Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! This week we have act II of Richard II where you might just see exactly how not to act if you’re an unpopular ruler in search of money.
With John of Gaunt (the Duke of Hereford) on his deathbed and his son Henry Bolingbroke banished, King Richard swoops down on Ely house in scene 1 to listen to the dying words of the most popular man in the kingdom.
(BTW, it’s pronounced ‘Eel-y’ House. So says Bard Brawler Niki Lambros whose expertise on the subject of places named after eels we are willing to stipulate to while admitting that zero effort has been made by myself to verify its authenticity. But sounds plausible.)
When the king does arrives, Gaunt has just finished telling the Duke of York that he’s got some harsh words for Richard. Gaunt thinks that the fact that he’s dying is going to make Richard pay attention but the Duke of York’s not so sure that Richard wants to hear about how he’s gone and ruined England.
Yup. Richard doesn’t really dig being called “landlord of England,” that his father would be ashamed of him, that… well, you should really just click on the video of Patrick Stewart here and have a look for yourselves.
After his speech, Gaunt’s carted off and pronounced dead. In the words of his most caring lord, King Richard II, “So much for that.”
Time to cash out!
Richard declares that he’s taking everything Gaunt owns to fund his wars. Problem is, Gaunt has a son, Henry Bolingbroke, and this stuff’s supposed to be his by law.
Now, I’m no expert but stealing someone’s inheritance might just get a few people thinking, “Well, what’s to stop him from taking my lands whenever he wants to.” York tries to talk some sense into Richard but I guess Richard figures he’s got 6 years to come up with a convenient excuse to fix this.
Except for the fact that the way news travels in some of these history plays, there’s a small chance that Bolingbroke will have heard of this even before Richard announced he was taking the money.
Why, who’s that disembarking with an army at Ravenspurgh?!
We’re not even done with the act when a few of the other lords at Ely House decide, “To hell with this chump!” and head off to Ravenspurgh to give their support to Henry Bolingbroke… with the sole intention of helping him reclaim the lands he hadn’t yet lost when he set sail. And in no way shape or form do any of them have any plans to back him should he decide to take the throne.
That ought to work out perfectly.
But what if Henry, supported by a cast of rebellious upstarts like the New York Rangers does in fact have his eye on the crown? Can this Henrik “The King” Lundqvist truly challenge what Mike Richards‘ so-called Kings have taken for granted is theirs? (Ed. So that joke seems a little less timely now…)
Change of scenery in scene 2. Richard’s yes-men Bushy and Bagot are trying to comfort the queen. Seems she’s got a bad feeling that things aren’t going to work out for King Dick II. Then Green arrives and informs everyone that Bolingbroke’s back and bleeding Richard’s support so things look damn shitty. And the Duke of York, who’s been left behind to keep the peace while the king is in Ireland, knows it. In fact, he’s torn up: on the one hand, he took and oath to the king. On the other hand, Richard’s an asshole and Bolingbroke is kind of awesome.
Still, he commits to fighting the rebels because that’s the kind of guy he is. The king’s cronies – Bushy, Bagot and Green – just bail of course and go into hiding hoping they’ll still have heads when this is finally done.
Meanwhile, in a forest somewhere in Gloucestershire, Henry Bolingbroke is leading a growing army towards Berkeley. (Here, not here.) He’s joined along the way by some of the other lords who think he’s been shafted by Richard. His main allies are Earl of Northumberland and his son, Henry Percy. It just so happens they hate Richard’s guts so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to stick it to him.
The Duke of York arrives and demands to know what he #$%@ is going on. Smooth-talking Bolingbroke tries to talk his way around the problem but York’s not having any of it: he accuses him of treason. Henry tells him that he’s come to take his lands by force only because the king can’t be reasoned with. And of course he pinky swears that he’s not at all interested in the crown “no sir, just my lands please and thank you.”
York’s not convinced but he knows that he can’t beat them so he just decides he’s going to stay out of it… but there’s no harm in inviting everyone in for tea and a sleep-over, right?
Finally, just when we thought it was looking bad enough for the king, we learn in scene 4 that some of the last of his supporters are sick and tired of waiting around for what is going to be a fight they’re bound to lose. The earl of Salisbury, one of the few nobles still loyal to Richard, calls the fight before the first round even starts: seeya later Dick.
Welcome back to the land of the brawlers Jack Konorska, who lends his musically blissful voice to sonnet 32.
So now what? I bet you’ll find out in the next episode of the Bard Brawl.
And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is due out soon. Stay tuned.
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