Tag Archives: shakespeare

Getting to Know Richard II

am-i-not-kingOur 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. 

  1. 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.  
  2. In need of cash he seizes the land of his dead uncle who was a really popular guy and this makes everyone mad. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.

  1. Richard II is the only play Shakespeare wrote completely in verse. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. A famous quote from the play is…… I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
  5. 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.  

Other posts……

 The Real Richard III

Henry V- Just About Perfect

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The Real Richard III?

richard IIII enjoyed the excellent performance of Richard III by the Shakespeare in the Ruins company last night.  This morning I decided to do a little research to review the historical events I had seen portrayed in the play.  What I discovered is that Shakespeare’s Richard III isn’t really historical at all. Shakespeare was basically doing a smear job on Richard making him evil and unattractive when in fact historians and scientists tell us something quite different. A couple of years ago they discovered Richard III’s bones under a parking garage in Leicester and tests on his remains proved that while he did have scoliosis he was not short and not nearly as crippled by the disease as Shakespeare portrayed him and he did not have an emaciated arm. There is no actual proof he killed two young princes in order to take over the throne of England and most likely his wife Anne married him willingly and died of tuberculosis. In Shakespeare’s version Anne is forced to marry Richard and he poisons her.

richard III wiki commons artist unknown

Richard III as portrayed by an unknown artist in the late 16th century

 Apparently in his short two-year reign Richard, who was a lover of literature, music, architecture and education made some progressive changes to the British legal system. A Richard III Society has been in operation since 1924 defending the legacy of the much maligned king. Since I wrote a blog post yesterday about Jane Austen I should add that she was ‘inclined to suppose King Richard III a very respectable man.’ Debbie Patterson does a great job of making King Richard a maniacal, manipulative and ultimately pitiful monarch in the Shakespeare in the Ruins production, but it’s just a little disconcerting to know that the real King Richard III probably wasn’t anything like that at all.

Other posts………      

A Mid Summer Night’s Dream

Antony and Cleopatra and the Mosquitoes

Food From the Land and Shakespeare in the Ruins

 

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Filed under History, Theatre