Let’s Get Literal: Richard II

List Item: Read the complete works of Shakespeare
Progress: 9/37

As with King John this is a Shakespeare play that I have now read but not actually seen an adaptation of. It does make things a little bit more difficult since these are, after all, plays and are meant to be seen performed on the stage. I do think that I need to see how this would pan out after reading the plays, maybe for Richard II it would make sense for me to check out The Hollow Crown.

richardiiHaving now read Richard II and finishing it off at midnight on a windy night I am resolved to find out more behind the actual history of Richard II. Looking in on the historical context of when this play was written I can see how he used this play as a vehicle for the contemporary worry of succession to the throne of a childless queen. It makes sense that people were uneasy, especially seeing how we were only a few generations away from The War of the Roses and there had been a great amount of religious tumult well within living memory. The idea of another change must have been terrifying, and as such the play reflects that.

Here’s the thing though, despite how interesting the context Richard II is probably the lesser of the 9 Shakespeare plays that I have written. The main reason being that this is the first time where there has been a character that I have not felt too invested in, for good or ill. The character of Richard II is not sympathetic enough to care about when he is deposed due to his own stupidity surrounding his royal prerogative and he is not malevolent enough for you to root for his enemies.

Similar too is the character of future King Henry IV. It makes sense why he did what he did, the nobles were angry after the way Richard dealt with the death of John of Gaunt and he just wanted to take the throne. There is a touch of the Machiavellian about Henry, and why would there not be. How else were you meant to seize the throne with a lesser claim?

After three plays in a row I think it is time to return to the world of novels, the tiredness of Moby Dick has finally worn away.

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