• Title: Richard II
  • Director: Rupert Goold
  • Released: 2012

Richard II is the first in the BBC series, The Hollow Crown, a series of adaptations of William Shakespeare’s history plays. Richard II tells the story of the tyrannical rule of King Richard II (played by Ben Whishaw), his deposition to Henry Bolingbroke (played by Rory Kinnear) and death.

Richard II is the first of Shakespeare’s history plays I’ve ever experienced before, and I enjoyed this film adaptation (so much so that I watched it twice!). The film was faithful to the play, and the casting was really good.

My favourite scene is the controversial deposition scene, so  controversial it was censored in earlier versions of the play. The tension between Whishaw and Kinnear as they clutch the crown together is a powerful visual symbol of the tension between the two families.

In particular, I found Whishaw’s portrayal of King Richard very interesting.

First of all, he had a higher pitched voice than I was expecting, and the way he seemed to glide about in his robes from time to time gave him an almost feminine quality. Also, King Richard gets very emotional, very quickly. Numerous scenes were delivered by Whishaw through teary eyes and a choked voice, partly making me feel sympathetic, partly making me feel like Richard is a bit of a wimp.

If you’ve ever read Richard II, you’ll notice the many intertextual references to The Bible and the parallels drawn between Jesus and King Richard. Goold exaggerates these parallels to the extreme: pairing a (rather homoerotic) scene of Richard watching an artist paint the Crucifixion of Christ with the scene of Richard’s death, where he is delivered to The Tower on a donkey, wearing the same white robe, is given the same bloody wounds, and whose body is even left lying under a cross at the end of the film. Whilst I thought these parallels were clever, I also thought they were too obvious, making the point in an overly laborious way.

my-photo-richard-ii-2

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this production of Richard II and I look forward to watching more of The Hollow Crown series (I watched Henry IV Part 1 starring Tom Hiddleston just this afternoon)!

What is your favourite Shakespeare adaptation? Comment your answers below!

– Judith

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7 thoughts on “Film Review: Richard II

  1. If you take Richard in the context of the cycle of History plays, it’s important that Richard is connected to God – after all, he was God’s “anointed deputy” – see John of Gaunt, even in his dissent. And the result of Richard’s usurpation is unending strife for England until ‘order’ is restored and peace made with God by Henry VII (incidentally Elizabeth I’s grandfather).

    The idea, I think, is to cement the idea that bad things happen when you challenge the rightful king, and to legitimise the Tudor reign (see how Richard III is depicted at the end of the cycle).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the parallelism between Richard II and God is significant; and I found reading about it really interesting. My issue with this film was that the point, though important, was made *too* much I think. Thanks for your comment! 😊

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    1. As enjoyable as the Hollow Crown is, I prefer watching Shakespeare Globe on Screen productions. They feel more theatrical, and I like being able to get that “Globe experience”. I have a friend who has watched the entire Hollow Crown series, just to watch Tom Hiddleston in the “Henry” plays! 🙂

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