Is "Richard II" a political play?

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markchambers1966 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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The simple answer is 'yes' because it shows a king who begins to lose touch with the events surrounding him, and consequently end up being murdered. The historical Richard II was a most interesting king who moved for a High Court Culture and a more peaceful existance rather than the war zone that came both before and after him. He also seems to have had an acute sense of Majesty and of his own position that Shakespeare captures. Unusually for a Shakespearean history the play does keep much of the 'history' intact, albeit compressed into the last years of the reign. It shadows his deposition and allows Richard some very moving speeches as he contemplates the 'death of kings.' It was certainly seen as Political in the time of Shakespeare and when it was put on during the 'Essex Rebellion' Elizabeth 1st is alledged to have said "I am Richard II" and sent out for a portrait of the king. The play questions Bolingbroke's right to hold the throne and this is explored further in Henry IV part one which follows on from Richard II. Indeed the whole 'Wars of the Roses' cycle of plays can be seen as stemming from the 'illegal' depositiion of Richard causing a schism in the natural order of power.


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