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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

"Richard II" by William Shakespeare

Henry Bolingbroke accuses Norfolk of treason; the two men decide to joust it out but just before they do King Richard II exiles them both. Then, when Bolingbroke's dad John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster dies, Richard disinherits the exiled Bolingbroke to raise revenue for his Irish war. This cause Bolingbroke to invade while Richard is fighting in Ireland. Returning, Richard finds himself without armies and has to abdicate in favour of Henry.

The beauty of the play is in the way it depicts Richard's torn and troubled mind as he is forced to give up being a King.

In the first Act the lines show a significant lack of enjambments and caesurae. There are also more rhyming couplets than usual. So, for example, in Act 1, Scene 1, when Henry Bolingbroke accuses Thomas Mowbray of treachery he says:
Thou art a traitor and a miscreant,Too good to be so and too bad to live,Since the more fair and crystal is the sky,The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly.Once more, the more to aggravate the note,With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat;And wish, so please my sovereign, ere I move,What my tongue speaks my right drawn sword may prove.
Every line end-punctuated, almost no punctuation within the lines, and the last six lines paired with rhyme, even muddling up the 'natural' order of the words in order to achieve the rhyme. All of the lines are strong endings too and most are pretty standard iambic pentameters although this is altered a little with, for example, weightier and 'with a foul'.

John of Gaunt's patriotic speech at the start of Act Two is similar:
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, 
Almost every line in here stands separate, its own little strong ended iambic pentameter.

Contrast this to Richard's speeches while he is losing his crown and, perhaps, his sanity:
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd:
Several caesura. But the only enjambement is the line that runs on with an 'And' and that is a very weak run on.

And in this example the caesurae are used to provide a call and response style but again there is only a single enjambment:
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 loseThe name of king? o' God's name, let it go: 
But even as he resigns the throne the tyranny of the single line continues:
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 headAnd 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! 
It seems to me that as Shakespeare grew more confident in the use of blank verse he moire and more often broke the rules in order to convey the passion behind this thoughts of his characters.

Other quotes:
Desolate, desolate, will I hence and die:
Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour.
O, who can hold a fire in his hand 
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus? 
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite 
By bare imagination of a feast? 
Or wallow naked in December snow 
By thinking on fantastic summer's heat?

Landlord of England art thou now, not king:

The commons hath he pill'd with grievous taxes, 
And quite lost their hearts:

But time will not permit: all is uneven, 
And every thing is left at six and seven.

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,
My sceptre 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;

Give me the glass, and therein will I read.
No deeper wrinkles yet? hath sorrow struck
So many blows upon this face of mine,

I have been studying how I may compare
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

Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;

January 2019



Other Shakespeare plays reviewed in this blog include (productions mentioned in parentheses; RSC = Royal Shakespeare Company; NT = National Theatre):


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