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A report on king richard the second a historical play by william shakespeare

Coghlan, early nineteenth century The 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 IVwho 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 Gaunt1st 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. The tournament scene is very formal with a long, ceremonial introduction, but as the combatants are about to fight, Richard interrupts and sentences both to banishment from England.

Bolingbroke is originally sentenced to ten years' banishment, but Richard reduces this to six years upon seeing John of Gaunt's grieving face, while Mowbray is banished permanently.

The king's decision can be seen as the first mistake in a series leading eventually to his overthrow and death, since it is an error which highlights many of his character flaws, displaying as it does indecisiveness in terms of whether to allow the duel to go aheadabruptness Richard waits until the last possible moment to cancel the dueland arbitrariness there is no apparent reason why Bolingbroke should be allowed to return and Mowbray not.

In addition, the decision fails to dispel the suspicions surrounding Richard's involvement in the death of the Duke of Gloucester โ€” in fact, by handling the situation so high-handedly and offering no coherent explanation for his reasoning, Richard only manages to appear more guilty.

Mowbray predicts that the king will sooner or later fall at the hands of Bolingbroke. John of Gaunt dies and Richard II seizes all of his land and money. This angers the nobility, who accuse Richard of wasting England's money, of taking Gaunt's money belonging by rights to his son, Bolingbroke to fund war in Ireland, of taxing the commoners, and of fining the nobles for crimes committed by their ancestors.

There remain, however, subjects who continue faithful to the king, among them Bushy, Bagot, Green and the Duke of Aumerle son of the Duke of Yorkcousin of both Richard and Bolingbroke. When King Richard leaves England to attend to the war in Ireland, Bolingbroke seizes the opportunity to assemble an army and invades the north coast of England.

Executing both Bushy and Green, he wins over the Duke of York, whom Richard has left in charge of his government in his absence. Upon Richard's return, Bolingbroke not only reclaims his lands but lays claim to the very throne.

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Aumerle and others plan a rebellion against the new king, but York discovers his son's treachery and reveals it to Henry, who spares Aumerle as a result of the intercession of the Duchess of York while executing the other conspirators.

After interpreting King Henry's "living fear" as a reference to the still-living Richard, an ambitious nobleman Exton goes to the prison and murders him. King Henry repudiates the murderer and vows to journey to Jerusalem to cleanse himself of his part in Richard's death. Sources[ edit ] The 1587 edition of Holinshed 's Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande Shakespeare's primary source for Richard II, as for most of his chronicle histories, was A report on king richard the second a historical play by william shakespeare Holinshed 's Chronicles; the publication of the second edition in 1587 provides a terminus post quem for the play.

This play, which exists in one incomplete manuscript copy at the British Museum is subtitled Thomas of Woodstockand it is by this name that scholars since F. Boas have usually called it. This play treats the events leading up to the start of Shakespeare's play though the two texts do not have identical characters.

This closeness, along with the anonymity of the manuscript, has led certain scholars to attribute all or part of the play to Shakespeare, though many critics view this play as a secondary influence on Shakespeare, not as his work.

The second and third quartos followed in 1598 โ€” the only time a Shakespeare play was printed in three editions in two years. Q4 followed in 1608, and Q5 in 1615. The play was next published in the First Folio in 1623. The title page from the 1608 quarto edition of the play.

Richard II exists in a number of variations. The quartos vary to some degree from one another, and the folio presents further differences. The first three quartos printed in 1597 and 1598, commonly assumed to have been prepared from Shakespeare's holograph lack the deposition scene. The fourth quarto, published in 1608, includes a version of the deposition scene shorter than the one later printed, presumably from a prompt-bookin the 1623 First Folio.

The scant evidence makes explaining these differences largely conjectural.

Richard II

Traditionally, it has been supposed that the quartos lack the deposition scene because of censorship, either from the playhouse or by the Master of the Revels Edmund Tylney and that the Folio version may better reflect Shakespeare's original intentions.

There is no external evidence for this hypothesis, however, and the title page of the 1608 quarto refers to a "lately acted" deposition scene although, again, this could be due to earlier censorship which was later relaxed. Analysis and criticism[ edit ] Structure and language[ edit ] The play is divided into five acts and its structure is as formal as its language. The normal structure of Shakespearean tragedy is modified to portray a central political theme: Richmond notes that Richard's beliefs about the Divine Right of Kings tend to fall more in line with the medieval view of the throne.

Bolingbroke on the other hand represents a more modern view of the throne, arguing that not only bloodline but also intellect and political savvy contribute to the makings of a good king. Elliott argues that this mistaken notion of his role as king ultimately leads to Richard's failure.

Elliott goes on further to point out that it is Bolingbroke's ability to relate and speak with those of the middle and lower classes that allows him to take the throne. It thus contains no prose.

There are also great differences in the use of language amongst the characters. Traditionally, Shakespeare uses prose to distinguish social classes โ€” the upper class generally speaks in poetry while the lower classes speak in prose.

In Richard II, where there is no prose, Richard uses flowery, metaphorical language in his speeches whereas Bolingbroke, who is also of the noble class, uses a more plain and direct language. In Richard II besides the usual blank verse unrhymed pentameters there are long stretches of heroic couplets pairs of rhymed pentameters.

The play contains a number of memorable metaphors, including the extended comparison of England with a garden in Act III, Scene iv and of its reigning king to a lion or to the sun in Act IV. The language of Richard II is more eloquent than that of the earlier history plays, and serves to set the tone and themes of the play. Shakespeare uses lengthy verses, metaphors, similesand soliloquies to reflect Richard's character as a man who likes to analyse situations rather than act upon them.

He always speaks in tropes using analogies such as the sun as a symbol of his kingly status. Richard places great emphasis on symbols which govern his behaviour.

His crown serves as a symbol of his royal power and is of more concern to him than his actual kingly duties. The historical parallels in the succession of Richard II may not have been intended as political comment on the contemporary situation, [11] with the weak Richard II analogous to Queen Elizabeth and an implicit argument in favour of her replacement by a monarch capable of creating a stable dynasty, but lawyers investigating John Hayward 's historical work, The First Part of the Life and Raigne of King Henrie IV, a book previously believed to have taken from Shakespeare's Richard II, chose to make this connection.

Samuel Schoenbaum contests that Hayward had written his work prior to Richard II, joking that "there is nothing like a hypothetical manuscript to resolve an awkwardness of chronology", as Hayward noted he had written the work several years before its publication. That Hayward had made his dedication was fortunate for Shakespeare, otherwise he too might have lost his liberty over the affair.

On 7 February 1601, just before the uprising, supporters of the Earl of Essex, among them Charles and Joscelyn Percy younger brothers of the Earl of Northumberlandpaid for a performance at the Globe Theatre on the eve of their armed rebellion. By this agreement, reported at the trial of Essex a report on king richard the second a historical play by william shakespeare the Chamberlain's Men actor Augustine Phillipsthe conspirators paid the company forty shillings "above the ordinary" i.

Elizabeth was aware of the political ramifications of the story of Richard II: At any rate, the Chamberlain's Men do not appear to have suffered for their association with the Essex group; but they were commanded to perform it for the Queen on Shrove Tuesday in 1601, the day before Essex's execution. The body natural is a mortal body, subject to all the weaknesses of mortal human beings.

On the other hand, the body politic is a spiritual body which cannot be affected by mortal infirmities such as disease and old age. These two bodies form one indivisible unit, with the body politic superior to the body natural. At the coast of Wales, Richard has just returned from a trip to Ireland and kisses the soil of England, demonstrating his kingly attachment to his kingdom.

This image of kingship gradually fades as Bolingbroke's rebellion continues. Richard starts to forget his kingly nature as his mind becomes occupied by the rebellion. This change is portrayed in the scene at Flint Castle during which the unity of the two bodies disintegrates and the king starts to use more poetic and symbolic language.

Richard's body politic has been shaken as his followers have joined Bolingbroke's army, diminishing Richard's military capacity.

FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY

He has been forced to give up his jewels, losing his kingly appearance. He loses his temper at Bolingbroke, but then regains his composure as he starts to remember his divine side. At Flint castle, Richard is determined to hang onto his kingship even though the title no longer fits his appearance. However at Westminster the image of the divine kingship is supported by the Bishop of Carlisle rather than Richard, who at this point is becoming mentally unstable as his authority slips away.

Biblical references are used to liken the humbled king to the humbled Christ. The names of Judas and Pilate are used to further extend this comparison.

  • Therefore with frank and uncurbed plainness Tell us the Dolphin's mind;
  • I say, that the duke of Lancaster, whom ye call king, hath more trespassed to King Richard than King Richard hath doone;
  • Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland;
  • Henry VIII, prepared for the possibility that his children could die without issue, declared in his will whom he though was rightfully in line to the throne.

Before Richard is sent to his death, he "un-kings" himself by giving away his crown, sceptre, and the balm that is used to anoint a king to the throne. The mirror scene is the final end to the dual personality. After examining his plain physical appearance, Richard shatters the mirror on the ground and thus relinquishes his past and present as king. Stripped of his former glory, Richard finally releases his body politic and retires to his body natural and his own inner thoughts and griefs.

Dover Wilson notes that Richard's double nature as man and martyr is the dilemma that runs through the play eventually leading to Richard's death. Richard acts the part of a royal martyr, and due to the spilling of his blood, England continually undergoes civil war for the next two generations.

According to historical research, an English translation of Machiavelli 's The Prince might have existed as early as 1585, influencing the reigns of the kings of England. Critic Irving Ribner notes that a manifestation of Machiavellian philosophy may be seen in Bolingbroke. Machiavelli wrote The Prince during a time of political chaos in Italy, and writes down a formula by which a leader can lead the country out of turmoil and return it to prosperity.

Bolingbroke seems to be a leader coming into power at a time England is in turmoil, and follows closely the formula stated by Machiavelli. He keeps Northumberland by his side as a tool to control certain constituents.

  1. While it is true that these men all have personal reasons for rebelling, we cannot help but think that there is divine guidance at work, fulfilling Richard's prophesy, causing Henry's reign to be tumultuous. York's feelings are ambiguous in this passage.
  2. And, according to Machiavelli, "being proficient in this art is what enables one to [maintain] power.
  3. When Richard returns to the Irish war he finds that all his most powerful nobles are behind his enemies cause.
  4. The succession struggle had raised the concern of the people and Parliament as early as 1566, and in 1571, an Act had prohibited the publication of books about claimants to the throne, other than those established and affirmed by Parliament because they might breed faction.

From the minute Bolingbroke comes into power, he destroys the faithful supporters of Richard such as Bushy, Green and the Earl of Wiltshire. Also, Bolingbroke is highly concerned with the maintenance of legality to the kingdom, an important principle of Machiavellian philosophy, and therefore makes Richard surrender his crown and physical accessories to erase any doubt as to the real heir to the throne.

Yet, Irving Ribner still notes a few incidents where Bolingbroke does not follow true Machiavellian philosophy, such as his failure to destroy Aumerle, but such incidents are minuscule compared to the bigger events of the play.

Even Bolingbroke's last statement follows Machiavellian philosophy as he alludes to making a voyage to the Holy Land, since Machiavellian philosophy states rulers must appear pious. Performance history[ edit ] Richard II has one of the most detailed and unusual performance histories of all the plays of the Shakespearean canon. Such specially-commissioned private performances were not unusual for Shakespeare's company.

Another commissioned performance of a different type occurred at the Globe Theatre on 7 Feb. This was the performance paid for by supporters of the Earl of Essex's planned revolt see Historical Context above. On 30 September 1607, among the oddest of all early performances: The play was performed two days in a row at the Globe on 11 and 12 June 1631.

The play retained its political charge in the Restoration: Tate attempted to mask his version, called The Sicilian Usurper, with a foreign setting; he attempted to blunt his criticism of the Stuart court by highlighting Richard's noble qualities and downplaying his weaknesses. Neither expedient prevented the play from being "silenc'd on the third day," as Tate wrote in his preface.

Lewis Theobald staged a successful and less troubled adaptation in 1719 at Lincoln's Inn Fields ; Shakespeare's original version was revived at Covent Garden in 1738. In England, Paul Scofieldwho played it at the Old Vic in 1952, was considered the definitive Richard of more modern times. In 1997, Fiona Shaw played the role as a man.