Richard II : Act 2

PLOT UPDATE: Richard's cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, accused Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, of killing Richard's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Instead of letting them fight a duel to the death, Richard decides to banish them both. He then plots with his corrupt councillors on how to squeeze money out of the nobility in order to fund his upcoming invasion of Ireland. 

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Important Points: 

  1. This is The Big Speech. The one schoolkids have to memorize. On the surface it seems to be saying "England is the most awesome place in the entire world!" But if you pay attention to the last few lines, it's actually saying "Kids nowadays, this country is going to the dogs."

Here is a variety of actors performing The Big Speech:

0:00 - An Age of Kings, 1960, Edgar Wreford
2:01 - BBC Shakespeare, 1978, John Gielgud
3:58 - Shakespeare's Globe, 2003, John McEnery
5:35 - The Hollow Crown, 2012, Patrick Stewart

Important Points: 

  1. John of Gaunt is one of the most powerful and wealthiest men in England, right up until his death, when Richard decides to pilfer his estate in order to fund his invasion of Ireland. The only problem is that John of Gaunt's heir, Henry of Bolingbroke, is alive and well, albeit in temporary exile.
  2. The Earl of Northumberland and the lords Ross and Willoughby are the type of no-nonsense brawny English noblemen who are hyper-sensitive about the rights of the nobility. They're like the barons who forced Richard's great-great-great-great-grandfather John to sign the Magna Carta.  Don't mess with them.
  3. "Bolingbroke" is generally pronouncing "Bullingbrook" and not "Bowlingbroke".

Important Points:

  1. Without Richard around to protect therm, Bushy, Bagot and Green are sitting ducks. Everybody hates them, and they know it
  2. Richard leaves his uncle, the wishy-washy Duke of York, in charge of England while he goes off invading Ireland. This turns out to be a Bad Idea, especially as the Duke of York is not only Richard's uncle; he's also Bolingbroke's uncle. 

Important Points:

  1. Bolingbroke insists repeatedly that he's only come back to reclaim his inheritance as John of Gaunt's lawful heir. Don't you believe him.
  2. The Duke of York is so adorably dithery in this scene. He goes from "I ought to arrest you!" to "Why don't you come over for dinner?" in the space of a few lines. I guess he knows which side his metaphorical bread is buttered on. 
  3. For the record, Bolingbroke does end up getting a horrible skin disease.

Important Points:

  1. The Earl of Salisbury manages to raise a considerable number of Welsh soldiers to help Richard repel Bolingbroke. Unfortunately, Richard takes too long to return from Ireland, and the Welsh soldiers all remember they have better places to be and abandon him.