The Scottish lord Macbeth, chooses evil as the way to fulfill his ambition for power. He commits regicide to become king and then furthers his moral descent with a reign of murderous terror... See full summary »
Henry Bolingbroke has now been crowned King of England, but faces a rebellion headed by the embittered Earl of Northumberland and his son (nicknamed 'Hotspur'). Henry's son Hal, the Prince ... See full summary »
BBC Shakespeare's history cycle ran right the way from this play, 'Richard II', through to 'Richard III', by way of Henries IV, V, and VI.
A neglected play, entirely in verse, and often thought superficial and unlikely to stand up to study (rarely taught in schools, for example), 'Richard II' is nevertheless one of Shakespeare's most engrossing and beautiful plays. It has passages of text that have gone down into theatre legend, not least John O'Gaunt's 'Methinks I am a prophet new inspired'.
In casting this production surpassed itself. Derek Jacobi brings Richard a soul and a spirit, whether he is playing him as vain and selfish in the early scenes, or broken and discouraged post-deposition. It is a tricky role which he performs extremely well. Opposing him as the future Henry IV is Jon Finch, who also left us a memorable film Macbeth a few years earlier, an actor of considerable range who seems to have worked little in recent years. Here he is a perfect foil to the spoilt Richard.
In support, John Gielgud gives a mighty performance as Gaunt, while the likes of Charles Gray, Wendy Hiller, and Mary Morris, bring life to other, more minor roles. The sets are not expensive or, backdrops at least, that convincing, but the play and text is strong enough for that not to matter.
A highly recommended version of a play rarely filmed or performed, and a good scene setter for the rest of the History Plays.
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