With No Less Terror Than the Elements: notes toward uncovering Act IV, Scene ii of Richard II
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Once away from the sight of the court they were gentler with him, and the chamber they led him to was high and spacious; they saw him in courteously enough, if briskly, and left him alone with his jagged thoughts.
From the window it was possible to watch the light fading over the river; he sat silent on the ledge, arms wrapped around his knees as if he were a boy again -- so soon the careful pride of a king fell away from the body when it ceased to bear a crown -- and thought of nothing.
* * *
Flatter and cozen, court and command -- Henry had not been prepared, had never had time in his headlong rush to the throne to realise how soon, how much, how inexorably it would absorb him -- he had looked for today to mark a consummation, but it was only a victory. Northumberland with his schemes, York with his anxious counsels, Fitzwater and Surrey, Exton -- even young Percy, as rash and simple as his father was cautious and sly -- their very presence pressed on him, and they would, he saw now, press him inexorably until he was pressed to the shape of a king. He thought he could not bear it for another day; he would bear it, he knew, until he died. In time, he would carry the burden well, might even learn to think it natural, but for now... he dismissed them all as soon as he decently might, and sent to know where Richard was bestowed. He called for wine, and set out to take it to him; a show of kindness, even generosity, could do no harm, he reasoned as he -- they, rather -- this, too, he would have to accustom himself to, he saw with a sinking heart -- Henry Bolingbroke had been served; King Henry would be attended, obsequiously, assiduously -- implacably -- pursued from coronation to grave -- as they ushered him into Richard's chambers -- Richard's prison -- and all but two silent guards withdrew.
Richard's guards -- his guards -- guards to keep Richard in, guards to keep Richard safe, guards to keep Henry safe -- he shook his head impatiently. He had won. He had saved them all from folly and ruin at the hands of the man who stood facing him now, bowing to him with a small smile that transformed submission to studied insolence.
"Dear cousin. I had not thought to see you again this day -- or for many days to come. The press of your affairs -- " Richard's voice trailed off and he waved toward the nearest chair -- "but sit, cousin, sit! The King never stands before his subjects1 but to make war or pronouncements, you know, and you must begin to be a King now. Sit down, my lord, I pray you sit!"
He would not; there was discomfiture enough in this meeting without having to crane his neck at Richard. "I thank you for your good counsel, but I know of your own great courtesy that it is not always so. If the King's company be made up of those for whom he hath some bond of kindness, great kindness makes small courtesy suffice; if it please you to stand, then I am content as well."
He was rewarded by a small nod before Richard returned with ostentatious grace to his window -- and to the attack. "Kindness? What kindness is my gracious lord minded to offer me now? I had thought that in relieving me of all my cares and troubles2 you had done me such a turn as might suffice a man to the end of his days -- the more so as it is like to cut them so short that the slightest favour fills my cup to overflowing." He turned his face to the river, then back again before Henry could do more than open his mouth to speak. "I crave pardon, your Majesty. I had remembered myself."3
Henry could only gape at him for a long moment, choking back anger; at length he shrugged and dropped into the chair after all. "Cousin. Richard. I -- I did not come to tax you with your state, nor to burden you with mine; that is done. I only came to see what might be added to your comfort now." He displayed the wine he held. "It is my own wine, and it was mine before, so you need not scorn to drink it with me."
He served it out for them, and handed one full goblet to Richard, who took it with a nod and retreated to his seat on the ledge; Henry was foolishly pleased that Richard took it without comment. When Richard finally spoke, his tone was mild, even anxious. "And what of Carlisle, my lord?"
Henry gulped at his wine. "I cannot tell. He is no coward, no reed that bends and sways with the wind; I have need of such men, and good use for them. If they be mine. If York can prevail upon him to accept what's done..."
Richard nodded. "You'll have great need of them both; the more so if you are determined to nurture Northumberland at your breast.4 That one is any man's, and none -- unless it be his to own design. Kingmaking is a heady wine to men of his stamp; and he has a promising son." He drained his goblet and held it out to be filled. "Where is your son, come to that? I thought to see him at your side to watch how a king is made." His tone was soft, almost honeyed, but his look was sharp; a bow drawn at a venture, meant to wound. Their fragile peace had shattered again; they had never been able to hold to it, even as boys. Henry set his goblet aside, and did not see how the guard slipped forward to refill it.
"My son is in Oxford. Where is yours?" It was a clumsy riposte, he knew; clumsy and brutal, and Richard shrugged it off with a single raised eyebrow. He had ever been the brute, the one who sputtered and stammered under Richard's edged tongue and finally hit out, until Richard had become King, and it was deadly treason to stop his mouth so. Well, and so. Richard was king no longer, and if he had not learned it in the streets of London, nor at Westminster ... he waved to the guards.
"Leave us." The younger opened his mouth to protest, but shut it sharply at a warning glance from his senior; they bowed and took their leave. Henry turned again to Richard, still sprawled at his ease on the ledge, as the door closed behind them. He rose from his chair, and had the satisfaction of seeing Richard stiffen, as if he would scuttle further into the recess, but his face was cool and mocking still; Henry gritted his teeth and held his place, even when Richard gathered himself to slip from the ledge and stood facing him, smiling as if Henry were a thickheaded boy who had at last learnt to sound the letters of his name.
"Chastisement, my most gracious lord? And from your own hand; again you flatter me far beyond my poor deserts." He came closer, head high, until he was in easy reach. Waited, no longer smiling, but tense, expectant. Henry could only stare at him, hands clenched into fists, eyes wide with baffled fury. "No?" He came closer, still moving with that queer coiled grace, and closer yet, until Henry had to crane his head back to hold his gaze; Richard's breath washed over his cheek, and still Henry said nothing, did nothing. Richard was king no more, and a prisoner, Henry's prisoner, and the guards were gone. He could strike him down, could make his clever, vicious mouth swell and bleed and pulp under his fists. The guards were gone, and even had they remained, they would have made no demur; he was King. He was King, and he could do as he pleased. And Richard knew it; it was there in the line of his shoulders and in the way he held himself, tensed for a blow, and still his eyes were full of pride and scorn.
He lifted his hand, and Richard inclined his head as if listening to music far off.5 "Well, cousin?" His voice trembled; Henry shook. Disgraced and deposed, helpless and beginning to be afraid, Richard still played the king to perfection, and would, Henry suddenly knew, to the end. "What more would you have of me ... King Henry?" His tone was all patient enquiry, as if they were debating his dinner instead of -- perhaps -- his death. It was impossible, unbearable, and Henry's hand flew up as if of its own accord and struck him.
Richard had staggered back at the blow, and was exploring the sudden swelling of his lip with a careful finger, but made no other sign, except to offer Henry another of those strange half-nods. "A King must needs have a heavy hand, for when his subjects grow too bold. Good, cousin. Very good. And what else?"
Henry shoved him away. "I -- Christ, Richard, you -- " His hand was heavier than he knew; Richard reeled back to sprawl against the window ledge, breathing hard. He was minded to follow, to strike him again; he was King. He could do as he pleased with him, with all of them. As Richard had. Was this how it began, how it had begun for Richard? He forced his hands open, and willed himself to seem calm. "Have a care how you provoke me, cousin, for your life." They stared at each other in silence, and Henry, his heart still pounding in his chest, regretted the impulse that had brought him here; he turned away, and was brought up short by Richard's laugh.
"For my life, cousin? But 'tis expressly yours, now, by your will and mine own voice.6 I am your prisoner, and your subject; how then should I have more care for Richard's life than Richard's king has? My crown is on your head, my scepter lies as tame in your hand as ever it did in mine, and I did not prevent. How, then, dare I strive against you now?" He was all smooth reason once more; did his lip not bleed it might never have happened, any of it, and he was standing again, coming forward; Henry took a step backwards, and checked himself at a quirk of Richard's eyebrow. A king did not give way; it hung between them as clear as if Richard had spoken, but he only said, again, "What else remains, cousin? You have me at your pleasure; would you have me at your feet? How shall I show my thanks for such strange mercy as you show Richard, when Richard and all he has to give are yours?"7 He made to fall to his knees; Henry caught him, and his eyes widened in mock-amazement, but still he waited in silence, tormenting Henry with his damnable patience as Henry struggled for words.
"I would have you -- would have had you -- at my side, Richard."
His voice whined in his ears; Richard caught the plaintive note and smiled sadly. "Oh, cousin. No, cousin, no; a king has no man at his side; nor at his back neither, not if he is wise. Keep your subjects on their knees, the more so when they draw near; if you would keep the crown, you must keep it well above their reach." This time he was quicker; he was down before Henry could move to prevent, catching up Henry's hand to examine it closely before finding and setting his lips to the tiny smear of blood on the knuckle. His breath was warm and quick, and disturbingly pleasing to feel; Henry made to pull his hand away, but Richard only tightened his grasp and looked up at him, his expression all innocent enquiry on the surface, full of knowing provocation beneath. As Henry stared down at him, Richard's tongue stole out to clean, first his swollen lip, then the knuckle that had laid it open, and Henry's breath knotted in his throat.8 He had not meant this to happen, had not wanted -- this above all he despised in Richard, this capacity for voluptuousness and perversity9 -- Richard's eyes were avid, drinking in his confusion, and Henry turned his head away, but his hand he left in Richard's, even when Richard's mouth strayed from his knuckle and he felt his hand turned, opened; Richard's lips were on his palm, and even the pretence of innocence was gone now; it hung in the air between them, what he was doing -- what they were -- Henry cursed him under his breath and took Richard's jaw suddenly in his other hand, wrenching his face up harshly until their eyes met once more.
Richard's eyes were half-shut, as if he had been roused from sleep; he rocked back on his heels and waited, but kept hold still of Henry's hand, even laid his cheek along it, and in that moment Henry could half-think there was yet some scrap of love between them.
"You see how simple it is?" Richard's voice was husky. "Only be firm, and let men come to know thy firmness, and they will crawl to thee and lick thy hand as readily as any hound,10 and love thee all the better." He bent his head again and his lips grazed Henry's wrist; Henry gasped, and his fingers tightened on Richard's jaw, but he made no move to stop him, only stood transfixed, the blood pounding in his head until his vision blurred and Richard's head was a golden smear against his arm. At length Richard's tongue stilled and he moved to rest his head along Henry's thigh and sighed, and so bewitched in that moment was Henry that he sighed with him; Richard's calculating smirk recalled him to himself and he stiffened with revulsion. He thrust him away more roughly this time, and smiled with grim satisfaction as he went sprawling to the floor.
"Did you think me so easily tamed, cousin? I am no boy to be dazzled by a fair-seeming surface and a fawning look or to forget myself in a few perverse fondlings." He was shaking with rage; as Richard began to gather himself to sit he kicked out at him as if Richard were in truth the dog he had named himself, but Richard dodged him easily, laughing; in a moment he was on his feet and leaning in close to whisper in Henry's ear, "Tamed, my lord? You?" He gestured largely, his hand coming to rest on Henry's shoulder as naturally as his head had found his hip moments before; he seemed unaware of it as he continued. "If there were ever a day when I might have tamed Henry Bolingbroke, that day is long gone; Henry has tamed Richard, and kennelled him, too."
It was true enough, but even when Richard had crouched so docilely at his feet the familiar, baffled feeling that Richard played him as easily as he might a psaltery had plagued him. And yet -- since Henry had come to his rooms he had resisted nothing, complained of nothing, was even now inclining his head to lay it submissively on Henry's shoulder, pressing himself to Henry's side, his meaning plain.
And why not, after all? Richard's predilections were no secret to the court; even the women had gossiped and giggled behind their hands over De Vere12 and Bushy and Bagot and Green ... a nigh endless stream of pretty faces -- and arses -- that had passed through Richard's court, yawning their way through their days in the sun with satisfied smirks. If such as they had had their will of Richard, why should he deny himself?
They stood in silence for a moment; Henry lifted his hand, then dropped it irresolutely. Dear God, he had cursed and vilified -- and to say true, half-envied -- Richard's favourites for so many years and never even troubled himself to wonder what it was,13 this office that men did for one another that was such black sin? He had as good as fallen headlong into the sin already, had known as he stood mute and let Richard make free with his person what they were about; it was foolish to hesitate now over the manner of it --
"Why, cousin, what's this? You were not so careful of Richard before ... " The gentleness was gone from Richard's eyes, now, and his voice was sharp. "Or does thy conscience wake to catch at thy sleeve and turn thee craven?"
His hands came down on Richard's shoulders before he had time to think, and in the next moment Henry had him pinned against the wall, his hands scrabbling for purchase against the bare stone, his eyes wide. "Ah, better; that's well begun, at least, if you can only --"
It was not, Henry told himself, properly speaking, a kiss at all, nor anything like one; only a convenient means of stopping Richard's damned mouth -- but Richard groaned and shivered against him and in so doing made the matter clear enough; it was a good deal closer to battle14 than to anything fit for the marriage-bed, and so, he thought, infinitely more suited to this madness. Soon enough, Richard was clutching at his shoulders, breath sobbing in his throat, and when Henry pulled away for a desperate, dragging breath Richard's eyes flicked open and there was no mockery in them, no lacerating, scornful reminder of all the ways in which Henry had since they were boys together been judged and found wanting, only honest need spiced with fear.
They were not before all the world now, as they had been at Flint, or Westminster, for Henry to flinch and flatter and dissemble his victory; I come but for mine own,15 he had said, and truly he had meant it; this was not the ending he had forseen, or intended. Richard had thrust first the crown and then himself into Henry's reluctant hands, but it was done; what he had, he would hold, and enjoy, to the last. Richard had scorned his mercy too often; let him learn to value it.16 There was always something more that could be taken; even now Richard made to turn his face away, to deprive Henry of this his victory. He took hold of his chin and wrenched him back, watching intently as Richard unravelled.
Even when Richard had at last cried out and spasmed against him, even when he slumped gasping and sweating between Henry and the wall, eyes wide and wondering, Henry was stirred not to tenderness but to greed. He was unsatisfied still, and with Richard's resistance banished the undignified struggle had lost its savour; he had never been one to slake himself on a limp, unresisting form, even after battle, if better sport offered. Richard's legs were still shaking, hardly fit to hold him upright, and the pressure of Henry's hand as it threaded through his hair sufficed to send him to his knees. He expected some token struggle, a protest at least, but Richard only bit his lip and set to unlacing him, slipping his hand beneath his hose and pushing his shirt aside, casting a wide-eyed glance at Henry's face as he took him in hand; a whore's trick, and Henry had no patience for it. No patience, suddenly, for anything; he tugged sharply at Richard's scalp, hard enough to make him wince, and took harsh satisfaction in seeing tears start from his eyes. Richard bent to his business docilely enough then; even when his swollen lip split wide and began to bleed afresh as he stretched his mouth to swallow him he only moaned deep in his throat and redoubled his efforts, and soon he was sitting back on his heels, dragging a sleeve across his bruised mouth as Henry gulped air in great harsh gasps and dropped heavily into the half-forgotten chair.
When he had recovered himself a little Henry opened his eyes, grimly pleased to see that though he kept his eyes down and his face calm Richard's breathing was as ragged as his own and his cheek flushed hot as Henry stretched forth a hand to flick some few missed droplets from his chin. He gave no other sign, only ran the back of his hand over his lips a final time and moved in silence to fumble Henry's clothes into some sort of order.
Henry thought of taking his leave while Richard still crouched helpless on the cold stone floor; proud Richard brought low and discarded as lightly as a harlot taken and grown tedious was a memory he was tempted to keep whole and perfect; even as the thought came to him Richard left his self-appointed task and sat himself at Henry's feet with an oddly contented sigh, and he recoiled from it. This was sin and madness and ruin, but it was respite, too -- beyond the door to this stark chamber lay a life of endless, small compromises and deceptions, the endless business of balancing the burden he had taken from Richard's hands. Richard, once so enamoured of ceremony and pretty deceits, dealt now only in plain deeds and bitter truths, and if he left one stung and raw, it was the rawness of a winter morning, and oddly welcome; there would be gilded words enough for any man, in the years to come ... as if he had spoken his thoughts aloud, Richard sighed again and glanced up at him ruefully.
"It is so strange, cousin, to have outrun the worst -- I fear nothing now, strive for nothing, dream of nothing -- all the threads of my fate unravelled, and here -- here I am, after all, King Richard no more, yet for some little time Richard still, with Richard's face and heart and -- vices, all intact."17
For some little time... Richard scarcely seemed to mark what he said, but Henry's heart twisted within him, and he began to stammer out some demurral -- he had not meant, had never wished, would not permit -- Richard cut it short with a shrug, and gathered himself to rise, ignoring Henry's small sound of protest. In a moment he was on his feet again, backing away with his old sardonic grace.
"If your Majesty has no more need of me?" His eyes were clear as dawn, and as cold. "The guards are discreet -- to a point. As you have cause enough to know, that cut off two lives for what they had of Richard's love."
Theirs had never been a lasting peace, and Henry knew even as he nodded heavily and rose, inspecting his person for signs of what had passed, that this strange moment had been the last; he had neither the wit nor the heart for more of this. Finding his garments innocent enough, he turned away, pausing at the door for a final glance at Richard, already ensconced once more in his window.
"I thank you for the wine, cousin, and for the courtesy of your visit. Should you be minded to come again, sure I will be found at your Majesty's disposal."
Henry searched for words; found none, and stood irresolute with his hand on the latch until Richard turned his face away.
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Isabel he sent home to France, and wished her well -- wished, even, that she might someday be loved as she had loved her Richard.18 Carlisle he spared gladly, honest tribute to honest courage;19 Rutland20 he spared for pity, and perhaps, a little, because Richard loved him. Richard himself -- there had never been, he knew, had known even as he cursed Exton, any real chance that it might be otherwise; alive, Richard would have gnawed away at the roots of England's peace,21 would have been forever the centre of plots and unrest. The thing was impossible; to allow a land to bear two living Kings was to crown chaos and death.22 It had nothing to do with -- anything else, he told himself firmly, even as he wept over the pale, battered thing that had been Richard, that had banished him and been defeated by him, mocked him and submitted to him and seduced him and withstood him to the end. It was necessary, what they had done, and plain sense, if regrettable, that Exton be banished for it; a man who could turn his hand to such a deed was like a mad dog that chanced to maul a thief; useful, perhaps, but too dangerous to keep. Still -- even Northumberland conceded that it was as well to make a show of pity -- he gave orders that Richard -- that Richard's corpse -- was not to hang with the others, that it was to be shown to the people, as it must be, but as soon as possible interred with decency, that sooner to pass into forgetfulness. Cold policy, not hot shame, had driven him; there was an end to it.
By day, he could credit it; could even persuade himself that what had passed between them at that final meeting had been some slight, passing madness, some infection of the imagination shaken off with the coming of day. It was only when he slept that Richard came to give him the lie, and of what passed in dreams, King Henry never spoke.
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Because we are Serious Scholars, and are therefore compelled to wear our methodology on our sleeves for fans to peck at. All quotations from Shakespeare refer to the Riverside edition.
1. The King never stands before his subjects Equalizing seating arrangements also play a role in Richard II's most famous moment of crisis: "For God's sake let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings..." (3.2.156ff.)
2. relieving me of all my cares Cf. Bolingbroke's insistence at 4.1.194: "Part of your cares you give me with your crown."
3. I had remembered myself Recalling 3.2.83: "I had forgot myself; am I not king?"
4. determined to nurture Northumberland at your breast A reference, one hopes, to the fable of the peasant who warms a poisonous snake in his bosom and is rewarded for his labor with a deadly sting; the alternative is too disturbing to think on even in this fic. Shakespearean warrant is granted to the former interpretation by Richard's condemnation of his favorites as "Snakes, in my heart-blood warmed, that sting my heart" (3.2.131). However, Charles Forker's commentary on the play in the most recent Arden edition elides the difference: "R[ichard] P[roudfoot] adds 'Vipers are also, as their etymology reveals, ovo-viviparous (hatching eggs inside the mother's body and so giving birth to living offspring), and could be imagined as gnawing their way out of the mother (cf. 1H6 3.1.72-3, Per 1.1.64-5).'"
5. as if listening to music An echo of 5.5.41-65, and perhaps a glance at the significance of that reference.
6. and mine own voice While the reference, on the surface of it, is to his surrender of the crown, the articles of deposition as given by Holinshed offer an intriguing second layer to this statement: "He most tyrannously and unprincely said that the lives and goods of all his subjects were in his hands, and at his disposition" (3.503). Richard's view of kingship remains consistent even when he's no longer on the throne.
7. Richard and all he has to give are yours An echo of 3.3.197: "Your own is yours, and I am yours, and all."
8. This time. . .knotted in his throat The imagery of bloodied hands, and the symbolic washing thereof, is a significant motif in the play. Bolingbroke invokes it twice; the first of these occurs when he condemns Bushy and Greene: "yet to wash your blood / From off my hands, here in the view of men / I will unfold some causes of your deaths" (3.1.5-7). This event and its possible motivations proves significant, of course, to the present narrative. The motif recurs at the end of the play when he vows to "make a voyage to the Holy Land / To wash this blood off from my guilty hand" (5.6.49-50). During the deposition scene Richard underscores the inherent problem with this kind of disavowal when he accuses those spectators who "with Pilate wash your hands, / Showing an outward pity" (4.1.239-40). Richard's gesture here thus simultaneously enacts and undoes Henry's desire to unbloody his hands, both literally and in its challenge to the boundaries of the normatively masculine preserves of political and military power; Henry's unwillingly pleasurable response to it indicates the success of the subversion.
9. capacity for voluptuousness and perversity Holinshed (3.508) gives a contemporary estimate of Richard's bad behavior: "Furthermore, there reigned abundantly the filthy sin of lechery and fornication, with abominable adultery, specially in the king, but most chiefly in the prelacy, whereby the whole realm by such their evil example was so infected."
10. as readily as any hound For references to dogs as political barometers, cf. 3.2.130: "Dogs, easily won to fawn on any man!" and the anecdote from Froissart which may have been in the back of Shakespeare's mind when he composed that line (and perhaps, as many critics suggest, the dialogue about roan Barbary at 5.5.72-94): "King Richard had a greyhound called Mathe, who always waited upon the king, and would know no man else: for whensoever the king did ride, he that kept the greyhound did let him loose, and he would straight run to the king and fawn upon him, and leap with his forefeet upon the king's shoulders. And as the king and the Earl of Derby talked together in the court [at Flint Castle], the greyhound, who was wont to leap upon the king, left the king and came to the Earl of Derby, Duke of Lancaster, and made to him the same friendly countenance and cheer as he was wont to do to the king. The duke, who knew not the greyhound, demanded of the king what the greyhound would do. 'Cousin,' quod the king, 'it is a great good token to you, and an evil sign to me.' 'Sire, how know you that?' quod the duke. 'I know it well,' quod the king: 'the greyhound maketh you cheer this day as king of England, as ye shall be, and I shall be deposed: the greyhound hath this knowledge naturally; therefore take him to you; he will follow you and forsake me.' The duke understood well these words, and cherished the greyhound, who would never after follow King Richard, but followed the duke of Lancaster" (Froissart, Chronicles 6.369, trans. Sir John Bourchier).
11. The people responsible for this footnote have been deposed.
12. De Vere Notorious royal favorite Robert de Vere (1362-92), Earl of Oxford and Duke of Ireland, and a significant influence on Richard during the early years of the reign; chroniclers of the period often insinuate (and more often than not state outright) that they were knocking excessively pointy boots. Shakespeare of course makes no reference to him, but his widow makes an appearance in the anonymous play Thomas of Woodstock, where she remarks: "My husband Ireland, that unloving lord -- / God pardon his amiss, he now is dead -- / King Richard was the cause he left my bed" (2.3.10-12).
13. to wonder what it was Henry's confusion underscores the status of sodomy as something unspeakable, or, in the oft-rehearsed words of Elizabethan jurist Sir Edward Coke, "a crime among Christians not to be named." Coke goes on to define this action, or category of actions, as "crimen laesae majestatis, a sin horrible committed against the king: and this is either against the king celestial or terrestrial." As Jonathan Goldberg has extrapolated in his work on homoeroticism in Renaissance English literature, sodomy is therefore what results when same-sex desire and social and/or political disruption intersect. As, of course, they do here, in the most literal fashion.
14. it was a good deal closer to battle Cf. Henry V 5.2.224-27: "Now beshrew my father's ambition! He was thinking of civil wars when he got me; therefore was I created with a stubborn outside, with an aspect of iron..." The younger Henry shows himself to be alarmingly, even disgustingly, perceptive. On that note, the author and editor would like to express great sympathy towards Henry IV's wife, Mary de Bohun, Countess of Derby.
15. I come but for mine own 3.3.196.
16. Richard had thrust. . .let him learn to value it Henry's unnervingly disciplinarian attitude here evokes Foucault's discussion of punishment, in pre-modern society, as a restoration of the royal body. Foucault's reading of Kantorowicz's seminal treatment of The King's Two Bodies juxtaposes the body of the king and that of the condemned man, who "gives rise to his own ceremonial and...calls forth a whole theoretical discourse, not in order to ground the 'surplus power' possessed by the person of the sovereign, but in order to code the 'lack of power' with which those subjected to punishment are marked. In the darkest region of the political field the condemned man represents the symmetrical, inverted figure of the king" (Discipline and Punish, 29). Of course, the power dynamics in this situation problematize such a reading considerably, as Henry's attempt to enact a putatively royal power displays far less agency on his part than he believes himself to have. A useful gloss may be provided by Samuel West, who played the title role in Stephen Pimlott's 2000 RSC production of Richard II, and who is speaking here in less literal terms than this narrative presents: "What crystallized this movement and made it active was the realization that in giving in, like all good 'Sub-Dom' relationships, the submissive is taking charge. By saying 'you can't sack me, I resign,' Richard regains the moral high ground, and willingly looks forward to handing over a crown which only he knows is poisoned" (Players of Shakespeare 6, 95). While there is of course nothing good whatsoever about this relationship, West's reading nevertheless encapsulates the interaction of these antagonists remarkably well, and indeed, was highly influential in the germination of this story. This is because the author and editor would totally depose him. Equally influential was the performance of his costar in the 2000 BBC Radio version, Damian Lewis. We'd depose him too. Or watch Jamie Bamber do it. We wouldn't feel right about deposing Jamie Bamber, though, as he is too Tender Raw and Young. But we'd sell him our souls. Cheap. At least, the author would. The editor would like to keep her soul. Also, we'd like to know what Liam Brennan (who the author, the editor and the author's husband would all depose, in a New Yorkist Minute) as Henry IV was about when he JUST UP AND PLANTED ONE ON MARK RYLANCE. Whom the editor would also gladly depose, as she has seen very few actors in the role of Richard II whom she would not depose. She's easy that way. Unless you're David Birney, in which case, bugger off. The author, on the other hand, would like to blame Sam West for causing her to have disturbing but amazingly hot fantasies about Agincourt on the bus to North Bay. The author would not depose Mark Rylance or Derek Jacobi, but the editor would. We'd both depose Gielgud. Olivier, maybe, if it were Henry V!Olivier with eyeliner on. The author would also totally depose Fiona Shaw. The editor, though not generally inclined that way, would at least consider it. Both the author and the editor would happily stand in the rain for several hours for a chance of deposing Ian McKellen were it not for the fact that Sir Ian McKellen, like the Mother Superior, does not go in for that sort of thing.
Including the deposing of the Majestic Garrick. A Garrick once Bit my Monarch.
We apologise for the fault in the footnote. Those responsible for deposing the people who have just been deposed, have been deposed.
Ex King Bites Kan Be Pretty Nasty.
And in conclusion? Cousins. Totally cousins.
17. Richard's face and heart and -- vices Cf. 4.1.276ff., especially: "Hath sorrow struck / So many blows upon this face of mine / And made no deeper wounds?"
18. that she might someday be loved Isabel's second marriage was to Charles d'Orleans, who appears as a character in Henry V. The marriage seems to have been happy but was sadly brief; she died in childbirth in 1409.
19. an honest tribute to honest courage Cf. 5.6.28-29: "For though mine enemy thou hast ever been, / High sparks of honor in thee have I seen."
20. Rutland More familiar to readers as the erstwhile duke of Aumerle; he was stripped of that title following the accession of Henry IV.
21. the roots of England's peace Imagery of plants is, of course, a significant motif in Shakespeare's histories; the implicit pun is on the royal family's surname of Plantagenet. This motif is perhaps most prominent of all in Richard II; see especially 3.4 passim, and at the end of the play, Henry's regret "that blood should sprinkle me to make me grow" (5.6.46). In 1 Henry IV Henry opens the play insisting that "No more the thirsty entrance of this soil / Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood" (1.1.5-6) -- which may also lie behind the repeated references in this story to Richard's bloody lip.
22. to crown chaos and death John Barton's 1973 RSC production of Richard II, in which Richard Pasco and Ian Richardson alternated in the roles of Richard and Bolingbroke, ended with the cast leaving the stage, except for the two leads, who bowed to a crowned, robed figure which was then revealed to be the figure of Death. Barton, fond of literalizing the play's imagery, no doubt took his cue from 3.2.160-62: "For within the hollow crown / That rounds the mortal temples of a king / Keeps Death his court..." (Perhaps also pertinent is that in this production the groom who visits Richard in prison was revealed to be a disguised Bolingbroke, though in that case, frottage did not ensue.)
With No Less Terror Than The Elements by
Lea and Marna is licensed under a
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