Richard II : Act 5
PLOT UPDATE: Having been totally outmaneuvered by his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, Richard is forced to abdicate and crown Henry as his successor. Powerless, he is escorted to the Tower of London, a mere prisoner.
- The historical queen does actually have a name: Isabella of Valois. The only problem is she would have been about 10 years old at the time of Richard's deposition. Richard's first wife, Anne of Bohemia, died five years earlier. Anne was, by all accounts, a moderating force on the more capricious Richard, with whom she had a warm relationship. Since neither Dead Anne nor Toddler Isabella fulfilled Shakespeare's need for a tragic queen figure, he invented Nameless Queen a.k.a. Technically Isabella But Older.
- Northumberland shows up again in Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and is totally shocked when Richard's prophecy here turns out to be accurate. He should know better. Nobody in Shakespeare makes a prophecy that doesn't come true.
- I love the York Family scenes. It's like a sitcom, only instead of the father grounding his son, he wants to get him executed for high treason. A laugh a minute!
- Here we get our first mention of Bolingbroke's son, also named Henry, and his burgeoning reputation as a bit of a wastrel. We'll see a lot more of him later on.
- This scene is much, much funnier in performance than it is in cartoon form.
- Piers of Exton is a fictional creation of Shakespeare's. Shakespeare also seems to have ripped off the "knight overhearing frustrated king's hyperbolic exhortation to kill someone and then taking it literally" gag from Henry II's famous "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" remark, which resulted in the horrible and, of course, totally unintended murder of Thomas Becket.
- So, this is what happens when you try to turn a deeply introspective and philosophical soliloquy into a one-page stick-figure comic strip. I fear most of Richard's profound, self-actualizing discoveries were lost in the translation. On the plus side, he does now have sock puppets.
- On a more serious note, this is where Richard, having been stripped of his identity as king, finally discovers his humanity. Or something like that. It's very deep.
- Historically, the real Richard II probably met a far more lingering demise, being slowly starved to death in captivity. At the time, it was apparently put about that he had gone on "hunger strike".
- IT WAS MURDER.
- The murder of a king is never a good thing, especially when the murdered king happened to be your cousin. This essentially blights the rest of Henry IV's reign: he never lives down the title of "usurper" and is forced to constantly deal with little rebellions springing up all over the place.
- This is the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. It takes a few plays to really germinate, but when it does, it takes three whole plays to get it out of its system.
Return to Richard II Homepage