard, who was aged just 14 at the time, did well to suppress the rebellion, it is likely that the challenge to his divine authority as King made him more autocratic later in his reign – something that would lead to his downfall.

Richard also became an ostentatious young king, growing the size of the royal court and focusing on art and culture rather than military matters. He also had a habit of offending many nobles with his choice of close associates, particularly that Robert De Vere, who he made Duke of Ireland in 1486.

Taking matters into their own hands

In 1387, a group of nobles known as the Lords Appellant aimed to purge the King’s Court of his favourites. They defeated de Vere in a battle at Radcot Bridge that December, then occupied London. They then undertook the ‘Merciless Parliament’, in which many of Richard II’s court were convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

Although we remember it predominantly for its involvement in several conflicts during the medieval period, Edinburgh Castle’s history stretches some 3,000 years, from prehistoric times right up to the present day.

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By Spring 1389, the Appellant’s power had begun to wane, and Richard formally resumed responsibility for government in May. John of Gaunt also returned from his campaigns in Spain the following November, which brought stability.

Through the 1390s, Richard began to strengthen his hand through a truce with France and a sharp fall in taxation. He also led a substantial force into Ireland in 1394-95, and the Irish Lords submitted to his authority.

But Richard also suffered a major personal setback in 1394 when his beloved wife Anne died of Bubonic Plague, sending him into a period of prolonged mourning. His character also became increasingly erratic, with higher spending on his court and a strange habit of sitting on his throne after dinner, staring at people rather than talking to them.

Downfall

It appears that Richard II never had closure on the challenge to his royal prerogative set by the Lords Appellant, and in July 1397 he decided to take revenge through execution, exile and harsh imprisonment of the main players.

Richard’s key action in his demise was exiling John of Gaunt’s son, Henry Bolingbroke, to France for ten years for his part in the Lords Appellant rebellion. Just six months into this exile, John of Gaunt died.

Richard could have pardoned Bolingbroke and allowed him to attend his father’s funeral. Instead, he cut off Bolingbroke’s inheritance and exiled him for life.

16th-century imaginary painting of Henry Bolingbroke – later Henry IV.

Richard then turned his attention to Ireland, where several Lords were in open rebellion against his crown. Just four weeks after he had set sail across the Irish Sea, Bolingbroke was returning to Britain having brokered an alliance with Louis, Duke of Orleans, who was acting as the Prince Regent of France.

He convened with powerful northern magnates and grew an army that enabled him to not only reclaim his inheritance, but also depose Richard from the throne. Bolingbroke received his coronation as Henry VI on 13 October 1399. Richard, meanwhile, died in jail – possibly of self-inflicted starvation – at the beginning of 1400. He died without an heir.

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The effect of Richard’s deposition was to split the Plantagenet line for the throne between the House of Lancaster (John of Gaunt) and the House of York (Lionel of Antwerp, Edward III’s 2nd son, and Edmund of Langley his 4th).

It had placed a usurper on the throne, and Henry would not himself have an easy ride as King – facing open rebellion and internecine warfare during his reign.


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No longer were they prepared to endure the burdens they once had.

In England, as elsewhere in Europe in the late 14th century, authority was under challenge. The ordinary people of the land were growing restive. In June 1381, in southern England, peasant anger at their low status in society spilled over into violent rebellion, and for a few days London lay at the mercy of the mob.

Surprisingly, this discontent did not spring from poverty or hardship. As the foreign-born writer Jean Froissart observed, it was the product of affluence. No longer were the peasants of England prepared to endure the burdens they once had. In the late 1370s, when Richard II became king, living standards were rising, and rising rapidly. In 1348 the Black Death had struck England, reducing the population by between a third and a half. Labour, once plentiful, became in short supply. Wages shot up.

The wage-control laws imposed in 1351 had little effect on this, and skilled labourers drew twice or three times what they once had. At the same time, land in the fields could now be obtained cheaply. Those who had once had no land gained some for the first time, while others who already had some obtained more. Everyone moved a step or two up the economic ladder.

The effect of rapidly improving living standards was to raise people's expectations. They looked to a higher status in life. No longer were they prepared to endure the burdens they once had. In particular, they rejected villeinage - the condition of hereditary unfreedom - which bore down on them in a variety of ways. Typically, villeins were required to work on their lord's lands at harvest time and to carry his produce to the market.

These burdens were bitterly resented. Not only were they inconvenient, for they distracted the tenant from tilling his own land but they were seen as a way in which the lords provided themselves with cheap labour. To the lords, however, they represented a means of control. There is evidence that, on some manors, long defunct villein dues were brought back to counter the effects of the labour shortage. Such insensitivity provoked the withdrawal of services - strikes, in other words - by those afflicted.


The Princes In The Tower

Wikimedia Commons Despite its dark reputation as a prison, the Tower of London had earlier served as a lavish royal residence.

The convenient disappearance of both his nephews meant the king’s brother was now next in line for the throne. The lucky uncle became Richard III of England, whose tumultuous reign was quickly brought to an end by Henry Tudor, crowned Henry VII.

Richard III’s death marked the end of both the York kings and the Plantagenet dynasty his two small nephews, the princes in the tower, were never heard from again.

It wasn’t until 1674 that any trace of the lost royals was discovered, when workmen found two small skeletons buried at the base of one of the Tower’s staircases. Charles II, the reigning king at the time, accepted the widely-approved theory that these were the bodies of the missing princes and had them interred in Westminster Abbey.

So who had murdered the two York princes? One of the reasons Charles II was so certain the skeletons belonged to the lost heirs was because of Sir Thomas More’s 1518 work “History of Richard III.”


Eleanor Becomes Queen of England

Within two months of her annulment, after fighting off attempts to marry her off to various other high-ranking French noblemen, Eleanor married Henry, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy. She had been rumored to have had an affair with her new husband’s father, and was more closely related to her new husband than she had been to Louis, but the marriage went ahead and within two years Henry and Eleanor were crowned king and queen of England after Henry’s accession to the English throne upon the death of King Stephen.

Eleanor’s marriage to Henry was more successful than her first, although not lacking in drama and discord. Henry and Eleanor argued often, but they produced eight children together between 1152 and 1166. The extent of Eleanor’s role in Henry’s rule is largely unknown, although it seems unlikely that a woman of her reputed energy and education would have been wholly without influence. Nonetheless, she does not emerge again into a publicly active role until separating from Henry in 1167 and moving her household to her own lands in Poitiers. While the reasons for the breakdown of her marriage to Henry remain unclear, it can likely be traced to Henry’s increasingly visible infidelities.


Economic crisis and cultural change

Although the outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 dominated the economy of the 14th century, a number of adversities had already occurred in the preceding decades. Severe rains in 1315 and 1316 caused famine, which led to the spread of disease. Animal epidemics in succeeding years added to the problems, as did an increasing shortage of currency in the 1330s. Economic expansion, which had been characteristic of the 13th century, had slowed to a halt. The Black Death, possibly a combination of bubonic and pneumonic plagues, carried off from one-third to one-half of the population. In some respects it took time for its effects to become detrimental to the economy, but with subsequent outbreaks, as in 1361 and 1369, the population declined further, causing a severe labour shortage. By the 1370s wages had risen dramatically and prices of foodstuffs fallen. Hired labourers, being fewer, asked for higher wages and better food, and peasant tenants, also fewer, asked for better conditions of tenure when they took up land. Some landlords responded by trying to reassert labour services where they had been commuted. The Ordinance (1349) and Statute (1351) of Labourers tried to set maximum wages at the levels of the pre-Black Death years, but strict enforcement proved impossible. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was one result of the social tension caused by the adjustments needed after the epidemic. Great landlords saw their revenues fall as a result of the Black Death, although probably by only about 10 percent, whereas for the lower orders of society real wages rose sharply by the last quarter of the 14th century because of low grain prices and high wages.

Edward III ruined the major Italian banking companies in England by failing to repay loans early in the Hundred Years’ War. This provided openings for English merchants, who were given monopolies of wool exports by the crown in return for their support. The most notable was William de la Pole of Hull, whose family rose to noble status. Heavy taxation of wool exports was one reason for the growth of the cloth industry and cloth exports in the 14th century. The wine trade from Gascony was also important. In contrast to the 13th century, no new towns were founded, but London in particular continued to prosper despite the ravages of plague.

In cultural terms, a striking change in the 14th century was the increasing use of English. Although an attempt to make the use of English mandatory in the law courts failed because lawyers claimed that they could not plead accurately in the language, the vernacular began to creep into public documents and records. Henry of Lancaster even used English when he claimed the throne in 1399. Chaucer wrote in both French and English, but his important poetry is in the latter. The early 14th century was an impressive age for manuscript illumination in England, with the so-called East Anglian school, of which the celebrated Luttrell Psalter represents a late example. In ecclesiastical architecture the development of the Perpendicular style, largely in the second half of the 14th century, was particularly notable.


Treachery at Bosworth: what really brought down Richard III

On 22 August 1485, in marshy fields near the village of Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire, Richard III led the last charge of knights in English history. A circlet of gold around his helmet, his banners flying, he threw his destiny into the hands of the god of battles.

Among the astonished observers of this glittering panoply of horses and steel galloping towards them were Sir William Stanley and his brother Thomas, whose forces had hitherto taken no part in the action. Both watched intently as Richard swept across their front and headed towards Henry Tudor, bent only on eliminating his rival.

As the king battled his way through Henry’s bodyguard, killing his standard bearer with his own hand and coming within feet of Tudor himself, William Stanley made his move. Throwing his forces at the King’s back he betrayed him and had him hacked him down. Richard, fighting manfully and crying, “Treason! Treason!”, was butchered in the bloodstained mud of Bosworth Field by a man who was, ostensibly at least, there to support him.

Historians have been tempted to see Stanley’s treachery as merely the last act in the short and brutal drama that encompassed the reign of the most controversial king in English history. Most agree that Richard had murdered his two nephews in the Tower of London and that this heinous crime so shocked the realm, even in those medieval days, that his demise was all but assured. The reason he lost the battle of Bosworth, they say, was because he had sacrificed support through this illegal coup.

But hidden among the manuscripts in the duchy of Lancaster records in the National Archives, lies a story that provides an insight into the real reason why Thomas, Lord Stanley, and his brother William betrayed Richard at Bosworth during the Wars of the Roses. The records reveal that for more than 20 years before the battle, a struggle for power in the hills of Lancashire had lit a fuse which exploded at Bosworth.

Land grab

The Stanleys had spent most of the 15th century building up a powerful concentration of estates in west Lancashire, Cheshire and north Wales. As their power grew they came into conflict with gentry families in east Lancashire who resented their acquisitive and relentless encroachments into their lands.

One such family were the Harringtons of Hornby. Unlike their Stanley rivals the Harringtons sided with the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses and remained staunchly loyal. Unfortunately, at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, disaster struck. The Duke of York was killed and with him Thomas Harrington and his son John.

The Stanleys managed, as ever, to miss the battle. They were very keen, however, to pick up the pieces of the Harrington inheritance and take their seat at Hornby, a magnificent castle that dominated the valley of the River Lune in Stanley country.

When John Harrington had been killed at Wakefield the only heirs he left behind were two small girls. They had the legal right to inherit the castle at Hornby, but this would pass to whomever they married. Stanley immediately sought to take them as his wards and to marry them as soon as possible to his only son and a nephew.

John Harrington’s brother James was equally determined to stop him. James argued that his brother had died before their father at Wakefield and so he himself, as the oldest surviving son, had become the heir, not John’s daughters. To make good his claim he took possession of the girls, and fortified Hornby against the Stanleys.

Unfortunately for Harrington, King Edward IV – striving to bring order to a country devastated by civil strife – simply could not afford to lose the support of a powerful regional magnate, and awarded the castle to Stanley.

However, this was by no means the end of the matter. James Harrington refused to budge and held on to Hornby, and his nieces, regardless. What’s more, the records show that friction between the two families escalated to alarming proportions during the 1460s.

In the archive of the letters patent and warrants, issued under the duchy of Lancaster seal, we can see the King struggling – and failing – to maintain order in the region. While James Harrington fortified his castle and dug his heels in, Stanley refused to allow his brother, Robert Harrington, to exercise the hereditary offices of bailiff in Blackburn and Amounderness, which he had acquired by marriage. Stanley falsely indicted the Harringtons, packed the juries and attempted to imprison them.

Revolt and rebellion

This virtual state of war became a real conflict in 1469, when, in a monumental fit of pique, the Earl of Warwick – the most powerful magnate in the land, with massive estates in Yorkshire, Wales and the Midlands – rebelled against his cousin Edward IV.

The revolt saw the former king, the hapless Henry VI, being dragged out of the Tower and put back on the throne. Stanley, who had married Warwick’s sister, Eleanor Neville, stood to gain by joining the rebellion.

There were now two kings in England – and Edward was facing a bitter battle to regain control. In an attempt to secure the northwest, he placed his hopes on his younger brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III.

This had immediate consequences for Stanley and Harrington, for Richard displaced the former as forester of Amounderness, Blackburn and Bowland, and appointed the latter as his deputy steward in the forest of Bowland, an extensive region to the south of Hornby. Even worse, from Stanley’s point of view, the castle of Hornby was in Amounderness, where Richard now had important legal rights.

During the rebellion Stanley tried to dislodge James once and for all by bringing a massive cannon called ‘Mile Ende’ from Bristol to blast the fortifications. The only clue we have as to why this failed is a warrant issued by Richard, dated 26 March 1470, and signed “at Hornby”.

It would appear that the 17-year-old Richard had taken sides and was helping James Harrington in his struggle against Stanley. This is hardly surprising as James’s father and brother had died with Richard’s father at Wakefield and the Harringtons were actively helping Edward get his throne back. In short, it seems that the Harringtons had a royal ally in Richard, who could challenge the hegemony of the Stanleys and help them resist his ambitions.

The Harringtons’ support for Edward was to prove of little immediate benefit when the King finally won his throne back after defeating and killing Warwick at the battle of Barnet and executing Henry VI.

Grateful he may have been, but the harsh realities of the situation forced Edward to appease the Stanleys because they could command more men than the Harringtons and, in a settlement of 1473, James Harrington was forced to surrender Hornby.

Richard ensured that he received the compensation of the nearby property of Farleton, and also land in west Yorkshire, but by the time Edward died in 1483 Stanley had still not handed over the lucrative and extensive rights that Robert Harrington claimed in Blackburn and Amounderness.

A family affair

One thing, however, had changed. The leading gentry families in the region had found a ‘good lord’ in Richard. He had been made chief steward of the duchy in the north in place of Warwick and used his power of appointment to foster members of the gentry and to check the power of Stanley.

Only royal power could do this and Richard, as trusted brother of the King, used it freely. The Dacres, Huddlestons, Pilkingtons, Ratcliffes and Parrs, all related by marriage to the Harringtons, had received offices in the region and saw Richard, not Stanley, as their lord.

When Richard took the throne he finally had the power to do something for James Harrington. The evidence shows that he planned to reopen the question of the Hornby inheritance.

This alone would have been anathema to Stanley but it was accompanied by an alarming series of appointments in the duchy of Lancaster. John Huddleston, a kinsman of the Harringtons, was made sheriff of Cumberland, steward of Penrith and warden of the west march. John Pilkington, brother-in-law of Robert Harrington, was steward of Rochdale and became Richard III’s chamberlain Richard Ratcliffe, Robert Harrington’s wife’s uncle, was the King’s deputy in the west march and became sheriff of Westmorland. Stanley felt squeezed, his power threatened and his influence diminished.

With Richard at Bosworth were a close-knit group of gentry who served in the royal household: men like John Huddleston, Thomas Pilkington and Richard Ratcliffe. They were men whom Richard could trust, but they were also the very men who were instrumental in reducing Stanley’s power in the northwest.

By Richard’s side, possibly carrying his standard, was James Harrington. When Richard III sped past the Stanleys at Bosworth Field he presented them with an opportunity too tempting to refuse.

During the 1470s Richard had become the dominant power in the north as Edward’s lieutenant. He served his brother faithfully and built up a strong and stable following. The leading gentry families could serve royal authority without an intermediary. The losers in this new dispensation were the two northern magnates, Henry Percy and Thomas Stanley.

Richard challenged their power and at Bosworth they got their revenge. When Richard rode into battle, with Harrington by his side, loyalty, fidelity and trust rode with him. Like the golden crown on Richard’s head they came crashing down to earth.

Dr David Hipshon teaches at St James Independent School in Twickenham. His book Richard III and the Death of Chivalry is published by The History Press.

Richard’s chivalry: the gallant exploits that killed a king

The fateful charge of knights at Bosworth may have been a risky strategy but it chimed perfectly with Richard III’s concept of himself: the chivalric ‘good lord’ fighting his enemies with his faithful companions at his side.

Richard’s father, the Duke of York, who was adopted as a four year-old orphan by the great warrior-king Henry V, evinced an old-fashioned, almost archaic, concept of chivalry. He had been killed when Richard was only eight but had left a powerful impression on the young boy.

In 1476 Richard presided over a solemn ceremony, redolent with pageantry and symbolism, in the reburial of his father at the family seat at Fotheringhay. An endowment of four priests at Queen’s College Cambridge specified that they should pray “for the soule of the right high and mighty prince of blessed memorie Richard duke of Yorke”. Richard III believed that his father had died fighting to restore the realm to its former glory after years of corruption and ineptitude.

After his father’s death at the Battle of Wakefield, the family had been forced to flee to the court of Philip the Good of Burgundy, where an almost fantasy world of courtly etiquette and chivalric exploits was fostered.

The young Duke of Gloucester possessed a 12th-century romance of the perfect knight, Ipomedon, and in his copy he had written tant le disiree, “I have desired it so much”. The motto he used, loyaulte me lie, “loyalty binds me”, has that same sense of a craving for a lost idealism.

The Harringtons – like Richard, their lord – were to pay a heavy price for the failed horse charge at Bosworth and the Yorkists’ subsequent defeat.

After the battle, Stanley received possession of all the Harrington properties and became earl of Derby. His brother, the impetuous and treacherous William, betrayed a king once too often and was executed by Henry Tudor in 1495.

Henry himself set about dismantling the capacity of the magnates to raise their own troops and to wield their own power. Private armies were abolished and the Tudor monopoly of authority began. From henceforth this power could only be challenged by Parliament or by the rebellion of commoners.


Timeline: key dates in the life and rule of Richard III

Chris Skidmore traces the key episodes in the rise and fall of Richard III

1452: 2 October | Richard is born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, 11th child of Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville. He later records in his Book of Hours that “on this day was born Richard III at Fotheringhay” – third-person confirmation of his exact date of birth. He is delivered by caesarean section, having been in a breach position, or so later rumours suggest. More implausible is John Rous’s description of Richard as being born “with teeth, and hair to his shoulders”. Though both stories are examples of the black legend that will quickly develop around the king after his death, we do know that Cecily, aged 37 at the time, suffered a particularly painful labour. The birth, she later wrote, had been “encumberous” and “to me full painful and uneasy”, causing, she noted, an “infirmity” that was “not hid on my wretched body”.

1461: 29 March | Richard’s brother Edward wreaks a devastating victory against the Lancastrian army of Henry VI at Towton in North Yorkshire, one of the bloodiest battles in English history. The victor claims the thrown as Edward IV. Richard’s youth had been overshadowed by the deteriorating relationship between his father, Richard, Duke of York, and Henry VI, with violent confrontations ending in the death of York outside Sandal Castle near Wakefield in 1460. After Edward’s victory at Towton, though, Richard returns from exile in Burgundy as a royal prince, his status suddenly elevated as the king’s brother. Within a year he is created Duke of Gloucester.

1460s | Richard spends his adolescence in the household of the Earl of Warwick, ‘the Kingmaker’, who had been instrumental in helping to establish the Yorkist dynasty. Warwick anticipates that the favour will be returned, expecting that his daughters, Isabel and Anne, will be married to the highest in the land – ideally the king’s brothers. Edward disagrees, and the king’s marriage to the low-born Elizabeth Woodville further alienates Warwick. In 1470, Warwick rebels, taking with him Edward’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, who is by now married to Isabel. Richard, however, remains loyal to his brother, following Edward into exile in the Netherlands in October when Warwick and Clarence conspire successfully to put Henry VI back on the throne. While abroad, Edward and Richard are hosted by the Burgundian nobleman Louis de Gruuthuse, whose book collection leaves a lasting impression on both men.

1471: 14 April | Edward and Richard clash with Warwick at the battle of Barnet on Easter Sunday. They had earlier returned to England to reclaim the kingdom, landing in Yorkshire in March before marching southwards, gathering troops and welcoming their brother Clarence back into the Yorkist fold. Richard leads the vanguard of his brother’s forces at Barnet, and is wounded in the battle – he is later praised for his bravery. Fighting takes place in a thick fog, resulting in the Lancastrian forces accidentally attacking each other. Warwick flees the battle on horseback, but is discovered in a nearby wood and killed.

1471: 4 May | Edward and Richard face the army of Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou, and her son, Prince Edward, in fields near Tewkesbury Abbey. Margaret and her son had landed on the south coast on the day of the battle of Barnet Edward IV and Richard, learning of the invasion, had marched towards the Lancastrians, at times travelling 36 miles in a single day. At the battle of Tewkesbury Richard is again successful in destroying the Lancastrian army, and Prince Edward is killed on the battlefield. The following day, Richard presides over the trial and execution of the Lancastrian commander, the Duke of Somerset, who is dragged out of the abbey after attempting to seek sanctuary there.

1471: 21 May | Henry VI is found dead, having once more been placed in the Tower of London. His body is taken for burial at Chertsey Abbey, and it is noted how his coffin ‘bleeds’ on the journey. The official Yorkist version of events describes how Henry dies “of pure displeasure and melancholy” on hearing of the defeat at Tewkesbury – the death of Prince Edward and the capture of Queen Margaret has left the hopes of the Lancastrian dynasty in tatters. However, another chronicler, John Warkworth, is in no doubt that Henry had been “put to death, the twenty-first day of May… between eleven and twelve of the clock, being then at the Tower the Duke of Gloucester, brother to King Edward”. This version has never been proved. Thomas More, notoriously hostile to Richard, could only claim that “as men constantly say” Richard had killed Henry “with his own hands”.

1472: February | Richard is rewarded for his service at Barnet and Tewkesbury with the Earl of Warwick’s estates and offices in the north. Set to replace Warwick as the pre-eminent northern nobleman, Richard wants more: in particular, he plans to marry Warwick’s daughter, Anne. This is opposed by Richard’s brother Clarence, who – being married to Warwick’s other daughter – is sole beneficiary of the earl’s inheritance. Richard retrieves Anne from Clarence’s custody and, despite being her cousin and brother-in-law, quickly marries her. This sparks a major row between the brothers. Richard wins the dispute, and takes half of Warwick’s possessions.

1475: June | Edward decides to raid France, launching the largest invasion force England has ever mustered. Richard brings 100 men-at-arms and 1,000 archers to add to Edward’s 15,000 strong army. However, when assistance promised by the Duke of Burgundy fails to materialise, Edward gets cold feet and instead in August chooses to sign the Treaty of Picquigny with the French king Louis XI, which provides the English king with a substantial annual pension. Richard, who has been hankering after military glory, is “not pleased by the peace” and does not attend the official ceremony. However, Richard does visit the French king shortly afterwards and is happy to receive “very fine presents, including plate and well-equipped horses”.

1476: 30 July | Richard, Duke of York is reburied at Fotheringhay after a nine-day procession in a huge, ornate hearse. He had been executed at Wakefield in 1460, his head displayed on a spike in York and his body placed unceremiously in a grave at Pontefract. Richard acts as chief mourner, leading the cortège of the coffins of his father and brother, Edmund, Duke of Rutland, along with several hundred mourners. The funeral is marked by an elaborate feast for 1,500.

1478: 18 February | The Duke of Clarence is executed – reputedly drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. Unlike Richard, who is building a reputation as a stalwart of the Yorkist dynasty, Clarence was disenchanted with his own prospects, and seemed again to be flirting with rebellion. In 1477 he was arrested for his involvement in the death of one of his servants. Edward was determined to see his brother punished, and led the treason trial against him. According to one source, Richard is overwhelmed with grief at his brother’s death and vows to avenge it. Neverthless, he is still content to see Clarence’s title of Earl of Salisbury given to his own son, Edward of Middleham (b 1473) three days before Clarence’s death.

1482: 24 August | Richard seizes the castle at Berwick from the Scots after a short siege. War had erupted between England and Scotland during the early 1480s in 1480, Richard was appointed lieutenant general of the north, leading several border raids. In June 1482, Richard leads a full invasion of Scotland with a force of around 20,000 men. This army devastates surrounding areas as it marches to Edinburgh in a bid to overthrow King James III and install the Duke of Albany as puppet ruler. In the end, Albany backs down. Richard’s seizure of Berwick for England is richly rewarded by Edward and remains perhaps his most lasting achivement.

1483: 9 April | Edward IV dies unexpectedly, leaving the throne to his 12-year-old son, proclaimed Edward V. It is clear that the new king will be led by his Woodville relations, particularly his governor Anthony, Earl Rivers, Elizabeth Woodville’s brother. The young king and Rivers depart Ludlow for the coronation, set for 22 June Richard intercepts them at Stony Stratford on 29 April. Next day, Richard arrests Rivers and seizes the young king. Elizabeth flees into sanctuary, and Richard is proclaimed Protector of the Realm.

1483: 13 June | After a period of seeming stability, Richard calls a council meeting at the Tower of London, where William, Lord Hastings is accused of conspiracy and beheaded. Richard is now clearly determined to seize the throne, having detected a conspiracy: on 10 June, he had written to the city of York, asking for support “to aid and assist us against the Queen, her blood adherents and affinity, which have intended and daily doeth intend, to murder and utterly destroy us”. His young nephew Richard, Duke of York, is placed in the Tower, joining Edward V.

1483: 26 June | Richard seizes the throne, taking his seat in the king’s marble chair at Westminster Hall. The new king bases his claim on a revelation that Edward IV had made a ‘pre-contract’ for marriage with Eleanor Talbot in 1464, thus rendering his subsequent marriage to Elizabeth Woodville illicit and their children illegitimate. Richard is crowned on 6 July. Edward V is scrubbed from the records and referred to simply as ‘Edward the Bastard’.

1483: 29 July | Richard writes that several men have been arrested after an ‘enterprise’ is discovered. According to the chronicler John Stow, this may have been a failed attempt to free the princes in the Tower, and ultimately may have sealed their fate. Other sources suggest that the princes were murdered on the advice of the Duke of Buckingham Thomas More suggests that Richard decided to have them killed while in Warwick during his summer progress. A lack of evidence means that the fate of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York remains unknown to this day.

1483: October | Richard receives news that a huge uprising is being planned by former household men of Edward IV with the intention of placing Henry Tudor on the throne. Richard is stung by the news that Henry, Duke of Buckingham, a previously loyal supporter, has joined the uprising. Declaring him “the most untrue creature living”, Richard crushes the rebellion, while floods prevent Buckingham from raising troops in Wales. Meanwhile, Henry Tudor sails from Brittany in the hope of landing near Plymouth. Forced to turn back, he is soon joined by hundreds of English exiles who flee abroad after the failed rebellion.

1484: January | Richard’s only parliament is finally called, with the purpose of passing legislation declaring his right to the throne. More than 100 rebels are attainted – their property and titles forfeit – providing a rich supply of patronage to reward the king’s northern supporters. Legislation includes xenophobic bills against Italian merchants trading in England, though customs duties on books are abolished, as is the practice of ‘benevolences’ – forced loans to the king. Bondsmen working on crown lands are also freed.

1484: 9 April | Edward of Middleham, Richard’s young son, dies two months after Richard orders his court to swear a new oath recognising Edward as heir tovthe throne. The king and his wife, Anne, are stunned. The Crowland Chronicler observes that “you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief”. Richard is without an heir.

1484: May | Richard entertains the European nobleman Nicolas von Poppelau, who leaves the best first-hand account of the king and his court. For eight days Poppelau dines at the king’s table, recording how Richard tells him of wishes to crusade: “With my own people alone and without the help of other princes I should like to drive away not only the Turks, but all my foes.” Poppelau describes the king as “three fingers taller than I, but a bit slimmer and not as thickset as I am, and much more lightly built he had quite slender arms and thighs, and also a great heart,” and how he “hardly touched his food, but talked with me all the time”.

1484: 7 December | Richard issues a proclamation against Henry Tudor and his followers, declaiming them as “open murderers, adulterers and extortioners contrary to truth, honour and nature” who would “do the most cruel murders, slaughters, robberies and disinheritances that ever were seen in any Christian realm”. Earlier, on Christmas Day 1483, Henry Tudor had sworn that he would take Elizabeth of York as his wife if he successfully invaded England. Henry won French backing and began to prepare a fleet, while intrigue in England continued. In December, William Colyngborne, a servant of Richard’s mother, was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered after being caught lampooning Richard’s key advisors.

1485: 16 March | Queen Anne dies after suffering from an illness, possibly tuberculosis. Rumours circulate that Anne has been poisoned some add that Richard plans to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York. At Christmas 1484, the Crowland Chronicler had noted how “vain changes of apparel … of similar colour and shape” were presented to Elizabeth as well as Anne. Richard’s rumoured plans are condemned by his advisers, who tell him that “if he did not abandon his intended purpose … all the people of the north, in whom he placed the greatest reliance, would rise in rebellion against him.”

1485: 7 August | Henry Tudor lands 30 ships at the opening of Milford Haven, a week after setting sail from France. Richard quickly hears news of Tudor’s landing – and is reportedly overjoyed. Believing that he will crush Henry, whose forces number only 2,000 or 3,000 and are dwarfed by the vast army gathered by the king at Nottingham, Richard delays his departure from the city to observe the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15 August.

1485: 22 August | Richard’s forces face Henry’s men on a patch of marsh known as ‘Redemore’, south of Market Bosworth. Richard’s army is twice the size of Henry’s but, as fighting begins, it becomes clear the king does not have the full loyalty of his army. Betrayed by Sir William Stanley, Richard makes a brave final charge at Henry but is hacked to death. His body is stripped and taken to Leicester, where it is later buried in the Grey Friars priory.

Chris Skidmore is a historian and politician, and the author of several books on late medieval and Tudor England. This timeline first appeared in the Richard III Special Edition from the makers of BBC History Magazine

Listen: Chris Skidmore, author of a major biography Richard III, offers his fresh take on some of the biggest debates surrounding the Yorkist king’s life on this episode of the HistoryExtra podcast:


Richard II

King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard&aposs successors: Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V.

This play spans only the last two years of Richard&aposs life, from 1398 to 140 Tragedy of King Richard II, William Shakespeare

King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V.

This play spans only the last two years of Richard's life, from 1398 to 1400. The first Act begins with King Richard sitting majestically on his throne in full state, having been requested to arbitrate a dispute between Thomas Mowbray and Richard's cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IV, who has accused Mowbray of squandering money given to him by Richard for the king's soldiers and of murdering Bolingbroke's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester.

Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, meanwhile, believes it was Richard himself who was responsible for his brother's murder. After several attempts to calm both men, Richard acquiesces and it is determined that the matter be resolved in the established method of trial by battle between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, despite the objections of Gaunt. .

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و یکم ژوئن سال 1989میلادی

عنوان: تراژدی ریچارد دوم - نمایشنامه؛ نویسنده: ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم: احمد خزاعی؛ تهران، فرهنگخانه اسفار، 1367، در 249ص، عکس، عنوان روی جلد: ریچارد دوم؛ موضوع: نمایشنامه ریچارد دوم شاه انگلستان از 1367م تا 1400م از نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 16م

جناب «محسن جده دوستان»؛ نیز، در سال 1380هجری خورشیدی این اثر را از ترجمه «آلمانی» اثر، به فارسی برگردانده اند، 118ص؛ شابک 9645596424؛

تراژدی شاه «ریچارد دوم» را، تغزلیترین نمایشنامه «ویلیام شکسپیر»، یا دست کم تغزلیترین نمایشنامه ی تاریخی ایشان دانسته اند؛ لحن حاکم بر نمایشنامه، مرثیه سرایی است؛ گرچه گاه لحن حماسی نیز به خود میگیرد؛ «ریچارد دوم» به ظاهر استعاره ای سیاسی ست؛ اما در حقیقت «تاریخ ذهن انسان است»؛ در سراسر نمایشنامه، سخن از نبرد، در میان است، اما نبرد در عرصه ی روح انسان؛ و به ویژه در روح و روان ریچارد دوم، که خود نماد «سقوط دوباره انسان» است، جریان دارد؛ . ؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی . more

What is power? What does it mean to be a king? What is history about? These are essential questions that Shakespeare tackled again and again through his “Histories” and many of his tragedies, from Julius Caesar to Macbeth and from Coriolanus to Lear. Richard II is no exception and presents yet another turn of the Wheel of Fortune.

After writing the tetralogy of Henry VI (in three parts) and Richard III, Shakespeare wanted to explore the origins of the Wars of the Roses. This, then, is the first What is power? What does it mean to be a king? What is history about? These are essential questions that Shakespeare tackled again and again through his “Histories” and many of his tragedies, from Julius Caesar to Macbeth and from Coriolanus to Lear. Richard II is no exception and presents yet another turn of the Wheel of Fortune.

After writing the tetralogy of Henry VI (in three parts) and Richard III, Shakespeare wanted to explore the origins of the Wars of the Roses. This, then, is the first part of the “Henriad”, a “prequel” and a second tetralogy with Richard II, Henry IV (in two parts) and Henry V — compare this process, if you will, to George Lucas producing three new episodes of Star War after his initial trilogy.

Richard II is a tyrannical and capricious king, who takes ill-advised decisions, changes his mind on a whim, tries to impress everyone but fails miserably, makes a fool of himself, shoots himself in the foot, and is eventually forced to move over (in this regard, he reminded me, at times, of a recent U.S. president). Shakespeare makes him a petulant character but never sheds pathos over him.

There are, however, in this play, some of the most touching expressions of patriotism and, at the same time, the fiercest criticism of political power. See, for instance, John of Gaunt’s angry rant (II,1): “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” etc.

Richard II was written around the same time as Romeo and Juliette, and the title role is redolent of that of Henry VI. However, it is hard not to notice how some lines also herald future plays. For instance, compare Richard’s “I live with bread like you, feel want, taste greed, need friends” (III,2), and Shylock’s famous “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” However, and above all, this play foreshadows the tragedy of Hamlet. The king himself is a meditative, slightly cynical character, who delivers lyrical and sometimes rambling monologues, with hints of pessimistic metaphysics. In particular, the dazzling scene of the destitution and the shattered mirror (IV,1), between Richard, the king, and Bolingbroke, the usurper, prophesies the famous confrontations between Hamlet, the prince, and Claudius, another usurper.

Ben Whishaw’s Michael-Jackson-like performance as King Richard in the recent TV adaptation The Hollow Crown (BBC) is superb and kept me on my toes throughout.

> Next play in the Henriad: Henry IV, Part 1 . more

Richard II (Wars of the Roses #1), William Shakespeare

King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetra-logy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard&aposs successors: Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1989میلادی

عنوان: تراژدی ریچارد دوم - نمایش Richard II (Wars of the Roses #1), William Shakespeare

King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetra-logy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1989میلادی

عنوان: تراژدی ریچارد دوم - نمایشنامه؛ نویسنده: ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم: احمد خزاعی؛ تهران، فرهنگخانه اسفار، 1367، در 249ص، عکس، عنوان روی جلد: ریچارد دوم؛ موضوع: نمایشنامه ریچارد دوم شاه انگلستان از روز ششم ماه ژانویه سال 1367 میلادی تا روزچهاردهم ماه فوریه سال 1400میلادی - سده 16م

آقای محسن جده دوستان در سال 1380هجری خورشیدی، این اثر را از ترجمه آلمانی اثر، به فارسی برگردانده اند، در 118ص؛

ترازدی شاه ریچارد دوم را، تغزلیترین نمایشنامه ی «ویلیام شکسپیر»، یا دست کم، تغزلیترین نمایشنامه ی تاریخی ایشان دانسته اند؛ لحن حاکم بر نمایشنامه، مرثیه سرایی است؛ گرچه، گاه لحن حماسی نیز، به خود میگیرد؛ «ریچارد دوم»، به ظاهر استعاره ای سیاسی ست؛ اما در حقیقت «تاریخ ذهن انسان است»؛ در سراسر نمایشنامه، سخن از نبرد در میان است، اما نبرد در عرصه ی روح انسان؛ و به ویژه در روح و روان «ریچارد دوم»، که خود نماد «سقوط دوباره انسان» است، جریان دارد؛ . ؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 03/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی . more

For the first time, Shakespeare creates a compelling historical protagonist who speaks naturally in a poetic voice that is distinctively his own. In his earlier works involving kings and emperors, Shakespeare imitated Marlowe&aposs "mighty line" with some--if not complete--success (Richard III was inherently Marlovian, which helped) but in Richard II he at last found a king--a weak man but a considerable poet, with an eye for detail--whom he could animate from the inside, a king more comfortable wit
For the first time, Shakespeare creates a compelling historical protagonist who speaks naturally in a poetic voice that is distinctively his own. In his earlier works involving kings and emperors, Shakespeare imitated Marlowe's "mighty line" with some--if not complete--success (Richard III was inherently Marlovian, which helped) but in Richard II he at last found a king--a weak man but a considerable poet, with an eye for detail--whom he could animate from the inside, a king more comfortable with the rhetoric of royal pageantry than with the governing his country.

Like Hamlet, Richard and his language dominate the play which he inhabits, and the downside to this is that the play inevitably loses a little of its light and beauty whenever he is not on the stage. . more

Reading William Shakespeare makes me feel good about what can be accomplished in language! Richard II is fantastic! I’d read Henry IV (both parts) multiple times without realizing that Richard II is considered the first play in the War of the Roses series. Not only does Richard II provide a seamless transition to Henry IV, it also gives some introduction to the ways in which the monarchy was viewed. As such, it serves as a great transition to Shakespeare’s other history plays.

In the play, Richa Reading William Shakespeare makes me feel good about what can be accomplished in language! Richard II is fantastic! I’d read Henry IV (both parts) multiple times without realizing that Richard II is considered the first play in the War of the Roses series. Not only does Richard II provide a seamless transition to Henry IV, it also gives some introduction to the ways in which the monarchy was viewed. As such, it serves as a great transition to Shakespeare’s other history plays.

In the play, Richard II sees himself not so much as a person, but a personification of England and all its glory (“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” Act 2 Scene 1). That’s what makes the drama (his banishment of Bolingbroke and subsequently robbing him of his birthright/fortune) so compelling. In his role as king, he is entitled to do whatever he wants. There is no wrong or right to his decisions his unquestioned will is also the will of the nation. That logic makes it inconceivable that he would (or could) make a mistake.

When Bolingbroke returns and deposes Richard, he robs him of everything which made Richard great. The Queen makes it clear it is not just a title which Richard has lost:
"What, is my Richard both in shape and mind
Transform'd and weaken'd? hath Bolingbroke deposed
Thine intellect?"
(Queen, Act 5 Scene 1)

The language resonated with me. I’m including some examples below:
"For heaven’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings."
(King Richard, Act 3 Scene 2)

"The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed
The shadow of your face."
(Bolingbroke, Act 4 Scene 1)

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
(King Richard, Act 5 Scene 5)

"I'll make a voyage to the Holy Land
To wash this blood off from my guilty hand."
(King Henry, Act 5 Scene 6)

Of course, at the beginning of Henry IV, Part 1, King Henry puts off this trip to the Holy Land, but that’s another story.

Looking forward to reading the Henry IV plays again! . more

I’ve read this four times now, and I’ve seen three different versions of it too, yet one thing remains certain throughout, this can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Shakespeare’s wonderful like that he’ll write a line or a piece of verse that can be taken in so many ways, ultimately, changing the meaning of the play depending on how it is read or adapted. Indeed, Shakespeare doesn’t judge his characters. Instead he portrays them how they may have perceived themselves. To Richard’s mind I’ve read this four times now, and I’ve seen three different versions of it too, yet one thing remains certain throughout, this can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Shakespeare’s wonderful like that he’ll write a line or a piece of verse that can be taken in so many ways, ultimately, changing the meaning of the play depending on how it is read or adapted. Indeed, Shakespeare doesn’t judge his characters. Instead he portrays them how they may have perceived themselves. To Richard’s mind he is the undisputed mortal representative of God’s will on earth he simply cannot be wrong in his actions. Comparatively, Henry Bolingbroke is a man taking back his confiscated fortune and birth right. When the crown comes into play it becomes incredibly difficult to perceive who the victim of the play is. Is it the usurped King? Or is it the unjustly banished Duke? Shakespeare leaves it up to the audience to decide and fight it out.

"You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs still am I king of those."

Personally, I think both characters play a little bit of the victim and a little bit of the tyranniser. They corner themselves into a situation in which every decision is a morally questionable one this is not something that could easily be resolved. Richard could not simply welcome Bolingbroke with open arms, to do so would be to admit that he was himself wrong. A King could never do that nor could he go down without some semblance of a fight or display of himself being usurped. Richard is a boy King his body grew but his mind never fully developed to the realities of the world. His decisions are rash, unfair and at times almost random. He doesn’t fully register the consequences of his actions. That’s what comes of a mind-set that perceives itself as a conduit’s of God’s divine will. He is God’s chosen King therefore, he cannot be disobeyed. So, when he banishes his cousin, and steals his fortune, it doesn’t matter to him. There’s no injustice to it in his mind. It is simply the will of the King and of God.

Conversely, Bolingbroke faces down the King and usurps his throne. He claims to have entered England for the purposes of reclaiming his fortune and nothing more. But, somehow, he ends up with his cousin’s crown on his head. When Richard returns to the Irish war he finds that all his most powerful nobles are behind his enemies cause. He is destitute, but he is still the King of England. Everybody recognises this, even Bolingbroke. In his wrath he delivers his most monumental speech and his most devastating. He calls upon the armies of heaven to vanquish this usurper. Nothing happens. Thus, Richard believes that God has abandoned him so he willingly gives the crown to Bolingbroke but, not without his final display of victimisation. Bolingbroke still claims not to want the crown, though England wants him to have it. So, he takes the throne and becomes Henry IV.

"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings
How some have been deposed some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

Now this is where the multifaceted nature of the play comes into question. Who is the victim of the work? Is there a villain? The answer generally depends on your perception of the divine right of Kings, and the production you hold in your heart. I cannot form a definitive answer for my own mind, so I cannot argue either way. There isn’t a straightforward answer to this. History aside, both men make mistakes within the plays action. But, who is to blame? The tragic elements of the work are in Richard’s favour, but his cousin is only after his birth right. Through their conflict both men are backed into a corner in which only one can escape.

Damn, I love this play. I might go read it again it is pure poetry! . more

‘’For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings
How some have been deposed some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him
‘’For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings
How some have been deposed some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?’’
Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

Last Saturday, I was watching what must be my favourite documentary, BBC’s Shakespeare Uncovered. This particular episode was presented by the living legend and Theatre Icon, Derek Jacobi, dedicated to Richard II, one of the most particular and complex History plays (although I’ve always classified it under the Tragedies category).

Written entirely in verse, reflecting the Medieval ethic of the Divine Right of Kings, Shakespeare gives us a bitter lament over a monarch who has lost the people’s trust and is now trapped in the hands of Bollingbroke, the ‘’new’’ type of monarch who arms himself with machinations and violence to change the status quo. However, Shakespeare stretches the vanity and fickle nature of the monarchy as an institution on the whole. With the aforementioned monologue, one of the finest and truest pieces he ever produced, Richard finally understands that between the two bodies of the king there can only be struggle and strife…

Do yourselves a favour. If you haven’t watched the great Derek Jacobi as Richard II, do so. The performance is available on YouTube.

‘’What must the king do now? must he submit?
The king shall do it: must he be deposed?
The king shall be contented: must he lose
The name of king? o' God's name, let it go:
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer's walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little little grave, an obscure grave
Or I'll be buried in the king's highway,
Some way of common trade, where subjects' feet
May hourly trample on their sovereign's head
For on my heart they tread now whilst I live
And buried once, why not upon my head?’’
. more

Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to Richard II, a tragedy or historical account written in 1595 by William Shakespeare. Richard II is the first of a series written about the War of the Roses, a famous tug-of-war over England&aposs throne just prior to Shakespeare&aposs time. This is the most fascinating period of English history for me and I loved reading this play. Though Richard III is my favorite of all the kinds during this era, the circumstance surrounding Richard II&aposs kingdom and power are Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to Richard II, a tragedy or historical account written in 1595 by William Shakespeare. Richard II is the first of a series written about the War of the Roses, a famous tug-of-war over England's throne just prior to Shakespeare's time. This is the most fascinating period of English history for me and I loved reading this play. Though Richard III is my favorite of all the kinds during this era, the circumstance surrounding Richard II's kingdom and power are quite unique. He was either a brilliant man or the biggest loon out there. He had ideas, but he couldn't follow through with them due to a split in his views on responsibility. His words had beauty, but he wasn't respected. Shakespeare paints a similar picture of him. There's little plot in comparison to other plays. It's more of a historical account, a point-in-time view of what was happening. Who was trying to take the throne? What was each man's or woman's position? How would it turn out? People wanted to read this to see what he'd choose. If you're not a history buff, there's no point in reading it, other than perhaps for some of the beauty in the images being created in each passage and in the dialogue. You might even want to brush up on the time period by reading some historical fiction such as a few of the books by Philippa Gregory covering these characters. It'll help with perspective and background, then you can compare the way the characters (cum real life people) are portrayed.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews. here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. . more

Richard II takes place after a significant number of events transpire after the end of King Edward III: the Black Prince has died and left Edward III with no sons alive so his grandson Richard II takes the throne. The English holdings in England are consolidated, but due to the Treaty of Brétigny, the English claim to the French throne has been renounced. For the moment.

The problem with Richard II is that he is not attentive enough to his country and challenged by Henry Bollingbroke and Henry&aposs Richard II takes place after a significant number of events transpire after the end of King Edward III: the Black Prince has died and left Edward III with no sons alive so his grandson Richard II takes the throne. The English holdings in England are consolidated, but due to the Treaty of Brétigny, the English claim to the French throne has been renounced. For the moment.

The problem with Richard II is that he is not attentive enough to his country and challenged by Henry Bollingbroke and Henry's father John of Gaunt, who is the best that England has to offer as a leader. As the play opens, Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bollingbroke are in open conflict (Henry accusing the Thomas of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester) and are set to have a duel. But, surprisingly (and yet predictably due to Richard II's weak character), Richard II ends the duel before it starts and banishes both of the antagonists. The return of Bollingbroke will have huge consequences towards the end of the play which is primarily on the conflict between these two and the eventual crowning of Bollingbroke as Henry IV in Act V, as well as the murder of the deposed Richard II. This coup d'etat will be paid for in blood in the following plays leading ultimately to Richard III.

The play itself does a great job of showing off the indecisive personality of Richard II, the wisdom of the dying John of Gaunt, the bravery and rashness of Bollingbroke as the story moves inexorably forward. I loved the elegy to England by the dying John of Gaunt:

JOHN OF GAUNT: This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise.

Richard II, Act 2 Scene i

What is truly transcendent with Shakespeare is how the characters evolve. In the case of Richard II who as I mentioned is relatively indecisive and more interested in culture than in politics, he has a melancholy realization that he will ultimately lose to Bollingbroke which is beautiful and sad and forms the core of the play:

RICHARD: For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court.

Richard II, Act 3, Scene ii

This phrase, "the hollow crown" was used by the BBC as the title for their excellent renditions of the historical plays (all but Edward III and Henry VI Part 3) in 2012 and 2016. The performance of Ben Winshaw as Richard II was mesmerizing and the performance in general shed lights on so many corners of the text that I revised my rating to 4*. There is so much depth here. Particularly in Act 3, scene iv where Richard gives up his crown, but not without giving Bolingbroke a memorable spectacle which will haunt his coming days - the speeches here are fantastic.

The play ends with the murder of Richard II ("Alack, poor Richard!") and the dirty conscience of Henry IV which he promises to expiate via a pilgrimage to Jerusalem ("make a voyage to the Holy Land, / To wash the blood off from my guilty hand.") As we will see in the Henry IV Part 2. he will never make this trip, but he will die in a chapel named Jerusalem. . more

I&aposm on a history kick, so what better way to supplement the immersion into The War Of The Roses than to dive into Shakespeare?

Richard II begins the weakness of kings, where if one could be deposed, yet more can follow. Divine right be damned. should we just rely on might?

It&aposs kind of funny, reading this for the second time after so many years and other historical accounts, just how propagandist this play really is. I suppose that shouldn&apost be a surprise, since it had only been a little over a I'm on a history kick, so what better way to supplement the immersion into The War Of The Roses than to dive into Shakespeare?

Richard II begins the weakness of kings, where if one could be deposed, yet more can follow. Divine right be damned. should we just rely on might?

It's kind of funny, reading this for the second time after so many years and other historical accounts, just how propagandist this play really is. I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise, since it had only been a little over a century prior from the time it was written, and Elizabeth is the product of so much Lancaster and York strife that stems right from these humble and piteous beginnings.

Frankly, I'm really surprised at the balance of this play, where Richard, boy king, makes monstrously poor decisions and banishes Henry Bolingbroke and later steals all his lands to fund a war in Ireland which goes disastrously. Henry Bolingbroke returns from his banishment on such tidings, his lands and monies gone, his father dead, and he sues to get redress from the wrongs done to him. He has good reason.

But. In deposing the king, it opens the weakness of all kings and puts the question to every mind in England. can we ever stop? If it is this easy to depose one, just how easily can we do it again, and again, and again? And indeed, this play is perfectly historical in that respect, even if the man Richard was actually pretty good with finances and stopped fighting for war in France because England couldn't support it. *sigh*

The thing about Shakespeare is this: DRAMA QUEEN. :)

The outcome of Richard's abdication is a long-drawn out drama-fest. Oh woe is me, oh woe is me. It makes for great spectacle, that's for sure, and we even get one of the longest soliloquies in Shakespeare right from Richard's mouth. Henry is only better in his sorrow that all such things came to pass in that he had less page-time. :) I hated the man in life, but love in him death, indeed.

As a side note, I loved the scenes with Henry's uncle and his wife trying to pardon their son's near-treachery. My god, the pathos. it's taken so far it could easily be comedic relief, and I'm certain that some productions of this play could turn it into just that.

Same goes for old Gaunt's ramblings, which are tragic because he knew that Richard would disenfranchise Henry, but that's the beauty of these plays. They're always entertaining and perhaps a bit over the top, but they're definitely not simple or simply interpreted.

Indeed, you can find plenty in this whole play to support the True King or Justice, or change your mind all over again and switch sides.

Oddly enough, since I had just read King Henry IV part one this month, which directly follows the events in Richard II, I was horrified and bemused by Henry's several references to having bloody hands and washing them after Richard's death, because some twenty years later, as the king, he suffers from boils and agues on his hands and face, almost as if it is divine retribution for deposing the rightful king, and he always keeps gloves on and rubs his hands incessantly. Perfect setup and execution. :) But in this case, I'm doing it backwards. :)

Fun stuff, and so amusing, even if it is propaganda! Shakespeare *was* always walking a tightrope. :) . more

This is pretty racy stuff for 1595, you guys. I would&aposve expected as much outrage as over that Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, but you know, for intellectual reasons. I really don&apost know how Shakespeare got away with performing this- this play is such stuff as justifications for censorship and treason are made on.

Richard II seems like he was a very unfashionable king in 1595. He was certainly not the notion of a good king at the time- and I wouldn&apost assume that that was entirely a bad thing. This is pretty racy stuff for 1595, you guys. I would've expected as much outrage as over that Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, but you know, for intellectual reasons. I really don't know how Shakespeare got away with performing this- this play is such stuff as justifications for censorship and treason are made on.

Richard II seems like he was a very unfashionable king in 1595. He was certainly not the notion of a good king at the time- and I wouldn't assume that that was entirely a bad thing. Oh sure, there are some things that our modern standards would agree with as being terrible traits for a leader- He shows himself to be selfish, fickle, opportunistically greedy (he has his uncle's house and lands looted to fund a war after he dies! OMG!), wasteful, imprudent and rash. He also seems to give up in adverse situations incredibly easily. I almost wonder if this character had undiagnosed clinical depression. He certainly behaves that way.

However. he also has a few other traits that the dudes of the era weren't so fond of that maybe weren't so bad at all. He's repeatedly taken to task for not avenging his uncle Glocester's death, for instance. They even trot out his widow to beat her breast about it to the sainted Gaunt for a scene. He's just generally seen as not. martial enough, not violent enough. We see him stop a combat at the last second between two powerful lords and tell them:

"For that our kingdom's each should not be soil'd
With that dear blood which it hath fostered
And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plough'd up with neighbours' sword
And for we think the eagle-winged pride
Of sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts
With rival-hating envy, set on you
To wake our peace, which in our country's cradle
Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle peace. "

Okay, yeah, he probably should've made this decision before he told them it was okay to fight it out (hence the fickle part), but he does seem to repeatedly try to avoid violence and dealing out death wherever possible, even when it's made clear he KNOWS he should probably just kill people rather than banish them- like when he sends Norfolk and Bolingbroke into exile and immediately says "But swear you won't make up and team up to kill me later!" So I don't know. I saw Richard as possibly kind of a peacenik. Yeah, I know he goes off to make war in Ireland for awhile, but its made clear that its supposed to be to suppress rebels (which ya know, with my Irish background, I have my own feelings about of course. but I'll try to keep them out of this review) and maintain order within his kingdom so there was no civil unrest. Ireland was part of Great Britain at the time and there was no reason to see it as a foreign country, so the same logic as above applies (even if he was a total unbelievable asshole about the financing of it).

I guess that's the problem with Richard- he can't do anything right without doing something incredibly wrong. But oh man, he does have all these amazing speeches about what it means to be a king and to govern (not that he does anything about it), and there are what I think were probably some pretty uncomfortable discussions about divine right going on here, with the end conclusion basically being that there seems to be no such thing. Anyone who argues for it ends up dead, and the new king wins his throne by just lying to everyone around him and insisting that everyone keep up his subterfuge by lying themselves and then eventually there are enough lies to make it come true. Hardly a model way for a king to become the king. I was surprised that the play gave me these two kings with so many shades of grey- I expected one or the other of them to come out smelling like roses and one to be shown as a total villain in order to play to the sensibilities of the monarch, but no such thing. I appreciated that that was not the case. I think the closest thing we can get here to a good guy is John of Gaunt, and even he spends most of his time lecturing and moaning and preaching and you don't /like/ him even if he gets fantastic deathbed monologues- "This England" and the "O, but they say tongues of dying men. ". (I should also probably mention that the language here is so amazingly wonderful that almost every major character gets some good lines, though.)

You know how Vanity Fair is a novel without a hero? This is a play without a hero- it's just whoever is left standing at the very abrupt end. (My boyfriend thought the ending was similar to The Godfather's baptism scene, only with more repentance.)

This is a play meant for discussion, meant to put characters in situations where they can expound upon what they feel to be truly important and bring out assumptions about how life is run that maybe were not spoken of in that day. And I think that's truly the most important thing to be got out of any "History" anyways. . more

Richard II by William Shakespeare is an unexpected treat.

I have read reviews that say this is a literary precursor to Hamlet and King Lear and I can see it, also semblances of Macbeth. The language is beautifully lyric, with strong speeches and excellent scenes, too many to list here.

Gaunt’s England soliloquy is powerful as is several by the deposed and introspective king, and I especially liked York’s confrontation with Bolingbroke and the rebels. Richard is an extremely complex character and Richard II by William Shakespeare is an unexpected treat.

I have read reviews that say this is a literary precursor to Hamlet and King Lear and I can see it, also semblances of Macbeth. The language is beautifully lyric, with strong speeches and excellent scenes, too many to list here.

Gaunt’s England soliloquy is powerful as is several by the deposed and introspective king, and I especially liked York’s confrontation with Bolingbroke and the rebels. Richard is an extremely complex character and Shakespeare shows his genius in the man’s pensive dynamics. Shakespeare also demonstrates in Richard a hopeful lesson in redemption and confronting the evils in himself.

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"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
-- William Shakespeare, Richard II

&aposRichard II&apos is a gem. It will never be my favorite, but it is fascinating and finely finished. In many ways it is William Shakespeare meets Machiavelli. Shakespeare wrote eight historical "War of the Roses" plays. They weren&apost written in order. It is pretty easy, if you are a Star Wars fan, to think of the plays like this. Richard II is = the Phantom Menace. Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 and R "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
-- William Shakespeare, Richard II

'Richard II' is a gem. It will never be my favorite, but it is fascinating and finely finished. In many ways it is William Shakespeare meets Machiavelli. Shakespeare wrote eight historical "War of the Roses" plays. They weren't written in order. It is pretty easy, if you are a Star Wars fan, to think of the plays like this. Richard II is = the Phantom Menace. Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 and Richard III (together known as the Minor Tetralogy) were all written and performed first (Like A New Hope, Empires Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). Then Shakespeare jumps back and gives us the Henriad, aka the Major Tetralogy (Richard II Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V).

It is also a fascinating look at the body of the king. The king having both a physical body and the kingdom. Shakespeare does a brilliant job in some later speeches made by Richard II of illuminating the King's two bodies (Natural Body and Body Politic). This isn't new. This isn't me. I ran across this theme in several places (Wikipedia, "The King's Two Buckets") after I read the play, and now I want to go check out Ernst Kantorowicz's The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. This plays a large part in this play. The king is LITERALLY the embodiment of England (its people and the land).

This dualism can be taken even further as a metaphor for Christ and His double nature/role as divine mediator. I'm not saying Shakespeare means for us to interpret Richard II as a type of Christ. But, I think we could look at England's King as existing in a similar (man/divine) space. Anyway, there were several direct references to Judas', betrayal, etc.. Enough to warrant me spending a couple sentences on that topic.

There are also several minor themes that bob around in this play as well: honor, rituals of state, loyalty (to family, King, country). There were also several nice lines, specifically:

- “You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs still am I king of those.”

- “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay
the worst is death and death will have his day.”

- “Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills”

- “Each substance of a grief has twenty shadows."
- “My brain I'll prove the female to my soul
my soul the father: and these two beget
a generation of still-breeding thoughts,
and these same thoughts people this little world.”
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My first attempt at a Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar, wasn’t a rip-roaring success, it was a struggle. So, I approached the historical play Richard II, by William Shakespeare a little differently. In short, I used “Shock and Awe” tactics and saturated my waking hours with multiple sources (listed below) to help me understand it. Although I achieved a level of understanding of the real-life history of Richard II and learned about some of Billy’s techniques - if I were thrown another Shakespeare My first attempt at a Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar, wasn’t a rip-roaring success, it was a struggle. So, I approached the historical play Richard II, by William Shakespeare a little differently. In short, I used “Shock and Awe” tactics and saturated my waking hours with multiple sources (listed below) to help me understand it. Although I achieved a level of understanding of the real-life history of Richard II and learned about some of Billy’s techniques - if I were thrown another Shakespeare play and read it with no assistance – I think I would still struggle.

This historical play involves the disorderly transfer of power from King Richard II to Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV). The frivolous, irresponsible and outrageous King Richard II banishes Henry for a period of 6 years, following Henry’s dispute with another high-born regarding the murder of the Duke of Gloucester (it is later revealed that Richard played a hand in the death of the poor Duke). As Henry is away, Richard decides to pilfer all his inheritance when his father – John of Gaunt dies. He does this to help fund his war to fight a rebellion in Ireland. Richard employed all sorts of dodgy dealings to help fund his Irish adventures, tactics such as taking the land off rich folks and taxing people to the eyeballs.

Henry Bolingbroke returned from his banishment and discovered he had attracted a significant degree of popularity. Henry’s support grew the further he travelled south, whereas Richard was left with few friends. Henry was in two minds when it came to taking the throne off his King. This reticence reveals a strong theme in this play, the power given to the King via God. His divine presence on this Earth. To usurp a King is to commit the most heinous blasphemy.

Many of the passages I read contained some terrific prose. There is a wonderful scene where Richard is handing over the crown to Henry. Henry suggests Richard is passing his ‘cares’ with the passing of the crown and Richard says:

”Your cares set up do not pluck my cares down.
My care is loss of care, by old care done.
Your care is gain of care, by new care won”

If I were to rate my enjoyment of this play in isolation, I would give it 3 Stars, this suggests to me I need to further develop my Shakespearean comprehension skills. Sometimes at the end of a page I realised I understood nothing. Other times, I understood much or all of a passage – but I still found it tricky. However, possessed with all my support material reading this play became a very enjoyable journey of discovery and I would give that experience 4.5 Stars.

The question is – is this a tragedy? I don’t read it as a tragedy, for sure Richard dies and he’s a tragic figure. This is more a story about power and politics with a thick vein of treachery woven throughout. That’s my summary – ready to be torn apart by all you clever clogs’ out there.

References for this Review and to make me brainier:

1. Richard II, BBC TV Series, The Hollow Crown (5 stars)
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00s.
2. The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Kings and Queens of Britain by Charles Phillips
3. Sparknotes study guide
4. The play itself (of course)
5. “History of the Plantagenets” www.englishmonarchs.co.uk
6. University of Oxford, Approaching Shakespeare, Richard II – Podcast
7. Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets. BBC’s In Our Time – History Podcast (5-stars) . more

“For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court”

I never thought I would find a Shakespeare play this fascinating. To be honest, I never thought I would read a Shakespeare play in the first place because I thought he was rather overhyped and why are people so obsessed with him anyway? Why is he such a big deal? I think the answer is that there are thousands of questions about him and his works, and all we know is that we will most likely never know their “For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court”

I never thought I would find a Shakespeare play this fascinating. To be honest, I never thought I would read a Shakespeare play in the first place because I thought he was rather overhyped and why are people so obsessed with him anyway? Why is he such a big deal? I think the answer is that there are thousands of questions about him and his works, and all we know is that we will most likely never know their answers. Shakespeare is a mystery that will remain unsolved, and people love mysteries.

I studied Richard II for a few months in a class solely dedicated to this particular play. I learnt a lot of things, mostly that it is worth getting off your high horse to study a seemingly overrated writer. (I still believe there is more to literature and theatre than Shakespeare but at least I can now see why some people love his work so much.) There are so many curious facts and details about Richard II that made studying it so compelling. There is the theory about the King's Two Bodies, the concept of what we today call Homoeroticism and how masculinity is transmitted in this play, there is the One-Sex Model, there are linguistic aspects worth having a look at, etc. There is a lot to find out, and all of this helps to understand this play much better in its contemporary context.

I think I have had my fair share of Shakespeare for a semester or two but I am sure that I will return to reading his texts sooner or later.

"They love the poison not that do poison need. "

Henry IV, alias Lancaster, alias Bolingbroke and plenty of other names, speaks truth to his own power in the end, admitting that he needed the eloquent incompetent Richard to be dead to grow, while also knowing that his oppenent&aposs death will be a stain on his own power forever after.

What a marvellous study in bad leadership - making one wonder if there is any good one, as Richard and Bolingbroke are so good at being bad in so different ways that "They love the poison not that do poison need. "

Henry IV, alias Lancaster, alias Bolingbroke and plenty of other names, speaks truth to his own power in the end, admitting that he needed the eloquent incompetent Richard to be dead to grow, while also knowing that his oppenent's death will be a stain on his own power forever after.

What a marvellous study in bad leadership - making one wonder if there is any good one, as Richard and Bolingbroke are so good at being bad in so different ways that it hardly leaves any space between them for a better leadership (in theory): random whim and entitlement versus brutal Macchiavellianism and strength of weapons?

Which one do you pick? If you had to have a king, would you prefer Richard or Bolingbroke? It is a bit like asking which of our ruler clowns we prefer these days, I realise. Is power always this ugly?

Luckily, Shakespeare has the words. And they are getting more and more beautiful, the more powerful they get. As for kings, they live best in the mirror of great poets. As real people they are a mess.

"Then am I kinged again, and by and by,
Think that I am unkinged by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing. But whate'er I be
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing."

Neither did I waste time when I read this, nor did time waste me. But it was a tough ride! . more

I&aposve read Shakespeare before. Sadly, I&aposve never seen it performed but I&aposm planning on changing that.
Anyway, though I&aposve read some of his plays before, I&aposve never read one of his "Histories" until now. Since it&aposs still History Month though and because Brad and I are doing a bit of research on The Wars of the Roses, this (and a few others) were a must-read.

This play is about the titular King Richard II. And boy was he a weakling! Sorry, but there is no better way to put it. As if the times hadn&apost I've read Shakespeare before. Sadly, I've never seen it performed but I'm planning on changing that.
Anyway, though I've read some of his plays before, I've never read one of his "Histories" until now. Since it's still History Month though and because Brad and I are doing a bit of research on The Wars of the Roses, this (and a few others) were a must-read.

This play is about the titular King Richard II. And boy was he a weakling! Sorry, but there is no better way to put it. As if the times hadn't been tumultous enough for England back then, they were also cursed with a king who tried to please everybody and couldn't make up his mind! There are lots of rumours about him (like him having been gay or at least bisexual) and none of those helped him in a popularity contest. So when he first orders a trial by combat but then stops it at the last second to exile both parties, people almost have enough. When the father of one of the exiled dies, the king also makes the fateful mistake of seizing the lands, money etc. instead of holding it for the rightful heir - all because of a war in Ireland that he then loses nevertheless. So yeah, Richard was neither a happy nor a lucky man.
The exiled Lord Bolingbroke (who was cheated out of his inheritance) secretly returns to England and starts a campaign. The nobles and people support him since he has been wronged by the king. But what probably started as a simple way to get what is rightfully his, ends in Bolingbroke disposing Richard II, thus becoming King Henry IV.
The problem? Well, usually the might of a king rested (not solely but significantly) on his bloodline - which Henry didn't have, no matter how good his justifications and wild tales. But more of that later (in my review of the next two plays).
This is about Richard and what happened to him. The only criticism I have about that is that there were a few passages in between that were just too long (one by Richard himself, one by Bolingbroke's father, Gaunt). Eloquent as ever, but just too damn long.

The tragedy of the story behind this play is that Richard II probably wasn't THAT bad a king (and that he became king when he was still a child). I mean, he stopped going to war against France because he knew England couldn't afford it. But bloodthirsty Englishmen wouldn't have any of that. Then there was a guy (Bolingbroke) who played the political field really well (scarily so even) as opposed to BEING PLAYED like Richard II and VOILÀ: the deposition of a king and one of the starting points in the Wars of the Roses. Very interesting that Shakespeare made this into a play - it goes to show how affected he and other English people still were in Elizabethan times.

As usual, the quality of this play is superb. Shakespeare is THE master, there is no denying it. Moreover, my edition has some wonderful illustrations in it that I wanted to share with you:


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This play stands out from any other Shakespearean work I know in that, though great, its final effect is rather cold. No character calls out for sympathy, or even pity. Richard II is fascinating but so self-absorbed, and such a ludicrous king, that it is difficult to feel any strong connection to him apart from dissociated curiosity and Bolingbroke has little character to speak of. Apart from John of Gaunt, who gives a jingoistic speech before his death, and the Duke of York, whose loyalty comes close to being genuinely touching, there are no memorable characters. What remains is a stiff, high-flown play about the rise and fall of kings, without any quickening touch of prose or humor.

Most of the play is focused on Richard II, a gifted man who somehow fails to be completely human. As a king he has no virtue except enthusiasm. He is arbitrary, hasty, greedy, prone to flattery, totally impractical, and—his keystone vice—self-absorbed. When robbed of his kingship, his egoism transforms into a beguiling solipsism, and he becomes a world unto himself. Poetry, for Richard, becomes a sort of defense-mechanism, transforming the empirical world into images and figures of speech, in whose visionary involutions the deposed monarch can lose himself. Harold Bloom is right to compare Richard II to John Donne, though Richard fails to be a complete poet, too, since his poetry is intended to befuddle its intended audience, and its intended audience is himself.

In all, this is a difficult play to love, since it is so formal in structure and so grandiose in tone. Even so, it is a work of high art, and yet another example of Shakespeare’s versatility. . more

Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I King,
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am. Then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king.
Then am I kinged again.

Here’s a brief chronology of the Kings of England that Shakespeare wrote about, and a few events that occurred in England during these times. Names of monarchs in bold denote Shakespeare’s plays, and the years covered (maybe) in the play.

1215 – Magna Carta
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I King,
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am. Then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king.
Then am I kinged again.

Here’s a brief chronology of the Kings of England that Shakespeare wrote about, and a few events that occurred in England during these times. Names of monarchs in bold denote Shakespeare’s plays, and the years covered (maybe) in the play.

1216 – 1272 Reign of Henry III, son of King John
1272 – 1307 Reign of Edward I, son of Henry III
1307 – 1327 Reign of Edward II, son of Edward I
1327 – 1377 Reign of Edward III, son of Edward II

1337 – Start of the Hundred Years’ War
1346 - Battle of Crecy: First of the major English victories of the War
1348 – Black Death arrived in England
1356 - Battle of Poitiers: Second of the major English victories of the War

Richard II (1377-99) Grandson of Edward III
Henry IV – Part I (1399-1403) Grandson of Edward III
Henry IV – Part II (1403-1413)
Henry V (1413-1422) Son of Henry IV

1415 - Battle of Agincourt, last of the major English victories of the Hundred Years' War

Henry VI – Part I (1422-1444) Son of Henry V
Henry VI – Part II (1444-1455)

1453 – End of the Hundred Years War

Henry VI – Part III (1455-1471)

1455-1487 The Wars of the Roses, between the Lancaster and York branches of the House of Plantagenet.

August 1485 – April 1509. Reign of Henry VII, House of Tudor. Great-great-great-grandson of Edward III.
Henry VIII (1509-1547) Son of Henry VII
1521 – Lutheran writings began to circulate in England
1529 – Henry VIII severed ties with the Catholic Church
1535 – Thomas More executed
1547 – 1553. Reign of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII.
1553 – 1558. Reign of Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII.
1558 – Queen Elizabeth I (daughter of Henry VIII) ascends to the English throne. Dawn of the Elizabethan era.
1564 – Will Shakespeare is born.

The next list of Shakespeare’s histories shows them in the order in which they were written.
[Order and Name of play (years covered by the play/order of these years among all the plays) year written – war in progress during the play]

1. Henry VI Part I (1422-44/6) 1591 – 100Yr
2. Henry VI Part II (1444-55/7) 1591 – 100Yr
3. Henry VI – III (1455-71/8) 1591 - Roses
4. Richard III (1483-1485/9) 1592 - Roses
5. Richard II (1377-99/2) 1595 – 100Yr
6. King John (1199-1216/1) 1596
7. Henry IV – I (1399-1403/3) 1596 – 100Yr
8. Henry IV – II (1403-1413/4) 1597 - 100Yr
9. Henry V (1413-22/5) 1599 – 100Yr
10. Henry VIII (1509-47/10) 1612

Richard II was the fifth of Shakespeare’s histories, though it covers the 2nd oldest period of time.

Notice that the first four of the histories pretty much cover the years of the Wars of the Roses. (The first two don’t, but they include a long part of Henry VI’s reign, which Shakespeare broke into three plays.) The last couple years of the Roses conflict England was ruled by Henry VII, about whom Shakespeare did not write.

So in going back to Richard II for his fifth history, Shakespeare gives his audience his version of the events which laid the historic enmity between the houses of York and Lancaster. In the play we see Richard II, the last king of the house of Plantagenet, have his throne usurped by Henry IV, the first king of the house of Lancaster.

The play starts and ends with characters accusing each other of treason against the king. But it’s a different king in each case, since Richard is king at the start, and Henry at the end. Supporters of each side, particularly in the last act, pay dearly for being caught at the wrong time in the wrong place. Very violent scenes, which made me think back decades to a time when I read other violent Elizabethan plays such as The Revenger’s Tragedy and The Duchess of Malfi. Good stuff.

And the introductory quote? Richard - imprisoned in Pomfert castle, muttering and rambling on in the grip of his hallucinations.
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I memorized this as a teen and I still, after all these years, find much in it to return to:

I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it yet I&aposll hammer it out.
My brain I&aposll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For I memorized this as a teen and I still, after all these years, find much in it to return to:

I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it yet I'll hammer it out.
My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd
With scruples and do set the word itself
Against the word:
As thus, 'Come, little ones,' and then again,
'It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle's eye.'
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders how these vain weak nails
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
Nor shall not be the last like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king
Then am I king'd again: and by and by
Think that I am unking'd by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate'er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing. Music do I hear?

Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans
Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time
Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,
While I stand fooling here, his Jack o' the clock.
This music mads me let it sound no more
For though it have holp madmen to their wits,
In me it seems it will make wise men mad.
Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!
For 'tis a sign of love and love to Richard
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world. . more

Richard&aposs death at the end of act V is nothing short of dragoleon (for an explanation of that term see here:http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/. ) Three badasses show up in Richard&aposs cell to try and kill him but he&aposs having none of it. He says:

"Villain, thy own hand yields thy death&aposs instrument,"
["Yippy-ki-ay, motherfucker"--my paraphrase]

Richard then snatches an axe from one of the mofos&apos hand and kills him.

"Go thou and fill another room in hell."
["I&aposm Richard mothereffing Two. King Kong Richard's death at the end of act V is nothing short of dragoleon (for an explanation of that term see here:http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/. ) Three badasses show up in Richard's cell to try and kill him but he's having none of it. He says:

"Villain, thy own hand yields thy death's instrument,"
["Yippy-ki-ay, motherfucker"--my paraphrase]

Richard then snatches an axe from one of the mofos' hand and kills him.

"Go thou and fill another room in hell."
["I'm Richard mothereffing Two. King Kong ain't got shit on me"]

He kills another one, but then he's slain by the evil Sir Exton.

Shakespeare rocks the hizzouse. He could have written for Hollywood.

Richard II is one of my favorite histories, partly because the actual events surrounding Richard&aposs fall offer plenty of drama, and partly because of its sheer beauty. Richard is eloquent to a fault - literally he&aposd rather give flowery speeches than actually do anything. But what speeches! You almost forget what a moron he is.

But it&aposs the gardener&aposs soliloquy in III.iv that&aposs actually the prettiest, an extended rant about why he should bother weeding the garden when Richard has let pests overrun Richard II is one of my favorite histories, partly because the actual events surrounding Richard's fall offer plenty of drama, and partly because of its sheer beauty. Richard is eloquent to a fault - literally he'd rather give flowery speeches than actually do anything. But what speeches! You almost forget what a moron he is.

But it's the gardener's soliloquy in III.iv that's actually the prettiest, an extended rant about why he should bother weeding the garden when Richard has let pests overrun England.

It's surprising to me that Richard II doesn't get more attention these days. I understand how Richard III's hilarious villainy and Henry V's blustering violence overshadow it, but this is a rewarding play. . more

Woo hoo! It&aposs been a while since I read Shakespeare and it truly feels sooo good to be back! I&aposve read the Bard&aposs Wars of the Roses, with the exception of Henry VI, Part 2, and I am happy to report that Richard II is one of the more engaging history plays first and foremost, because Richard is such a little shithead. This guy is absolutely ridiculous.

The play opens in King Richard&aposs court, as Henry Bolingbroke, son of Gaunt (the Duke of Lancaster), challenges Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. H Woo hoo! It's been a while since I read Shakespeare and it truly feels sooo good to be back! I've read the Bard's Wars of the Roses, with the exception of Henry VI, Part 2, and I am happy to report that Richard II is one of the more engaging history plays first and foremost, because Richard is such a little shithead. This guy is absolutely ridiculous.

The play opens in King Richard's court, as Henry Bolingbroke, son of Gaunt (the Duke of Lancaster), challenges Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Henry accuses Mowbray of being involved in the recent death of the King's uncle. Richard gives in to their demands to work out their differences in one-on-one combat at Coventry. As the tournament begins, the uncertain and impulsive Richard stops the contest. Richard chooses to exile both Henry and Mowbray. He banishes Mowbray for life. And responding to Henry's father Lancaster's pleas, he limits Henry's exile to six years.

The most important thing to know about King Richard II is this: the guy literally thinks he's God's gift to the world. I’m not kidding. Richard (along with a lot of other people) believes God has specifically chosen him to be the king of England. (The whole spiel of the "divine right of kings"—yeah, can’t relate.)

Here Richard has just found out that Bolingbroke has invaded England. Since Richard thinks he's God's "deputy" or representative on earth, he assumes that no man can bump him off the throne, and therefore he doesn't have to lift a finger to defend himself. Big mistake.

When you think you're God's gift to the world, it's pretty easy to act like a total diva, which is exactly what Richard does in this play. Of course, it doesn't help that Richard has surrounded himself with a bunch of brown-nosing advisors (like Bushy, Bagot, and Green) who only tell him what he wants to hear. As a result, Richard completely loses touch with his critics and loses the confidence of his people. Then, when someone (like John of Gaunt) does step up and try to give Richard some solid advice, Richard refuses to listen as he continues to make one bad decision after another.

Let's recap some of these bad decisions, because they're pretty important if you want to trace Richard's downfall. At the beginning of the play he 1) banishes Bolingbroke and Mowbray to 2) cover up the murder of his own uncle, Thomas of Woodstock. He also 3) mismanages the kingdom's money and leases out royal lands before he 4) takes another uncle's (John of Gaunt's) property, depriving Henry Bolingbroke of his legal birthright. On top of everything else, Richard thinks that 5) he doesn't have to answer to anybody (except maybe God) for his behavior and 6) that he doesn't have to do anything to defend himself when Bolingbroke invades England. By now, it should be pretty clear that Richard is a terrible king, so we're not really sorry to see him get stripped of his crown.

But here's the thing. When Richard loses his crown and gets locked up in the slammer, we actually do start to feel sorry for him. Richard has a major identity crisis when he's asked to hand over the crown, and it's one of the most moving parts of play: if the king of England isn't king anymore, what is he? Richard says, "I must nothing be [. ] I have no name, no title [. ] And know not now what name to call myself." The fact that Richard has lost his title, or his "name," triggers an emotional meltdown. This is the problem he struggles with through the latter half of the play.

I love this one. Not sure if this is my second or third reading -- GR says I read it last in Nov. 2014, but I feel like I read it last more recently -- but, again, this is a five star play for me. This time I started with Marjorie Garber&aposs chapter on Richard, from her marvelous Shakespeare After All. Her analysis didn&apost provide any startling insights, but it added to my appreciation of the way Shakespeare&aposs artistry works in this play. Anyway, I just find Richard fascinating. Sure, he&aposs a dreadf I love this one. Not sure if this is my second or third reading -- GR says I read it last in Nov. 2014, but I feel like I read it last more recently -- but, again, this is a five star play for me. This time I started with Marjorie Garber's chapter on Richard, from her marvelous Shakespeare After All. Her analysis didn't provide any startling insights, but it added to my appreciation of the way Shakespeare's artistry works in this play. Anyway, I just find Richard fascinating. Sure, he's a dreadful king and a lousy nephew, but he's a wonderful character. So invested in his own performance as flamboyant monarch that when the "script" of events seems to suggest that a tragic fall is imminent, he seizes the role of doomed lord (or, as he often suggests, "Lord") and plays it to the hilt. He reminds me of Hamlet, though not so complex -- self-dramatizing even to the point of his own destruction, self-pitying, and introspective, and he is such a great contrast with Henry. Poet vs. pragmatist. And their uncle, the Duke of York, switching his loyalties from Richard to Henry as it seems expedient, throwing his son over in a red hot minute, acting the "sage counselor" but always putting his own interests first, is marvelous fun! This is one of my favorite plays.

The Arden edition of this has excellent notes, and the performances of the actors in the Archangel audio recording are marvelous. I can't recommend Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All highly enough, and also, because, of course, plays are meant for watching, the "King Richard II" in the BBC's "The Hollow Crown" and The Royal Shakespeare Company's "King Richard II" with David Tennant, are well worth seeing. . more

A Tragedy or a History?
18 September 2011

It is difficult to determine whether Richard II is a tragedy or not. It appears that when Shakespeare first drafted the play he drafted it as a tragedy (and it is one of his earlier plays) however as his folio of plays increased, it fall among his history plays. It should be considered that not all of Shakespeare&aposs plays fall neatly into the categories of tragedy or comedy, and this is particularly the case with his history plays (in particular Henry V).

A Tragedy or a History?
18 September 2011

It is difficult to determine whether Richard II is a tragedy or not. It appears that when Shakespeare first drafted the play he drafted it as a tragedy (and it is one of his earlier plays) however as his folio of plays increased, it fall among his history plays. It should be considered that not all of Shakespeare's plays fall neatly into the categories of tragedy or comedy, and this is particularly the case with his history plays (in particular Henry V).

Richard II is the first play in Shakespeare's history cycle (which begins with Richard II and ends with Richard III, with the King Henry plays coming in the middle). In a sense this history cycle chronicles the fall of the Plantagenat dynasty and the rise of the Tudor dynasty. It should also be noted that the history plays all occur during the period known as the Hundred Years War (which was between England and France), though by the time of Richard III, England had been pretty much kicked out of France, and thus it is interesting to note that upon losing the Hundred Years War, civil war breaks out in England (a war known as the War of the Roses, between the House of Lancaster and the House of York). The losing side in war seems to, in many cases, either collapse into civil war, or undergo a revolution (actually, that is not really the case, but it was in this particular instance).

However, enough of history and on with the play, or the character of Richard II. Richard was the grand son of Edward III (the one who is considered to be the instigator of the Hundred Years War), and was the son of the Black Prince. The Black Prince, being heir to the throne, never actually took the throne as he died before his father (of the black plague, which was ravaging Europe at the time). So, when Edward died, Richard took the throne. However, Richard did not last long as he continued his father's and grand father's wars, but to fight wars, one needs money, so he raised money by confiscating lands and raising taxes. However, his wars never went all that well, and as is the case in such situations, was deposed by the man who would become Henry IV.

The question is whether this play falls into a tragedy. As argued elsewhere I do not see any concept of a tragic flaw in Shakespeare's tragedies, and once again I do not see any tragic flaw in Richard. Yes, he raised taxes, and upset the wrong people, but that is going to happen when one is king. I guess if there was a fatal flaw in Richard it was that he wasn't a particularly strong king. I say that because not only did he get deposed, but because his rival, Henry Bolingbroke, was able to rally support against him. I guess he also wasn't a particularly bright king either as he went to Ireland to fight a war there and pretty much left the kingdom open to Bolingbroke to take it from him. However, I guess that may be the purpose of the history plays, as here we see the end of the Plantagenat dynasty, however the mess that begins with Bolingbroke's usurption will end with the mess that becomes the War of the Roses.

A few other points I wish to raise, and that is that Bolingbroke, when he captures Richard, locks him up. However this isn't in a dungeon or such, but rather in a castle. This is a very luxurious prison, but a prison nonetheless. Further, Richard's death is strangely reminiscent of the death of Thomas Becket. Henry II is said to have cried out 'who will rid me of this troublesome priest' at which point some knights took it upon themselves to kill him, against Henry's wishes. The similar thing occurs here (and it is interesting to note that both incidents involve a Henry). Henry, exacerbated, makes a statement that he does not mean, and assassins that go to Pomfret Castle and slay Richard (though Richard does actually put up a fight - never accuse Shakespeare of being light on the action). However, it appears that this event occurred according to his source, Holingshed. It is also interesting that Richard's assassin is exiled and that Henry mourns over his death. It seems that even though he took his throne, he could not bring himself to kill Richard, for even though he may no longer king in actuality, he is still the king, and to kill him is regicide. Whatever happens to Henry I guess we will see unfold in Henry IV.

By the way I recently watched a Royal Shakespeare Company production of this place, which happens to have David Tennant as the lead role. I have written a post on it (and a more detailed analysis of the play) on my blog. . more

As a bit of an Irishman I guess there is a part of me that quite likes the idea of a King of England brought low (at least in part) because of his all too keen singing of ‘yo ho and off we go’ to put those rebellious Irish in their place – and that this might then lead to two centuries of civil war we now refer to as the War of the Roses. As a child of the Enlightenment (now watching that particular sun set into an ocean of fear and superstition) there really ought to be a part of me that cheers As a bit of an Irishman I guess there is a part of me that quite likes the idea of a King of England brought low (at least in part) because of his all too keen singing of ‘yo ho and off we go’ to put those rebellious Irish in their place – and that this might then lead to two centuries of civil war we now refer to as the War of the Roses. As a child of the Enlightenment (now watching that particular sun set into an ocean of fear and superstition) there really ought to be a part of me that cheers at the defeat of a king who repeatedly lays claim to his divine right to rule as the main justification for his continued power.

That said, it is impossible not to feel for Richard II. There is something terribly human about this divine king. From the first moments of the play it is hard not to see that things are going to go incredibly badly. This is as close to a tragedy as any history play is ever likely to come. In fact, it fits much more closely to Aristotle’s definition of tragedy (great man brought low by his own fatal flaw) than most of Shakespeare’s actual ‘tragedies’ do.

I could watch the first act of this play a million times and never tire of it. Imagine the scene. You are the guy in charge and two of your underlings are really upset with each other (maybe even with good cause). One of them is even blaming the other one of killing his uncle (which, truth be told, you might have had something to do with yourself). They want to sort this out by duelling each other – not the most modern of ways of deciding the ‘justice’ of a case – but I think that is the point. You do everything in your power to convince them to leave it all alone, but everything you and others say falls on deaf ears. 'Right then, let them have their head', you think and set up an occasion where they can fight each other to the death. But then, just as they are about to run each other through you have a change of heart and decide to banish the pair of them (on the advice you’ve received from ‘trusted’ advisors - advisors who immediately regret their own advice to you given the real life consequences of their advice).

One is banished for 6 years, the other for life. Mowbray’s speech on being banished from his native land is one of the most moving imaginable. He doesn’t complain about never seeing England’s green and pleasant land again – but much more poignantly, of having his tongue imprisoned in his own mouth. As he makes all too clear, to banish him aged 40 never to live in England again is to banish him from his own native language. I think this is so devastating because it is also so true.

Now, some advice – for what it is worth. If you are thinking of writing a play I really think you should think twice before creating a character like Mowbray. I mean, to have someone have such a presence in the first act of the play and then for him to completely disappear never to be seen again at the end of that act for the rest of the play just about breaks all of the rules. You might think I'm saying that as some sort of challenge, but it is actually the opposite – those rules were made for a damn good reason and half killing off a major character who is virtually never mentioned again casts a shadow over this play that requires a hell of a lot of talent by the author to sustain.

This play reminds me a lot of King Lear – and not just because the scene between York and his son with the letter is virtually identical to the one between Gloucester and Edmond – with the breakdown of family relations reminding you that although there isn’t an antonym for nepotism, there probably should be. Any play that has a father on his knees pleading with his King to kill his own son is doing odd things with the concepts of loyalty and obligation – you can take my word for that.

This is a very poetical play – I mean, it rhymes more than other plays by Shakespeare tend to, particularly at the start. This is significant too, I think. It gives the world as presided over by King Richard an unreality that makes its overthrow seem almost inevitable.

All the same, inevitable or not the killing of a King risks much more than just one man’s life, but calls into question everything to do with the social structure as it existed at the time. Essentially, if Lords could decide to kill their King what was to stop the next rung down killing the Lords – and so on?

This is the first of a series of four plays Shakespeare wrote (from Richard II to Henry V stopping off at Henry IV parts one and two along the way). There is even some question about whether this play was ever really meant to stand on its own – but to me, it stands very well on its own. To me this is a play of both internecine rivalries and of unintended consequences. There are things that happen in life that are meant to be about one thing and that end up being about something completely different – some balls should never be allowed to start rolling, but once they do there’s little point trying to stop them again.

It is all too easy to see Richard as a coward – even his wife says he should strike out like a lion even if all he can do is lacerate the ground, advice he puts aside immediately – but even this is ironically played with at the end as he seeks to fill hell’s rooms in his last moments.

I think this is a fascinating play – even if some of the speeches seem a little over-wrought. All the same the idea of taking everything from someone piecemeal is agony to watch and I think it is this which wins the audience to Richard - even as it becomes increasingly clear he is a lost cause.
. more

Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I king.
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king.
Then am I kinged again, and by and by
Think that I am unkinged by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing. But whate’er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing.

-Richard, act 5, scene 5

This play, one of Shakespeare&aposs early and (today, at least) lesser Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I king.
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king.
Then am I kinged again, and by and by
Think that I am unkinged by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing. But whate’er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing.

-Richard, act 5, scene 5

This play, one of Shakespeare's early and (today, at least) lesser-known works, interests me more for its history and its hints about the Bard's artistic development than as a particularly effective or enjoyable piece of literature in its own right. Though it contains some topnotch poetic passages and the potential for a compelling showdown between its two main characters (the high-minded but ineffectual King Richard and the treacherous but capable conspirator Bolingbroke), I never found myself connecting to either character on an emotional level or drawn into the story for more than a scene or so at a time.

As in many of Shakespeare's plays about royals, this one makes use of a political problem to ask a more fundamental series of questions about human nature and society. Richard, as the natural-born king of England, is enamored with the idea of his divinely-appointed rule even as he neglects all the duties of kingship. Meanwhile, despite the sometimes nefarious means by which he achieves his goals, the traitor Bolingbroke proves himself a far more competent and thoughtful ruler than the one he deposes. While concerns about succession and the divine rights of sovereigns are less pressing for most readers in 2018 than they would have been in 1595, the questions Shakespeare raises about the responsibilities of leaders and their followers are no less timely in the era of the would-be dictator Trump than in the age of Queen Elizabeth I. One of the secondary characters, the Duke of York, is especially interesting when viewed through this lens: he is utterly determined to do what he thinks is his duty by following the law (ostensibly making him a good and loyal subject), but in practice his seemingly-noble convictions lead him only to blindly obey whoever is in power at the moment and even to turn on his own son rather than disrespect a ruler whose ascension he didn’t support to begin with.

Despite its thought-provoking themes, however, the play isn’t actually very absorbing as a drama. Shakespeare, like most authors, is at his best when he concentrates on a small cluster of central characters and the conflicts that arise between them. With that in mind, the scope of Richard II is simply too broad to work effectively on a character level. As in many second-rate works of historical fiction, Shakespeare seems determined to include all the key players and events of the historical record, at the expense of a more streamlined and coherent personal narrative. He jumps choppily from setpiece to setpiece, introducing and then disposing of characters almost on a scene-by-scene basis, and hurries us through several moments that could have been compelling mini-dramas of their own. The subject matter is full of dramatic potential, but at this stage in his career I don’t think Will had refined his skills enough to take full advantage of his premise. (That said, it’s very possible that a good performance could soften my opinion at least a little.)*

One more thing: as mentioned before, the extratextual history of this one really is noteworthy. Though the real-life Henry Bolingbroke was a distant relative of Queen Elizabeth, it was nonetheless risky for Shakespeare to pen a play in which the rightful sovereign was deposed by a sympathetic challenger. Whether or not those treasonous connotations were intentional, others certainly picked up on them, and the play was even requested and performed on the eve of an unsuccessful 1601 revolt by the Earl of Essex. Given that another playwright, John Hayward, was actually imprisoned for dedicating a different play about Richard II to the same treasonous earl, we’re lucky Shakespeare himself wasn’t jailed—or worse—before he could give us most of his best work. A forceful reminder that history isn’t nearly as inevitable as we think, and that small actions have big ripples.

Twelve plays down, 27 to go. Onward to A Midsummer Night's Dream!

----
* As it turns out, this actually happened. After seeing BBC's Hollow Crown version with Ben Whishaw in the title role, reading some more favorable criticism, and mulling the play over for a couple years, I think I'd now count it as my second favorite of the histories after Henry IV part 1 . Rounding my original three stars up to four to reflect my change of heart. . more

Richard II concludes my 3-plays long William Shakespeare streak, I am going to take a break for a while now. This one I liked less than his other plays.

Perhaps it was because there were so many characters, a lot of them appeared briefly and reappeared much later, and most of them had 2 or 3 different names, which were used alternately. So I had a hard time remembering them, their relationship with each other and following the story. Also, they kept throwing out symmetrical accusations at each o Richard II concludes my 3-plays long William Shakespeare streak, I am going to take a break for a while now. This one I liked less than his other plays.

Perhaps it was because there were so many characters, a lot of them appeared briefly and reappeared much later, and most of them had 2 or 3 different names, which were used alternately. So I had a hard time remembering them, their relationship with each other and following the story. Also, they kept throwing out symmetrical accusations at each other, and there was no clue as to who was lying, so I didn't have any idea who to root for. Hence all the confusion and lack of investment.

Perhaps it was because unlike with other Shakespearean plays, I was completely unfamiliar with the story and the historical figure before picking it up, so it was less meaningful and charged with emotion and context for me.

Anyways, it was just okay for me. Perhaps I should re-read it at some point, and see if the second reading gives me a deeper understanding of the story. Still, there are many other Shakespeare's plays I haven't read and am eager to try. . more

Listening to Richard II, I&aposve swung between awarding 2, 3 or 4 stars to it. Initially, the play didn&apost impress, and the soliloquies seemed overwrought and overlong. However, the persevering soul will find some amazing, four-star-worthy passages, the most famous perhaps being Gaunt&aposs paean to England in Act II, scene i. Another one is found in Act III, scene iv, where a gardener laments the sorry state of the "garden" of England since its caretaker has so neglected it.

It may not be as "accessible Listening to Richard II, I've swung between awarding 2, 3 or 4 stars to it. Initially, the play didn't impress, and the soliloquies seemed overwrought and overlong. However, the persevering soul will find some amazing, four-star-worthy passages, the most famous perhaps being Gaunt's paean to England in Act II, scene i. Another one is found in Act III, scene iv, where a gardener laments the sorry state of the "garden" of England since its caretaker has so neglected it.

It may not be as "accessible" as Shakespeare's more popular plays. There're no grand villains like Iago or Richard III, nor are there any great heroes like Henry V. There're not even any angst-ridden Danes, though there's plenty of soul-searching and questions of identity and legitimacy. Richard II is the unhappy story of two essentially decent men who find themselves opposed, the weakness of the king precipitating a confrontation that results in his destruction. Richard's fundamental weakness is made manifest in the first scene of the first act. Henry Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV) and the Duke of Norfolk quarrel and Richard attempts to intervene:

Despite his flaws, Richard rules as best he can but is handicapped by an inability to inspire love, trust or cooperation and is utterly incompetent as a politician, driving Henry (whom he banishes and disinherits) into rebellion. Whether he wills it or no, Bolingbroke must depose Richard, who rules by divine right, and justify his usurpation. I don't think Shakespeare ever resolves the problem throughout the entire cycle of history plays (which include Henry IV, parts 1 and 2 and Henry V), and certainly not in this play. But it is interesting to see the struggle proceed.

A word about the audio: While the production values were quite good, one of the drawbacks of solely listening to the play is that it can be difficult to tell who's saying what, particularly in the beginning. A minor caveat. A prospective listener might want to read (or reread) the play before donning the headphones. Or watch a production (I've already added two filmed versions to my Netflix queue). . more


How Richard II Lost the English Throne - History

The Kings of England: Richard II and Three Henrys

Richard II (Reign 1377-1399)

Richard II became King of England after the death of his grandfather, Edward III. Tragedy struck England when Richard's father, the Black Prince, was struck down with dysentery in 1376, predeceasing his father by one year. Since Black Prince had an heir, the crown did not pass to any of his younger brothers.

Richard was crowned King of England as a ten-year-old. His uncle, John of Gaunt, acted as his regent. Even before his crowning, people spoiled young Richard. One example was a pair of loaded dice he was given as a gift so that he would always win the game. Richard was used to getting his way as a child, and that carried over into his adult life.

Richard, unlike his grandfather and father, did not care for carrying on the war with the French. On the contrary, he enjoyed French cooking, creating the first royal cookbook. Richard was into manners, he created the first handkerchief, as he was appalled by the habit of wiping one's mouth or nose on his or her sleeve at the dinner table.

Richard married Anne of Bohemia (an area in Germany). At that time, Anne's father ruled over a large part of Europe. It was an unpopular marriage because Anne did not come with a dowry, in fact, Richard had to pay a large amount of money to have Anne come to England. The marriage was a happy one, though in its twelve years the marriage did not produce any children.

Richard's first crisis as king came when he was fourteen years old. In 1381, the Peasants' Revolt swept England. This revolt was a result of the poll tax placed on the peasants by the landholders. After the Black Death, there were fewer peasants and they could not pay the new tax. Wat Tyler was the leader of the revolt, he led an angry mob to London, burning buildings and demanding a meeting with the king. Richard rode out on his own to meet with Wat Tyler and the mob, calling out to them, "I am your captain." Here was his chance to show the people he cared about them while blaming the barons for the taxes. Wat Tyler was killed during one of these meetings and the mob dispersed. Queen Anne gained great popularity when she asked Richard to forgive many of the people involved in the Peasants' Revolt.

Richard was always certain that people were out to get him. In his day it was not uncommon for the king's vassals to be richer and more powerful than the king. In fact, John of Gaunt had riches beyond the king's wealth. John founded the House of Lancaster, and his son, Henry, would one day inherit his father's lands. Richard II, suspicious of his cousin Henry, had him exiled in 1398. The next year Henry's father, John of Gaunt, died. Richard II threatened to confiscate his uncle's land, denying his cousin Henry his inheritance. Henry, named Bolingbroke, after the castle he was born in, returned to England with an army, defeated Richard, and had him imprisoned. Then quietly in 1399, Richard was murdered. Henry Bolingbroke claimed that the king had refused food. It is more likely that he was starved to death by Bolingbroke. Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV in 1399. He had been a usurper, and now he would have to face many of his barons who thought he was not the rightful king.

Henry IV "Bolingbroke" (Reign 1399-1413)

When cousins Richard and Henry Bolingbroke were ten and eleven years old, they were admitted into the Order of the Garter. Both children swore an oath that they would not attack each other. Twenty years later Henry usurped the crown from his cousin Richard.

Henry IV asked Isabella of Valois, the young second wife of Richard, and now a widow if she would marry his son, also named Henry. Little Isabella rejected this offer, eventually returning to France, where her father, Charles VI, suffered from mental illness.

Henry's reign was plagued with rebellion and attacks. The powerful Percy family from the north of England, once an ally of Henry IV, teamed up with the Welsh leader Owen Glendowr, who proclaimed himself Prince of Wales. On July 21, 1403, Henry IV, with his son Henry of Monmouth, defeated Henry "Hotspur" Percy and the Welsh at Shrewsbury. "Hotspur" was killed in battle.

Henry IV suffered from a skin disease in his later reign, he died in March of 1413.

Henry V "Monmouth" (Reign: 1413-1422)

Henry V was born in Monmouth Castle in 1386. Henry fought with his father during the many rebellions against the royal family of Lancaster. At the Battle of Shrewsbury, at age 16, Henry was shot in the face with an arrow. Only through the help of a very good surgeon, was Henry saved from possible death.

Henry V was an ambitious king, he revived the Hundred Years War with France, sailing from Southampton across the English Channel to attack the French port city of Harfleur. Before he set sail, a plot to have the King assassinated was revealed. Henry V had his relative, Richard, Earl of Cambridge, along with others plotting against him, executed before he left for France.

Henry spent a great effort to take the city of Harfleur. Low on resources and with many of his men sick, Henry could not continue his attack on France. Henry marched his army through the north of France from Harfleur to the English-controlled city of Calais. While on this march the English army encountered a much larger French army cutting off its march to Calais near the village of Agincourt.

Agincourt was one of the greatest battles of the Middle Ages. At Agincourt, Henry V and his small force of tired and sick soldiers defeated a much larger -- possibly out-numbering the English 6 to 1 -- fresh army of the French. Though outnumbered, the English had the benefit of having their king at the battlefield, while the French King, Charles VI, was not capable of leading his knights. The over-confident French were once again, like at Crecy years before, defeated by the hailstorm of arrows released into the sky by the Welsh longbowmen of the English army. To make matters worse for the French, the battlefield was a muddy, unplowed field from the rain the night before. Horses lost their footing and French knights were spilled to the ground.

Shortly after the Battle of Agincourt, the French decided to make a peace treaty with the English. The Treaty of Troyes, signed in 1420, was an attempt to end the Hundred Years War. Charles VI of France was allowed to keep his title until he died. Henry V was to marry Catherine Valois, the king's daughter and the younger sister of Isabella, one-time queen of Richard II. Henry, or any sons from his marriage to Catherine, would inherit the French throne. The dauphin Charles, the French King's son, was disinherited by this treaty.

Henry V did not get the chance to become king of France, he died unexpectedly in 1422 of dysentery, two years after the signing of the Treaty of Troyes at the age of 35. Henry and Catherine had one child, Prince Henry, who became King of England at age 9 months. One of Henry V's brothers, John acted as regent for the child-king. A few months after the death of Henry V, Charles VI of France also died in 1422. Now little Henry VI was also the King of France by way of the Treaty of Troyes.

Henry V was one of England's most respected kings. Later William Shakespeare, the famous English playwright, immortalized Henry V in his play by the same name. The most famous lines from that play comes just before the Battle of Agincourt, when Henry gives his troops an inspirational speech before the battle and talks about all of the soldiers, rich and poor, noble and commoners, coming together for this great battle, "We, few, we happy few, we band of brothers."

Henry VI (Reigns 1422-1461, 1470-1471)

Henry VI was not a warrior king like his father. Henry VI did not like violence or deceit. He wanted to make peace with France and married a French woman, Margaret of Anjou. The English had lost momentum during the early years of Henry's reign and the Valois family, including the dauphin Charles was gaining ground in France, thanks to the French leader, Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who claimed she heard voices. According to Joan, her voices told her to do three things: relieve the English siege of the French city of Orleans, crown the dauphin Charles as the rightful king of France at Reims, and finally, to drive the English out of France.

Joan relieved the siege of Orleans while taking an arrow to her shoulder. Next, she marched the dauphin through English-held France to the city of Reims, where all French kings are crowned. Eventually, Joan was captured, put on trial, and burned at the stake. Though Joan was dead, her courage inspired the French to drive the English out of their country twenty-two years after Joan's death. The English loss of French lands was seen as a major defeat for Henry VI.

Like his grandfather, Charles VI of France, Henry VI suffered from mental illness. He and Margaret had one child named Edward, but at one point Henry did not even recognize his own child. Margaret was unpopular, she took an unusually large role in making decisions for the kingdom, and since she was from France, some in England thought she was a possible spy.

Henry's incapability to rule led to his cousin, Richard, Duke of York, to act as the regent of England. This made Richard the enemy of Margaret of Anjou, who thought he had eyes on seizing the throne for himself. The distrust between Margaret and the House of Lancaster and Richard, Duke of York, led to a civil war sometimes referred to as the Wars of the Roses. The family badge of Lancaster was the red rose, while the family badge of York was the white rose. Soldiers in the private armies of these powerful families would wear these badges to identify their loyalties.

During the Wars of the Roses, Richard, the Duke of York, was killed in battle at Wakefield in 1460. Richard's oldest son, Edward, continued the war against Lancaster. The crown passed back and forth between the cousins Henry VI and Edward IV. Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry and Margaret, was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, this was a crushing blow to the House of Lancaster, and Edward IV became king again. Henry VI was captured and eventually quietly murdered shortly after the battle.

Henry VI was a failure as king. To his credit, he founded Eton College, which today still stands as a leading university. I will tell you in the next chapter about the House of York, which held on to the English throne from 1471 to 1483.

Richard II and Henry IV, V, VI Read Aloud (MP3 16.34 MB)
Richard II and Henry IV, V, VI Read Aloud


Could the Queen lose throne in DNA shock? Scientists in staggering Richard III discovery

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DNA analysis of Richard III has brought into question the Queen's right to the throne

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Experts are almost 100 per cent sure that the skeleton with a twisted spine found in a Leicester car park in 2012 is that of the last Plantagenet king.

Now new research has found a chink in the Tudor ancestry of Queen Elizabeth II whose right to the throne can be traced all the way back to King Henry VII, via James I and Mary Queen of Scots.

Previous DNA analysis had determined two female-line relatives of King Richard III still living and five other male-line relatives that have little royal significance.

But new evidence released today shows a break in the male 'Y chromosome' line - a newly discovered illegitimacy - which brings into question the entire history of the British monarchy since the reign of Henry IV.

The research questions the historic legitimacy concerning the descent of Edward III to his son John of Gaunt and also his two grandsons, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset and Henry IV, the first Lancastrian King.

It centres around John of Gaunt, who was Tudor King Henry VII's great great grandfather and ancestor of the Queen.

The skeletal remains of Richard III

Richard III was connected to these lineages through his great grandfather Edmund, Duke of York - John of Gaunt&rsquos brother.

Prof Schurer, pro-vice chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: &ldquoWe don&rsquot know where the break is, but if there&rsquos one particular link that has more significance than any other, it has to be the link between Edward III and his son John of Gaunt.

&ldquoJohn of Gaunt was the father of Henry IV, so if John of Gaunt was not actually the child of Edward III, arguably Henry IV had no legitimate right to the throne, and therefore neither did Henry V, Henry VI, and, indirectly, the Tudors.&rdquo

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists said the claim to the crown of the &ldquoentire Tudor dynasty&rdquo partly rested on its members&rsquo descent from John of Gaunt.

They added: &ldquoThe claim of the Tudor dynasty would also be brought into question if the false paternity occurred between John of Gaunt and his son, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset.&rdquo

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the last significant clash between the forces of the Houses of Lancaster and York in the War of the Roses.

The Queen has been monarch for 62 years

Tudor and Plantagenet royal family tree

According to historical records he was buried in Grey Friars Church, Leicester, which once stood on the site of the car park where his bones were found.

Examination of the skeleton showed that it had a twisted spine rather than the hunchback for which Richard III was famous. Although he would have walked with one shoulder higher than the other, his deformity could easily have been concealed beneath clothing and armour.

The genetic analysis showed a 96 per cent probability that Richard had blue eyes and a 77 per cent likelihood that he was blond, at least in childhood. It was possible that his hair colour may have darkened with age, said the scientists.

His appearance was probably similar to that depicted in an early portrait held by the Society of Antiquaries in London.

In their paper, the researchers compared the investigation to a missing person case that becomes more difficult over time - in this case, 527 years.

Geneticist Dr Turi King, from the University of Leicester, said: &ldquoWhat we have concluded is that there is, at its most conservative, a 99.999 per cent probability that these are indeed the remains of Richard III. The evidence is overwhelming.

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Prof Schurer stressed that the history of the British monarchy took &ldquoall kinds of twists and turns&rdquo and the Y chromosome discovery had no bearing on the present Queen&rsquos right to rule.

He insisted: &ldquoWe are not in any way indicating that Her Majesty should not be on the throne.&rdquo

He pointed out that the Tudors took the crown essentially &ldquoby force&rdquo while using the blood line leading to John of Gaunt to back up their claim.

Asked at a press briefing if casting doubt on the Tudors could be said to put into question the legitimacy of subsequent monarchs, he replied: &ldquoSome may wish to do that. I don&rsquot think I should do it, based on speculation.&rdquo


Watch the video: Ιωάννα Παλιοσπύρου για απολογία δράστιδος: Δεν πήρα καμία απάντηση, όσα ισχυρίστηκε καταρρίπτονται


Comments:

  1. Camber

    It is a pity that I cannot speak now - I have to leave. But I'll be free - I will definitely write what I think on this issue.

  2. Aberthol

    Bravo, this thought has to be on purpose



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