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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1486  Tuesday, 22 July 2003

From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Jul 2003 06:08:27 -1000
Subject: 14.1478 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1478 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

Hooray for Keith Hopkins, who writes:

>Turning now to Michael Egan's fascinating post and the subsequent
>discussion or arguement with Mr. Lloyd, I  think I have to say that the
>time is now propitious for a complete revaluation of the undoubted links
>there are between Woodstock and Richard II,  and as I make clear in my
>detailed footnotes to the latter play in my soon to be completed book on
>all Shakespeare's Roman and English History plays.

>It seems to me that a lot of critical comment hitherto has focused on
>the links between the two plays, but by assuming that Woodstock was by
>an anonymous or hand other that Shakespeare's, we have I think been led
>into a lot of unnecessary difficulties, when differences though there
>are, the similarities between the two plays stylistically,
>linguistically, and thematically are so strong as to make a powerful
>case that the most straightforward explanation is also the most
>plausible, i.e. that the two plays were written by the same dramatist
>and that Shakespeare was that person.   I would take an earlier date for
>the writing of the play of around 1591 because the rougher style and the
>subject matter fits the historical canvas that Shakespeare was
>portraying in his chronicles, and moreover, thematically it is difficult
>to fully understand the first two acts of Richard II without a knowledge
>of Woodstock, or at least, of the themes that predominate there.   It is
>not a question that one cannot understand the one without the other, but
>that thematically they read as two parts, one the sequel of the other.
>
>I really find it astonishing having had to research the point for my
>book, that the anonymity of Woodstock has been so long maintained when
>the claims for Shakespeare's authorship which are strong has received
>such relatively little critical attention.    I would respectfully agree
>therefore with Michael Egan's view that we are dealing here with an
>early play that does link with Richard 11 and can be attributed with
>reasonable confidence to Shakespeare.

My own book is posited precisely on the need for a complete revaluation,
which I carry out, not only of the obvious connections between 1 and 2
Richard II but the whole of Shakespeare and of course over a century of
critical comment and ten editions. Much of it, when brought together,
proves almost unequivocally Shakespeare's authorship despite surface
conclusions in the other direction. The locus classicus is A.P. Rossiter
who indeed protests too much.

A consistent reading, play by play, turns up the most remarkable
connections, not only stylistically but thematically and, most
important, technically. Among eye-openers are the profound links between
the masque-within-the-play in 1 Richard II and The Murder of Gonzago. I
don't mean in terms of content (they share almost none) but conceptually
and executively.

1591 is a plausible date for the play, though for a variety of internal
reasons it seems to have been written later than 2 Henry VI. Its clear
affiliations with that play are almost never discussed (a loyal
Protector is brought low by the machinations of a powerful court
faction, then murdered in his bed) because of  the simple-minded
assumption that of course another dramatist than Shakespeare would quite
naturally steal his work and try to pass it off as his own, etc.

I look forward to Keith's book and his own insights.

--Michael

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