By William Shakespeare
“Richard II” recounts the power struggle between King Richard II and his cousin Henry Bolingbroke. Although Richard is handsome and dignified in demeanor, he chooses his courtiers unwisely, spends his money wastefully, and even raises taxes to fund a series of meaningless wars. He develops a reputation for tyranny, exiling Henry Bolingbroke on a whim and later stealing his inheritance. Bolingbroke then recruits an army of discontented common people and invades the north coast of England whilst Richard is at war in Ireland, attempting to seize the throne for himself. The play is the first in a tetralogy, followed by three plays about Richard’s successors.
“Written in 1595, Richard II occupies a significant place in the Shakespeare canon, marking the transition from the earlier history plays dominated by civil war and stark power to a more nuanced representation of the political conflicts of England’s past where character and politics are inextricably intertwined. It is the first of four connected plays–including 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V–generally considered Shakespeare’s finest history plays.”