The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1356 Wednesday, 2 July 2003
Date: Wednesday, 2 Jul 2003 11:43:27 EDT
Subject: 14.1314 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
Comment: Re: SHK 14.1314 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
A few comments on Richard and Bolingbroke...
-- It seems to me that sometimes this discussion has not distinguished
between the historical Bolingbroke and his intentions, and the character
in Shakespeare's play. This doesn't apply to all the R&B posts, but I
think it's essential to keep it in mind.
-- My gut as to whether Bolingbroke does or doesn't intend, etc or what
Shakespeare wants us to think about his intentions etc, is that
Shakespeare [being Shakespeare] gives us mixed messages to send us off
in various directions. The ambiguity and uncertainty is [I feel] an
essential part of his genius.
-- It has been stated here that the closely related play Thomas of
Woodstock [aka Richard II, Part 1] dates from c1592-3. It may do, but
this date is hypothetical. The play as we have it is a ms. that was in
use in the theatre as late as the 1630s. If I recall, the main reason
for dating Woodstock c1592-3 is that it has been argued that a passage
in Shakespeare's Richard II is incomprehensible unless the audience is
familiar with Woodstock. This seems to me quite a presumption to make.
It seems to me very unlikely that Shakespeare would purposely so
construct his play that his audience would have to have seen a specific
play [several years previous, possibly at a rival theatre] in order to
comprehend it. There are inconsistencies and puzzling passages in many
Shakespeare plays, and we do not find it necessary to explain them by
reference to other plays. Furthermore, David Lake's analysis of the
usage of oaths and contractions in Woodstock [NQ 30.2, Apr 1983]
suggests that it was written in the early 1600s, and that its author
probably was the actor/playwright Samuel Rowley, who wrote When You See
Me You Know Me [a history play about Henry VIII, Q1605] and helped
revise Dr Faustus for the Admiral's at the Fortune. [It is perhaps
significant that the company that acted Woodstock in the 1630s was in
part descended from the Admiral's men.] By the nature of these things,
Lake's argument about the date and auspices of Woodstock cannot amount
to =proof=, but it is a strong argument, and it seems to me better than
one based on the interpretation of a passage in Richard II. If Lake is
correct, the events and characters in Woodstock cannot be used in quite
the same way to explicate the action of Richard II.
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