Richard II (drama)

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Richard II ( The Tragedy of King Richard the Second ) is a play by William Shakespeare . It is about the unfortunate last years of reign (1398/99), the forced abdication and murder of King Richard II in 1400. Shakespeare's most important source was Raphael Holinsheds Chronicle of England, Scotland and Ireland in the version of 1587. The author has the work probably completed around 1595. The first mention can be found in the entry in the "Stationers' Register" by the London publisher Andrew Wise in August 1597. It was first printed in the same year as a separate edition in the workshop of Valentine Simmes . The mention of a work with a similar title in a letter from Margaret Carey, the daughter of Henry Carey , to Robert Cecil on December 9, 1595 is generally considered to be the first reference to a private performance. The first confirmed performance dates from February 1601 at the Globe Theater. Together with A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet, the play belongs to the group of Shakespeare's early, so-called lyrical dramas from around 1595/96. Performances of the work in Germany are very rare today, but the British public is very familiar with Richard II. It has a key position among scholars for the understanding and interpretation of the royal dramas.


Title page of the first quarto, 1597.

Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, accuses Thomas Mowbray of several crimes, including a. participating in the murder of the Duke of Gloucester. Since King Richard II, who was called on as judge, cannot reconcile the two, they finally challenge each other to a duel. Meanwhile, the widow of the murdered man tries in vain to persuade Bolingbroke's father John of Gaunt to commit an act of revenge against the murderer - in contrast, according to traditional medieval beliefs, Gaunt relies on a legitimate divine judgment through a duel between the opponents and would therefore prefer to leave the punishment to God (I. ii.37-41). Richard II, however, breaks off the ordered duel through a fickle and arbitrary or unlawful decision and banishes both opponents. When Bolingbroke left England, Richard decides to go on a campaign against Irish rebels, for which he wants to take money from the wealthy of his country in the face of empty coffers. The news that Gaunt is dying comes at just the right time - Richard decides to confiscate his property for the Irish War.

On Gaunt's deathbed, Richard had to listen to violent accusations for ruining the country and being involved in the Gloucester murder; but as soon as Gaunt is dead, he declares his property confiscated. As soon as the king is on his campaign in Ireland, when Bolingbroke lands with an army in the north-east of England, he finds the nobility indignant at the actions of the weak, complacent and pleasure-seeking king. The few loyal to the King are unable to raise an army against Bolingbroke. The Duke of York, who is to rule the country during Richard's absence, goes with Queen Isabel to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where he declares his neutrality to Bolingbroke, who appears with his army. Meanwhile, there is more bad news for the king: a Welsh army, which Richard was supposed to reinforce after his return from Ireland, is dispersing because of bad omens.

In Bristol Castle, Bolingbroke seizes the loyal Bushy and Greene and has them executed. Richard, who has returned to the British Isles, soon realizes the hopelessness of his situation and retires to Flint Castle in Wales , renouncing a campaign against the overpowering Bolingbroke . There, his opponent lets him know that he will come as a loyal subject if Richard surrenders the land and title that he had usurped when Gaunt died. Richard gives in. - The queen learns from a gardener that her husband is now in the hands of Bolingbrokes.

Brought to London, Richard is ready to give Bolingbroke the crown too. The Bishop of Carlisle warns the usurper that his actions will result in the suffering and bloodshed of future generations, and is promptly removed. After the formal handover of the crown, Bolingbroke ordered Richard into the tower.

On the way to the Tower, Richard meets Isabel, who he advises to go to France and consider him dead. Bolingbroke, popular with the people, is crowned and is henceforth King Henry IV. When the Duke of York discovers that his son Rutland is involved in a conspiracy against the new king, he rides to the king; Rutland arrives before his father and asks Heinrich for mercy. Heinrich spares him, but has the other conspirators executed. - Richard, who was brought to Pomfret Castle in Northern England, surrenders to captivity without resistance and from then on indulges in reflections on his fate. Only now, after losing power, does he come to, see the full beauty of his - past - kingdom, and his thoughts gain philosophical depth: "I have been studying how I may compare / This prison where I live unto the world" (V.5.1f). When he was murdered by one of Heinrich's henchmen, his last words were: "Mount, mount, my soul, your seat is up on high, / Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die" (V.5.111f). The new king knows how to react pragmatically to the news of his death: by distancing himself from the act and announcing a planned crusade in honor of Richard.

See also

Text output

  • William Shakespeare: King Richard II. The Arden Shakespeare. Edited by Charles R. Forker. London 2002. ISBN 978-1903436332 .
  • William Shakespeare: King Richard II. The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics). Edited by Anthony B. Dawson. OUP 2011. ISBN 978-0199602285 .
  • William Shakespeare: King Richard II. NCS The New Cambridge Shakespeare. Edited by Andrew Gurr. CUP 2003. ISBN 978-0521532488 .
  • William Shakespeare, King Richard II. - King Richard II. English-German. Translation by Frank Günther; Essay and Bibliography v. Joachim Frenk (ars vivendi Verl., Cadolzburg, 2000). ISBN 978-3897161658 .
  • William Shakespeare, King Richard II. English-German study edition. German prose version, remarks, introduction and commentary by Wilfrid Braun. Francke, Tübingen 2nd edition 1989. ISBN 978-3-86057-545-1 .
  • William Shakespeare, King Richard II. Bilingual edition. Edited and translation by Dieter Hamblock. Reclam 1986. ISBN 978-3150098066 .


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