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Fair warning: you're getting a rambling series of thoughts about Richard II because my family are thoroughly bored of my attempts to engage them in conversation on the subject. And thus, I turn to LJ.


Is anyone else watching (well, by this point probably has finished watching, as I am very late to the party) the various accompanying programmes to The Hollow Crown? I haven't got round to the ones with Simon Schama yet, but I did watch the one with Derek Jacobi talking about playing RIchard II, and then talking to other people about playing Richard II, and it was brilliant. So many of the things I'd been thinking half-formed thoughts about, brought out and articulated, and it was really interesting to see the clips they showed of various productions. I would really love to have seen more of Fiona Shaw's version. I went to an all-girls school so I'm used to seeing girls playing boys, but I'd be interested to see the effect in something that wasn't an all-female cast.

One of the things I've always found pretty cool about Shakespeare is that modern adaptors have free reign to cut bits out, move scenes about, give lines to other characters. I was really surprised when I found out that it's certainly not Aumerle who kills Richard in the original text, because I think it works very well in the THC adaption. Then, of course, they cut that opening speech where it's made really obvious that Richard was involved in Thomas of Woodstock's death, which would've added a darker undercurrent to Richard's character (and given another strand of tension to the first scene with Bolingbroke, because Mowbray can't very well exonerate himself of Thomas of Woodstock's death on the grounds that it's not treason if the king orders it. Sucks to be Mowbray. You do what your sovereign asks, and what thanks do you get? Perpetual banishment in case you blab, and the insulting implication that you'd plot treachery behind his back, given half the chance.) And of course, the lack of detailed stage directions gives you so much room to manoeuvre. THC had the luxury to film everything all over the place - hell yeah, let's film on a beach! and castles, let's have some castles! - so that I'd love to see an adaption working within the limits of a stage.

Having seen the whole tetralogy now, I'd still say Richard II is my favourite. Its a really beautiful production, so much colour and light, though I did find the whole Death of St Sebastian motif a little overdone - yes, I'd agree that Richard sees himself as a martyr, but the symbolism was kind of heavy-handed. Though I have just thought of an in-universe expanation that pleases me: Aumerle, having little choice about doing the actual killing and knowing Richard's taste for self-dramatisation and martyrdom, can at least make sure his king dies in a manner he'd approve of. Anyway. My Bolingbroke feelings didn't extend to Henry IV, because they're essentially two different people, and I found Falstaff annoying, though apparently THC's version is especially so. Henry V I found very uncomfortable after Henry's long speech to Harfleur about how 'you should surrender or goodness knows what the English soldiers might do to your women, and have I made the threat of rape clear enough yet?' *shudder* Also, I've heard the St Crispin's Day speech so many times in parody or in meaningless rhetoric that its original power's long since been diluted for me. Which I suppose is a huge challenge for actors, to take a speech people can quote lines from never having seen the play, and make it fresh and more than just recitation.

Like I say, rambly thoughts ahoy, but if anyone wants to talk/argue Shakespeare with me, please, please do. (Please. At this rate I am going to dig out an Arden copy of Richard II and write a damn essay because ugh, so many thoughts that need ordering.)

Comments

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laughinggas13
Aug. 22nd, 2012 01:51 am (UTC)
BUT WE COULD DISCUSS OTHER SHAKESPEARE TOO AND THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

Yeah, I wasn't overly enamoured of the Henry plays, though having only seen one adaption and not having read the text I'm willing to give them more of a chance, but OMG RICHARD II. I just really really love that the central conflict isn't the king vs. his obvious enemies, it's that Richard is the true-born king, appointed by God, and yet he's a really bad king. And then you've got Bolingbroke, who's pragmatic and a good leader and basically a much better king than Richard, but all he's got is a slightly dubious claim to be Richard's heir, and well, you can't just go ousting divinely appointed leaders because that's tugging at the very roots of society. Mmm, conflict between what's lawful and what's right, my favourite kind. And the writing is fantastic - all in verse, and Richard gets to play about with language, which is fun, and then it's got some of the most beautiful lines (IMO) in all of Shakespeare - 'with rainy eyes write sorrow on the bosom of the earth' is a particular favourite. Plus so much scope for different character interpretations, which I suppose is true of all Shakespeare really, but the balance of sympathies here can be so easily turned that it's particularly interesting.

Ahem. What I mean by all that is, even if you don't like the Henry plays, give Richard a chance, because in feel it's quite different. And the Hollow Crown adaption is beautifully shot and acted. And now I will stop with the splurging of Richard feelings. At least for tonight.

Also, if you're ashamed of not having read the Henry plays, look at me and laugh, for I have not even picked up a copy of Romeo and Juliet. *blushes*
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