Stage and Screen
However I’ve only been talking about the theatre, and the cinematic releases that have begun to flow on from the theatre (though this is surprisingly a fairly recent phenomenon), I haven’t actually spoken about the made for cinema productions. A lot has changed since the old, low budget, BBC productions – these days Shakespeare can actually be a pretty pricey production. However, what the cinema offers that the stage doesn’t is a much more realistic setting. On the stage, there is still a lot of imagination required (which is another really good aspect of the stage), whereas the only restraints that you have with the cinema is the money you can spend. Mind you, when it comes to the cinema Shakespeare actually isn’t a huge money-spinner, which is why the productions tend to be hobbies as opposed to major cinematic releases.
Another benefit that these productions offer is that I can watch a Shakespeare in my lounge room whenever I want, though you are still limited in what is available. However, with the theatre, the production will change based upon who is doing it (though the two productions of Richard II that I saw were actually quite similar).
Til I Have Told This Slander of his blood
When Our Sea-Wall Garden … Is Full of Weeds
The pivot upon which the intermission rested was between the final fall of King Richard and the ascension of King Henry. Okay, Henry hadn’t ascended the throne yet, but it was clear, at least from Richard’s eyes (and that of his allies) that everything was hopeless – all of his allies had joined Henry and he is only left with a handful of supporters – which ironically includes the church. Mind you, in those days the church had an awful lot of power, however, it is clear that this power was waning, particularly since Henry ignores the Archbishop’s objection to him taking the throne, even with Richard abdicating.
However there was one line in this particular scene that stood out, and that is the reference to the garden being full of weeds. This is a perception only, but it shows how one’s perception can differ from another’s. In the eyes of the queen (even though it is the gardener that makes this comment), her world has collapsed, and then the once beautiful kingdom, and palace, in which she lived, was now racked by chaos. Mind you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the kingdom has descended into chaos – it hadn’t – it is just that the queen’s world has descended into chaos.
The weeds refer to the king’s enemy, and the garden is no doubt his kingdom. Weeds have a nasty ability to take over a garden without you realising what has actually happened. This is the case with King Richard – while he was in the kingdom he was able to remove the weeds from the garden, but as soon as he had left, there was nobody left to remove the weeds – at least nobody he could trust. It is like a gardener who spends his days constructing a beautiful garden but leaves the care of the garden into the hands of a couple of untrustworthy apprentices. Without proper care, a beautiful garden will be destroyed, and once the weeds have taken over it can be very difficult removing them and restoring the garden to its former glory.
|Surprisingly, this was taken at Monet’s House|
Are You Contented to Resign the Crown?
Act IV, Scene I is the scene where the crown passes from Richard to Henry, however, there is a huge reluctance in Richard to do so. In fact, we see Richard torn between not wanting to let go of his authority, yet wanting to get rid of it as quick as possible because of the weight and heaviness that it bears upon his soul. In a way, he has discovered the true burden of kingship, and the mistakes that he had made by not choosing sides in the initial dispute between Bolingbroke and Mowbray. In a way, Richard left for Ireland too quickly and didn’t remain in the kingdom to make sure that Henry wasn’t going to make a move for the throne. Basically, Richard didn’t make sure that his flanks were secure.
Throughout the play, at least from when he discovers that Henry has launched a successful coup, there is the constant turmoil in the king’s heart – he doesn’t want to let go of the crown for this is all he has known, yet the burden of the crown is so heavy that he cannot wait to get rid of it. However, a part of this reluctance is that he doesn’t want to willingly give it to Henry, yet Henry doesn’t necessarily want to take it from him by force. Mind you, defacto authority already rests in Henry, namely because all of the powers that be have flocked to his standard – any resistance is small and is easily crushed.
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 sceptre from my hand,
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 duty’s rites:
All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
My manors, rents, revenues I forego;
My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny:
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
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 earthly pit!
God save King Harry, unking’d Richard says,
And send him many years of sunshine days!
What more remains?
It seems that Richard has a choice between stepping down to a humble life, and to a life in prison (or even death). He ends up landing up in prison, or at least imprisoned in his castle (which was a common fate for deposed kings, or at least political enemies that the ruler really wasn’t able to kill for fear of turning them into a martyr). The thing is that nobody actually wants to give up a position of authority – having a position of authority gives one status amongst their peers, and to lose that position means to lose that status. In fact, being stripped of a position of authority can be an incredibly humbling experience, yet people don’t like being humbled – instead, they see it as a form of shame. When one is stripped of their position it can be very difficult for them to face their peers again.
Peace They Have Made With Him Indeed
The thing that struck me was that nature of England at this time. It wasn’t just the situation where England ended on the Channel – England has huge territories in France. Mind you, exiled kings and lords would regularly flee to France to plot their return to England, however, Edward III had conquered huge swathes of territories during his wars on the continent. Mind you, the continent wasn’t necessarily as secure as the home counties, meaning that an exiled lord could easily raise an army in the French territories.
However, a successful invasion of England, as is demonstrated with Henry VI, and William III, is to have the support of the nobility in the home counties. With support from the nobility, a sitting king has little ability to retain his title – in fact, James II was deposed without a drop of blood being spilt (though that is a little bit of an exasperation). In many ways the political nature of the kingdom at the time was quite similar to the modern party political structure of the day – a prime minister only holds authority when they have the confidence not only of their party but a majority of parliament – as soon as they lose that confidence they lose their position.
Henry is depicted as the stronger monarch – he is always in armour, or at least he is until he ascends the throne, and when he does he still dresses in black. Richard, on the other hand, is always dressed in white. It seems as if these two colours portray their character – black represents strength while white represents weakness. Mind you, in those days there was little place for a weak king, particularly one who could not control their subjects, especially the nobility. Without the support of the nobility, the King’s hold on the throne is tenuous indeed.
However, even though Henry took the throne by force, it seems that he does not believe that he has the right to kill Richard. Sure, he is the king, yet he seems to believe that while he has taken the throne through the confidence of his nobility, he can’t actually kill Richard. Sure, he may have said, as is repeated by Exton: ‘Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?’, yet he seems to say this as an afterthought, and not actually meaning anybody should go through with it. As such, when Exton does perform the deed, not only is Exton banished for his crime, but the King, who didn’t think what he said would have any consequences, believes that he must now cleanse himself of a crime against God – it is fine to take the throne with the confidence of the nobility but to kill a king, even a deposed king, is a crime against heaven.