Richard II: Study questions

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Study Questions

  1. Character, types, and roles. Look not only at the two main characters (Richard and Bolingbroke), but at some of the minor ones as well. Consider York especially; at times he seems to play the role of a chorus figure expressing the general view of the onlookers, and at others to be an almost comic character, a blustery old man.

  2. Political currents and undercurrents. Does the play present an open debate about the nature of power or preach a sermon against the unlawful usurpation of a throne?

  3. In addition you may want to discuss the dramatic puzzle of the "Aumerle episode"--those scenes (5. 2 and 3) where York discovers the plot of Aumerle and he, the Duchess, and Aumerle himself charge off to the court to plead their various claims before the new King. Are these scenes to be read "straight" (in which case we will probably see them as melodramatic) or are they deliberately comic?
Aumerle accused
This nineteenth century interpretation
of York's discovery of Aumerle's treason
clearly takes the episode seriously.
Richard II is one of a group of experimental plays all written at about the same time. One of these you have just read--Romeo and Juliet, and you will be reading another, Love's Labours Lost, next.

  1. What characteristics can you list that Richard II and A Romeo and Juliet have in common?
  2. What are the most striking differences between the two plays?
As you compare the plays, you might want to use a short checklist of things to think about (in both similarities and differences):

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Further Reading

  1. Dollimore, Jonathan. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1984. PR651/D62.
  2. Farnham, Willard. The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950 [revised]. PR6581/T7F3.
  3. Hodgdon, Barbara. The End Crowns All: Closure and Contradiction in Shakespeare's History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1991. PR2982/H56.
  4. Ornstein, Robert. A Kingdom for a Stage: The Achievement of Shakespeare's History Plays. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1972. PR2982/O7
  5. Prior, Moody E. The Drama of Power: Studies in Shakespeare's History Plays. Evanston Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973. PR2982/P75.
  6. Reese, M. M. The Cease of Majesty: A Study of Shakespeare's History Plays. London: Arnold, 1961. PR2982/R4.
  7. Rossiter, A. P. Angel With Horns: And Other Shakespeare Lectures. London: Longmans, 1961. PR2976/R66.
  8. Thayer, C. G. Shakespearean Politics: Government and Misgovernment in the Great Histories. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1983. PR2982/T4
  9. Tillyard, E. M. W. Shakespeare's History Plays. London: Chatto and Windus, 1959 (1944). PR2982/T54.
  10. Tillyard, E. M. W. The Elizabethan World Picture. London: Chatto and Windus, 1943. PR428/P5T5.

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This page last updated July 7, 1997. Enquiries to Michael Best,
© Michael Best and The University of Victoria.