Richard II Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- After Richard II loses his crown, he has a major identity crisis and he gets pretty chatty about it. This reminds a lot of literary critics of Hamlet, who's famous for spilling his guts to the audience. What do you think? Does this whiny (yet poetic) king have anything in common with the moodiest teenager in Western literature? Why or why not?
- Who's a better king – Richard or Henry? Does Shakespeare ever portray an ideal monarch in this play?
- Most of Shakespeare's plays are written in a combination of verse (poetry) and prose (how we talk every day). Richard II is the only exception to this rule, because it's written entirely in verse. What's up with that? Why do you think Shakespeare chose to write the play this way? How does it affect our experience as an audience?
- Shakespeare wrote Richard II around 1595, while Queen Elizabeth I ruled England. Imagine that you are Queen Elizabeth and you've just watched this play about a 14th century monarch getting tossed off the English throne because people think he's a lousy ruler. What would you have to say about all this in your secret diary?
- There are only three major female characters with speaking parts in this play. Discuss the various roles that women play in Richard II.
- Shakespeare's plays are always getting remade into teen flicks. (Ever seen O, She's the Man, Scotland, PA, Ten Things I Hate About You, or Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet?) Do you think Richard II could be translated into a movie marketed to teens? Why or why not?
- In Act 2, Scene 1, Northumberland tells us that Henry Bolingbroke plans to invade England in order to claim his inheritance, which Richard II has basically stolen from him. Henry confirms this in Act 2, Scene 3, when he tells York that he's come to England to get his land back. But then, when Henry and his army corner King Richard at Flint Castle in Act 3, Scene 3, Henry orders the king to hand over the crown. When is it, exactly, that Henry Bolingbroke decides he wants to be king? Does Shakespeare ever offer us this information? Why or why not? (Let us know when you work that one out, Shmoopsters, because it's been bugging us for a while.)
- Richard II is always being compared to contemporary political leaders. Do you think he resembles any modern-day politicians? Why or why not?
- If you were the leader of a country, who would you rather have as an advisor, Gaunt or York? Why?