David Tennant takes on the title role in Richard II this
October, part of the Winter 2013-14 season at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Details were announced today by the new Artistic
Director, Gregory Doran, who will direct the production.
The play will open at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre,
Stratford-upon-Avon on 10th October 2013 and will run untill 16th November 2013. It will then transfer to the Barbican Theatre
in London from December 9th 2013 until 25th January 2014. Visit here for information on booking tickets.
Richard II by
Richard II was written by William Shakespeare
in around 1595 and is the first of four plays based on the lives of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. Unusually for a Shakespeare
play it is written almost entirely in prose. The play explores the concept of power and how it can corrupt. The character
of Richard is complex - at the height of his power he is morally ambiguous and not likeable, but as the balance of power shifts
towards his successor Henry he becomes less arrogant and more vulnerable.
There is some thought that the events of the play
reflect Shakespeare's own views on the monarchy of his time, as the weak and ageing Queen Elizabeth faced the threat of rebellion
at the hands of her former favourite the Earl of Essex. A special performance of Richard II was commissioned at the
Globe the night before the ill-fated rebellion and attended by a number of Essex's supporters.
King Richard and his uncle John of Gaunt are
acting as arbiters in a dispute between Henry Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s son and Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk. Bolingbroke
accuses Mowbray of embezzlement and the murder of the Duke of Gloucester. Richard permits them to compete in a duel, but just
as the duel is starting he stops it and banishes them both, Bolingbroke for six years and Mowbray for life.
John of Gaunt is subsequently taken ill, but
speaks upon his deathbed before the King and court of his concerns that Richard’s vanity, wastefulness and ill treatment
of the public will bring his rule to an end. Upon Gaunt’s death Richard ignores the pleas of York to save his wealth
for the return of Gaunt’s banished son Bolingbroke and takes it for himself before departing for war in Ireland leaving
York to govern in his place
Northumberland later speaks to Lords Ross
and Willoughby about news he has had from Bolingbroke – that he has gathered an army and intends to return to England
while Richard is absent. They pledge to support him. With the Queen alarmed by the news that Bolingbroke is returned and having
had word that his intends to overthrow Richard, York meets with Bolingbroke as he and his supporters arrive in England. On
learning that Bolingbroke has returned not to spark revolution but to claim his rightful inheritance he agrees to lend him
some support and allow him to proceed in his action while he himself remains neutral. Meanwhile, Richard’s Welsh troops
also join Bolingbroke’s cause, having received false news that he has been killed in Ireland.
Richard returns to the news that many of his
noblemen and soldiers are now siding with Bolingbroke, that his loyal supporters have been put to death and that the common
people of the land are rising up and taking arms against him. He flees to Flint Castle where he meets with Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke
pledges allegiance to the king as long as his inheritance is returned and the banishment lifted. Richard agrees to the demands
but still does not trust Bolingbroke to uphold his side of the bargain. He confronts Bolingbroke who seizes him.
Bolingbroke forces Richard to give up the
crown and is proclaimed as King Henry IV in his place. Richard is accused of a great number of crimes and plots and is imprisoned
in the Tower. When the Duke of Aumerle, son of the Duke of York is discovered to be part of a conspiracy to kill King Henry
and restore Richard to the throne, his parents plead for Henry to forgive him. Aumerle is pardoned because of his confession,
but others involved in the conspiracy are executed.
The nobleman Exton visits Richard in his cell and
kills him. His body is brought before King Henry who mourns him and vows to travel to the Holy Land to repent.