Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Richard II by William Shakespeare Reflections

Reflection paper 1: drive, docs, pub

After having read Henry IV part one in British Literature, and then Henry IV part two on my own, I began Richard II with great interest in light of that.  It was interesting to see how many of the same characters were presented here (for the first time presumably) to Shakespeare’s audience.
I do not know if anyone has done this before or not, but I think it would be a neat idea to make a movie out of all four episodes of the tetralogy.  Filmmakers could get decent actors, and have things very well done.  The actors would of course stay the same from movie to movie.  There are not many characters who would last all the way through all four plays, but there are a couple.  (For instance, The Shakespeare A-Z book informs me that Aumerle appears in Henry V as the Duke of York.  Maybe this is the only one, I don’t know).
The big problem is that of all these plays, I think Richard II would be the most boring.  I mean in terms of mass appeal, I think the other three could do pretty well on there own, but how would you get people back to the movie theater after having seen Richard II.  It is a somewhat confusing play, and there is no comic relief, nor tense action.
There are a couple scenes, which I think lend themselves to filming.  The first of these is Richard’s death scene.  It almost seems like it was written for a movie.  You could really keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  Richard kills two of the men in an exciting sword duel, almost escapes but just when you think he’s safe Exton stabs him in the back.  Plus, the line “Go thou, and fill another room in hell”, is equal with any tough one liner Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis could say today.
The second scene, which I think would lend itself well to filming, is the dual between Bolingbroke and Mowbray at the beginning.  My only worry would be that the audience, after what would be a confusing first scene if it were presented with out footnotes, would have no idea what the duel was about.  At any rate though, the film could have dramatic music, and it could cut back and forth between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, each looking like they couldn’t wait to cut each other to pieces, as all the preliminary stuff was being said.  Throughout this whole scene shots of Richard are also being interspersed, and the audience can see him sweating and looking nervous and fidgeting, until he can not stand it any longer and he yells out to stop the duel.

The third scene, which I think would be filmed very well, would be the scene in which The Duke of York is pleading against Aumerle, and the Duchess and Aumerle are pleading for Aumerle’s life.  Again, it could be very dramatic, with everyone pleading and being very emotional and shouting.  The camera would have lots of quick shots, and it would not be clear until the end whether Aumerle would be pardoned or not.

Reflection Paper 2: drive, docs, pub

The character of the queen is an interesting one in Richard II.  The Queen is portrayed as someone, in spite of what might be thought of as a powerful position, who has no power.
The scene in the garden is interesting, because that shows how little the queen actually knows.  The queen is a character who, one would think, would have a pretty good idea of what was happening.  However, the queen is left to obtain information from the gardener.  There is a lot of irony that the gardeners know more about politics than the queen.
Another scene, which portrays the powerlessness of the queen, is the emotional scene in which she is parted from Richard.  The queen’s pleading goes unheeded, and though Shakespeare shows the emotion well, the queen ultimately makes no impact on any of the rest of the characters.
Another woman who is portrayed in a powerless manner is the Duchess of Gloucester.  Although her husband was killed, she is powerless to avenge him, and must plead with John of Gaunt to do so instead.  When John of Gaunt refuses to, she is left with no recourse.
The character of the Duchess of York is in some ways different.  She is able to make a difference.  Although, if King Henry had decided not to listen to her, she would have been powerless as well.  She is powerless to stop her husband, the Duke of York, from going to accuse Aumerle.  She is also powerless over what Aumerle does, although it is on her advice that Aumerle pleads for his life before his father gets to Henry, thus ultimately saving his own life.  

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