AYANNA THOMPSON: For me Richard II is really about what kind of power structures we want...
SAHEEM ALI: What does that mean for a society when you challenge your system of power?
JIM SHAPIRO: Shakespeare takes leaders and puts them under pressure. And then he creates new pressures until they fail. So the interest in this play and in any other history or tragedy is why and when leaders fail.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: I'm Vinson Cunningham, staff writer at the New Yorker and this is Free Shakespeare on the Radio, from WNYC in collaboration with the Public Theater.
Tonight, our third episode of Richard II. This is where the whole play turns. If you know Richard II, this may be the episode you’ve been waiting for -- this is where we hear the famous “deposition scene,” where Bolingbroke claims the crown of Richard as his own. Ayanna Thompson teaches English at Arizona State University -- she’s been with us all week to help understand the play.
AYANNA THOMPSON: The deposition scene is the scene in which Bolinbroke and his Confederates force Richard to take his crown off and to renounce his kingship.
REHEARSAL: So you say give me the crown, there’ll be a bit of narration there….
AYANNA THOMPSON: And he has to do this in front of them for Bolingbroke to legitimately become King Henry IV. Although it's meant to be a scene of kind of just legal transition of power, it ends up being one of the most moving scenes about an existential sense of what one's identity is.
SAHEEM: One of the beautiful, beautiful things about this play man, is that Richard's clarity, uh, increases exponentially the further he's away from the crown.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: This is Saheem Ali -- he’s the director of this production of Richard II.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Which is, I mean, that's how life works.
SAHEEM ALI: Right, right?
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Yeah.
SAHEEM ALI: You don't know what you got until you don't have it anymore,
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That's right. Yeah.
SAHEEM ALI: He just like -- this person emerges as the play progresses, who is like, so lucid, so sensitive, so thoughtful, and you're like, where was he before?
What, what was obscuring that, and that becomes a question. Was it willful? Was it not willful? Was that person always there, but because of his circumstances, because he was forced to lead, he just didn't have the time?
I don't think a person just emerges. I think a person has always been there, right? Like, like your characteristics are, they lie somewhere beneath and what's going to activate them. And so the play is this long, slow, beautiful release of Richard's humanity,
REHEARSAL: “Let’s take it again. Um, Dre, that second here cousin, just touch more of that…”
SAHEEM ALI: which you just don't see in the beginning.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: If you want to follow along by script, go to wnyc.org/shakespeare, to download the play. But first let’s catch up .
LUPITA NYONG’O: Last night on Richard II
I have received intelligence
That Harry Bolingbroke,
Well furnished by the Duke of Brittany
With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
Are making hither with all due expedience,
And shortly mean to touch our northern shore.
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.
Discharge my followers. Let them hence away,
From Richard's night to Bolingbroke's fair day.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Tonight, we begin with a confrontation at Flint Castle between King Richard and Henry Bolingbroke.
AYANNA THOMPSON: The scene that Flint castle is just a remarkable bit of writing and stagecraft.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That’s Ayanna Thompson again.
AYANNA THOMPSON: because as Richard is on the ramparts at the highest part of the castle, looking down, he sees the impressiveness and the size of Bolingbroke’s support and he's made to descend down to the level of Bolingbroke
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Ayanna, alongside Jim Shapiro from Columbia University, has been helping us understand how the characters evolve.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Over the course of the play, we've seen this charismatic, savvy, adept leader Bolingbroke grow more and more empowered, and now Bolingbroke is approaching Richard's castle. What's going on? And how should the audience understand this sort of heightening in the drama?
JIM SHAPIRO: That’s the question. Bolingbroke is one of the first geniuses at using his charisma, using a disaffected and disgruntled people to turn against their leaders and to turn towards him. What we're witnessing at this point, what it means to take power, not to exercise it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Bolingbroke begins this episode demanding Richard restore his inheritance; he ends it in possession of Richard’s crown. And that change in status is sort of a cataclysm for Richard.
AYANNA THOMPSON: This episode is really, really key to the emotional change or shift that happens in the play. Because if the first two episodes are really establishing Richard's ineffectualness as a leader, then I think the third and fourth, fourth episodes allow us to see his humanity and also to feel, um, grief and loss for what it is to remove someone from a position of power.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Richard’s descent was part of the appeal of the play for director Saheem Ali:
SAHEEM ALI: He was just ill equipped to deal with the corruption and intricacies and abilities that were required to be a successful ruler. There’s a lot that Shakespeare doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t tell us whether Bolingbroke wants the crown from the beginning. He doesn't tell us why Richard decides to give up the crown. We can infer we can deduce -
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Jim -- the guy from Columbia -- he worked with the actors -- to help them understand their characters even better.
JIM SHAPIRO: During rehearsals, zoom rehearsals, I kept asking Miriam Hyman, who’s playing Bolingbroke. “So Miriam, do you want to grab the crown? Is that why you're doing this? Or are you just coming back to get your own, to get your land and moneys back?”
And she quite brilliantly kept putting me off saying, um, I'm not sure yet. I don't know, I'm figuring it out, which is exactly what Bolingbrook would have said, even if he knew he was coming for the throne.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Let’s listen as Bolingbroke closes in on Richard’s throne. This is Richard II, which The Public and the actors dedicate to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Act 3, Scene 3
Fearing confrontation, King Richard has taken shelter in a castle. Only a handful of noblemen remain by his side. At this moment however, we’re outside the castle walls, where Bolingbroke is arriving having assembled a battalion.
[Enter Bolingbroke, York, Northumberland, with Soldiers]
Army marches and lands
So that by this intelligence we learn 1
The Welshmen are dispersed, and Salisbury
Is gone to meet the King, who lately landed
With some few private friends upon this coast. 4
The news is very fair and good, my lord: 5
Richard not far from hence hath hid his head.
It would beseem the Lord Northumberland 7
To say ‘King Richard’. Alack the heavy day
When such a sacred king should hide his head! 9
Your grace mistakes; only to be brief 10
Left I his title out.
The time hath been, 12
Would you have been so brief with him, he would
Have been so brief to shorten you,
Your whole head's length. 14
Mistake not, uncle, further than you should. 15
Take not, good nephew, further than you should, 16
Lest you mis-take: The heavens are o’er our heads.
I know it, uncle, and oppose not myself 18
Against their will.
But who comes here? 19
Welcome, Hotspur. What, will not this castle yield? 20
The castle royally is manned, my lord, 21
Against thy entrance.
Why? it contains no king.
Yes, my good lord,
It doth contain a king. King Richard lies 25
Within the limits of yon lime and stone.
BOLINGBROKE [to Northumberland]
Go to the rude ribs of that ancient castle;
Through brazen trumpet send the breath of parley 33
Into his ruined ears, and thus deliver:
Henry Bolingbroke 35
On both his knees doth kiss King Richard's hand
And sends allegiance and true faith of heart
To his most royal person, hither come 38
Even at his feet to lay my arms and power
Provided that my banishment repealed 40
And lands restored again be freely granted.
If not, I'll use the advantage of my power
And lay the summer's dust with showers of blood 43
Rained from the wounds of slaughtered Englishmen –
Go signify as much, while here we march 49
Upon the grassy carpet of this plain. 50
[Northumberland approaches the battlements.]
Let's march without the noise of threat'ning drum, 51
That from this castle's tottering battlements
Our fair appointments may be well perused. 53
Methinks King Richard and myself should meet
With no less terror than the elements 55
Of fire and water, when their thund'ring shock
At meeting tears the cloudy cheeks of heaven.
Be he the fire, I'll be the yielding water; 58
The rage be his, whilst on the earth I rain
My waters – on the earth and not on him. 60
March on, and mark King Richard how he looks.
In the distance, Richard appears high up on the castle wall.
Army marches and lands
See, see, King Richard doth himself appear, 61
As doth the blushing discontented sun
From out the fiery portal of the east,
When he perceives the envious clouds are bent 65
To dim his glory and to stain the track
Of his bright passage to the Occident. 67
Yet looks he like a king. Behold, his eye, 68
As bright as is the eagle's, lightens forth
Controlling majesty. Alack, alack for woe 70
That any harm should stain so fair a show! 71
Northumberland approaches below
We’re on the castle wall now, overlooking the courtyard. Richard is with his cousin Aumerle, as Northumberland approaches below.
Richard up close and out loud:
We are amazed, and thus long have we stood 72
To watch the fearful bending of thy knee,
Because we thought ourself thy lawful king.
An if we be, how dare thy joints forget 75
To pay their awful duty to our presence?
If we be not, show us the hand of God
That hath dismissed us from our stewardship; 78
For well we know no hand of blood and bone
Can grip the sacred handle of our scepter, 80
Unless he do profane, steal or usurp.
And though you think that all, as you have done,
Have torn their souls by turning them from us, 83
And we are barren and bereft of friends,
Yet know: my Master, God omnipotent, 85
Is mustering in His clouds on our behalf
Armies of pestilence, and they shall strike
Your children, yet unborn and unbegot, 88
That lift your vassal hands against my head
And threat the glory of my precious crown. 90
Tell Bolingbroke – for yon methinks he stands –
That every stride he makes upon my land
Is dangerous treason. He is come to open 93
The purple testament of bleeding war;
But ere the crown he looks for live in peace, 95
Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers' sons
Shall ill become the flower of England's face,
Change the complexion of her maid-pale peace 98
To scarlet indignation, and bedew
Her pastures' grass with faithful English blood. 100
Northumberland distant and below:
The King of Heaven forbid our lord the King 101
Should so with civil and uncivil arms
Be rushed upon! Thy thrice-noble cousin, 103
Harry Bolingbroke, doth humbly kiss thy hand;
And by the honorable tomb he swears 105
That stands upon your royal grandsire's bones,
And by the royalties of both your bloods – 107
His coming hither hath no further scope 112
Than for his lineal royalties, and to beg 113
Enfranchisement immediate on his knees. 114
Northumberland, say thus the King returns: 121
His noble cousin is right welcome hither,
And all the number of his fair demands 123
Shall be accomplished without contradiction.
With all the gracious utterance thou hast, 125
Speak to his gentle hearing kind commends. 126
Footsteps, distant and below, recede
Northumberland heads back to Bolingbroke to deliver the good news. But almost immediately, Richard hesitates.
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.
Inside Richard’s head
O God, O God, that e'er this tongue of mine 133
That laid the sentence of dread banishment
On yon proud man should take it off again 135
With words of sooth! O, that I were as great
As is my grief, or lesser than my name!
Or that I could forget what I have been, 138
Or not remember what I must be now.
Swell'st thou, proud heart? I'll give thee scope to beat, 140
Since foes have scope to beat both thee and me.
Northumberland comes back from Bolingbroke. 142
Still inside Richard’s head
What must the King do now? Must he submit?
The King shall do it. Must he be deposed?
The King shall be contented. Must he lose 145
The name of King? I' God's name, let it go.
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood, 150
My scepter for a palmer's walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little, little grave, an obscure grave;
Sound shifts back to reality
Aumerle, thou weep'st, my tender-hearted cousin! 160
We'll make foul weather with despised tears;
Our sighs and they shall lodge the summer corn
And make a dearth in this revolting land.
Or shall we play the wantons with our woes
And make some pretty match with shedding tears 165
As thus, to drop them still upon one place
Till they have fretted us a pair of graves
Within the earth; and, therein laid, there lies
Two kinsmen digged their graves with weeping eyes?
Would not this ill do well? Well, well…
Most mighty prince, my Lord Northumberland,
What says King Bolingbroke? Will his majesty
Give Richard leave to live till Richard die?
You make a leg, and Bolingbroke says ‘ay’. 175
Distant and below:
My lord, in the base court he doth attend
To speak with you. May it please you to come down?
Down, down I come, like glist'ring Phaeton,
Wanting the manage of unruly jades.
In the base court. Base court where kings grow base 180
To come at traitors' calls and do them grace.
In the base court? Come down? Down court, down king!
For night-owls shriek where mounting larks should sing.
Richard descends to Bolingbroke (reprise)
Stand all apart,
And show fair duty to his Majesty.
My gracious lord.
Fair cousin, you debase your princely knee 190
To make the base earth proud with kissing it.
Me rather had my heart might feel your love
Than my unpleased eye see your courtesy.
Up cousin, up. Your heart is up, I know,
Raises him up
Thus high at least, although your knee be low. 195
My gracious lord, I come but for mine own.
Your own is yours, and I am yours, and all.
So far be mine, my most redoubted lord,
As my true service shall deserve your love.
Well you deserve. They well deserve to have 200
That know the strong'st and surest way to get!—
Uncle, give me your hands. Nay, dry your eyes.
Tears show their love but want their remedies.
What you will have, I'll give, and willing too;
For do we must what force will have us do.
Set on towards London, cousin, is it so?
Yea, my good lord.
Then I must not say no.
Act 3, Scene 4
Birds and insects
The Queen is in her garden, waiting on news of Richard’s return.
What sport shall we devise here in this garden
To drive away the heavy thought of care?
Madam, we'll play at bowls.
'Twill make me think the world is full of rubs.
Madam, we'll dance.
My legs can keep no measure in delight
When my poor heart no measure keeps in grief.
Therefore, no dancing, girl; Some other sport.
Madam, we'll tell tales. 10
Of sorrow or of joy?
Of either, madam.
Of neither, girl.
For if of joy, being altogether wanting,
It doth remember me the more of sorrow.
Or if of grief, being altogether had, 15
It adds more sorrow to my want of joy.
Madam, I'll sing.
'Tis well that thou hast cause;
But thou shouldst please me better, wouldst thou weep. 20
I could weep, madam, would it do you good.
And I could sing, would weeping do me good,
And never borrow any tear of thee.
[Enter a Gardener and his man]
Distant footsteps and Gardener speaking:
Let's rest a while. The day is hot.
What sayest thou? For shame!
Much work remains to do.
The fruit trees droop; the garden’s overgrown.
But stay, here come the gardeners.
Let's step into the shadow of these trees. 25
They’ll talk of state, for everyone doth so
Against a change; woe is forerun with woe.
[Queen and Ladies step aside.]
Leaves rustle, twigs break
Gardener gradually gets louder
GARDENER [to his man]
Go bind thou up young dangling apricocks,
Which, like unruly children, make their sire 30
Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight.
Give some supportance to the bending twigs.
And, like an executioner,
Cut off the heads of too fast-growing sprays
That look too lofty in our commonwealth. 35
All must be even in our government.
You thus employed, I will go root away
The noisome weeds, which without profit suck
The soil's fertility from wholesome flowers.
Why should we in the compass of a pale 40
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit trees all unpruned, her hedges ruined, 45
Her knots disordered and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?
Hold thy peace.
He that hath suffered this disordered spring
Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf.
The weeds which his broad-spreading leaves did shelter, 50
That seemed in eating him to hold him up,
Are plucked up, root and all, by Bolingbroke –
I mean Green and Bushy.
What, are they dead?
They are. And Bolingbroke
Hath seized the wasteful King. O, what pity is it 55
That he had not so trimmed and dressed his land
As we this garden! We at time of year
Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit trees,
Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
With too much riches it confound itself. 60
Had he done so to great and growing men,
They might have lived to bear and he to taste
Their fruits of duty. Superfluous branches
We lop away that bearing boughs may live.
Had he done so, himself had borne the crown, 65
Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down.
What, think you the King shall be deposed?
Depressed he is already, and deposed
'Tis doubt he will be.
O, I am pressed to death
Through want of speaking!
Thou, old Adam's likeness,
Set to dress this garden, how dares
Thy harsh rude tongue sound this unpleasing news?
What Eve, what serpent hath suggested thee 75
To make a second fall of cursed man?
Why dost thou say King Richard is deposed?
Dar'st thou, thou little better thing than earth,
Divine his downfall? Say where, when and how
Cam'st thou by this ill tidings? Speak, thou wretch! 80
Pardon me, madam. Little joy have I
To breathe this news; yet what I say is true.
King Richard he is in the mighty hold
Of Bolingbroke. Their fortunes both are weighed:
In your lord's scale is nothing but himself 85
And some few vanities that make him light;
But in the balance of great Bolingbroke,
Besides himself, are all the English peers,
And with that odds he weighs King Richard down.
Post you to London and you will find it so. 90
I speak no more than everyone doth know.
And am I last that knows it?
What, was I born to this, that my sad look
Should grace the triumph of great Bolingbroke?
Gard'ner, for telling me these news of woe, 100
Pray God the plants thou graft'st may never grow.
Poor queen, so that thy state might be no worse,
I would my skill were subject to thy curse.
Here did she fall a tear. Here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace. 105
Rue e’en for ruth here shortly shall be seen
In the remembrance of a weeping queen.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: 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 CUNNINGHAM: You’re listening to Richard II, a production of Free Shakespeare on the Radio, from WNYC in collaboration with the Public Theater. I’m Vinson Cunningham.
Act 4, Scene 1
Back in court, Bolingbroke — who is not yet king — is wrangling the country’s most powerful men. He intends to depose King Richard. Will Richard give up the crown? Or will Bolingbroke have to seize it?
[Enter Bolingbroke with Aumerle, Northumberland, Hotspur, Fitzwater, Surrey, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Abbot of Westminster, and another Lord, Herald, Officers as to Parliament.]
A small crowd
Call forth Bagot.
[Enter Officers with Bagot.]
Now, Bagot, freely speak thy mind,
What thou dost know of noble Gloucester's death,
Who wrought it with the King, and who performed
The bloody office of his timeless end. 5
Then set before my face the Lord Aumerle.
Cousin, stand forth, and look upon that man.
My Lord Aumerle, I know your daring tongue
Scorns to unsay what once it hath delivered.
In that dead time when Gloucester's death was plotted, 10
I heard you say ‘Is not my arm of length,
That reacheth from the restful English court
As far as Calais to mine uncle's head?’
Amongst much other talk, that very time,
I heard you say that you had rather refuse 15
The offer of an hundred thousand crowns
Than Bolingbroke's return to England –
Adding withal how blest this land would be
In this your cousin's death.
Princes and noble lords, 20
What answer shall I make to this base man?
Shall I so much dishonor my fair stars
On equal terms to give him chastisement?
Either I must or have mine honor soiled
With the attainder of his sland’rous lips. 25
Gage hits the ground
There is my gage, the manual seal of death
That marks thee out for hell. I say thou liest,
And will maintain what thou hast said is false
In thy heart-blood, though being all too base
To stain the temper of my knightly sword. 30
Bagot, forbear. Thou shalt not take it up.
Excepting one, I would he were the best
In all this presence that hath moved me so.
If that thy valor stand on sympathy,
Gage hits the ground
There is my gage, Aumerle, in gage to thine. 35
By that fair sun which shows me where thou stand'st,
I heard thee say – and vauntingly thou spak'st it –
That thou wert cause of noble Gloucester's death.
If thou deniest it twenty times, thou liest!
And I will turn thy falsehood to thy heart, 40
Where it was forged, with my rapier's point.
Aumerle picks it up
Thou dar'st not, coward, live to see that day.
Now, by my soul, I would it were this hour!
Fitzwater, thou art damned to hell for this.
Aumerle, thou liest. His honor is as true 45
In this appeal as thou art all unjust.
And that thou art so, there I throw my gage
To prove it on thee to the extremest point
Of mortal breathing.
Gage hits the ground
Seize it if thou dar'st.
Aumerle picks it up
Who sets me else? By heaven, I'll throw at all.
I have a thousand spirits in one breast
To answer twenty thousand such as you. 60
My Lord Fitzwater, I do remember well
The very time Aumerle and you did talk.
'Tis very true. You were in presence then,
And you can witness with me this is true.
As false, by heaven, as heaven itself is true! 65
Surrey, thou liest.
That lie shall lie so heavy on my sword
That it shall render vengeance and revenge
Till thou the lie-giver and that lie do lie
In earth as quiet as thy father's skull, 70
In proof whereof there is my honor's pawn.
Gage hits the ground
Engage it to the trial if thou dar'st.
Fitzwater picks it up
How fondly dost thou spur a forward horse!
If I dare eat, or drink, or breathe, or live,
I dare meet Surrey in a wilderness 75
And spit upon him, whilst I say he lies,
And lies, and lies.
Gage hits the ground
There is my bond of faith
To tie thee to my strong correction.
Besides, I heard the banished Mowbray say
That thou, Aumerle, didst send two of thy men
To execute the noble duke at Calais.
Some honest Christian trust me with a gage –
Aumerle grabs a gage from someone
It hits the ground
That Mowbray lies, here do I throw down this, 85
If he may be repealed to try his honor.
These differences shall all rest under gage
Till Mowbray be repealed. Repealed he shall be,
And, though mine enemy, restored again
To all his lands and signiories. When he is returned, 90
Against Aumerle we will enforce his trial.
That honorable day shall ne’er be seen.
Many a time hath banished Mowbray fought
For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field,
To Italy, and there at Venice gave
His body to that pleasant country's earth
Why, bishop, is Mowbray dead?
As surely as I live, my lord.
Sweet peace conduct his sweet soul to the bosom
Of good old Abraham! Lords appellants, 105
Your differences shall all rest under gage
Till we assign you to your days of trial.
Henry Bolingbroke, I come to thee
From plume-plucked Richard, who with willing soul
Adopts thee heir, and his high scepter yields 110
To the possession of thy royal hand.
Ascend his throne, descending now from him,
And long live Henry, fourth of that name!
In God's name, I'll ascend the regal throne.
Marry, God forbid! 115
Worst in this royal presence may I speak,
Yet best beseeming me to speak the truth.
Would God that any in this noble presence 118
Were enough noble to be upright judge
Of noble Richard! Then true noblesse would 120
Learn him forbearance from so foul a wrong.
What subject can give sentence on his king?
And who sits here that is not Richard's subject? 123
Thieves are not judged but they are by to hear,
Although apparent guilt be seen in them; 125
And shall the figure of God's majesty,
His captain, steward, deputy elect,
Anointed, crowned, planted many years,
Be judged by subject and inferior breath, 129
And he himself not present? O, forfend it, God, 130
That in a Christian climate souls refined
Should show so heinous, black, obscene a deed.
I speak to subjects, and a subject speaks, 133
Stirred up by God, thus boldly for his king.
Henry Bolingbroke here, whom you call king, 135
Is a foul traitor to his king.
Murmurs from the crowd
And if you crown him, let me prophesy 137
The blood of English shall manure the ground,
And future ages groan for this foul act.
Disorder, horror, fear, and mutiny 143
Shall here inhabit, and this land be called
The field of Golgotha and dead men's skulls. 145
O, if you raise this house against this house,
It will the woefullest division prove
That ever fell upon this cursed earth. 148
Prevent it, resist it, let it not be so,
Lest child, child's children, cry against you, ‘Woe!’. 150
Well have you argued, sir; and for your pains, 151
Of capital treason we arrest you here.
My Lord of Westminster, be it your charge 153
To keep him safely till his day of trial.
May it please you, lords, to grant the commons' suit? 155
Fetch hither Richard, that in common view 156
He may surrender. So we shall proceed
Without suspicion. 158
I will be his conduct. 159
Lords, you that here are under our arrest,
Procure your sureties for your days of answer. 160
Little are we beholding to your love,
And little looked for at your helping hands.
[Enter Richard and York.]
Alack, why am I sent for to a king
Before I have shook off the regal thoughts
Wherewith I reigned? I hardly yet have learned 165
To insinuate, flatter, bow and bend my knee.
Give Sorrow leave awhile to tutor me
To this submission. Yet I well remember
The favors of these men. Were they not mine?
Did they not sometime cry ‘All hail’ to me? 170
So Judas did to Christ, but He in twelve
Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.
God save the King! Will no man say ‘Amen’?
Am I both priest and clerk? Well then, Amen.
God save the King, although I be not he, 175
And yet Amen, if heaven do think him me.
To do what service am I sent for hither?
To do that office of thine own good will
Which tired majesty did make thee offer –
The resignation of thy state and crown 180
To Henry Bolingbroke.
Give me the crown.
Richard takes the crown. He holds it out.
Here, cousin, seize the crown. Here, cousin,
Bolingbroke seizes it. But Richard doesn’t let go.
On this side my hand, on that side thine.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well
That owes two buckets, filling one another, 185
The emptier ever dancing in the air,
The other down, unseen and full of water.
That bucket down and full of tears am I,
Drinking my griefs, whilst you mount up on high.
Sotto voce, tense:
I thought you had been willing to resign. 190
My crown I am, but still my griefs are mine.
You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs; still am I king of those.
Part of your cares you give me with your crown.
Your cares set up do not pluck my cares down. 195
My care is loss of care, by old care done;
Your care is gain of care, by new care won.
The cares I give, I have, though given away;
They 'tend the crown, yet still with me they stay.
Are you contented to resign the crown? 200
Ay, no. No, ay; for I must nothing be.
Therefore no ‘no,’ for I resign to thee.
Now mark me how I will undo myself:
I give this heavy weight from off my head,
And this unwieldy scepter from my hand, 205
The pride of kingly sway from out my heart;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duteous oaths. 210
All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
My manors, rents, revenues I forgo;
My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny.
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me;
God keep all vows unbroke are made to thee. 215
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased that hast all achieved.
Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthy pit!
‘God save King Henry’, unkinged Richard says, 220
‘And send him many years of sunshine days!’ –
What more remains?
No more, but that you read
These accusations and these grievous crimes
Committed by your person and your followers
Against the state and profit of this land, 225
That, by confessing them, the souls of men
May deem that you are worthily deposed.
Paper passes hands
Must I do so? And must I ravel out
My weaved-up follies? Gentle Northumberland,
If thy offenses were upon record, 230
Would it not shame thee in so fair a troop
To read a lecture of them? If thou wouldst,
There shouldst thou find one heinous article
Containing the deposing of a king
And cracking the strong warrant of an oath, 235
Marked with a blot, damned in the book of heaven.
Nay, all of you that stand and look upon me
Whilst that my wretchedness doth bait myself,
Though some of you, with Pilate, wash your hands,
Showing an outward pity, yet you Pilates 240
Have here delivered me to my sour cross,
And water cannot wash away your sin.
My lord, dispatch. Read o'er these articles.
Paper passes hands
Mine eyes are full of tears; I cannot see.
And yet salt water blinds them not so much 245
But they can see a sort of traitors here.
Nay, if I turn mine eyes upon myself,
I find myself a traitor with the rest;
For I have given here my soul's consent
T'undeck the pompous body of a king, 250
Made Glory base and Sovereignty a slave,
Proud Majesty a subject, State a peasant.
My lord –
No lord of thine, thou haught insulting man,
Nor no man's lord! I have no name, no title – 255
No, not that name was given me at the font –
But 'tis usurped. Alack the heavy day,
That I have worn so many winters out
And know not now what name to call myself.
O, that I were a mockery king of snow 260
Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke,
To melt myself away in water-drops!
Good King; great King – and yet not greatly good –
An if my word be sterling yet in England,
Let it command a mirror hither straight, 265
That it may show me what a face I have,
Since it is bankrupt of his majesty.
Go, some of you, and fetch a looking-glass.
[An Attendant exits.]
Read o'er this paper while the glass doth come.
Fiend, thou torments me ere I come to hell! 270
Urge it no more, my Lord Northumberland.
The commons will not then be satisfied.
They shall be satisfied. I'll read enough
When I do see the very book indeed
Where all my sins are writ, and that's myself. 275
[Enter one with a mirror]
Give me that glass, and therein will I read.
[He takes the mirror.]
Inside Richard’s head:
No deeper wrinkles yet? Hath Sorrow struck
So many blows upon this face of mine
And made no deeper wounds? O, flatt'ring glass,
Like to my followers in prosperity, 280
Thou dost beguile me. Was this face the face
That every day under his household roof
Did keep ten thousand men? Was this the face
That like the sun did make beholders wink?
Is this the face which faced so many follies, 285
That was at last outfaced by Bolingbroke?
A brittle glory shineth in this face –
As brittle as the glory is the face!
Sound shifts back to reality
For there it is, cracked in an hundred shivers.
Mark, silent King, the moral of this sport, 290
How soon my sorrow hath destroyed my face.
The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed
The shadow of your face.
Say that again!
The shadow of my sorrow? Ha, let's see.
'Tis very true. My grief lies all within; 295
And these external manners of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul.
There lies the substance. And I thank thee, King,
For thy great bounty, that not only giv'st 300
Me cause to wail, but teachest me the way
How to lament the cause. I'll beg one boon,
And then be gone and trouble you no more.
Shall I obtain it?
Name it, fair cousin.
‘Fair cousin’? I am greater than a king; 305
For when I was a king, my flatterers
Were then but subjects. Being now a subject,
I have a king here to my flatterer.
Being so great, I have no need to beg.
Yet ask. 310
And shall I have?
Then give me leave to go.
Whither you will, so I were from your sights. 315
Go, some of you, convey him to the Tower.
O, good! – ‘Convey’! Conveyers are you all
That rise thus nimbly by a true king's fall.
[Richard exits with Guards.]
On Wednesday next we solemnly set down
Our coronation. Lords, prepare yourselves. 320
[They exit. The Abbot of Westminster, the Bishop of Carlisle, Aumerle remain.]
A woeful pageant have we here beheld.
You holy clergyman, is there no plot
To rid the realm of this pernicious blot? 325
I see your brow is full of discontent,
Your heart of sorrow and your eyes of tears.
Come home with me to supper. I'll lay
A plot shall show us all a merry day.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That was our third episode of Richard II.
The scene you just heard, where Richard loses his crown and hands power over to Bolingbroke, is perhaps the most famous moment in the play. And it’s one that continues to resonate with audiences throughout history.
AYANNA THOMPSON: The deposition scene breaks my heart every time.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Professor Ayanna Thompson.
AYANNA THOMPSON: Because it is the kind of [00:47:00] fundament the moment when you see a fundamental unraveling of a person's sense of identity. And I think we often attribute that sense of like personal existential crisis to a play like Hamlet. But I actually think it’s more effective in Richard II. Because his entire sense of himself unravels
SAHEEM (pickups): And if we could got all through to “Now mark me how I’ll undo myself...
JIM SHAPIRO: At the heart of that scene
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Jim Shapiro
JIM SHAPIRO: is a moment where Richard, holding onto the crown; Bolingbroke, holding onto the crown. Richard surrenders it.
AYANNA THOMPSON: And he’s left saying / one of the strangest lines in Shakespeare, which is “Aye, no, no, aye.” Which when written out looks like Aye as in Yes: Yes, no, no, yes.
JIM SHAPIRO: Ay, no, no, ay.
ANDRE (pickups): Yes no, no yes.
AYANNA THOMPSON: But it also sounds like I know noone like myself. Or I don’t know myself anymore.
ANDRE (pickups): So yes no, know me. Is that know what you mean?
SAHEEM (pickups): Yeah: I know no me. No I
ANDRE (pickups): So the whole section being “I don’t know - I know no I...”
JIM SHAPIRO: There were about 20 permutations that speech Andre Holland captures about 19 of them is by my count and all the nuance and ambiguity at that moment. Is this a willing surrendering of a crown? Is this the theft of a crown?
SAHEEM ALI: The thing about the deposition scene, where Richard like actually gives up the crown, hands at over -- that scene was so radioactive in Shakespeare's time that they couldn't publish it.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: That’s director Saheem Ali.
SAHEEM ALI: It's about a leader who it has to grapple with the fact that he is not able to hold on. To power. And it's a power that has been assumed because this is a society that believes in the divine right of kings. So he believes to have been preordained by God. And that, you know, there's a line where he says, "not all the water in the rough rude sea can wash the balm off from an anointed King." Um, so he says that in act two of the play and then in Act IV of the play gives up that very crown that he said could not be washed off from him. So it does, it sets up a real kind of situation where this is an absolute and the absolute becomes, um, uh,
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: contingent to maybe
SAHEEM ALI: contingent. yes. Becomes contingent on the will of the people.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: and isn't that so relatable. I mean, it, you know, um, we, we spent a lot of the last, I don't know, a decade saying, Oh, but that can't happen.
SAHEEM ALI: Right
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Oh. But that would never happen.
SAHEEM ALI: Right, right.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: here in America and around the world. And maybe the history of the past decade is Oh, but it can,
SAHEEM ALI: absolutely.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Now when Shakespeare wrote this play, in 1595, actors were still allowed to put that scene on. But the text -- the actual written record of the play -- was censored - you could not find these words in print.
SAHEEM ALI: It was sacrilegious to even suggest that a King could give up his crown.
JIM SHAPIRO: It’s one of the greatest scenes that Shakespeare wrote, and it's also one of the most politically toxic and dangerous, really. And in Shakespeare's own day, Richard II was a runaway bestseller, went through three additions in 1597, 98 -- uh, really unusual for any Shakespeare text. But in those early quartos, 180 lines or so of this deposition scene were cut. You simply couldn't print something as politically dangerous as this scene.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: At the time, the play had this powerful message about revolution and challenging the status quo In 1601, just 6 years after Richard II was written, a group of noblemen who were planning to overthrow Queen Elizabeth even paid Shakespeare to revive it the night of their coup.
JIM SHAPIRO: On the eve of that coup in February, 1601, they went to Shakespeare's company and they said, we're going to pay you, put on Richard II, which is a play about toppling an old king. And, uh, they kind of knew that Elizabeth identified with Richard and wasn't happy about that. And the coup failed, all the leaders were executed and, um, Shakespeare's company was called in to explain themselves and they said, “Oh, we just did an old play. It was an old play.” (laughter)
But the point is, these plays only exist in the moment. And they existed in the moment in 1601 in a very different context than when the play was written. And when a group of actors get together and they say, we want this to be a Black Lives Matter production in 2020, that's no different than what happened in February 1601, same thing.
AYANNA THOMPSON: And I think this is why the play's quite powerful right now for our moment in 2020, when many, many people are calling for change - and radical change.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: as performances of a text move, not only historically, but as you say, through, um, place and encounters, different national identities, what is the history of that with productions fitting kind of those new interpretive realities onto these old texts? How does that happen?
AYANNA THOMPSON: Yeah. I mean, I think of the texts as, things that, um, even if every single word remains the same, the meanings of those words change, not only because of your specific moment and circumstance, but because of the 400 intervening years of circumstances.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Mhmm
AYANNA THOMPSON: So, you know, your Richard II in 2020 is not going to be exactly the same as a Richard II in apartheid, South Africa in 1980. And something will have changed the, you know, the play doesn't change, but our understanding of it does based on these kind of accruals of history. And Richard II is interesting because it's not one that is very popular. It's not a Henry V that we get lots and lots of reiterations of. But the moments when Richard, the second pops up, I think are moments when, um, Cultures and societies are thinking about what is essential power to we believe in that what makes essential power and what happens if we violate that?
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: Tomorrow night, on Richard II --
I have been studying how I may compare 1
This prison where I live unto the world;
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it. Yet I'll hammer’t out.
ANDRE HOLLAND: That speech has really moved me. And sometimes just walking down the street, will just say it, you know, to myself and every time I do, I hear something a little bit different. To me, it feels like in that speech, it's a man who's learning how to become a full human being.
VINSON CUNNINGHAM: This has been 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.
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