So thanks to thynk2much
, I have now seen the Globe Richard II
(anyone needing references for good karma on her behalf can apply to me). By rights, then, this should be a long post, but, fortunately for you all, I think it might not be. I am not sure why. For one thing, I am still feeling the effects of post-good-Shakespeare-meltiness. But also, I don't find that I have lots of burning things to say. I don't actually know the play incredibly well. It isn't like Measure for Measure
, where I've been spordically obsessed since seventh grade, but it isn't one I've studied in school either (which, granted, isn't very many) or, more the point, one that I've even read in an edition that had notes and critical essays at the back.
I was thinking about Richard today -- I watched the first half last night, and decided that I had really better hold off on the second half as it was already past midnight and I had a piano rehearsal/coaching in the fairly early morning. (It's odd to be thinking about II instead of III.) Or rather, I was thinking about Shakespeare's Richard. It was a very basic question I was asking myself, with an obvious answer perhaps, but I needed to think it out: why isn't he a villain? He's a bad king: not only weak but wasteful, arbitrary, and not incredibly scrupulous, in fact. He's had his uncle murdered; he thinks nothing of wishing his other uncle dead so he can seize his lands and revenues. But that's the important thing, I think. He doesn't think. Richard (at the beginning of the play) isn't even aware that what he's doing and has done might be wrong. Villainous villains always know, whether they know and dismiss it, know and feel (a little or a lot) guilty, or know and revel in it. Richard, if you pointed it out, would just get indignant; he wouldn't understand. And so while it's a realization of his mistakes that he comes to, and maybe even an acceptance of death, it isn't really repentance, and, consequently there isn't a sense that he got his just deserts, even that he really deserved to be deposed and murdered. Henry Bolingbrook isn't a villain either, but he isn't the hero of the play. I wonder, though, if this is just moral reduction, to say that because Richard does not realize that he is acting immorally, he is somewhat exonerated. At some point, ignorance can't equate down to innocence. Innocence, however, is not what I'm talking about, is it? If he doesn't realize that he's guilty, then he isn't guilty. For guilt is really an interior emotion that must be felt. And I think that this last may be a logical fallacy, whereby I am using two senses of a word commutatively. But there's the connection to Measure for Measure
, in fact. In what Harold Bloom extolls as the nihilist and comedic center of the play, Barnardine is so "unfit" to die that he can't even be executed -- because he won't acknowledge that he can be executed, i.e. that he's guilty. Actually, the connection is not nearly so strong as it seemed in my head. Never mind.
It was a little odd, watching Richard II
with Measure for Measure
still so much in my mind. (I think I'm on to what I saw, now, and not the play in general). Essentially the same company of actors wearing many of the same costumes, even (although different people were wearing different costumes -- I know, I know: I get great drama and I sit here drooling over the needle-lace), and very distinctive costumes (as well as sets, music, etc.) at that, was really very nice, in many ways. It all felt so familiar. But then, it made Rylance and Brennan's (and others', actually, but those were the main two) characters seem oddly parallel -- the inept, frivolous ruler vs. the efficient, serious ruler; bright and ornate costume vs. black and severe.
I shall probably have more thoughts about this later.
Indeed, I have been. The parallels I was seeing are for the most part specious. It's the result of the same actors playing in the same kind (most broadly speaking) of play. In fact, it's happened to me before. Good actors do make you believe they are
who they portray, and someone with a very distinctive mannerisms (e.g. Mark Rylance) is going to really get that effect. It might be compounded in Shakespeare because the language is just that much removed from my normal one, and that, combined with the non-contemporary setting and the fact that it's all part of the Shakespeare Canon makes any play seem like part of some greater, meaningful whole, where there would be grand hidden patterns. I mean, I think you could do this legitimately with some plays: a lot of the comedies could have giant parallel lines drawn through them all in certain characters. You know what? It's 1:15 a.m., and I'm really not able to even explain what I'm thinking coherently. Time to stop( Comment Statistics Meme )