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January 22, 2019


#Classic: Richard II

by N@ncy

Ben Whishaw



  1. Love triangles:  None!
  2. Focus: the king is God’s appointee and above the law
  3. Family issue: Richard II steals cousin’s inheritance (Bolingbroke)
  4. Richard II: amateur politician, monarch treats England as a possession
  5. Henry Bolingbroke Duke of Herford: Machiavellian strategist
  6. Betrayal: Bolingbroke returns from banishment
  7. instigates a coup, imprisonment and murder


  1. Pivotal scene: Act 4,1 – Richard removes his  crown
  2. ” I give this heavy weight from off my head
  3. …And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand…”
  4. Minor characters with major role….move plot along:
  5. Duchess of Gloucester – devastated by loss her husband
  6. Duchess of York –  exemplifies love for a child
  7. Queen Isabel – exemplifies devotion to husband Richard II
  8. Setting: England, Wales,
  9. …Westminster Hall (Act 4: deposition of Richard II)
  10. …Castles Flint, Pomfret, Berkeley and Tower of London


  1. Major theme:  legal vs divine right to rule
  2. Minor theme: honor
  3. “My honor is my life; both grow in one
  4. Take honor from me; my life is done (Act 1)
  5. Symbol: hand mirror (Act 4,1) 
  6. Richard speaks to images of himself in a mirror.
  7. ….then shatters the glass (his identity)
  8. Body count: 16


  1. Shakespeare mixes fact and fiction:
  2. Richard II wife, Queen Isabel, is an adult when she was widowed in the play.
  3. Reality: Isabel was a child bride (7 yr) and was widowed at 10 yrs old.
  4. Genre: history play used by Elizabethan monarch to legitimize power
  5. Shakespeare’s statement: Act 3,2 
  6. “I had forgot myself; am I not king?
    Awake, thou coward majesty! thou sleepest.”


Last thoughts:

  1. Once you know basic story line….
  2. this is a  very readable play
  3. …and you learn about British history!
  4. #MustRead Classic


Watched DVD  The Hollow Crown episode Richard II

  1. Act 1, 2: left out  (short scene with John of Gaunt and Duchess of Gloucester)
  2. Act 3,1  beheading of traitors Bugsy and Greene (OMG)
  3. Act 3, 2 beautifully filmed…Richard II realizes….he’s doomed.
  4. Act 3,2  here where you find the title.
  5. “…for within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples of a king
  6. Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits…”
  7. Act 3,4 (short garden scene) the queen eavesdrops on the
  8. …gardener and hears her husband has abdicated.
  9. This scene is more powerful on film than in the play.
  10. Act 4, 1: so impressive!
  11. The film emphasizes the ‘Christ-like’ image of Richard II being
  12. brought to  Westminster Hall in flowing
  13. …white robes and riding on a donkey!
  14. An emotional Richard II finally hands the “hollow crown’
  15. ….over to his cousin Bolingbroke.  (future Henry IV)
  16. Reading the play first  then
  17. …seeing it on film is absolutely thrilling.
  18. Act,5 5: …what a death scene Richard II.
  19. This DVD is truly worth you time and money!


Basic story line:

  1. Richard II  is called upon to settle a dispute
  2. …between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (future Henry IV)
  3. and Thomas Mowbray. (Act 1)
  4. Richard II calls for a duel but then halts it just before swords clash.
  5. Both duelers are  banished from the realm.  (Act 2)
  6. When Richard II banishes Bolingbroke and confiscates his property.
  7. …he begins a chain of events that bring about his own downfall.
  8. Richard II then  leaves for wars against the rebels in Ireland.(Act 3)
  9. Bolingbroke returns to claim back his inheritance. (Act 3)
  10. Bolingbroke forces Richard II to abdicate. (Act 4)
  11. Bolingbroke takes Richard prisoner and lays claim to the throne. (Act 5)
  12. Henry Bolingbroke Duke of Herford becomes King Henry IV.
Read more from Classic, plays
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I loved this play, both reading it and watching the Hollow Crown version. And Rupert Graves does a wonderful portrayal of Richard in the Arkangel audio version. It was so poignant and I think Shakespeare made it somewhat more romantic than reality. One of my favourites though. Glad you enjoyed it! Here’s my review:


    • Jan 23 2019

      I’ll have a look at your review, thanks!
      I watched Othello last night with K. Branagh and L. Fishburne…after reading that play.
      Othello pales in comparison with RIchard II. It was just such a good piece of writing and as you said poignant a read. It is disappointing to see RIchard II not on reading lists… are one of the few who have read it in blog-o-sphere! Thanks so much for your comments!



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