January 20 - April 7

sarah fallon as richard ii american shakespeare center blackfriars playhouse

You may my glories and my state depose, but not my griefs; still am i king of those.

Shakespeare’s magnificent exploration of the lives and deaths of England’s kings is one of his crowning linguistic achievements. Pitting Richard II, a man of words, against Bullingbrook, a man of action, Shakespeare raises the art of language to new heights, while reminding us that rulers “feel want, taste grief, and need friends.” ASC veteran Sarah Fallon wears (and gives away) the crown as Richard.

2.5 hours

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Stuff that Happens in the Play
Stuff that Happens BEFORE the play . . .
  • Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester and uncle of King Richard II, is imprisoned and murdered.
Stuff that Happens IN the Play
  • Richard’s cousin Henry Bullingbrook, the Duke of Hereford, accuses Thomas Mowbray of plotting Gloucester’s death.
  • Mowbray denies the accusation and in turn charges Bullingbrook with treason. Richard decrees that Bullingbrook and Mowbray must settle their bitter dispute by mortal combat.
  • Before the combat begins, Richard changes his mind and banishes the feuding Dukes instead: Bullingbrook for ten years (later reduced to six), Mowbray for life. Both swear they will never plot against the king.
  • While discussing the need to raise money for wars in Ireland, Richard learns that Bullingbrook’s father, John of Gaunt, is “grievous sick.”
  • Before he dies, Gaunt speaks of his love of England and accuses Richard of gross misrule.
  • Richard seizes Gaunt’s wealth and lands, thus robbing Bullingbrook of his inheritance.
  • Richard departs for Ireland, leaving the Duke of York (Richard and Bullingbrook’s uncle) in charge of England.
  • Rejecting his sentence of banishment, Bullingbrook returns from exile to reclaim his rightful inheritance. The Earl of Northumberland and other lords rush to his side.
  • York confronts Bullingbrook, but claims to “remain neuter” in the conflict between his nephews Richard and Bullingbrook.
  • Accusing them of misleading the King, Bullingbrook executes two of Richard’s favorites: Bushy and Green, “the caterpillars of the commonwealth.”
  • Richard returns from Ireland, hears his troops have deserted him, and takes refuge at Flint Castle to “pine away.”
  • Bullingbrook and his supporters stumble upon Richard at Flint Castle, where Bullingbrook insists that he is not trying to dispose Richard; “I come,” he claims, “but for mine own.” Richard replies, “Your own is yours and I am yours and all.”
  • Bullingbrook and Richard return to London.
  • Abdication, imprisonment, and assassination ensue.