Tag Archives: Richard II

Presentations Day Two. 5 Nov.


Presentation 1 Recap

Student Topic 
Patrick In his presentation, Patrick directed our attention to the contest over truth that the play stages. First he defined truth through a nice explication of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: humans in general, like the few people chained in the cave, take mistake the shadows (phenomena) for the thing-in-itself (noumena). To show how the play engages with questions of truth & perception, he drew our attention to the exchange between Gaunt and Bolingbroke in 1.3. Gaunt advises Bolingbroke to “Suppose the singing birds musicians” (1.3.288). Bolingbroke replies, “O, who can hold a fire in his hand/By thinking on the frosty Caucauses?” (1.3.293-4). We’ve seen this contest in every play we’ve read so far this semester. It’s safe to say that Shakespeare was preoccupied with the question: where does truth come from or how is truth determined? Is the world outside of people what people say it is (or what authority says it is), or do I use my senses to observe and deduce the stuff outside? Response to this question determines eco/environmental work.
Hannah M. Hannah directed our attention to the fact that the play is written entirely in verse, which has a weird effect on characterization. For instance, how does the verse form inflect the exchange between the Gardener and the Servant in lines such as “Go thou and like an executioner/Cut off the heads of too-fast-growing sprays/that look to lofty in the commonwealth” (3.4.33-35). If truth is what I say it is does how I say it matter? Hannah argues that the elevated language allows the characters to say more, but also obfuscate their private intentions. When Richard is finally alone in 5.5.41-65, Hannah argues he “uses verse to keep time; hears his failure in the discord; left with only speech and no action; and he figures himself as a clock (which is a weird instance of blazon, like we saw in Taming of the Shrew, b/c he anatomizes/allegorizes himself.
Beau Beau talked about foreshadowing/omens: Gaunt’s speech that begins, “Methinks I am prophet new inspired” (2.1.31-69); sacral kingship, “The sacred king, the human embodiment of the dying and reviving vegetation god, was supposed to have originally been an individual chosen to rule for a time, but whose fate was to suffer as a sacrifice, to be offered back to the earth so that a new king could rule for a time in his stead” (“Sacred King” Wiki); and images of decay: Garden 3.4, ex: “wasteful King” (3.4.55). What sort of proof would confirm for the audience (that Shakespeare has set up as a jury) that Richard is magic and that, by extension, divine right of kings is a real thing?
Jeffrey Jeffrey drew out attention to ways the Richard II performs loyalty. He argued one of the fault lines in the play separates try loyalists from traitors. He drew our attention to the oaths of loyalty the characters express God through the king in 1.2 & that to disobey the king is to disobey God. He wondered, give the structures of obedience, why Richard is all but abandoned by the end of act 2. I wonder, how does the same power that authorizes Richard, or divine kingship in general, also undermine it? For instance, when Richard takes Bolingbroke’s inheritance, how does he negate the same processes that ensure his right to rule. Or as York explains, “Take Hereford’s rights away and take from time/His charters and his customary rights,/Let not tomorrow then ensue today,/Be not thyself–for how art though a king/But by fair sequence and succession?” (2.1.195-99)  

Presentation 2: Sun, Caroline, & Danny

Audience, prepare yourselves for the Q&A


Richard II, Act 4: The Deposition of the King

As we watch the deposition of Richard, please keep the following prompt in mind and be prepared to discuss your responses afterward:
If in Richard II Shakespeare puts absolute sovereignty on trial to be adjudicated by the audience that he has transformed into a jury, what sorts of appeals does the play make for and against sovereignty? Which position is more compelling and why? What is your final assessment?



Appeals. 29 Oct.



What did we cover on Tuesday? Do you have any questions about either the King Lear assignment or the presentation assignment?

Please note: there is no class on Nov 12 and “The Rape of Lucrece” has been removed from the schedule.


Part I. Presentation Groups

Get into your presentation groups and brain storm presentation topics. Also, I had to make some scheduling changes, so check to make sure you can present on the dates listed below. If you have a conflict on those dates, we can reschedule.
Presentation Groups:

Note: presentations should convey a explicit goal, argument, or concept that helps your audience to better understand an aspect of the play, or that sheds light on an element of the play that has been overlooked. To accomplish your task you may want to organize the entire presentation according to one of the following suggestions: provide contextual information; explain issues related to staging and/or performance history; give an overview of ways in which the textual history of the play effects its meaning; or develop a reading of a scene or entire play by teasing out a formal, rhetorical, or linguistic pattern.

Titus Andronicus Synopsis

  • Nov 3, Richard II Acts 2-3. Patrick, Hannah M., Beau, & Jeffrey
  • Nov 5, Richard II Act 4. Sun, Caroline, Danny, & Alexandra
  • Nov 10, Richard II Act 5. Robert, Madison, Ainee, & Nick
  • Nov 17, Titus Andronicus Acts 1-2. Kelsey, Isabelle, Kira, & Thomas
  • Nov 19, Titus Andronicus Act 3. Chan Bailey, June, & Tony
  • Dec 3, Titus Andronicus Act 4-5. Angeline, Shamala, Hannah P., & Sarah


Part II. Generating Discussion Questions

Since you may want to include a discussion question in your presentation, I thought we could work on discussion question generating strategies. For this exercise, stay in your presentation groups and complete the following tasks:
  • First, what are some of the major themes or goals of Richard II so far? Might want to brainstorm a list and then come to a consensus over your responses.
  • Next, choose a scene, a character, a passage, or a repeated word, image, or phrase that you think provides insight into the larger goals of the play. Summarize and close read the evidence you chose.
  • Finally, develop one discussion question out of your findings. What sorts of questions can you ask to help your classmates to better negotiate the first act of Richard II

RQ: Intro (1-40) & Richard II


Genealogy of the English MonarchyElizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)

According to Yachnin & Dawson, why does Richard II occupy “an important place in the Shakespeare canon” (1)? Why doesn’t the play get taught more often?

What does Queen Elizabeth mean when she says, ““I am Richard II know ye not that…He that will forget God will also forget his benefactors…this tragedy was played forty times in open streets and houses” (Chambers, II 326-7 (4)?

Why did supporters of the Early of Essex commission a special performance of Richard II in 1601? What came of the performance?

How and/or why does the printed text of Richard II change between the late 16th and the early 17th?

Was the deposition scene (4.1) cut from or added to the printed editions (both Q & F) after 1608? Why?

Why was the deposition more of an issue than the regicide?

According to the editors, “What thoughts can honor and allegiance not think?” (18).

What are the “king’s two bodies” and how does he get them (17)? Is the King subject to the law, or is the law subject to the King?

Who eventually deposes Richard and why?

How does the play set-up the audience as judges of affairs of state? How else the does the play position the roles of playgoers (ex:3.4 & 5.2)?

“What is the nature and source of political authority and under what circumstances is it legitimate to resist or even overthrow that authority” (21)?

What are some standard purposes of historical writing and how does Richard II meet those standards?

What is “sacral kingship” and how does it play out in Richard II?

Richard II, Act I

What does it mean that Richard refuses to arbitrate the quarrel between Bolingbroke and Mowbray?

Does it show his weakness or his that his strength comes from God b/c he allows God to arbitrate via trial by combat?

Does the courtliness get in the way of the fighting? Is it a substitute for fighting, or is the violence a substitute for courtliness? Violent rhetorical skirmish and lots of repetition, who’s all that rhetoric for?

When Richard interrupts the tournament at 1.3.55 (or so), does he interrupt God’s judgment

Why banish Bolingbroke?

Act 4

How does the phrase free speech pepper this act? How has its meaning or effect changed since the courtroom scene in act 1?

Of what does Bagot accuse Aumerle (4.1.11-13) and how does Aumerle respond?

How does act four repeat the actions and rhetoric in act 1? How is it different? What’s the point of the repetition?

Why won’t Bolingbroke let Bagot pick up Aumerle’s gage (duel challenge)?

What testimony does Fitzwater give against Aumerle? What proof does he offer? Why does he throw down his gage?

What testimony does Percy give against Aumerle? Does he offer any proof? Why does he throw down his gage?

What testimony Another Lord give against Aumerle? Does he offer any proof? Why does he throw down his gage?

Does Surrey give false testimony in the court? How can Bolingbroke know if he’s lying or not & why may the undecidability be a problem?

Why all the puns on “lie” (4.1.68-90)?

What does Aumerle do when he runs out of gloves to throw down to challenge his interlocutors?

How does Bolingbroke resolve the quarrel amongst his nobles? What can Norfolk do to help find out the truth about Gloucester’s murder (4.1.90)? Why can’t Norfolk provide testimony after all?

With what news does York interrupt the proceedings?

What does York mean when he says, “Ascend his throne, descending now from him,/And long live Henry, of that name the forth!” (4.1.112-13)? Can humans just do that, or do the intrude on divine decision?

How does Henry respond? How does Carlisle (4.1.115-50)?

Why is Richard so much more active in this scene that Henry? Are you surprised?

Why does Henry call Richard in front of the court? Why not just kill him?

What does Richard communicate through his “hollow crown” metaphor (4.1.182-89) that he could not have communicated more plainly?

What does Richard give to Bolingbroke and what does he keep for himself?

What does Richard loose and what does he gain? What’s lost with Richard? What loss do we experience?

What service does Richard ask of Henry and how does Henry respond? Does Henry grant his request?

What does Northumberland require of Richard and how does Richard respond?

How is Richard like Kate? Is he a scold?

How does York anticipate Titus Andronicus?

If Shakespeare puts absolute sovereignty on trial to be adjudicated by the audience that he has transformed into a jury, what sorts of appeals does the play make for and against sovereignty and what is your final assessment?