Presentation Title

“All is uneven”: Balance and Opposition in Richard II

Presenter Information

Pam Erikson

Location

IB 1010

Start Date

19-3-2016 10:15 AM

End Date

19-3-2016 10:30 AM

Abstract

Shakespeare's Richard II brims with gorgeous language and imagery. But within this beautiful language is contained a story that is rough, sorrowful and often ugly. In Richard II, Shakespeare examines what it means to be king and, more importantly, what it means to be a good king. Richard, the descendent of royal lineage, is the natural, divinely-ordained king; but his self-indulgent and irresponsible rule creates disorder. Selfish, duplicitous actions disrupt the order of rule, creating disharmony in the English realm. Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and future Henry IV, returns from exile to overthrow Richard. Henry’s pragmatic leadership would seem a remedy to Richard’s more frivolous rule, but his inappropriate acquisition of the crown ultimately creates further discord. Richard, the ineffective but legitimate ruler, is squared against Henry, a strong and popular leader, but one who assumes the kingship unlawfully. Shakespeare’s language and imagery of opposition and balance illustrates the fluctuations of human nature, and emphasizes the importance of equilibrium and stability in the rule of the land. Using film clips from The Hollow Crown, this paper will demonstrate that, in Richard II, Shakespeare shows that poor leadership, defined by selfishness and mercilessness, creates profound disharmony. The imbalance and violence in Richard II which establishes Henry IV’s kingship anticipates the discord of Henry’s rule in the subsequent plays of the Henriad tetralogy.

Department

English and Modern Languages

Faculty Advisor

Connie Brim

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Mar 19th, 10:15 AM Mar 19th, 10:30 AM

“All is uneven”: Balance and Opposition in Richard II

IB 1010

Shakespeare's Richard II brims with gorgeous language and imagery. But within this beautiful language is contained a story that is rough, sorrowful and often ugly. In Richard II, Shakespeare examines what it means to be king and, more importantly, what it means to be a good king. Richard, the descendent of royal lineage, is the natural, divinely-ordained king; but his self-indulgent and irresponsible rule creates disorder. Selfish, duplicitous actions disrupt the order of rule, creating disharmony in the English realm. Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and future Henry IV, returns from exile to overthrow Richard. Henry’s pragmatic leadership would seem a remedy to Richard’s more frivolous rule, but his inappropriate acquisition of the crown ultimately creates further discord. Richard, the ineffective but legitimate ruler, is squared against Henry, a strong and popular leader, but one who assumes the kingship unlawfully. Shakespeare’s language and imagery of opposition and balance illustrates the fluctuations of human nature, and emphasizes the importance of equilibrium and stability in the rule of the land. Using film clips from The Hollow Crown, this paper will demonstrate that, in Richard II, Shakespeare shows that poor leadership, defined by selfishness and mercilessness, creates profound disharmony. The imbalance and violence in Richard II which establishes Henry IV’s kingship anticipates the discord of Henry’s rule in the subsequent plays of the Henriad tetralogy.