miércoles, 20 de noviembre de 2013

Richard II with and without Shakespeare

From The History Today Companion to British History, ed. Juliet Gardiner and Neil Wenborn:

Richard II (1367-1400), King of England (1377-99). Son of EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE and JOAN OF KENT, the fact that he was still a boy at his accession in 1377 evokes sympathy, even from historians. So does the image of Richard grieving over the death of his wife ANNNE OF BOHEMIA in 1394, as does the tragic finale portrayed in Shakespeare's Richard II. But most—though not all—historians follow FROISSART in criticizing the king while sympathizing with the man.

After displaying courage in the face of the PEASANTS' REVOLT, in the next few years the youthful king became difficult for the senior politicians around him, notably JOHN OF GAUNT, to deal with. In particular, his distribution of patronage, especially his generosity to Robert DE VERE, was ill judged. In 1386, he tried to defy PARLIAMENT, but was forced to yield and watch while his minister Michael DE LA POLE was impeached and a commission was appointed to control the following year's expenditure and patronage. His response was to elicit from a panel of judges a definition of the royal PREROGATIVE in terms that declared that the parliamentary proceedings of 1386 had been illegal and that those who had promoted them should be punished as traitors. When the judges' opinions were leaked, a brief civil war followed, culminating in the battle of RADCOT BRIDGE.

In consequence, Richard found himself at the mercy of the APPELLANTS, and had to endure the humiliation of the MERCILESS PARLIAMENT (Feb. 1388)—but at least he avoided deposition. In 1389, he formally resumed control of government and, with Gaunt's help, ruled peacefully for eight years; in 1396, he made a 28-year truce with Frnace. The war over, he set himself the task of making the crown independent of the COMMONS in Parliament. Some historians see this as a 'progressive' policy, but it went hand in hand with the pursuit of vengeance for what had happened in 1388. By 1399, he was indeed a very wealthy king, but he had dispossessed a third of the upper nobility and had hounded to death his old enemies (including his uncle THOMAS OF WOODSTOCK).

At this stage, having alarmed all his subjects, he went to Ireland, and when Bolingbroke (see HENRY IV) and the PERCYS struck, no one would lift a finger to save him. He lost two armies in two weeks and surrendered at Conway, perhaps hoping for a repeat of 1387-9. Instead he was coerced into abdicating on 29 Sept. 1399 and then imprisoned. The following Jan., a plot to rescue him only revealed how little support he had and probably precipitated Henry IV's decision to have him murdered. His body remained at King's Langley until HENRY V had it reburied in WESTMINSTER ABBEY.


From The Penguin Shakespeare Dictionary, ed. Sandra Clark [with corrections]:

Richard II [full title, The Tragedy of King Richard the Second]. A historical play by Shakespeare, produced probably in 1595, and published in 1597. The deposition scene carried particular significance for Queen Elizabeth (whose right to the throne was questioned by a fair number of her subjects for most of her reign) and it was omitted in the first quarto (1597); however, by the time of the fourth quarto (1608) it was restored. It was probably this play which was given a special performance at the Globe Theatre on 7 February 1601, the day before Essex started his rebellion. It was paid for by Essex's supporters, but none of the actors was punished for putting it on. Shakespeare took material for the play from a number of sourdes but his main source was Holinshed's Chronicles (second edition, 1587), from which he took most of the names and events in his play, following, with certain alterations, Holinshed's account of the end of King Richard's reign from April 1398 to March 1400. In several instances he telescoped and rearranged the sequence of events for greater dramatic effect; the death of Gaunt, Richard's departure for Ireland, and the return of Bolingbroke from banishment all take place in a single scene (II.i) whereas in Holinshed they happen over a matter of months, and the events of Act IV are also compressed. The accusations of Bagot and Fitzwater were made on separate occasions in October [1398] after the actual abdication of the king, which was in September, and the Abbot of Westminster's plan for conspiracy was not formed until December. Other changes from Holinshed reflect on Shakespeare's planning of the characterization in his play. He omits an episode in which Northumberland tricked Richard into an ambush on the way to Flint Castle that might have reflected badly on Bolingbroke, and he totally changes the ages of Northumberland's son, Henry Percy (Hotspur) and Bolingbroke's son, the future Henry V. Hotspur was in fact two years older than both Richard II and Bolingbroke, whereas in Richard II he is a youth; and Bolinbroke's son was only twelve in 1399, where Shakespeare has Bolingbroke speak of him as a dissolute young gallant. He used another chronicle, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke (1548) by Edward Hall, for the point of departure of his play, since Hall's account of Richard II's reign also begins with the quarrel between Mowbray and Hereford, but for little otherwise. He knew the anonymous contemporary play, Woodstock, which deals with events from 1382 to 1899 and especially with the life of Richard II's uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of Gloucester, who is referred to several times in Richard II, although critics have differed as to how far this play influenced him. Shakespeare also knew A Mirror for Magistrates [1559] in which Richard II is presented as a proud and tyrannous king, a classic example of the idea that "lawles life, to lawles death ey drawes." Froissart's Chronicles, translated by Lord Berners in 1525, was also available to him, and from this he may have taken hints for the conception of Gaunt as a wise but rejected counsellor, for the important part Northumberland played in calling back Bolingbroke, and for Bolingbroke's popularity with the people, although he could have found these elsewhere. Two other French chronicles, the Chronique de la Traison et Mort de Richard Deux Roy Dengleterre and the Historie du Roy d'Angleterre Richard II by Jean Créton, both known to Holinshed and Hall, may have been used independently by Shakesepeare. The Traison is evidence of a tradition more favourable to Richard II than that of the Tudor chronicles, and it may have helped Shakespeare to form his relatively sympathetic portrait of Richard II, especially in the account of Richard's leave-taking from his Queen, although in the Traison this event takes place before Richard's departure for Ireland. From Créton may have come the comparison between Richard's betrayal and that of Christ. The Traison and Créton's account also influenced Samuel Daniel in his poem The First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Wars (1595), which is likely that Shakespeare knew and used. Many parallels between Richard II and Daniel's poem may be incidental, but Shakespeare seems to owe to Daniel the concpetion of the Queen—she was in fact a child of nine at the time—and he may also have used Daniel for the account of the contrasted entries of Richard and Bolingbroke into London (V.ii). Marlowe's Edward II may well have provided some ideas and inspiration in its treatment of the fall of a weak monarch.

Dramatis Personae

King Richard II
John of Gaunt
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Herefrod, later Henry IV
Duke of Aumerle
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk,
Duke of Surrey
Earl of Salisbury
Lord Berkeley
Earl of Northumberland
Henry Percy (Hotspur)
Lord Ross
Lord Willoughby
Lord Fitzwater
Bishop of Carlisle
Abbot of Westminster
Lord Marshal
Sir Stephen Scroop
Sir Pierce of Exton
Captain of a band of Welshmen
Queen to King Richard
Duchess of Gloucester
Duchess of York
Lady attending on the Queen
Lords, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Gardeners, Keeprs, Messenger, Groom, other Attendants
The Story. In the presence of the King, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of causing the death of the Duke of Gloucester. It is agreed that each man may defend his honour in a tournament, but just as each is about to attack the other, the king halts the proceedings and banishes them both. Sjhortly afterwards, upon the death of John of Gaunt (Bolingbroke's father), Richard seizes his estates in order to finance an Irish campaign. The additional evidence of Richard's disregard for the rights of his nobles arouses the ire of both York and Northumberland, and the latter, with other nobles, goes to join Bolingbroke (who has returned, despite his exile, to claim his dukedom). When Richard returns from Ireland, he learns that his army has dispersed and his favourites, Busby and Green, have been executed by Bolingbroke. Richard takes refuge in Flint Castle, and when Bolingbroke meets him there (ostensibly to claim his estates) submits to being taken as a prisoner to London. Before Parliament, he is forced to confess his crimes against the state, and despite the protests of the Bishop of Carlisle, he hands over his crown to Bolingbroke, who is already acting as King. Aumerle, the son of York, has meanwhile plotted against the new ruler. When York discovers this he hastens to inform Bolingbroke, but Aumerle and his mother, York's wife, plead for and are granted clemency. Richard is imprisoned in Pomfret Castle, where he is murdered by Sir Pierce of Exton (who believes that Bolingbroke wishes Richard's death). Bolingbroke expresses regret for the murder and vows to lead a crusade to ease his conscience. In its theme, the play explores an issue which was to tear England apart half a century later: the basis of royal authority, whether derived directly from God or from the consent of the people and the effective exercise of power.


 From the Oxford Dictionary of Shakespeare, by Stanley Wells with James Shaw.

Richard II Shakespeare's history play was first published in *quarto in 1597. Richard's abdication (IV. i. 153-323) was omitted, doubtless because of the contemporary political situation, in this and the two subsequent reprints of the quarto (both in 1598). After the succession issue had been resolved, the episode was considered less contentious, and it appeared in the fourth quarto, of 1608, advertised as having 'new additions of the Parliament scene, and the deposing of King Richard; as it hath been lately acted by the King's Majesty's servants, at the Globe.' The First *Folio text (1623) includes a better version of the deposition scene based probably on a prompt-book.

The date of the play is uncertain, but is unlikely to be later than 1595. It is based mainly on *Holinshed, and possibly also on Samuel *Daniel's First Four Books of the Civil Wars (1595). It is the first play in Shakespeare's second tetralogy based on English history. Written entirely in verse, it is stylistically very different from the other three. The first recorded performance is one specially commissioned by the Earl of *Essex's supporters on 7 February 1601 as a gesture of support for his rebellion the following day. The players argued that it was 'so old and so long out of use' that they would have 'small or no company at it'. but performed it nevertheless. A court case ensued but the company was exonerated. An improbable performance on a ship captained by William *Keeling is recorded in 1607. It was also given at the *Globe on 12 June 1631.

Nahum *Tate's adaptation, as The Sicilian Usurper, appears to have been played twice only, in 1681. Lewis *Theobald's adaptation appeared at *Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1719, with some success. Shakespeare's play was given at *Covent Garden in 1738, with revivals in the two following seasons. It was neglected until Edmund *Kean played a version by Richard Wroughton at *Drury Lane in 1815, revived from time to time till 1828. W. C. *Macready came closer to Shakespeare in his performances. The most successful nineteenth-century production was Charles *Kean's at the Princess's in 1857, which had eighty-five performances. It was scenically spectacular, archaeologically respectable, and textually short. F. R. *Benson was a distinguished Richard at Stratford-upon-Avon and elsewhere at the turn of the century; C. E. Montague's review of his performance in the Manchester Guardian has become a classic of theatre criticism, often anthologized. Beerbohm *Tree's spectacular version at His Majesty's in 1903 included a new version of the pageant of Bolingbroke's entry into London which Charles Kean had introduced, and also a coronation for Henry IV. *Granville-Barker had played Richard in 1899 in a performance in Elizabethan style directed by William *Poel. *Gielgud, perhaps the greatest exponent of the role in the twentieth century, played it first at the *Old Vic (1954, etc.), and the *Royal Shakespeare Company production by John *Barton (1973-4) in which Richard *Pasco and Ian *Richardson alternated as Richard and Bolingbroke. Jeremy Irons played a Christ-like Richard in 1986 (Stratford-upon-Avon) and Fiona Shaw played Richard in Deborah *Warner's *Royal National Theatre production (1995, televised 1997).

Richard II is an uneven play, and the scenes of Aumerle's rebellion against Bolingbroke have frequently embarrassed actors and directors, but the role of Richard himself offers unequalled opportunities to actors who can command pathos and speak verse.


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