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text 2017-06-11 08:43
Popcorn Shakespeare: "The Hollow Crown I - Richard II" by Rupert Goold, Starring Ben Whishaw

 

Well, was last night's "Richard II" well worth watching? 

 

The director conveyed the story, the plot, as clearly as any director is ever likely to. And the location shooting was superb, both indoor and outdoor, truly aiding the action and showing off this island's ancient history to the global market. However, although "Richard II" is entirely written in carefully-designed and charming verse, one only heard snatches of it, and then only from the actors David Suchet (expected from such an experienced and accomplished actor) and, surprisingly, from young Ben Whishaw. If other actors in this production thought they were delivering the verse, they failed to convey it. Rory Kinnear (Bolingbroke) seemed to have learnt his lines entirely unaware that they were not written in the form of prose. And how my heart sank when occasionally Shakespeare clearly intended for us to hear two adjacent lines rhyme but the actor intentionally avoided it, minimising it, as if honouring Shakespeare's intention would create a detraction or distraction!

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare and Richard II in particular, read on.

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review 2016-05-08 11:25
A History or a Tragedy
Richard II - Sylvan Barnet,William Shakespeare

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.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/206428040
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review 2015-10-04 08:05
Richard II
Richard II - Roma Gill,William Shakespeare

Note upfront: I'm far from being qualified to say anything smart or deep about this literary work. Therefore, I'll only discuss what I thought about it whilst reading it. Also, my review is going to be biased since two weeks prior to reading I went to a performance of Richard II in Shakespeare's Globe which was awesome.

 

I was a little bit ashamed to admit that history lessons did not spoil this play for me. Admitted, English medieval history isn't taught at schools where I live and I'm glad just knowing all the English Kings and Queens (and the Dutch ones too, don't worry), but for me there was some suspense as I didn't know the outcome all along.

 

I found my copy on project Gutenborg, which offers all kinds of old works that no longer have copyrights on them as free ebooks. My edition was apparently from the first printed edition, complete with the v's that were supposed to be u's and vice versa. However, I found it was still very readable and I enjoyed it a lot.

 

The story, full of political intrigue and betrayal, was really captivating and I think this play is one of my favourites (of the ones I've read so far). I would definitely recommend it.

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review 2015-03-19 00:00
Four Histories (Richard II, Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two, Henry V)
Four Histories (Richard II, Henry IV Par... Four Histories (Richard II, Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two, Henry V) - William Shakespeare Richard II

Introduction
Further Reading
An Account of the Text
Genealogical Table


--Richard II

Henry IV, Part One

Introduction
Further Reading
An Account of the Text
Genealogical Table


--Henry IV, Part One

Henry IV, Part Two

Introduction
Further Reading
An Account of the Text
The Songs


--Henry IV, Part Two

Henry V

Introduction
Further Reading
An Account of the Text
Genealogical Tables


--Henry V
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review 2015-02-21 20:29
The Clerkenwell Tales
The Clerkenwell Tales - Peter Ackroyd

It is 1399, the year in which Richard II of England was deposed and murdered, and the usurper Henry Bolingbroke, son of John o' Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, seized the throne as Henry IV – an act which led directly to the Wars of the Roses the following century.

In this fascinating novel, we follow a plot by a group called "Dominus", whose aim is to stir up unrest in the City of London by means of a series of murders and explosions in churches (things don't change) and so make it unlikely that the people of London will rise in support of Richard.

The author's arrangement of chapters, his way of telling the story, is strange and was – to me – a little off-putting, at least at first. Each chapter focuses on a different character – and the characters are nominally those of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", though they are not to be identified with them (as for instance the characters in Doherty's Caterbury Mysteries series are intended to be): these are "The Clerkenwell Tales", not "The Canterbury Tales", and all the characters are linked by their association with the nunnery known as The House of Mary, in Clerkenwell. So, each chapter is like a short story, the tale of that character (not, be it noted, a tale told by that character).

But it works. The characters interact and chapter by chapter we become familiar with them all. Four of the most memorable are Sister Clarice, the nun who is prophesying and thereby causing much of the trouble: is she possessed, is she a witch, is she a heretic – or are the prophecies genuine? William Exemewe, friar and conspirator, Hamo Fulberd, "simple' or "silent" Hamo, abandoned as a child and brought up in the priory, who attaches himself to Exemewe. And, last but not least, Richard II, the deposed king, who has lost his wits.

Not only do we see the plot unfold and witness Richard's downfall, but we are told so much about the lives of the many different people that we come to feel completely at home in the London of the turn of the (15th) century.

Well written and, once you get into it, completely engrossing.

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