MIRIAM A. HYMAN: What you’re saying is so tasty. It's just -- Ooh, it's so specific. And every single word is chosen, for a reason. It's never thrown together.
AYANNA THOMPSON: I have left this production feeling like Black Americans should be the ones doing Shakespeare for now on.
AYANNA THOMPSON: You're welcome America, again
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: This is Free Shakespeare on the Radio, from WNYC in collaboration with the Public Theater. I’m Vinson Cunningham.
This is Day 2 of Richard II -- we’re listening to the play together over four nights this week.
If you want to read along to the play, go to wnyc.org/shakespeare to download a copy of the script.
Often we come to Shakespeare with a bunch of preconceived notions. Especially around what the actors look and sound like. People like André Holland, who plays King Richard in this production, want to change that.
ANDRÉ HOLLAND: I just want to take away all the dust that's on the play. These received ideas we have about how we have to revere the language and it's meant to be this and that and we have to come to it with a certain amount of intellectual understanding. No man, it's just people who living their lives. And I hope that that's what the people who listen to the play take away from it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Tonight in addition to listening to the play together, we’re going to talk a little bit about the language and voice and how the meaning of Shakespeare’s words and what we take away from them have a lot to do with how they are spoken and who they are spoken by.
Actor John Douglas Thompson is West Indian -- he says he felt at home when he first encountered Shakespeare
JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON: when I first started to look at it, the rhythms of the language, the stories, the characters really reminded me of my own upbringing, particularly emotionally. There may not have been kings and queens and noblemen, but that really didn't matter.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: He’s the Duke of York in our play.
JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON: And I heard those rhythms, you know, remembering my father, hanging out with his friends in the backyard and the way they used to talk / I could tie it right back to my own heritage.
ANDRÉ HOLLAND: You know, when I think about Black people in the south, you know we kind of naturally speak in this iambic pentameter kinda way at times.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That’s André Holland again.
ANDRÉ HOLLAND: like when I speak to my pops, for example, i call down,how you doing man, how’s your day going -- he might say “I can’t kill nothing and look like won’t nothing die” [laughter] And so when I hear you know when I read Shakespeare, it just sits in my mouth in a cool way, it fits, I feel at home in it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: And for André, having Black people speak these roles might help more people feel at home in them too.
ANDRÉ HOLLAND: So what I hope is that the sound of our voices saying these words will attract people who may otherwise have avoided it you know what i mean -- and maybe they'll hear something in it that they connect to. Like, If my grand-mama turns on this -- I mean she's gone, God bless her -- but if my grandmother when she was living were to go into a theater and hear a play like this, she oughta understand what's going on. It shouldn't be above her head. You know what I mean? Or so sophisticated that she can't find herself in it. And for me, if ordinary folk can't find their way into a play like this, then to the play ain't working. It's a failure.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Now before we move on, a recap on our story so far
LUPITA NYONG’O (NARRATOR): Last night on Richard II
You, cousin Bolingbroke, on pain of life, 140
Till twice five summers have enriched our fields,
Shall not regreet our fair dominions,
But tread the stranger paths of banishment.
Call it a travel that thou tak'st for pleasure.
My heart will sigh when I miscall it so, 263
Which finds it an enforced pilgrimage.
Come, come, my son, I'll bring thee on thy way.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: So now, episode 2: We’re in the hospital with RIchard’s dying uncle, Gaunt.
SAHEEM ALI: The last time we saw Gaunt, he was saying goodbye to Bolingbroke, his son, who he thought he's never going to see again.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That’s Saheem Ali, the play’s director
SAHEEM ALI: And his health got worse as a result of Bolingbroke being away. So what we're about to hear now is Gaunt, on his death bed, being very, very explicit about how he feels about Richard, how he feels about the country.
AYANNA THOMPSON: And I think Gaunt is there as a kind of soothsayer to say, If you lease out our country, that is the end of our power and our strength.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Professor Ayanna Thompson. Now, instead of following Gaunt’s advice, Richard prepares to lead his forces into war. And to finance that effort, he claims the inheritance Gaunt left for Bolingbroke as his own.
JIM SHAPIRO: There's no question that there is something fundamentally wrong in Richard doing that.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Shakespeare scholar Jim Shapiro.
JIM SHAPITO: But there's another truth in this play, which is powerful people can rob the less powerful with impunity. Richard's problem is not that he takes Bolingbroke’s money and houses and estate. The problem is he misjudged Bolingbroke's power to do something about it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Now some of Richard’s men quickly change sides -- almost immediately changing their loyalties to Bolingbroke. But others, especially the Duke of York, struggle to navigate this new terrain. John Douglas Thompson, who you might remember we met earlier, he plays York.
JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON: his two nephews are rivals for the kingship. He has to support one because that's part of him being a loyalist, but then he also needs to support the other because that's his family and they're all family essentially.
And here he is now having to get out of the way of this new, younger leadership or be mowed down by it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: And now, This is Richard II.
The actors and The Public Theater dedicate this production to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Act 2, Scene 1 (Part two)
John of Gaunt is dying in hospital. He’s waiting for his nephew, King Richard. For Richard this visit is an obligation - he’s more interested in his new military campaign. But for Gaunt it’s an opportunity to deliver a final message.
The King is come. Deal mildly with his youth,
For young hot colts, being reined, do rage the more. 70
How fares our noble uncle Lancaster? 71
What comfort, man? How is 't with aged Gaunt? 72
O, how that name befits my composition! 73
Old Gaunt indeed, and gaunt in being old.
For sleeping England long time have I watched;
Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt. 81
Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave,
Whose hollow womb inherits naught but bones. 83
Can sick men play so nicely with their names? 84
No, misery makes sport to mock itself. 85
Since thou dost seek to kill my name in me,
I mock my name, great King, to flatter thee. 87
Should dying men flatter with those that live? 88
No, no, men living flatter those that die. 89
Thou, now a-dying, sayest thou flatterest me. 90
O no, thou diest, though I the sicker be. 91
I am in health, I breathe, and see thee ill. 92
Now He that made me knows I see thee ill – 93
Ill in myself to see, and in thee seeing ill.
Thy death-bed is no lesser than thy land, 95
Wherein thou liest in reputation sick;
A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown, 100
Whose compass is no bigger than thy head;
O, had thy grandsire with a prophet's eye
Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons, 105
From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame,
Deposing thee before thou wert possessed,
Which art possessed now to depose thyself. 108
Landlord of England art thou now, not king.
Thy state of law is bondslave to the law,
And thou – 114
A lunatic lean-witted fool, 115
Presuming on an ague's privilege,
Darest with thy frozen admonition
Make pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood
With fury from his native residence? 119
Now, by my seat's right royal majesty, 120
Wert thou not brother to great Edward's son,
This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head
Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders! 123
O, spare me not, my brother Edward's son, 124
Join with the present sickness that I have,
And thy unkindness be like crooked Age
To crop at once a too-long withered flower.
Live in thy shame, but die not shame with thee! 135
These words hereafter thy tormentors be.
A coughing fit
Beeps intensify. A code.
York: Nurse! Nurse!
Nurses rush in to attempt to revive Gaunt.
Doctor: “no pulse”
Nurse: “no warmth”
Doctor: "no breath”
After some time, a flat line.
The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he. 153
His time is spent; our pilgrimage must be.
So much for that. Now for our Irish wars: 155
We must supplant those rough rug-headed kerns,
And, for these great affairs do ask some charge,
Towards our assistance we do seize to us 160
The plate, coin, revenues, and movables
Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possessed. 162
How long shall I be patient?
Not Gloucestor’s death, nor his Bolingbroke’s banishment, 165
Nor Gaunt's rebukes, nor England's private wrongs,
Have ever made me sour my patient cheek,
Or bend one wrinkle on my sovereign's face. 170
I am the last of noble Edward's sons,
Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first.
In war was never lion raged more fierce, 173
In peace was never gentle lamb more mild
Than was that young and princely gentleman. 175
His face thou hast, for even so looked he,
Accomplished with the number of thy hours;
But when he frowned, it was against the French
And not against his friends. His noble hand 179
Did win what he did spend, and spent not that 180
Which his triumphant father's hand had won.
His hands were guilty of no kindred blood,
But bloody with the enemies of his kin. 183
O Richard! York is too far gone with grief,
Or else he never would compare between – 185
Why, uncle, what's the matter? 186
Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
The royalties and rights of banished Bolingbroke? 190
Is not Gaunt dead? And doth not Bolingbroke live?
Was not Gaunt just? And is not Harry true?
Did not the one deserve to have an heir?
Is not his heir a well-deserving son?
Take Bolingbroke’s rights away, and take from Time 195
His charters and his customary rights;
Let not tomorrow then ensue today;
Be not thyself, for how art thou a king
But by fair sequence and succession?
Now afore God – God forbid I say true! – 200
If you do wrongfully seize upon his rights,
You pluck a thousand dangers on your head, 205
You lose a thousand well-disposed hearts,
And prick my tender patience to those thoughts
Which honor and allegiance cannot think. 208
Think what you will, we seize into our hands
His plate, his goods, his money, and his lands. 210
I'll not be by the while. My liege, farewell. 211
What will ensue hereof there's none can tell.
Go, Bushy 215
Repair for us to Ely House
To see this business. – Tomorrow next 217
We will for Ireland, and 'tis time, I trow.
And we create, in absence of ourself,
Our uncle York Lord Governor of England, 220
For he is just and always loved us well.
Come on, our queen.
Tomorrow must we part? 222
Be merry, for our time of stay is short. 223
With the king and queen gone, the Earl of Northumberland has a private word with the other nobles.
Well, lords, Sir John of Gaunt is dead. 224
And living, too, for now his son is duke. 225
Barely in title, not in revenues. 226
Richly in both, if justice had her right. 227
My heart is great, but it must break with silence 228
Ere 't be disburdened with a liberal tongue.
The King is not himself, but basely led
By flatterers; and what they will inform
Merely in hate 'gainst any of us all, 243
That will the King severely prosecute
'Gainst us, our lives, our children and our heirs. 245
The commons hath he pilled with grievous taxes, 246
And quite lost their hearts. The nobles hath he fined
For ancient quarrels. 248
And daily new exactions are devised,
As blanks, benevolences, and I wot not what. 250
But what, i'God's name, doth become of this?
Wars hath not wasted it, for warred he hath not, 252
But basely yielded upon compromise
That which his noble ancestors achieved with blows.
More hath he spent in peace than they in wars. 255
He hath not money for these Irish wars,
His burdenous taxations notwithstanding, 260
But by the robbing of the banished Duke.
His noble kinsman! Most degenerate King! 262
But, lords, we hear this fearful tempest sing,
Yet seek no shelter to avoid the storm.
We see the very wrack that we must suffer, 267
And unavoided is the danger now.
Not so. Even through the hollow eyes of Death 270
I spy life peering, but I dare not say
How near the tidings of our comfort is. 272
Nay, let us share thy thoughts as thou dost ours. 273
Be confident to speak, Northumberland. 274
We three are but thyself, and, speaking so, 275
Thy words are but as thoughts. Therefore, be bold.
Music grows underneath (Bolingbroke theme)
Then thus: I have received intelligence 277/278
That Harry Bolingbroke,
Well furnished by the Duke of Brittany 285
With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
Are making hither with all due expedience,
And shortly mean to touch our northern shore. 288
If, then, we shall shake off our slavish yoke,
Imp out our drooping country's broken wing,
Redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown,
Wipe off the dust that hides our scepter's gilt,
And make high majesty look like itself 295
Away with me in post to Ravenspurgh
But if you faint, as fearing to do so,
Stay and be secret, and myself will go. 298
To horse, to horse! Urge doubts to them that fear. 299
Hold out my horse, and I will first be there. 300
Act 2, Scene 2
We’re in a royal garden, just after King Richard leaves for war. The Queen is here with the king’s friends Bushy, Bagot and Green.
[Enter the Queen, Bushy, and Bagot.]
Birds and insects
Madam, your majesty is too much sad. 1
You promised, when you parted with the King,
To lay aside life-harming heaviness
And entertain a cheerful disposition. 4
To please the King I did; to please myself 5
I cannot do it. Yet I know no cause
Why I should welcome such a guest as Grief,
Save bidding farewell to so sweet a guest 8
As my sweet Richard. Yet again, methinks,
Some unborn sorrow, ripe in Fortune's womb, 10
Is coming towards me, and my inward soul
With nothing trembles. At some thing it grieves
More than with parting from my lord the King. 13
Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
Which shows like grief itself, but is not so; 15
For Sorrow's eyes, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire to many objects,
Like perspectives, which, rightly gazed upon,
Show nothing but confusion; eyed awry,
Distinguish form. So your sweet majesty, 20
Looking awry upon your lord's departure,
Find shapes of grief more than himself to wail,
Which, looked on as it is, is naught but shadows
Of what it is not. Then, thrice-gracious Queen,
More than your lord's departure weep not. More is not seen, 25
Or if it be, 'tis with false Sorrow's eye, 26
Which for things true weeps things imaginary.
It may be so; but yet my inward soul 28
Persuades me it is otherwise.
God save your majesty! And well met, gentlemen. 41
I hope the King is not yet shipped for Ireland.
Why hop’st thou so? 'Tis better hope he is, 43
For his designs crave haste, his haste good hope.
Then wherefore dost thou hope he is not shipped? 45
The banished Bolingbroke repeals himself,
And with uplifted arms is safe arrived 50
At Ravenspurgh; and, that is worse,
The lord Northumberland, his son, young Hotspur,
With all their powerful friends are fled to him. 55
Why have you not proclaimed Northumberland 56
And all the rest revolted faction, traitors?
We have, whereupon the Earl of Worcester 58
Hath broken his staff, resigned his stewardship,
And all the household servants fled with him 60
So, Green, thou art the midwife to my woe, 62
And Bolingbroke my sorrow's dismal heir.
Now hath my soul brought forth her prodigy, 64
And I, a gasping new-delivered mother, 65
Have woe to woe, sorrow to sorrow joined.
Despair not, madam. 67
Who shall hinder me? 68
I will despair and be at enmity
With cozening Hope. He is a flatterer,
A parasite, a keeper-back of Death 70
Who gently would dissolve the bands of life,
Which false Hope lingers in extremity. 72
Here comes the Duke of York. 73
With signs of war about his aged neck. 74
Uncle, for God's sake, speak comfortable words.
Comfort's in heaven, and we are on the earth, 78
Where nothing lives but crosses, cares and grief.
Your husband, he is gone to save far off, 80
Whilst others come to make him lose at home.
Now shall he try his friends that flattered him. 85
[Enter a Servant]
My lord, your son is with the King. 86
Aumerle? Why, so! Go all which way it will! 87
The nobles they are fled, the commons they are cold
And will, I fear, revolt to Bolingbroke.
I know not what to do. I would to God – 100
The King had cut off my head with my brother's.
Bushy, are there no posts dispatched for Ireland?
Bagot, Green? How shall we do for money for these wars? 104
You, fellow, get thee home; provide some carts
And bring away the armor that is there. 107
Yes, my lord
Gentlemen, will you go muster men? 108
If I know how or which way to order these affairs
Thus disorderly thrust into my hands, 110
Never believe me. Both are my kinsmen.
Th' one is my sovereign, whom both my oath
And duty bids defend; th' other again 113
Is my kinsman, whom the King hath wronged,
Whom conscience and my kindred bids to right. 115
Well, somewhat we must do. [To Queen.] Come, my Queen ,
I'll dispose of you. –
Gentlemen, go muster up your men,
And meet me presently at Berkeley Castle. 119
[Duke of York and Queen exit. Bushy, Green, and Bagot remain.]
With the Queen and the Duke of York gone, the three friends have a private word.
The wind sits fair for news to go for Ireland, 123
But none returns. For us to levy power
Proportionable to the enemy is all unpossible. 125
Besides, our nearness to the King in love 126
Is near the hate of those love not the King.
And that is the wavering commons, for their love 128
Lies in their purses; and whoso empties them,
By so much fills their hearts with deadly hate. 130
Wherein the King stands generally condemned. 131
If judgment lie in them, then so do we, 132
Because we ever have been near the King.
Well, I will for refuge straight to Bristow Castle. 134
Thither will I with you. 136
Will you go along with us?
No, I will to Ireland to his Majesty. 140
Farewell. If heart's presages be not vain,
We three here part that ne'er shall meet again. 142
Act 2, Scene 3
Bolingbroke has dared to return to gather his supporters. The Earl of Northumberland is one of them.
[Enter Bolingbroke and Northumberland.]
Trampling through underbrush
How far is it, my lord, to Berkeley now? 1
Believe me, noble lord, 2
I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire.
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles and makes them wearisome. 5
And yet your fair discourse hath been as sugar,
Making the hard way sweet and delectable. 7
Of much less value is my company 18
Than your good words. But who comes here? 20
It is my son, 21
Sent from my brother Worcester whencesoever.
Hotspur, how fares my brother? 23
I had thought, my lord, to have learned his health of you. 24
Why, is he not with the Queen? 25
No, my good lord, he hath forsook the court, 26
Broken his staff of office, and dispersed
The Household of the King. 28
What was his reason?
He was not so resolved when last we spake together. 29
Because your Lordship was proclaimed traitor. 30
But he, my lord, is gone to Ravenspurgh
To offer service to Henry Bolingbroke,
And sent me over by Berkeley to discover
What power the Duke of York had levied there. 34
Have you forgot Henry Bolingbroke, boy? 36
No, my good lord, for that is not forgot 37
Which ne'er I did remember. To my knowledge
I never in my life did look on him. 39
Then learn to know him now. This is he. 40
HOTSPUR [to Bolingbroke]
My gracious lord, I tender you my service, 41
Such as it is, being tender, raw, and young,
Which elder days shall ripen and confirm
To more approved service and desert. 44
I thank thee, gentle Hotspur; and be sure, 45
I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul rememb'ring my good friends;
And as my fortune ripens with thy love, 48
It shall be still thy true love's recompense.
My heart this covenant makes; my hand thus seals it. 50
They do a handshake
NORTHUMBERLAND, [to HOTSPUR]
How far is it to Berkeley, and what stir 51
Keeps good old York there with his men of war? 52
There stands the castle by yon tuft of trees, 53
Manned with three hundred men, as I have heard.
[Enter Ross and Willoughby.]
Here come the lords of Ross and Willoughby, 57
Bloody with spurring, fiery-red with haste.
Welcome, my lords. 59
My lord. 59.1
My lord. 59.2
I wot your love pursues
A banished traitor. All my treasury 60
Is yet but unfelt thanks, which, more enriched,
Shall be your love and labor's recompense. 62
Your presence makes us rich, most noble lord. 63
And far surmounts our labor to attain it. 64
Evermore thanks – the exchequer of the poor, 65
Which, till my infant fortune comes to years,
Stands for my bounty. 67
But who comes here? 68
My noble uncle!
Show me thy humble heart, and not thy knee, 83
Whose duty is deceivable and false. 84
My gracious uncle – 85
Tut, tut! 86
Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle.
I am no traitor's uncle, and that word "grace"
In an ungracious mouth is but profane.
Why have those banished and forbidden legs 90
Dared once to touch a dust of England's ground?
Com'st thou because the anointed king is hence?
Why, foolish boy, the King is left behind, 97
And in my loyal bosom lies his power.
Were I but now the lord of such hot youth
As when brave Gaunt, thy father and myself 100
Rescued the Black Prince, that young Mars of men,
From forth the ranks of many thousand French,
O, then how quickly should this arm of mine, 103
And minister correction to thy fault! 105
My gracious uncle, let me know my fault. 106
On what condition stands it and wherein?
Even in condition of the worst degree, 108
In gross rebellion and detested treason.
Thou art a banished man, and here art come, 110
Before the expiration of thy time,
In braving arms against thy sovereign. 112
As I was banished, I was banished Hereford; 113
But as I come, I come for Lancaster.
And, noble uncle, I beseech your grace 115
Look on my wrongs with an indifferent eye.
You are my father, for methinks in you, 117
I see old Gaunt alive. O then, my father,
Will you permit that I shall stand condemned
A wandering vagabond, my rights and royalties 120
Plucked from my arms perforce and given away 121
To upstart unthrifts? Wherefore was I born?
If that my cousin king be king in England,
It must be granted I am Duke of Lancaster.
You have a son, Aumerle, my noble cousin. 125
Had you first died and he been thus trod down,
He should have found his uncle Gaunt a father
To rouse his wrongs and chase them to the bay.
My father's goods are all distrained and sold, 131
And these, and all, are all amiss employed.
What would you have me do? I am a subject,
And I challenge law. Attorneys are denied me,
And therefore personally I lay my claim 135
To my inheritance of free descent. 136
NORTHUMBERLAND [to York]
The noble duke hath been too much abused. 137
ROSS [to York]
It stands your Grace upon to do him right. 138
My lords of England, let me tell you this: 140
I have had feeling of my nephew’s wrongs
And labored all I could to do him right.
But in this kind to come – in braving arms 143
Be his own carver, and cut out his way
To find out right with wrong – it may not be. 145
And you that do abet him in this kind
Cherish rebellion and are rebels all. 147
The noble Duke hath sworn his coming is 148
But for his own; and for the right of that
We all have strongly sworn to give him aid. 150
Well, well. I see the issue of these arms. 153
I cannot mend it, I must needs confess,
Because my power is weak and all ill-left;
But if I could, by Him that gave me life, 155
I would attach you all and make you stoop
Unto the sovereign mercy of the King.
But since I cannot, be it known unto you
I do remain as neuter. So fare you well – 159
Unless you please to enter in the castle 160
And there repose you for this night.
An offer, uncle, that we will accept. 162
But we must win your Grace to go with us
To Bristow Castle, which, they say is held
By Bushy, Bagot, and their complices, 165
The caterpillars of the commonwealth,
Which I have sworn to weed and pluck away. 167
It may be I will go with you; but yet I'll pause, 168
For I am loath to break our country's laws.
Nor friends nor foes to me welcome you are. 170
Things past redress are now with me past care. 171
Act 2, Scene 4
King Richard was due back from the war by now, but there’s no sign of him. His troops are uneasy.
[Enter Earl of Salisbury and a Welsh Captain.]
Stay yet another day, thou trusty Welshman.
My Lord of Salisbury, we have stayed ten days 1
And hardly kept our countrymen together,
And yet we hear no tidings from the King.
Therefore we will disperse ourselves. Farewell. 4
The King reposeth all his confidence in thee.
'Tis thought the King is dead. We will not stay. 7
Foosteps away then return
The bay trees in our country are all withered,
And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;
The pale-faced moon looks bloody on the earth, 10
And lean-looked prophets whisper fearful change;
These signs forerun the death or fall of kings. 15
Farewell. Our countrymen are gone and fled,
As well assured Richard their king is dead. 17
Ah, Richard, with the eyes of heavy mind 18
I see thy glory like a shooting star
Fall to the base earth from the firmament. 20
Thy friends are fled to wait upon thy foes, 23
And crossly to thy good all fortune goes. 24
Thy sun sets weeping in the lowly west, 21
Witnessing storms to come, woe and unrest. 22
VINSON: This is Free Shakespeare on the Radio, from WNYC in collaboration with the Public Theater. Richard II will back in a moment.
90-SECOND STATION BREAK
VINSON: I’m Vinson Cunningham. You’re listening to Free Shakespeare on the Radio, from WNYC in collaboration with the Public Theater. We return now to Richard II.
Act 3, Scene 1
Bolingbroke continues his march to power. He captures two of King Richard’s closest friends.
[Enter Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, York, Northumberland,
with other Lords, and Bushy and Green prisoners.]
Hubbub of soldiers
Bring forth these men. 1
Footsteps, shuffling, chains
Suspenseful music builds slowly underneath
Bushy and Green, I will not vex your souls – 2
Since presently your souls must part your bodies –
With too much urging your pernicious lives,
For 'twere no charity; yet to wash your blood 5
From off my hands, here in the view of men
I will unfold some causes of your deaths:
You have misled a prince, a royal king, 8
Myself, a prince by fortune of my birth,
Near to the King in blood, and near in love
Till you did make him misinterpret me, 18
Have stooped my neck under your injuries
And sighed my English breath in foreign clouds, 20
Eating the bitter bread of banishment,
Whilst you have fed upon my seigniories,
Leaving me no sign 25
Save men's opinions and my living blood
To show the world I am a gentleman.
This and much more, much more than twice all this,
Condemns you to the death. 29
More welcome is the stroke of death to me 31
Than Bolingbroke to England. Lords, farewell.
My comfort is that heaven will take our souls 33
And plague injustice with the pains of hell.
Music cuts out.
Gunshot. Thump of a body.
Gunshot. Thump of a body.
My Lord Northumberland, see them dispatched. 35
Bodies being dragged
[To York] Uncle, you say the Queen is at your house. 36
For God’s sake, fairly let her be entreated.
Tell her I send to her my kind commends.
Take special care my greetings be delivered. 39
A gentleman of mine I have dispatched 40
With letter of your love to her at large.
Thanks, gentle uncle.— 42
Come, lords, away,
To fight with Glendower and his complices. 43
A while to work, and after holiday. 44
Men collect their belongings and march
Act 3, Scene 2
King Richard, his cousin Aumerle and the Bishop of Carlisle return home from the war. He’s met with very bad news.
How brooks your grace the air 1
After your late tossing on the breaking seas?
Needs must I like it well. I weep for joy
To stand upon my kingdom once again. 5
Fingers run through earth
Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand, 6
Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs.
As a long-parted mother with her child
Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting,
So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth, 10
And do thee favors with my royal hands.
Feed not thy sovereign's foe, my gentle earth,
Yield stinging nettles to mine enemies; 18
And when they from thy bosom pluck a flower,
Guard it I pray thee, with a lurking adder, 20
Whose double tongue may with a mortal touch
Throw death upon thy sovereign's enemies.
Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords. 23
This earth shall have a feeling, and these stones
Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king 25
Shall falter under foul rebellion's arms. 26
Fear not, my lord. That power that made you king 27
Hath power to keep you king in spite of all.
My lord, we are remiss, 33
Whilst Bolingbroke, through our security, 34
Grows strong and great in substance and in power. 35
Discomfortable cousin, knowst thou not 36
That when the searching eye of heaven is hid
Behind the globe that lights the lower world,
Then thieves and robbers range abroad unseen
In murders and in outrage boldly here; 40
But when from under this terrestrial ball
He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines 42
And darts his light through every guilty hole,
Then murders, treasons and detested sins,
The cloak of night being plucked from off their backs, 45
Stand bare and naked, trembling at themselves?
So, when this thief, this traitor, Bolingbroke, 47
Who all this while hath reveled in the night
Whilst we were wand'ring with the Antipodes,
Shall see us rising in our throne, the east, 50
His treasons will sit blushing in his face,
Not able to endure the sight of day,
But, self-affrighted, tremble at his sin. 53
Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king; 55
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord.
For every man that Bolingbroke hath pressed 57
To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,
God for His Richard hath in heavenly pay 60
A glorious angel. Then, if angels fight,
Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right. 62
Welcome, my lord.
How far off lies your power? 63
Nor near nor farther off, my gracious lord, 64
Than this weak arm. 65
One day too late, I fear me, noble lord,
Hath clouded all thy happy days on earth.
Today, today, unhappy day too late, 71
O’erthrows thy joys, friends, fortune and thy state;
For all the Welshmen, hearing thou wert dead,
Are gone to Bolingbroke, dispersed and fled. 74
Comfort, my liege. Why looks your grace so pale? 75
We go inside Richard’s head
But now the blood of twenty thousand men 76
Did triumph in my face, and they are fled;
And till so much blood thither come again,
Have I not reason to look pale and dead? 79
Aumerle sounds like he’s underwater:
Comfort, my liege. Remember who you are. 82
We’re still inside Richard’s head:
I had forgot myself. Am I not king? 83
Awake, thou coward Majesty, thou sleepest!
Is not the King's name twenty thousand names? 85
Arm, arm, my name! A puny subject strikes 86
At thy great glory. I know my uncle York
Hath power enough to serve our turn.
But who comes here? 90
Sound shifts back to reality
More health and happiness betide my liege 91
Than can my care-tuned tongue deliver him.
Mine ear is open and my heart prepared. 93
The worst is worldly loss thou canst unfold.
Say, is my kingdom lost? Why, 'twas my care; 95
And what loss is it to be rid of care?
Strives Bolingbroke to be as great as we?
Greater he shall not be. If he serve God, 98
We'll serve Him too and be his fellow so.
Revolt our subjects? That we cannot mend. 100
They break their faith to God as well as us.
Glad am I that your Highness is so armed
To bear the tidings of calamity. 105
Like an unseasonable stormy day,
Which makes the silver rivers drown their shores 107
So high above his limits swells the rage
Of Bolingbroke, covering your fearful land 110
With hard bright steel and hearts harder than steel. 111
Both young and old rebel, 119
And all goes worse than I have power to tell. 120
Too well, too well thou tell'st a tale so ill. 121
Where is Bagot?
What is become of Bushy? Where is Green – 123
That they have let the dangerous enemy
Measure our confines with such peaceful steps? 125
If we prevail, their heads shall pay for it!
I warrant they have made peace with Bolingbroke. 127
Peace have they made with him indeed, my lord. 128
O, villains, vipers, damned without redemption! 129
Dogs easily won to fawn on any man! 130
Snakes in my heart blood warmed, that sting my heart!
Three Judases, each one thrice worse than Judas!
Would they make peace? Terrible hell
Make war upon their spotted souls for this! 134
Their peace is made 137
With heads, and not with hands. Those whom you curse
Have felt the worst of death's destroying wound 139
And lie full low, graved in the hollow ground. 140
Are Green and Bushy dead? 141
Ay, both of them at Bristow lost their heads. 142
Where is the Duke my father with his power? 143
No matter where. Of comfort no man speak! 144
Let's talk of graves, of worms and epitaphs, 145
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth. 147
Let's choose executors and talk of wills.
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground? 150
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's,
And nothing can we call our own but death.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground 155
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, 158
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed –
All murdered. For within the hollow crown 160
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp, 163
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be feared and kill with looks, 165
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and humored thus, 168
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell, king! 170
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence. Throw away respect, 172
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want, 175
Taste grief, need friends. Subjected thus,
How can you say to me I am a king? 177
My lord, wise men ne'er sit and wail their woes, 178
But presently prevent the ways to wail.
My father hath a power. Enquire of him, 186
And learn to make a body of a limb.
Thou chid'st me well. Proud Bolingbroke, I come 188
To change blows with thee for our day of doom.
This ague fit of fear is overblown. 190
An easy task it is to win our own.
Say, Scroop, where lies our uncle with his power?
Speak sweetly, man, although thy looks be sour. 193
I play the torturer by small and small 198
To lengthen out the worst that must be spoken:
Your uncle York is joined with Bolingbroke, 200
And all your northern castles yielded up,
And all your southern gentlemen in arms
Upon his party. 202
Thou hast said enough. 203
Beshrew thee, Aumerle, which didst lead me forth
Of that sweet way I was in to despair. 205
What say you now? What comfort have we now?
By heaven, I'll hate him everlastingly
That bids me be of comfort any more. 208
That power I have, discharge. 211
Let no man speak again
To alter this, for counsel is but vain. 213
My liege, one word.
He does me double wrong 215
That wounds me with the flatteries of his tongue.
Discharge my followers. Let them hence away,
From Richard's night to Bolingbroke's fair day. 218
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That was episode 2 of Richard II. Now we’re going to dive deep on the language of Shakespeare. We’ll talk with Miriam A. Hyman, who plays Bolingbroke.
But first we’re checking back in with Ayanna Thompson. Ayanna teaches English, but also advises theaters about how best to navigate putting on Shakespeare plays today
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: You know, some people call it colorblind casting. I've, I've heard that you prefer --
AYANNA THOMPSON: Well, I mean, I think it either color conscious casting or some people like to call it new traditional.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That sounds like a restaurant
AYANNA THOMPSON: The big start to what was then initially called colorblind casting was under Joseph Papp in the 1950s, because he specifically thought that Shakespeare, if it was going to be for everyone should look and sound like everyone.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Even that was radical to start, but Papp took things further.
AYANNA THOMPSON: I think he had a change of heart and started having color conscious casting where you weren't just supposed to ignore the fact that a character was Black or whatever, but in fact think about what that Black culture, history brings to a new interpretation of the play.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: And I want to ask you about, you know there is certainly a kind of meaning that happens … When a a role, not traditionally reserved for say a black actor is then, that person shows up on stage and, and much of the meaning that kind of floods in is visual.
Here though, we have voices. What do you think that does to change that that problem or that friction?
AYANNA THOMPSON: I love it so much. And I think it’s going to open another way to think about how we understand race and how we understand culture. Because what I love about the actors voices, I love the fact that these actors sound so American, and sound Black. Sound like Black Americans. And it made the words clearer to me! I felt like I was hearing the words in the most clear fashion imaginable.
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: And that's what we need right now in this climate. More than anything is the talking and the listening, the listening. A lot of the talking has been happening, but the listening has to happen
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That’s Miriam A. Hyman. Bolingbroke in our play, but you might know her from the show The Chi. She’s also a musician. She started writing music in 2013 when she had just graduated from drama school and was in a different Shakespeare production.
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: basically it kind of was like from the Bard to the bars, you know
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: For Miriam it all starts with the language
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: And I think that's typical for me when it comes to [00:24:00] Shakespeare. I'm like, Ooh, don't cut anything. It's all so juicy. No I'm fighting for lines.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Yeah.
MIRIAM Um I mean, I can just read this and speak this for days. It's just the specificity is what I just have to keep going back to and the repetition. I feel like it makes it even more honest because you're asking like how, how, how, why, why, why, you know.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: I love how Shakespeare will put out an idea, something that's an idea. And then immediately in repeating it, then create an image, like create this big analogy,
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: I mean. Yeah,
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: And then come back to the idea. Yeah.
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: And it's also the repetition of if one character says a line, then how the other character picks that up, you know, and moves forward. You know, York says to me, even in condition of the worst degree in gross rebellion and detested treason, Thou art, a banished man.
And here art come before the exploration of thy time and braving arms against thy sovereign. And my response is as I was banished, I was banished Hereford, but as I come, I come for Lancaster. So it just, just in those few lines, we hear banished three times. We hear I about four times we hear come twice, you know, like it's just, but you have to repeat yourself when people aren't listening, you understand?
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: yeah,
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: Come on, Vinson, come on. That's it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: It's like Shakespeare is the original, but you don't hear me though.
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: come on now. We're going to have to start spitting bars. Wait a minute. It, yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: So moving forward then to this production, um, what was your initial impression of Bolingbroke specifically.
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: well was interesting because initially when we thought we were going to be doing the play, it was like, I want to say pre Corona. And so what, what the play meant for me then was very different than what the play means for me now, specifically in this climate.
And so this is now, you know, post George Floyd posts, Breonna Taylor, you know, Bolingbroke and specifically, um, I feel like somewhat akin to George Floyd in the sense that everything that I have has been taken away from me, I've been banished. I've been wronged. I'm not in a position to really fight for myself or have attorneys, you know, to support me. My senior is my land. Everything has been stripped of me. My father has been, you know, died basically.
And he died because I was banished. And there's one line that I have right before I'm about to have a fight with Mowbray and I say “mine innocence and st. George to thrive.” And so, I'm like, wow, he's, this is like a prayer, you know, something that he's shouting prior to him going into battle, you know, and so for the name to be st. George. I just was like, Whoa. And I was in rehearsal, you know, and I said, did anybody catch that?
And they're like, what do you mean? You know?
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Yeah,
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: And I said, mine innocence and st. George to thrive, you know? Fast forward. My EP drops, it's called alter ego. And I have a song on that EP, which is a bonus track called brother George. And so you hear within the hook, some similarities to that specific line,
I just feel like there were so many similarities, you know, to just kind of like what's being, what's going on as being stripped, us demanding to be, [00:12:00] you know, demanding the equality, you know, demanding to be seen.
We are not the invisible man, or we will not be treated as such,
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: You know, we talk a lot about how, um, casting, um, multiculturally changes the meanings of certain texts, but we talk, I think, less about casting across sex or gender. Did playing Bolingbroke Bolingbroke and being a woman changed the way that you then thought about this
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: no,
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Hm.
MIRIAM A. HYMAN: Black women are the most disrespected individuals in the country. So if anything, it just made me feel even more disrespected, even more stript away, um, from, I want to say my birthright, you know, which is free inheritance. Yeah. You know, um, to be free, you know, to be able to, to explore and expand to my heart's desire. But, yeah, so I just felt even more in touch with it, I think. Um, yeah. So that in combination with what is going on within our country, I was just, I was Uber fueled.
Miriam A Hyman. Bolingbroke to us. You’ll hear more from her all week.
VINSON: Tomorrow night, on Richard II --
We do debase ourselves, Aumerle, do we not, 127
To look so poorly and to speak so fair?
Shall we call back Northumberland and send
Defiance to the traitor, and so die? 130
No, good my lord. Let's fight with gentle words 131
Till time lend friends, and friends their helpful swords.
This is Free Shakespeare on the Radio, from WNYC in collaboration with the Public Theater. This production of Richard II was directed by Saheem Ali.
You can find a full list of credits, plus the script and a podcast version of this series, at wnyc.org/shakespeare.
I’m Vinson Cunningham, thank you for listening.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.