An unknown gem among Shakespeare's histories,
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Richard II (Penguin) (Shakespeare, Penguin) (Taschenbuch)
The thing with Shakespeare histories is that almost no one reads them, as opposed to his tragedies and comedies. I don't know why that is. The histories that are read are either Henry V (largely due to Branagh's movie), Richard III (because the hunchback king is so over-the-top evil), or the gargantuan trilogy of Henry VI, with the nearly saintly king (at least by Part III) who much prefers contemplating religion and ethics to ruling and dealing with the cabals among his nobles.
So why read a relatively obscure history about a relatively obscure king? Aside from the obvious (it's Shakespeare, stupid), it is a wonderful piece of writing - intense, lyrical, and subtle. Richard II is morally ambiguous, initially an arrogant, callous figure who heeds no warnings against his behavior. Of course, his behavior, which includes seizing the property of nobles without regard for their heirs, leads to his downfall. Nothing in his character or behavior inspires his subjects so he has no passionate defenders when one of the wronged heirs leads a rebellion to depose Richard II. But Richard now becomes a much more sympathetic figure -especially in the scene where he confronts the usurper, Richard acknowledges his mistakes, but eloquently wonders what happens when the wronged subjects can depose the leader when they are wronged. What then of the monarchy, what then of England?
On top of the profound political musings, you get some extraordinarily lyrical Shakespeare (and that is truly extraordinary). Most well known may be the description of England that was used in the airline commercial a few years back... "This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, ..."
If you like Shakespeare and haven't read this play, you've missed a gem.