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?


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