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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Elisa

King Richard II

Setting:1398-1400 AD England and Wales History

My really abridged plot summary: King Richard is more concerned with the aesthetics of kingship than actually ruling. Bolingbroke and Mowbray are fighting over an unresolved political murder (showing gauntlets and everything). Richard banishes them both, and Bolingbroke's father passes shortly after, and Richard takes his land (this is the final straw for Bolingbroke). Richard then goes to Ireland to deal with the ongoing war. Meanwhile, Bolingbroke assembles an army and support to depose Richard. Richard quickly looses his control over England and his supporters are quick to turn on him. Bolingbroke takes Richard prisoner (where he spends a lot of time contemplating his life, very Hamlet of him). Bolingbroke will soon become King Henry IV. There's even a dramatic staged attempt to publicly depose Richard, but Richard remains a scene-stealer and maintains a metaphorical control over the room. Exton is an assassin who both is and is not working for King Henry, who will eventually assassinate Richard. King Henry is a hypocrite and banishes Exton for this. At the very end of the play, he vows to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to clear his conscience of Richard's death... his rule is already off to a rocky start.

My favorite quote: 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! ~King Richard II, III.ii Ratings:

  • Overall Impression: 8- I enjoyed this play, I like the Histories a lot as a genre. I think this play does an excellent job of commentating on the greater idea of the monarchy, then merely telling the general historic narrative.

  • Use of Language: 9- Richard has some phenomenal speeches. This is where we get the concept of the "hollow crown" from and that speech is truly beautiful.

  • Protagonist Arc: 10- Richard has many speeches that show a level of psychological complexity, similar to that of Hamlet. He spends a lot of time contemplating his life and what the crown means. He becomes more psychologically complex as the play progresses, which gives him a more well-written character arc.

  • Female Characters: 7- I enjoyed all 3 of the main women in this play. They were all distinct and I understood their motivations. They're not as significant of players as many of the men are in this play, so that looses them points. The Histories are generally a male-dominated genre.

  • Fits Genre: 9- Yeah this was a solid History. I think it does a good job of examining the monarchy skeptically instead of just merely glorifying it. Also, the Hollow Crown monologue is just truly so complex and telling. We get an excellent Biblical allusion and parallel in this play of the story of Cain and Able. This article dives into this allusion better than I ever could in a blog post- but to summarize, the conflict between Richard and Bolingbroke (cousins to each other) is similar to that of these Biblical brothers. This play can be viewed as a meditation on brotherhood and betrayal that can emerge within that bond.

  • Overall Enjoyment: 8- I liked this play more as it went on. The action, in my opinion, really picked up in act 3.

  • Hype Worthy: 8- I think this is an underrated History. Actually, I think most of the Histories are underrated. BUT I think there are some really unique characters and dynamics in this play.

  • Emotional Impact: 8- I think the reflective nature of Richard gives this play a lot of heart. Also- the Duchess of Gloucester's brief appearance in this play and the Queen's relationship with Richard are highly impactful.


Total: 67/80 Average: 8 *4 out of 5 stars*




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