Lex-Ham Community Theater
Shakespeare Reading Series
Richard II

For Godís sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings.
  
King Richard II, Act III, scene ii

So says King Richard II to the Duke of Aumerle in this sad story about the death of a king - and lots of other people for that matter.

The story focuses on the last days of the reign of Richard II - a boy who became king in 1377  at the age of 9 surrounded by many in-fighting relatives.  Richard's downfall begins with a quarrel between Thomas Mowbray and Richard's cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke.  Both are banished, and Richard then seizes Henry's property to fund a war in Ireland.  What happens then?  Who supports whom?  Who should rule?

Shakespeare never let historical accuracy get in the way of a good story.  Here are a few historical inaccuracies in Richard II

In the play Historical fact
The queen is a mature woman Richard's queen, Isabel, married him in 1396 when she was 7 years old to strengthen ties with France.
The Earl of Northumberland is a contemporary of Bolingbroke and has a young son, Harry Percy. Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, was close in age to John of Gaunt.  His son, Harry, was two years older than Bolingbroke.

Some good references for the play are:

The Story
Text of the play
SparkNotes summary of the play
Britannia.com - Richard II
Background information
Shakespeare timeline - 1599: The Great Globe
The censureship of Richard II
Richard II timeline
See paintings of Richard II and his contemporaries

Sources
Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Mirror for Magistrates

Film Versions
Richard II (1978) BBC
Richard II (1982) Video

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Last updated: 04/19/08