Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
on 25 November 2013
“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;” (5v)
I can't believe how long it has taken me to discover this jewel of a play. I bow to Greg Doran's production, David Tennant's Richard II, complete with red hair extensions, and the RSC's 2013 cast. A stunning production which led me to read and reread this several times despite having avoided the history plays for many years. Tennant brought out the beauty of Shakespeare's language and walked the tightrope between an arrogant, self aggrandising king convinced of his divine right to rule, and a vulnerable man facing his own mortality. As Bolinbroke's star comes into the ascendant so, surprisingly, sympathy for him wanes and Richard's moral superiority rises. Shakespeare has created a fascinating hero. He may be irritating as hell and sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, yet it is Richard's speeches I am constantly drawn to. One of the masterful strokes in this play is that the politics always seem murky, roles are frequently reversed, we never quite know the truth of Gloucester's murder, who has been deceiving whom, or who will commit the next treasonous act. And have I mentioned Shakespeare's language? Just stunning. Yet so compact.
Richard II to Bolingbroke “Good king, great king, and yet not greatly good,” (4i) Unpick that, and yet, ostensibly it's a throwaway line; the play is full of them. How does Shakespeare do it?
Having said that, I think this is a play that is begging to be seen not read. If this play has not stunned you on a reading, go and watch a good performance; so much is in the nuances of the language. During Elizabeth's reign the play was so politically explosive that the deposition scene could be performed, but could not be recorded as the written copy was treasonous. It wasn't published in full till 1608. In 1601,the Duke of Essex commissioned a public performance of a play, thought to be Richard II. The next morning he started a rebellion. (He was captured. The players were held for questioning but later released - however they performed the play at royal command to Elizabeth I the night before Essex was executed.) Explosive stuff.
As for a summary of the play, just 9 words from Richard will do it: “Give me the crown. Here, cousin, seize the crown;” (4i) Game of Thrones anyone?