Our son is part of a group of performers who will be presenting a musical version of Richard II at Winnipeg’s Westend Cultural Centre this week called Am I Not King? I’ve been trying to learn something about the monarch at the heart of Shakespeare’s play. Here is the basic plot.
- Richard II is a young monarch very trendy and regal but he spends money rashly on Italian fashions and his friends, chooses poor people to advise him and raises taxes to fund his sometimes ill conceived military escapades.
- In need of cash he seizes the land of his dead uncle who was a really popular guy and this makes everyone mad.
- Henry of Bolingbroke is Richard’s cousin and should have inherited the land Richard confiscated. People really like Henry who Richard has sent into exile.
- While Richard is over in Ireland fighting a war cousin Henry gets an army together and invades England. Common folk and nobles alike rally around Henry and by the time Richard gets back from Ireland his cousin has taken over the country.
- Richard is imprisoned in a remote castle where an assassin who may or may not have been hired by King Henry kills Richard.
Here are five interesting things about the play.
- Richard II is the only play Shakespeare wrote completely in verse.
- In the play Richard’s wife Isabela is an adult but in reality she was a child bride who was married to Richard at age 6 in an attempt to create peace between England and France during the Hundred Years War. Also historians believe Richard starved to death in exile. He wasn’t murdered as Shakespeare depicts.
- The play was considered politically dangerous when it was written in the 1590s because at the time a group of rebellious nobles led by the Earl of Essex were attempting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth just as Henry overthrew his cousin Richard in the play.
- A famous quote from the play is…… I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
- I’ve found a novel for young readers called The Gentle Falcon which tells the story of Richard’s wife Isabella and downloaded it on my Kindle to read before I see the play
By the way you can get tickets to the play/musical here.