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Richard II

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Lecture eight in the Approaching Shakespeare series asks the question that structures Richard II: does the play suggest Henry Bolingbroke's overthrow of the king was justified?

Smith talks about issues of regicide and regime change within the context of contemporary politics and dramaturgical insight into the play. Queen Elizabeth I allegedly said to her archivist, "I am Richard II. Know ye not that?" Elizabeth was beset with rebellion in England and Ireland, and like Richard, had no obvious successor. The play Richard II became embroiled in the Essex Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I when Essex sponsored a performance of the play on the eve of his rebellion, intending to draw parallels between Queen Elizabeth and a king who was deposed after listening to manipulative advisors. Though the queen pre-empted the rebellion, how does this charged political climate affect your view of the play and the justice of Richard II's fate in the play? Take a look at our Renaissance Timeline (link) and discuss what other political events might have affected the works of Renaissance playwrights.