Shakespeare’s ‘Richard II’ is too often read as the tragedy of a private individual. Attention is focused upon Richard’s personality and upon elements in his character which would have been just as interesting if he had never been called upon to play the part of a king. We are fascinated by the unfolding of his brilliant, wayward and unstable disposition, his pathetic lapses from bright insolence to grey despair, the facility with which he dramatises his sorrows and takes a wilfully aesthetic pleasure in his own disgrace. The political implications of the play are correspondingly neglected. And this is only natural. In all simplicity—and in essentials no tragedy was ever simpler—‘Richard II’ is the story of a sensitive, headstrong, clever, foolish man, graceless in prosperity, in calamity gracious. But this simple story has a setting and the setting is high politics. The fact that Richard is a king not only enhances the pathos of his fall, but sets him in a political environment in which the dramatist is not seldom interested for its own sake.


Political Implication Political Character Aesthetic Pleasure Political Play Sacred Blood 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1946

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Palmer

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