(RICHARD II was performed in repertory with KING JOHN).

RICHARD II is entirely in verse, written at the same time as ROMEO AND JULIET and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, teeming with amazing poetry and heart-stopping imagery. It's a play about politics as politics really were and really are. It is reported that Queen Elizabeth I, on learning that her former favorite, the Earl of Essex, had paid for a performance of Richard II to rouse public feeling for usurpation, commented "I am Richard II, know ye not that?" Richard, like Elizabeth, was very conscious, even obsessed, with molding of public opinion and burnishing of his image. Unlike her, however, he was an incompetent ruler, but unlike an incompetent ruler today, he's also a poet, who, as he falls, looks hard into his soul, bringing us with him to the abyss.


The fastidious Richard II is credited with inventing the handkerchief. Note from Iago to Richard: Great idea! Thanks!



"My native English, now I must forgo;
And now my tongue's use is to me no more
Than an unstringed viol or a harp"
     Mowbray Act I scene iii

"All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens."
     Gaunt Act I scene iii

"This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England..."
     Gaunt Act II scene i

"Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king."
     King Richard Act III scene ii

"... Of comfort let no man speak.
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
Let's choose executors and talk of wills.
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 poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed,
All murdered. For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court..."
     King Richard Act III scene ii


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"I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My scepter for a palmer's walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints,
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little, little grave, an obscure grave..."
     King Richard Act III scene iii

"Down, down I come, like glist'ring Phaeton,
Wanting the manage of unruly jades."
     King Richard Act III scene iii

"O that I were a mockery king of snow
Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke,
To melt myself away in water drops."
     King Richard Act IV scene i

"I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world,
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it. yet I'll hammer it out."
     Richard Act V scene v

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