Richard II : Act 3
PLOT UPDATE: When his uncle John of Gaunt dies, Richard decides to seize his property and use it to finance an invasion of Ireland. But as soon as he leaves the country, John of Gaunt's exiled son, Henry of Bolingbroke, returns to reclaim his inheritance, joining forces with the disgruntled English nobility to overthrow Richard's corrupt councillors.
- You will note that Bagot is not depicted in this scene. That is because, when the three of them decided to run away in the last act, Bagot ran away in a different direction. He is clearly the brains of the operation.
- Despite claiming that he's only here for his inheritance, Bolingbroke is acting pretty king-like, what with his ordering summary executions and all that.
- Richard's homecoming is such an emotional roller-coaster. One minute he's all "I am king! God is on my side and together we will smite the usurpers!" and the next minute he's all "We're all going to die! Why bother even trying?" Just for fun, count the number of mood swings Richard has in this scene. I've come up with five.
- "For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings" is the Other Big Speech in Richard II, and one of my all-time favorites. Richard is inherently theatrical - witness him stopping the duel to the death at the very last moment, or magnanimously waiving four years of Bolingbroke's banishment. Here, at a moment of deep despair, he is equally theatrical, launching into this great, self-indulgent speech about monarchy and death. It's a corker.
Here's a variety of actors performing the Other Big Speech:
0:00 - An Age of Kings, 1960, David William
1:53 - BBC Shakespeare, 1978, Derek Jacobi
4:28 - Playing Shakespeare, 1982, Richard Pasco
5:59 - Shakespeare's Globe, 2003, Mark Rylance
- Can you find a more consistently alliterative line in Shakespeare than "Not far from hence hath hid his head"? I'm sure there is one, but I haven't come across it yet.
- Richard is being very theatrical again here. He knows he's lost already; all his supporters have deserted him and he's trapped in a castle surrounded by Bolingbroke's army. But he doesn't just give in. No, he launches into a terrific speech about "armies of pestilence" and "the purple testament of bleeding war". And then, having put on a good show, he just gives up.
- Here we get more melodrama from Richard, with his whole "I'll be buried in the king's highway" speech. It's so gloriously and self-indulgently tragic. I'm pretty sure he's loving every minute of it.
- "Bind up yon dangling apricocks" is funny. I don't care what you say.
- Richard II should also be known as "the play full of gardening political allegories".
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