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Written in 1595, Richard II occupies a significant place in the Shakespeare canon, marking the transition from the earlier history plays dominated by civil war and stark power to a more nuanced representation of the political conflicts of England's past where character and politics are inextricably intertwined. It is the first of four connected plays--including 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V--generally considered Shakespeare's finest history plays.
The drama of Richard II centers on the power struggle between the grandiloquent King Richard and the plain-spoken, blunt Henry Bolingbroke, who is banished from Britain at the beginning of the play. But when Henry's father John of Gaunt dies, Richard confiscates his property with no regard to his son's rights, and Bolingbroke returns to confront the king, who surrenders his crown and is imprisoned in Pomfret Castle, where he is soon murdered. This new edition in the acclaimed Oxford Shakespeare series features a freshly edited version of the text. The wide-ranging introduction describes the play's historical circumstances, both the period that it dramatizes (the start of the "wars of the roses") and the period in which it was written (late Elizabethan England), and the play's political significance in its own time and our own. It also focuses on the play's richly poetic language and its success over the centuries as a play for the stage. Extensive explanatory notes help readers at all levels understand and appreciate the language, characters, and dramatic action and the book's lively illustrations provide a sense of the historical background and performance of the play.

168 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1595

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William Shakespeare

28k books42.3k followers
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. Scholars believe that he died on his fifty-second birthday, coinciding with St George’s Day.

At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592 he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of the playing company the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1590 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the sixteenth century. Next he wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest examples in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime, and in 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's.

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the nineteenth century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians hero-worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the twentieth century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are consistently performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

According to historians, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets throughout the span of his life. Shakespeare's writing average was 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589. There have been plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare that were not authentically written by the great master of language and literature.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,450 reviews
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews50 followers
October 23, 2021
Tragedy of King Richard II, William Shakespeare

King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.

This 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 IV, who 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 Gaunt, 1st 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. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و یکم ژوئن سال 1989میلادی

عنوان: تراژدی ریچارد دوم - نمایشنامه؛ نویسنده: ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم: احمد خزاعی؛ تهران، فرهنگخانه اسفار، سال1367، در249ص، عکس، عنوان روی جلد: ریچارد دوم؛ موضوع: نمایشنامه ریچارد دوم شاه انگلستان از سال1367م تا سال1400م از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 16م

جناب «محسن جده دوستان»؛ نیز، در سال 1380هجری خورشیدی این اثر را از برگردان «آلمانی» اثر، به فارسی برگردانده اند، در118ص؛ شابک9645596424؛

تراژدی شاه «ریچارد دوم» را، تغزلیترین نمایشنامه «ویلیام شکسپیر»، یا دست کم تغزلیترین نمایشنامه ی تاریخی ایشان دانسته اند؛ لحن حاکم بر نمایشنامه، مرثیه سرایی است؛ گرچه گاه لحن حماسی نیز به خود میگیرد؛ «ریچارد دوم» به ظاهر استعاره ای سیاسی ست؛ اما در حقیقت «تاریخ ذهن انسان است»؛ در سراسر نمایشنامه، سخن از نبرد، در میان است، اما نبرد در عرصه ی روح انسان؛ و به ویژه در روح و روان ریچارد دوم، که خود نماد «سقوط دوباره انسان» است، جریان دارد؛ ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews50 followers
October 27, 2021
Richard II (Wars of the Roses #1), William Shakespeare

King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.

This 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 IV, who 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 Gaunt, 1st 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. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1989میلادی

عنوان: تراژدی ریچارد دوم - نمایشنامه؛ نویسنده: ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم: احمد خزاعی؛ تهران، فرهنگخانه اسفار، سال1367، در249ص، عکس، عنوان روی جلد: ریچارد دوم؛ موضوع: نمایشنامه ریچارد دوم شاه انگلستان از روز ششم ماه ژانویه سال1367میلادی تا روزچهاردهم ماه فوریه سال1400میلادی - سده 16م

آقای محسن جده دوستان در سال1380هجری خورشیدی، این اثر را از ترجمه آلمانی اثر، به فارسی برگردانده اند، در118ص؛

تراژدی «شاه ریچارد دوم» را، تغزلیترین نمایشنامه ی «ویلیام شکسپیر»، یا دست کم، تغزلیترین نمایشنامه ی تاریخی ایشان دانسته اند؛ لحن حاکم بر نمایشنامه، مرثیه سرایی است؛ گرچه، گاه لحن حماسی نیز، به خود میگیرد؛ «ریچارد دوم»، به ظاهر استعاره ای سیاسی است؛ اما در حقیقت «تاریخ ذهن انسان است»؛ در سراسر نمایشنامه، سخن از نبرد در میان است، اما نبرد در عرصه ی روح انسان؛ و به ویژه در روح و روان «ریچارد دوم»، که خود نماد «سقوط دوباره انسان» است، جریان دارد؛ ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 03/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 03/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book937 followers
May 25, 2021
What is power? What does it mean to be a king? What is history about? These are essential questions that Shakespeare tackled again and again through his “Histories” and many of his tragedies, from Julius Caesar to Macbeth and from Coriolanus to Lear. Richard II is no exception and presents yet another turn of the Wheel of Fortune.

After writing the tetralogy of Henry VI (in three parts) and Richard III, Shakespeare wanted to explore the origins of the Wars of the Roses. This, then, is the first part of the “Henriad”, a “prequel” and a second tetralogy with Richard II, Henry IV (in two parts) and Henry V — compare this process, if you will, to George Lucas producing three new episodes of Star War after his initial trilogy...

Richard II is a tyrannical and capricious king, who takes ill-advised decisions, changes his mind on a whim, tries to impress everyone but fails miserably, makes a fool of himself, shoots himself in the foot, and is eventually forced to move over (in this regard, he reminded me, at times, of a recent U.S. president). Shakespeare makes him a petulant character but never sheds pathos over him.

There are, however, in this play, some of the most touching expressions of patriotism and, at the same time, the fiercest criticism of political power. See, for instance, John of Gaunt’s angry rant (II,1): “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” etc.

Richard II was written around the same time as Romeo and Juliette, and the title role is redolent of that of Henry VI. However, it is hard not to notice how some lines also herald future plays. For instance, compare Richard’s “I live with bread like you, feel want, taste greed, need friends” (III,2), and Shylock’s famous “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” However, and above all, this play foreshadows the tragedy of Hamlet. The king himself is a meditative, slightly cynical character, who delivers lyrical and sometimes rambling monologues, with hints of pessimistic metaphysics. In particular, the dazzling scene of the destitution and the shattered mirror (IV,1), between Richard, the king, and Bolingbroke, the usurper, prophesies the famous confrontations between Hamlet, the prince, and Claudius, another usurper.

Ben Whishaw’s Michael-Jackson-like performance as King Richard in the recent TV adaptation The Hollow Crown (BBC) is superb and kept me on my toes throughout.

> Next play in the Henriad: Henry IV, Part 1
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book82k followers
September 15, 2019

For the first time, Shakespeare creates a compelling historical protagonist who speaks naturally in a poetic voice that is distinctively his own. In his earlier works involving kings and emperors, Shakespeare imitated Marlowe's "mighty line" with some--if not complete--success (Richard III was inherently Marlovian, which helped) but in Richard II he at last found a king--a weak man but a considerable poet, with an eye for detail--whom he could animate from the inside, a king more comfortable with the rhetoric of royal pageantry than with the governing his country.

Like Hamlet, Richard and his language dominate the play which he inhabits, and the downside to this is that the play inevitably loses a little of its light and beauty whenever he is not on the stage.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews928 followers
May 3, 2019
Reading William Shakespeare makes me feel good about what can be accomplished in language! Richard II is fantastic! I’d read Henry IV (both parts) multiple times without realizing that Richard II is considered the first play in the War of the Roses series. Not only does Richard II provide a seamless transition to Henry IV, it also gives some introduction to the ways in which the monarchy was viewed. As such, it serves as a great transition to Shakespeare’s other history plays.

In the play, Richard II sees himself not so much as a person, but a personification of England and all its glory (“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” Act 2 Scene 1). That’s what makes the drama (his banishment of Bolingbroke and subsequently robbing him of his birthright/fortune) so compelling. In his role as king, he is entitled to do whatever he wants. There is no wrong or right to his decisions; his unquestioned will is also the will of the nation. That logic makes it inconceivable that he would (or could) make a mistake.

When Bolingbroke returns and deposes Richard, he robs him of everything which made Richard great. The Queen makes it clear it is not just a title which Richard has lost:
"What, is my Richard both in shape and mind
Transform'd and weaken'd? hath Bolingbroke deposed
Thine intellect?"
(Queen, Act 5 Scene 1)

The language resonated with me. I’m including some examples below:
"For heaven’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings."
(King Richard, Act 3 Scene 2)

"The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed
The shadow of your face."
(Bolingbroke, Act 4 Scene 1)

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
(King Richard, Act 5 Scene 5)

"I'll make a voyage to the Holy Land
To wash this blood off from my guilty hand."
(King Henry, Act 5 Scene 6)

Of course, at the beginning of Henry IV, Part 1, King Henry puts off this trip to the Holy Land, but that’s another story.

Looking forward to reading the Henry IV plays again!
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
February 13, 2016
I’ve read this four times now, and I’ve seen three different versions of it too, yet one thing remains certain throughout, this can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Shakespeare’s wonderful like that; he’ll write a line or a piece of verse that can be taken in so many ways, ultimately, changing the meaning of the play depending on how it is read or adapted. Indeed, Shakespeare doesn’t judge his characters. Instead he portrays them how they may have perceived themselves. To Richard’s mind he is the undisputed mortal representative of God’s will on earth; he simply cannot be wrong in his actions. Comparatively, Henry Bolingbroke is a man taking back his confiscated fortune and birth right. When the crown comes into play it becomes incredibly difficult to perceive who the victim of the play is. Is it the usurped King? Or is it the unjustly banished Duke? Shakespeare leaves it up to the audience to decide and fight it out.

"You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs; still am I king of those."


Personally, I think both characters play a little bit of the victim and a little bit of the tyranniser. They corner themselves into a situation in which every decision is a morally questionable one; this is not something that could easily be resolved. Richard could not simply welcome Bolingbroke with open arms, to do so would be to admit that he was himself wrong. A King could never do that nor could he go down without some semblance of a fight or display of himself being usurped. Richard is a boy King; his body grew but his mind never fully developed to the realities of the world. His decisions are rash, unfair and at times almost random. He doesn’t fully register the consequences of his actions. That’s what comes of a mind-set that perceives itself as a conduit’s of God’s divine will. He is God’s chosen King; therefore, he cannot be disobeyed. So, when he banishes his cousin, and steals his fortune, it doesn’t matter to him. There’s no injustice to it in his mind. It is simply the will of the King and of God.

Conversely, Bolingbroke faces down the King and usurps his throne. He claims to have entered England for the purposes of reclaiming his fortune and nothing more. But, somehow, he ends up with his cousin’s crown on his head. When Richard returns to the Irish war he finds that all his most powerful nobles are behind his enemies cause. He is destitute, but he is still the King of England. Everybody recognises this, even Bolingbroke. In his wrath he delivers his most monumental speech and his most devastating. He calls upon the armies of heaven to vanquish this usurper. Nothing happens. Thus, Richard believes that God has abandoned him so he willingly gives the crown to Bolingbroke but, not without his final display of victimisation. Bolingbroke still claims not to want the crown, though England wants him to have it. So, he takes the throne and becomes Henry IV.

"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!



Now this is where the multifaceted nature of the play comes into question. Who is the victim of the work? Is there a villain? The answer generally depends on your perception of the divine right of Kings, and the production you hold in your heart. I cannot form a definitive answer for my own mind, so I cannot argue either way. There isn’t a straightforward answer to this. History aside, both men make mistakes within the plays action. But, who is to blame? The tragic elements of the work are in Richard’s favour, but his cousin is only after his birth right. Through their conflict both men are backed into a corner in which only one can escape.

Damn, I love this play. I might go read it again; it is pure poetry!
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,635 followers
April 7, 2022
Richard II takes place after a significant number of events transpire after the end of King Edward III: the Black Prince has died and left Edward III with no sons alive so his grandson Richard II takes the throne. The English holdings in England are consolidated, but due to the Treaty of Brétigny, the English claim to the French throne has been renounced. For the moment.

The problem with Richard II is that he is not attentive enough to his country and challenged by Henry Bollingbroke and Henry's father John of Gaunt, who is the best that England has to offer as a leader. As the play opens, Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bollingbroke are in open conflict (Henry accusing the Thomas of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester) and are set to have a duel. But, surprisingly (and yet predictably due to Richard II's weak character), Richard II ends the duel before it starts and banishes both of the antagonists. The return of Bollingbroke will have huge consequences towards the end of the play which is primarily on the conflict between these two and the eventual crowning of Bollingbroke as Henry IV in Act V, as well as the murder of the deposed Richard II. This coup d'etat will be paid for in blood in the following plays leading ultimately to Richard III.

The play itself does a great job of showing off the indecisive personality of Richard II, the wisdom of the dying John of Gaunt, the bravery and rashness of Bollingbroke as the story moves inexorably forward. I loved the elegy to England by the dying John of Gaunt:

JOHN OF GAUNT: This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise.

Richard II, Act 2 Scene i

What is truly transcendent with Shakespeare is how the characters evolve. In the case of Richard II who as I mentioned is relatively indecisive and more interested in culture than in politics, he has a melancholy realization that he will ultimately lose to Bollingbroke which is beautiful and sad and forms the core of the play:

RICHARD: For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court.

Richard II, Act 3, Scene ii

This phrase, "the hollow crown" was used by the BBC as the title for their excellent renditions of the historical plays (all but Edward III and Henry VI Part 3) in 2012 and 2016. The performance of Ben Winshaw as Richard II was mesmerizing and the performance in general shed lights on so many corners of the text that I revised my rating to 4*. There is so much depth here. Particularly in Act 3, scene iv where Richard gives up his crown, but not without giving Bolingbroke a memorable spectacle which will haunt his coming days - the speeches here are fantastic.

The play ends with the murder of Richard II ("Alack, poor Richard!") and the dirty conscience of Henry IV which he promises to expiate via a pilgrimage to Jerusalem ("make a voyage to the Holy Land, / To wash the blood off from my guilty hand.") As we will see in the Henry IV Part 2. he will never make this trip, but he will die in a chapel named Jerusalem.

Fino's Reviews of Shakespeare and Shakespearean Criticism
The Comedy of Errors (1592-1593
The Taming of the Shrew (1593-1594)
The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594-1595)
Love's Labour's Lost (1594-1595)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595-1596)
The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597)
Much Ado About Nothing (1598-1599)
As You Like It (1599-1600)
Twelfth Night (1599-1600)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600-1601)
All's Well That Ends Well (1602-1603)
Measure for Measure (1604-1605)
Cymbeline (1609-1610)
A Winter's Tale (1610-1611)
The Tempest (1611-1612)
Two Noble Kinsmen (1612-1613)

Henry VI Part I (1589-1590)
Henry VI Part II (1590-1591)
Henry VI Part III (1590-1591)
Richard III (1593-1594)
Richard II (1595-1596)
King John (1596-1597)
Edward III (1596-1597)
Henry IV Part I (1597-1598)
Henry IV Part II (1597-1598)
Henry V (1598-1599)
Henry VIII (1612-1612)

Titus Andronicus (1592-1593)
Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595)
Julius Caesar (1599-1600)
Hamlet (1600-1601)
Troilus and Cressida (1601-1602)
Othello (1604-1605)
King Lear (1605-1606)
Macbeth (1605-1606)
Anthony and Cleopatra (1606-1607)
Coriolanus (1607-1608)
Timon of Athens (1607-1608)
Pericles (1608-1609)

Shakespearean Criticism
The Wheel of Fire by Wilson Knight
A Natural Perspective by Northrop Frye
Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber
Shakespeare's Roman Plays and Their Background by M W MacCallum
Shakespearean Criticism 1919-1935 compiled by Anne Ridler
Shakespearean Tragedy by A.C. Bradley
Shakespeare's Sexual Comedy by Hugh M. Richmond
Shakespeare: The Comedies by R.P. Draper
Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt
1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro
Shakespeare's Kings by John Julius Norwich

Collections of Shakespeare
Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece and Other Poems
Shakespeare's Sonnets and a Lover's Complaint
The Complete Oxford Shakespeare
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,730 followers
October 8, 2017
Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to Richard II, a tragedy or historical account written in 1595 by William Shakespeare. Richard II is the first of a series written about the War of the Roses, a famous tug-of-war over England's throne just prior to Shakespeare's time. This is the most fascinating period of English history for me and I loved reading this play. Though Richard III is my favorite of all the kinds during this era, the circumstance surrounding Richard II's kingdom and power are quite unique. He was either a brilliant man or the biggest loon out there. He had ideas, but he couldn't follow through with them due to a split in his views on responsibility. His words had beauty, but he wasn't respected. Shakespeare paints a similar picture of him. There's little plot in comparison to other plays. It's more of a historical account, a point-in-time view of what was happening. Who was trying to take the throne? What was each man's or woman's position? How would it turn out? People wanted to read this to see what he'd choose. If you're not a history buff, there's no point in reading it, other than perhaps for some of the beauty in the images being created in each passage and in the dialogue. You might even want to brush up on the time period by reading some historical fiction such as a few of the books by Philippa Gregory covering these characters. It'll help with perspective and background, then you can compare the way the characters (cum real life people) are portrayed.

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Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
419 reviews364 followers
December 8, 2022
My first attempt at a Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar, wasn’t a rip-roaring success, it was a struggle. So, I approached the historical play Richard II, by William Shakespeare a little differently. In short, I used “Shock and Awe” tactics and saturated my waking hours with multiple sources (listed below) to help me understand it. Although I achieved a level of understanding of the real-life history of Richard II and learned about some of Billy’s techniques - if I were thrown another Shakespeare play and read it with no assistance – I think I would still struggle.

This historical play involves the disorderly transfer of power from King Richard II to Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV). The frivolous, irresponsible and outrageous King Richard II banishes Henry for a period of 6 years, following Henry’s dispute with another high-born regarding the murder of the Duke of Gloucester (it is later revealed that Richard played a hand in the death of the poor Duke). As Henry is away, Richard decides to pilfer all his inheritance when his father – John of Gaunt dies. He does this to help fund his war to fight a rebellion in Ireland. Richard employed all sorts of dodgy dealings to help fund his Irish adventures, tactics such as taking the land off rich folks and taxing people to the eyeballs.

Henry Bolingbroke returned from his banishment and discovered he had attracted a significant degree of popularity. Henry’s support grew the further he travelled south, whereas Richard was left with few friends. Henry was in two minds when it came to taking the throne off his King. This reticence reveals a strong theme in this play, the power given to the King via God. His divine presence on this Earth. To usurp a King is to commit the most heinous blasphemy.

Many of the passages I read contained some terrific prose. There is a wonderful scene where Richard is handing over the crown to Henry. Henry suggests Richard is passing his ‘cares’ with the passing of the crown and Richard says:

”Your cares set up do not pluck my cares down.
My care is loss of care, by old care done.
Your care is gain of care, by new care won”

…..I loved that.

If I were to rate my enjoyment of this play in isolation, I would give it 3 Stars, this suggests to me I need to further develop my Shakespearean comprehension skills. Sometimes at the end of a page I realised I understood nothing. Other times, I understood much or all of a passage – but I still found it tricky. However, possessed with all my support material reading this play became a very enjoyable journey of discovery and I would give that experience 4.5 Stars.

The question is – is this a tragedy? I don’t read it as a tragedy, for sure Richard dies and he’s a tragic figure. This is more a story about power and politics with a thick vein of treachery woven throughout. That’s my summary – ready to be torn apart by all you clever clogs out there.

4 Stars

References for this Review and to make me brainier:

1. Richard II, BBC TV Series, The Hollow Crown (5 stars)
2. The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Kings and Queens of Britain by Charles Phillips
3. Sparknotes study guide
4. The play itself (of course)
5. “History of the Plantagenets” www.englishmonarchs.co.uk
6. University of Oxford, Approaching Shakespeare, Richard II – Podcast
7. Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets. BBC’s In Our Time – History Podcast (5-stars)
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,107 followers
February 9, 2017
I'm on a history kick, so what better way to supplement the immersion into The War Of The Roses than to dive into Shakespeare?

Richard II begins the weakness of kings, where if one could be deposed, yet more can follow. Divine right be damned... should we just rely on might?

It's kind of funny, reading this for the second time after so many years and other historical accounts, just how propagandist this play really is. I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise, since it had only been a little over a century prior from the time it was written, and Elizabeth is the product of so much Lancaster and York strife that stems right from these humble and piteous beginnings.

Frankly, I'm really surprised at the balance of this play, where Richard, boy king, makes monstrously poor decisions and banishes Henry Bolingbroke and later steals all his lands to fund a war in Ireland which goes disastrously. Henry Bolingbroke returns from his banishment on such tidings, his lands and monies gone, his father dead, and he sues to get redress from the wrongs done to him. He has good reason.

But. In deposing the king, it opens the weakness of all kings and puts the question to every mind in England... can we ever stop? If it is this easy to depose one, just how easily can we do it again, and again, and again? And indeed, this play is perfectly historical in that respect, even if the man Richard was actually pretty good with finances and stopped fighting for war in France because England couldn't support it. *sigh*

The thing about Shakespeare is this: DRAMA QUEEN. :)

The outcome of Richard's abdication is a long-drawn out drama-fest. Oh woe is me, oh woe is me. It makes for great spectacle, that's for sure, and we even get one of the longest soliloquies in Shakespeare right from Richard's mouth. Henry is only better in his sorrow that all such things came to pass in that he had less page-time. :) I hated the man in life, but love in him death, indeed.

As a side note, I loved the scenes with Henry's uncle and his wife trying to pardon their son's near-treachery. My god, the pathos... it's taken so far it could easily be comedic relief, and I'm certain that some productions of this play could turn it into just that.

Same goes for old Gaunt's ramblings, which are tragic because he knew that Richard would disenfranchise Henry, but that's the beauty of these plays. They're always entertaining and perhaps a bit over the top, but they're definitely not simple or simply interpreted.

Indeed, you can find plenty in this whole play to support the True King or Justice, or change your mind all over again and switch sides.

Oddly enough, since I had just read King Henry IV part one this month, which directly follows the events in Richard II, I was horrified and bemused by Henry's several references to having bloody hands and washing them after Richard's death, because some twenty years later, as the king, he suffers from boils and agues on his hands and face, almost as if it is divine retribution for deposing the rightful king, and he always keeps gloves on and rubs his hands incessantly. Perfect setup and execution. :) But in this case, I'm doing it backwards. :)

Fun stuff, and so amusing, even if it is propaganda! Shakespeare *was* always walking a tightrope. :)
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,129 followers
January 16, 2021
This is pretty racy stuff for 1595, you guys. I would've expected as much outrage as over that Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, but you know, for intellectual reasons. I really don't know how Shakespeare got away with performing this- this play is such stuff as justifications for censorship and treason are made on.

Richard II seems like he was a very unfashionable king in 1595. He was certainly not the notion of a good king at the time- and I wouldn't assume that that was entirely a bad thing. Oh sure, there are some things that our modern standards would agree with as being terrible traits for a leader- He shows himself to be selfish, fickle, opportunistically greedy (he has his uncle's house and lands looted to fund a war after he dies! OMG!), wasteful, imprudent and rash. He also seems to give up in adverse situations incredibly easily. I almost wonder if this character had undiagnosed clinical depression. He certainly behaves that way.

However... he also has a few other traits that the dudes of the era weren't so fond of that maybe weren't so bad at all. He's repeatedly taken to task for not avenging his uncle Glocester's death, for instance. They even trot out his widow to beat her breast about it to the sainted Gaunt for a scene. He's just generally seen as not... martial enough, not violent enough. We see him stop a combat at the last second between two powerful lords and tell them:

"For that our kingdom's each should not be soil'd
With that dear blood which it hath fostered
And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plough'd up with neighbours' sword;
And for we think the eagle-winged pride
Of sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts
With rival-hating envy, set on you
To wake our peace, which in our country's cradle
Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle peace..."

Okay, yeah, he probably should've made this decision before he told them it was okay to fight it out (hence the fickle part), but he does seem to repeatedly try to avoid violence and dealing out death wherever possible, even when it's made clear he KNOWS he should probably just kill people rather than banish them- like when he sends Norfolk and Bolingbroke into exile and immediately says "But swear you won't make up and team up to kill me later!" So I don't know... I saw Richard as possibly kind of a peacenik. Yeah, I know he goes off to make war in Ireland for awhile, but its made clear that its supposed to be to suppress rebels (which ya know, with my Irish background, I have my own feelings about of course... but I'll try to keep them out of this review) and maintain order within his kingdom so there was no civil unrest. Ireland was part of Great Britain at the time and there was no reason to see it as a foreign country, so the same logic as above applies (even if he was a total unbelievable asshole about the financing of it).

I guess that's the problem with Richard- he can't do anything right without doing something incredibly wrong. But oh man, he does have all these amazing speeches about what it means to be a king and to govern (not that he does anything about it), and there are what I think were probably some pretty uncomfortable discussions about divine right going on here, with the end conclusion basically being that there seems to be no such thing. Anyone who argues for it ends up dead, and the new king wins his throne by just lying to everyone around him and insisting that everyone keep up his subterfuge by lying themselves and then eventually there are enough lies to make it come true. Hardly a model way for a king to become the king. I was surprised that the play gave me these two kings with so many shades of grey- I expected one or the other of them to come out smelling like roses and one to be shown as a total villain in order to play to the sensibilities of the monarch, but no such thing. I appreciated that that was not the case. I think the closest thing we can get here to a good guy is John of Gaunt, and even he spends most of his time lecturing and moaning and preaching and you don't /like/ him even if he gets fantastic deathbed monologues- "This England" and the "O, but they say tongues of dying men...". (I should also probably mention that the language here is so amazingly wonderful that almost every major character gets some good lines, though.)

You know how Vanity Fair is a novel without a hero? This is a play without a hero- it's just whoever is left standing at the very abrupt end. (My boyfriend thought the ending was similar to The Godfather's baptism scene, only with more repentance.)

This is a play meant for discussion, meant to put characters in situations where they can expound upon what they feel to be truly important and bring out assumptions about how life is run that maybe were not spoken of in that day. And I think that's truly the most important thing to be got out of any "History" anyways.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
May 12, 2016
Richard II by William Shakespeare is an unexpected treat.

I have read reviews that say this is a literary precursor to Hamlet and King Lear and I can see it, also semblances of Macbeth. The language is beautifully lyric, with strong speeches and excellent scenes, too many to list here.

Gaunt’s England soliloquy is powerful as is several by the deposed and introspective king, and I especially liked York’s confrontation with Bolingbroke and the rebels. Richard is an extremely complex character and Shakespeare shows his genius in the man’s pensive dynamics. Shakespeare also demonstrates in Richard a hopeful lesson in redemption and confronting the evils in himself.

Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,732 followers
April 8, 2017
"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
-- William Shakespeare, Richard II


'Richard II' is a gem. It will never be my favorite, but it is fascinating and finely finished. In many ways it is William Shakespeare meets Machiavelli. Shakespeare wrote eight historical "War of the Roses" plays. They weren't written in order. It is pretty easy, if you are a Star Wars fan, to think of the plays like this. Richard II is = the Phantom Menace. Henry VI, Part 1; Henry VI, Part 2; Henry VI, Part 3; and Richard III (together known as the Minor Tetralogy) were all written and performed first (Like A New Hope, Empires Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). Then Shakespeare jumps back and gives us the Henriad, aka the Major Tetralogy (Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; Henry V).

It is also a fascinating look at the body of the king. The king having both a physical body and the kingdom. Shakespeare does a brilliant job in some later speeches made by Richard II of illuminating the King's two bodies (Natural Body and Body Politic). This isn't new. This isn't me. I ran across this theme in several places (Wikipedia, "The King's Two Buckets") after I read the play, and now I want to go check out Ernst Kantorowicz's The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. This plays a large part in this play. The king is LITERALLY the embodiment of England (its people and the land).

This dualism can be taken even further as a metaphor for Christ and His double nature/role as divine mediator. I'm not saying Shakespeare means for us to interpret Richard II as a type of Christ. But, I think we could look at England's King as existing in a similar (man/divine) space. Anyway, there were several direct references to Judas', betrayal, etc.. Enough to warrant me spending a couple sentences on that topic.

There are also several minor themes that bob around in this play as well: honor, rituals of state, loyalty (to family, King, country). There were also several nice lines, specifically:

- “You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs; still am I king of those.”

- “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay;
the worst is death and death will have his day.”

- “Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills”

- “Each substance of a grief has twenty shadows."
- “My brain I'll prove the female to my soul;
my soul the father: and these two beget
a generation of still-breeding thoughts,
and these same thoughts people this little world.”
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
July 29, 2018
“For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court”

I never thought I would find a Shakespeare play this fascinating. To be honest, I never thought I would read a Shakespeare play in the first place because I thought he was rather overhyped and why are people so obsessed with him anyway? Why is he such a big deal? I think the answer is that there are thousands of questions about him and his works, and all we know is that we will most likely never know their answers. Shakespeare is a mystery that will remain unsolved, and people love mysteries.

I studied Richard II for a few months in a class solely dedicated to this particular play. I learnt a lot of things, mostly that it is worth getting off your high horse to study a seemingly overrated writer. (I still believe there is more to literature and theatre than Shakespeare but at least I can now see why some people love his work so much.) There are so many curious facts and details about Richard II that made studying it so compelling. There is the theory about the King's Two Bodies, the concept of what we today call Homoeroticism and how masculinity is transmitted in this play, there is the One-Sex Model, there are linguistic aspects worth having a look at, etc. There is a lot to find out, and all of this helps to understand this play much better in its contemporary context.

I think I have had my fair share of Shakespeare for a semester or two but I am sure that I will return to reading his texts sooner or later.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
July 27, 2020
"They love the poison not that do poison need..."

Henry IV, alias Lancaster, alias Bolingbroke and plenty of other names, speaks truth to his own power in the end, admitting that he needed the eloquent incompetent Richard to be dead to grow, while also knowing that his oppenent's death will be a stain on his own power forever after.

What a marvellous study in bad leadership - making one wonder if there is any good one, as Richard and Bolingbroke are so good at being bad in so different ways that it hardly leaves any space between them for a better leadership (in theory): random whim and entitlement versus brutal Macchiavellianism and strength of weapons?

Which one do you pick? If you had to have a king, would you prefer Richard or Bolingbroke? It is a bit like asking which of our ruler clowns we prefer these days, I realise. Is power always this ugly?

Luckily, Shakespeare has the words. And they are getting more and more beautiful, the more powerful they get. As for kings, they live best in the mirror of great poets. As real people they are a mess.

"Then am I kinged again, and by and by,
Think that I am unkinged by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing. But whate'er I be
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing."

Neither did I waste time when I read this, nor did time waste me. But it was a tough ride!
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,068 reviews1,761 followers
May 9, 2023
اجراش رو دیدم. سریال تاج توخالی* اومده نمایشنامه های تاریخی شکسپیر رو به فیلم های دو ساعته تبدیل کرده. هر قسمت، یه نمایشنامه و مجموعاً هفت قسمت. کیفیت ساختشون هم خوبه. بازیگرهای درست و حسابی هم بازی می کنن. فعلاً قسمت اول رو دیدم.

* Hollow Crown
توی متن فارسی نمی شه انگلیسی نوشت. به هم می ریزه. ناچار اینجا اسم انگلیسی سریال رو نوشتم.

استعاره های انجیلی
من موقع دیدن هملت برام سؤال بود که چرا شکسپیر اصلاً از استعاره های انجیلی استفاده نمی کنه؟ فقط از استعاره های یونان باستان استفاده می کنه؟ بعد که فیلمی که تازگی بر اساس هملت ساختن* رو دیدم، متوجه شدم هملت مال قبل از دوران مسیحی شدن دانمارکه و احتمالاً به خاطر همین شکسپیر مفاهیم انجیلی توی دهن شخصیت ها نذاشته (هر چند به جاش مفاهیم یونانی گذاشته که همونقدر بی ربطه، اما برای شکسپیر و مخاطبانش پگان پگانه.)
حالا این نمایشنامه که مال دوران انگلستان مسیحیه، پره از استعاره های انجیلی، تشبیه خائن به یهودا، تشبیه همدستان در قتل به پیلاطس، تشبیه پادشاه مقتول به عیسی و...

* The Northman 2022
Profile Image for Trish.
2,021 reviews3,437 followers
August 30, 2016
I've read Shakespeare before. Sadly, I've never seen it performed but I'm planning on changing that.
Anyway, though I've read some of his plays before, I've never read one of his "Histories" until now. Since it's still History Month though and because Brad and I are doing a bit of research on The Wars of the Roses, this (and a few others) were a must-read.

This play is about the titular King Richard II. And boy was he a weakling! Sorry, but there is no better way to put it. As if the times hadn't been tumultous enough for England back then, they were also cursed with a king who tried to please everybody and couldn't make up his mind! There are lots of rumours about him (like him having been gay or at least bisexual) and none of those helped him in a popularity contest. So when he first orders a trial by combat but then stops it at the last second to exile both parties, people almost have enough. When the father of one of the exiled dies, the king also makes the fateful mistake of seizing the lands, money etc. instead of holding it for the rightful heir - all because of a war in Ireland that he then loses nevertheless. So yeah, Richard was neither a happy nor a lucky man.
The exiled Lord Bolingbroke (who was cheated out of his inheritance) secretly returns to England and starts a campaign. The nobles and people support him since he has been wronged by the king. But what probably started as a simple way to get what is rightfully his, ends in Bolingbroke disposing Richard II, thus becoming King Henry IV.
The problem? Well, usually the might of a king rested (not solely but significantly) on his bloodline - which Henry didn't have, no matter how good his justifications and wild tales. But more of that later (in my review of the next two plays).
This is about Richard and what happened to him. The only criticism I have about that is that there were a few passages in between that were just too long (one by Richard himself, one by Bolingbroke's father, Gaunt). Eloquent as ever, but just too damn long.

The tragedy of the story behind this play is that Richard II probably wasn't THAT bad a king (and that he became king when he was still a child). I mean, he stopped going to war against France because he knew England couldn't afford it. But bloodthirsty Englishmen wouldn't have any of that. Then there was a guy (Bolingbroke) who played the political field really well (scarily so even) as opposed to BEING PLAYED like Richard II and VOILÀ: the deposition of a king and one of the starting points in the Wars of the Roses. Very interesting that Shakespeare made this into a play - it goes to show how affected he and other English people still were in Elizabethan times.

As usual, the quality of this play is superb. Shakespeare is THE master, there is no denying it. Moreover, my edition has some wonderful illustrations in it that I wanted to share with you:

Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.
Author 20 books2,160 followers
September 10, 2022
I gave this 4 Stars in 2015 but this play only gets better the more you read it. In fact, I believe that Shakespeare is hitting his stride here. If you want to know why Shakespeare is Shakespeare read this play. Richard is not cardboard villain nor is Henry an innocent hero. These characters are compelling, disgusting, hateful, and loveable. I do believe Shakespeare captures the heart of why there was a War of the Roses.

The speeches and dialog in this play are among the best. As the play gets going one grand, moving soliloquy follows another.

2022: this play continues to astound. The Hollow Crown film of Richard II is perhaps, one of best film adaptations of Shakespeare ever done.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,--This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” John of Gaunt in Richard II (So, so appropriate for John of Gaunt to say this.)

“Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills”
Profile Image for Aishu Rehman.
847 reviews774 followers
April 11, 2019
Richard II is the only Shakespearean play I've read that was utterly humorless. Not particularly dark, just humorless. No comic relief of any kind; no jokes, no wit. King John, the last history play I've read, might have contained some--I don't recall; but King John is a lesser play anyway, with a king equally as weak (in his way) as Richard but possessing none of Richard's pomp or eloquence.
June 16, 2016
«...Τι κρίμα που εκείνος δεν καλλιεργούσε τον τόπο του, όπως εμείς αυτό εδώ το περιβόλι! Εμείς, μια φορά τον χρόνο, χαράζουμε προληπτικά τη φλούδα, το δέρμα των οπωροφόρων μας, μην τύχει και φουσκώσουν οι χυμοί, το αίμα τους, και σκάσουνε μες τα ίδια τους τα πλούτη -εάν ο βασιλιάς έκανε το ίδιο στους ανθρώπους-καλοζωισμένους και φιντάνια- θα ζούσαν τώρα αυτοί, θα δίναν τους καρπούς τους κι εκείνος θα ήτανε σε θέση να τους γευτεί. Τα παρακλάδια τα κόβουμε, για να φουντώσει ο καρπός στα υπόλοιπα κλαδιά -εάν ο βασιλιάς έκανε το ίδιο, ακόμα θα φορούσε το στέμμα, που του 'φύγε γιατί έχανε το χρόνο του σε ώρες ασωτίας και σε γλέντια». Κι ένα προσωπικό σχόλιο: Εσωτερικέ μου βασιλιά ελπίζω να τα ακούς αυτά...
Profile Image for Stratos.
898 reviews93 followers
February 4, 2018
Αλλο ένα αριστούργημα του Σαίξπηρ. Υπαρκτό και μοιραίο πρόσωπο ο Ριχάρδος ο Β΄ με του οποίου η πτώση αρχίζει στην ουσία ο γνωστός πόλεμος των Ρόδων. Ενας πόλεμος που τερματίστηκε με την άνοδο του Ερρίκου του 7ου των Τυδώρ όπου και ξεκίνησε η γνωστή δυναστεία, η οποία τερματίστηκε με τον θάνατο της Ελισάβετ της Α Μια διάρκεια περίπου 120 χρόνων και με την μάχη των Ρόδων να εμπνεύει τη γνωστή σειρά Games of Throne. Το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο σκιαγραφεί τον χαρακτήρα και την ιδιοσυγκρασία του Ριχάρδου που χάνει το αξίωμα του, με λόγια που μας παραπέμπουν και σε σημερινούς ηγέτες. Στην πλημμύριδα των δεκάδων νέων εκδόσεων, μερικά από τα οποία εντυπωσιάζουν από την κενότητα τους, είναι απαραίτητη μια λογοτεχνική στάση στον Σαίξπηρ....
Profile Image for Carmo.
667 reviews472 followers
July 26, 2020
"Deixai que a mágoa me ensine a submissão. No entanto, lembro-me das feições destes homens. Meus vassalos não foram todos? Não gritavam:"Salve!"amiúde para mim? Assim fez Judas com Cristo. Este, porém, de doze apóstolos só num não encontrou fidelidade; eu em nenhum, de doze mil vassalos. Deus salve o rei! Ninguém me diz Amém? "
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
January 26, 2017

Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I King,
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am. Then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king.
Then am I kinged again.

Here’s a brief chronology of the Kings of England that Shakespeare wrote about, and a few events that occurred in England during these times. Names of monarchs in bold denote Shakespeare’s plays, and the years covered (maybe) in the play.

King John (1199-1216)

1215 – Magna Carta

1216 – 1272 Reign of Henry III, son of King John
1272 – 1307 Reign of Edward I, son of Henry III
1307 – 1327 Reign of Edward II, son of Edward I
1327 – 1377 Reign of Edward III, son of Edward II

1337 – Start of the Hundred Years’ War
1346 - Battle of Crecy: First of the major English victories of the War
1348 – Black Death arrived in England
1356 - Battle of Poitiers: Second of the major English victories of the War

Richard II (1377-99) Grandson of Edward III
Henry IV – Part I (1399-1403) Grandson of Edward III
Henry IV – Part II (1403-1413)
Henry V (1413-1422) Son of Henry IV

1415 - Battle of Agincourt, last of the major English victories of the Hundred Years' War

Henry VI – Part I (1422-1444) Son of Henry V
Henry VI – Part II (1444-1455)

1453 – End of the Hundred Years War

Henry VI – Part III (1455-1471)

1455-1487 The Wars of the Roses, between the Lancaster and York branches of the House of Plantagenet.

1455 – First Battle of St. Albans, ostensible beginning of the Wars of the Roses
March 1461 – Henry VI loses the throne to Edward IV
March 1461 – October 1470. Edward IV (York) King of England
October 1470 – April 1471, Henry VI (Lancaster) regains the throne.
April 1471 – April 1483. Edward IV (York) again king of England – his second reighn.
April 1483 – June 1483. Edward V (York) king of England; son of Edward IV.
Richard III (1483-1485) Reign begins June 1483. House of York.
22 August 1485 - Battle of Bosworth Field: the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Richard III, the last Plantagenet king was killed, succeeded by Henry VII.
1487 – Ostensible end of the Wars of the Roses.
August 1485 – April 1509. Reign of Henry VII, House of Tudor. Great-great-great-grandson of Edward III.
Henry VIII (1509-1547) Son of Henry VII
1521 – Lutheran writings began to circulate in England
1529 – Henry VIII severed ties with the Catholic Church
1535 – Thomas More executed
1547 – 1553. Reign of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII.
1553 – 1558. Reign of Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII.
1558 – Queen Elizabeth I (daughter of Henry VIII) ascends to the English throne. Dawn of the Elizabethan era.
1564 – Will Shakespeare is born.

The next list of Shakespeare’s histories shows them in the order in which they were written.
[Order and Name of play (years covered by the play/order of these years among all the plays) year written – war in progress during the play]

1. Henry VI Part I (1422-44/6) 1591 – 100Yr
2. Henry VI Part II (1444-55/7) 1591 – 100Yr
3. Henry VI – III (1455-71/8) 1591 - Roses
4. Richard III (1483-1485/9) 1592 - Roses
5. Richard II (1377-99/2) 1595 – 100Yr
6. King John (1199-1216/1) 1596
7. Henry IV – I (1399-1403/3) 1596 – 100Yr
8. Henry IV – II (1403-1413/4) 1597 - 100Yr
9. Henry V (1413-22/5) 1599 – 100Yr
10. Henry VIII (1509-47/10) 1612

Richard II was the fifth of Shakespeare’s histories, though it covers the 2nd oldest period of time.

Notice that the first four of the histories pretty much cover the years of the Wars of the Roses. (The first two don’t, but they include a long part of Henry VI’s reign, which Shakespeare broke into three plays.) The last couple years of the Roses conflict England was ruled by Henry VII, about whom Shakespeare did not write.

So in going back to Richard II for his fifth history, Shakespeare gives his audience his version of the events which laid the historic enmity between the houses of York and Lancaster. In the play we see Richard II, the last king of the house of Plantagenet, have his throne usurped by Henry IV, the first king of the house of Lancaster.

The play starts and ends with characters accusing each other of treason against the king. But it’s a different king in each case, since Richard is king at the start, and Henry at the end. Supporters of each side, particularly in the last act, pay dearly for being caught at the wrong time in the wrong place. Very violent scenes, which made me think back decades to a time when I read other violent Elizabethan plays such as The Revenger’s Tragedy and The Duchess of Malfi. Good stuff.

And the introductory quote? Richard - imprisoned in Pomfert castle, muttering and rambling on in the grip of his hallucinations.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,288 followers
June 3, 2019
For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings

This play stands out from any other Shakespearean work I know in that, though great, its final effect is rather cold. No character calls out for sympathy, or even pity. Richard II is fascinating but so self-absorbed, and such a ludicrous king, that it is difficult to feel any strong connection to him apart from dissociated curiosity; and Bolingbroke has little character to speak of. Apart from John of Gaunt, who gives a jingoistic speech before his death, and the Duke of York, whose loyalty comes close to being genuinely touching, there are no memorable characters. What remains is a stiff, high-flown play about the rise and fall of kings, without any quickening touch of prose or humor.

Most of the play is focused on Richard II, a gifted man who somehow fails to be completely human. As a king he has no virtue except enthusiasm. He is arbitrary, hasty, greedy, prone to flattery, totally impractical, and—his keystone vice—self-absorbed. When robbed of his kingship, his egoism transforms into a beguiling solipsism, and he becomes a world unto himself. Poetry, for Richard, becomes a sort of defense-mechanism, transforming the empirical world into images and figures of speech, in whose visionary involutions the deposed monarch can lose himself. Harold Bloom is right to compare Richard II to John Donne, though Richard fails to be a complete poet, too, since his poetry is intended to befuddle its intended audience, and its intended audience is himself.

In all, this is a difficult play to love, since it is so formal in structure and so grandiose in tone. Even so, it is a work of high art, and yet another example of Shakespeare’s versatility.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
921 reviews980 followers
May 20, 2016
I memorized this as a teen and I still, after all these years, find much in it to return to:

I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it; yet I'll hammer it out.
My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd
With scruples and do set the word itself
Against the word:
As thus, 'Come, little ones,' and then again,
'It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle's eye.'
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there;
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king'd again: and by and by
Think that I am unking'd by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate'er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing. Music do I hear?


Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans
Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time
Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,
While I stand fooling here, his Jack o' the clock.
This music mads me; let it sound no more;
For though it have holp madmen to their wits,
In me it seems it will make wise men mad.
Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!
For 'tis a sign of love; and love to Richard
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.
Profile Image for Nikos Tsentemeidis.
413 reviews216 followers
May 8, 2016
"-Μεγαλειότατε ,σ' αυτό το φέρετρο σας φέρνω το φόβο σας νεκρό ...
- Μου είναι αδύνατον να πω ευχαριστώ. Μοιραίο το χέρι σου: έκανε τέτοια πράξη, που, σίγουρα, θα πέσει στο δικό μου το κεφάλι...
- Κύριέ μου, τις εντολές σας ακολούθησα πιστά.
- Δεν αγαπάει το φαρμάκι όποιος το χρειάζεται -
ούτε εγώ εσένα. Παρ' όλο που ήθελα το θάνατό του
τώρα μισώ το δολοφόνο ...
Ανταμοιβή σου, θα είναι το βάρος του αμαρτήματός σου ..."
Profile Image for max theodore.
472 reviews131 followers
October 29, 2022
not sure what i expected from my first history, but it wasn’t as bad as i'd feared! the plot was kind of clunky and shit just kept happening, and there were too many characters but. such are the histories. probably the biggest issue i had was that i didn’t care much for any of the characters until — oh my god it’s gay reading of act four/five aumerle + a look at richard's metanarrative manipulation with a steel chair


reread oct 2022 for class & i'm bumping this up to four stars since upon reread i feel like i actually get it, and/or can appreciate it more. also bolingbroke is sexy but only in his pre-badparentification era. read this essay on richard's deliberate self-destruction right now i am not asking
Profile Image for Oguz Akturk.
280 reviews494 followers
September 21, 2022
YouTube kanalımda Shakespeare'in hayatı, mutlaka okunması gereken kitapları ve kronolojik okuma sırası hakkında bilgi edinebilirsiniz: https://youtu.be/rGxh2RVjmNU

"Tanrı aşkına söyleyin, nereye gidiyor bu paralar?" (s. 37)

Paralarınızın, devlete ödediğiniz vergilerin, doğru yerlere gittiğini sandığınız yardım ve bağışlarınızın gerçekten de nereye gittiğini sorguladığınız anlar oldu mu? Eğer 1 kere olsun böyle bir soru aklınıza gelmişse II. Richard kitabını da sevme ihtimaliniz var.

Victor Hugo'nun Sefiller kitabında Napolyon cephede Wellington ile savaşırken ve bir halkın yazgısını ellerindeki silahlarda tutarken, iki tarafın halkı da ister istemez psikolojik bir savaş içindeydi. Nasıl ki İlyada destanında yukarıda Tanrılar ve aşağıda da onun kuklaları insanlar, yarı-tanrı kahramanlar ve mitolojik karakterler savaş içindeyse, Shakespeare'in tarihi oyunlarında kral ile toplum arasındaki ilişki de aynen böyledir. İnsanlar kral, krallar ise ilah olmak ister. İnsanların fethetmek istedikleri şanları ve iktidar hırsları, onların Troya'sı olmuştur. En sonda elde kalan şey bir yıkıntıdan başka bir şey değildir.

"Nefret edenlerin başında değişken halk geliyor,
Çünkü bu insanların sevgileri ceplerindedir
Ve içten ve ölümcül bir kin beslerler
Cüzdanlarını boşaltanlara karşı."
(s. 44)

Krallar gelir, krallar geçer. Charlie Chaplin'in Şarlo Diktatör filmindeki o muhteşem monologda dediği gibi:

"İnsanlardaki bu nefret duygusu geçecek, diktatörler ölecek. Ve halktan aldıkları güç, yine halkın eline geçecek. Son insan ölene kadar özgürlük yok olmayacak."

Halkın gücü halka aittir, birileri bizim adımıza kararlar alıp kendi cebimizdeki parayı kendi cepleri için kullanırken bizim yapmamız gereken tek şey kendi paramızın nereye gittiği ve bir makine olmadığımızın farkına varmamızdır. Çünkü birer insanız. Richardlar, Henryler, saraylar yok olur ve etkisi Twitter'da bir hashtag'in 24 saat yukarıda kalması gibi dönemsel ve geçici bir etkidir. Bir zamanlar Avrupa'yı kasıp kavuran Hitler'i, şu an böcekler ve solucanlar kasıp kavurmaktadır.

Shakespeare'in tarihi oyunlarında bir kral vardır, bir isyancıyla savaşırken ölür ve o kralın yerine onu öldüren kişi geçer. Zaten İngiltere siyasi tarihinin kurgulaştırılmış halleridir bunlar. Yere geçen her lider, kral veya diktatör de çeşitli sözlerle birlikte gelir. Fakat zalimler de aynen böyle sözler vererek iktidara gelirler. Bugünün mazlumları her an yarının zalimleri olabilir. Zaten mazlum ve zalim kelimesinin ikisi de "z-l-m" kökünden gelir. Halk ve onların üstündeki Tanrısal sahnede kukla oyunu yapan krallar arasındaki tek ortaklık z-l-m kökünün birleştiriciliğidir. Bu kökten edebiyat, sanat, felsefe, resim ve müzik çiçekleri doğar. Gogol, sanatını devletiyle halkının insanları arasındaki bu seviye farkına borçludur. Her zaman iğnelemeyi seven Gogol belki de devletinin en büyük tuhafiyecisi olmuştur.

Bir durun ve sorun kendinize, nereye gidiyor bu paralarınız? Siz canhıraş bir şekilde çalışırken ve evinize ekmek göt��rmeye uğraşırken sizin yerinize söz sahibi olanlar, sizin yerinize düşünenler ve sizi siz olarak kabul etmeyip bir numaradan ibaret sayanlar sizi insanlığınızla mı yoksa paranızla mı bir vatandaş olarak kabul ediyor? Eğer cüzdanınızı boşaltanlara karşı siz de beyninizin içini boşaltmışsanız üzgünüm ki her zaman halk ve onu yöneten arasında da büyük bir uçurum olacaktır. Zira Michel Foucault'nun da dediği gibi: "Çoban, bir toprak parçası üzerinde değil, bir sürü üzerinde iktidarını kullanır. Onun bütün adımları sürüsünün iyiliği göz önünde tutularak atılır."

Ey bu yazıyı okuyan ve sürüden ayrılmaya çabalayan birey! Kendi bireyliğinin farkına var ve Richardların, Henrylerin, diktatörlerin senin yerine düşünmesine engel ol! Umutsuzluğa kapılma! Arapça'da şeytan kelimesi yani "iblis"in kökeni olan "b-l-s" harfleri umutsuzluk anlamına gelir. Yunan mitolojisinde Pandora'nın Kutusu açıldıktan sonra dünyanın dört bir tarafına kötülükler yayılır, elde bir tek Pandora'nın peşine düştüğü umut kalır. God of War oyununda Pandora, "Umut bizi güçlü yapan şeydir. Bu yüzden buradayız! Biz, diğer her şey kaybolduğunda onunla birlikte savaşırız." demiştir.

Richardlara, Henrylere ve diğer bütün krallara karşı elinizde olan tek şey umudunuz ve hedeflerinize doğru dimdik yürüyebilmenizdir. Bir amacınız olsun, yukarıda birilerinin koltukları ve dalkavukları değişirken, sizin de bilinciniz ve davranışlarınız değişsin. Değişmeyen tek şey değişimin ta kendisidir, böylece dayanılmaz olan tek şeyin hiçbir şeyin dayanılmaz olmaması olduğunu keşfedersiniz. Siyaset atmosferiyle çevrili benlik ikliminiz kendisine bilinç ve farkındalık adında bir bitki örtüsü oluşturana kadar sorgulamaya, araştırmaya ve umut duymaya devam edin. Bu süreçte arkanızdan konuşanları pek de umursamanıza gerek yok, çünkü arkadan konuşanlar genelde arkasından konuştukları kişinin bilinirliğini ve sosyal silüetini daha yaygın hale getirmekten başka bir şeye yaramaz.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,501 followers
July 8, 2010
Richard II is one of my favorite histories, partly because the actual events surrounding Richard's fall offer plenty of drama, and partly because of its sheer beauty. Richard is eloquent to a fault - literally; he'd rather give flowery speeches than actually do anything. But what speeches! You almost forget what a moron he is.

But it's the gardener's soliloquy in III.iv that's actually the prettiest, an extended rant about why he should bother weeding the garden when Richard has let pests overrun England.

It's surprising to me that Richard II doesn't get more attention these days. I understand how Richard III's hilarious villainy and Henry V's blustering violence overshadow it, but this is a rewarding play.
Profile Image for Melora.
575 reviews143 followers
April 4, 2017
I love this one. Not sure if this is my second or third reading -- GR says I read it last in Nov. 2014, but I feel like I read it last more recently -- but, again, this is a five star play for me. This time I started with Marjorie Garber's chapter on Richard, from her marvelous Shakespeare After All. Her analysis didn't provide any startling insights, but it added to my appreciation of the way Shakespeare's artistry works in this play. Anyway, I just find Richard fascinating. Sure, he's a dreadful king and a lousy nephew, but he's a wonderful character. So invested in his own performance as flamboyant monarch that when the "script" of events seems to suggest that a tragic fall is imminent, he seizes the role of doomed lord (or, as he often suggests, "Lord") and plays it to the hilt. He reminds me of Hamlet, though not so complex -- self-dramatizing even to the point of his own destruction, self-pitying, and introspective, and he is such a great contrast with Henry. Poet vs. pragmatist. And their uncle, the Duke of York, switching his loyalties from Richard to Henry as it seems expedient, throwing his son over in a red hot minute, acting the "sage counselor" but always putting his own interests first, is marvelous fun! This is one of my favorite plays.

The Arden edition of this has excellent notes, and the performances of the actors in the Archangel audio recording are marvelous. I can't recommend Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All highly enough, and also, because, of course, plays are meant for watching, the "King Richard II" in the BBC's "The Hollow Crown" and The Royal Shakespeare Company's "King Richard II" with David Tennant, are well worth seeing.
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