The Hollow Crown's "Richard II" - A triumph in America!

The complete series of "The Hollow Crown" is already available for purchase on DVD.

Coming to America

On September 20, the first instalment of the BBC hit, "The Hollow Crown," aired on PBS as a part of its long-running "Great Performances" series. This debut was long awaited by Shakespeare fans in America, as well as those who have pledged their allegiance to the army of Tom Hiddleston. Promotion for The Hollow Crown's move to America included a viral video of the man himself instructing Cookie Monster on the merits of delayed gratification:

#TomNomNom hit a million views in a matter of days.

History by Shakespeare 

The first of this Shakespearean tetralogy, Richard II, is a tale that demonstrates parallels to Greek mythologies of doomed protagonists undone by their own hubris. For those unfamiliar with English history, Richard II is a historical figure who reigned as the King of England from 1377 to 1399.

Great Performances, Indeed

Ben Whishaw's BAFTA-winning portrayal of King Richard II is both mesmerising and enigmatic. Several characters demonstrate a propensity for speaking in rhymed couplets to convey heightened emotional intensity, though none indulge in such fanciful speech patterns more so than Richard. As Richard finds himself losing allies, his title, and arguably, his mind, Whishaw's performance only becomes more gripping. His mannerisms, hand movements, and overall delicacy all aid his bringing to life a character that has led a life of privilege and been consumed by it.

Yet another performance worth mentioning is that of Sir Patrick Stewart's. Though John of Gaunt is not present past the second act, he still manages to deliver one of the most famous speeches of the entire play. Stewart commands the screen with eloquence and ease.

Final thoughts

Overall, Richard II is aesthetically pleasing and paints a portrait of a King undone by his lack of compassion for his people, selfish concern for his own well-being and luxury, and lack of understanding of the politics of his royal position.

Viewing aides 

  • - During this time period, a King was believed to be divinely selected by God. To go against a King or make efforts to overthrow him was seen as a form of blasphemy. Such religiously rooted fears greatly influence the decision-making processes of the characters.
  • - If one character curses another, or speaks of their inevitable downfall (or hardships to come), it should be taken seriously. Shakespeare is highly fond of such curses being used as tools of foreshadowing. (Think back to Romeo and Juliet, as Mercutio's dying words, "A plague o' both your houses," foreshadow the play's ending).
  • - Foreshadowing in general runs abundant not only throughout the confines of Richard II, but spanning from this play into the instalments that follow: Henry IV (Part 1), Henry IV (Part 2), and Henry V

Henry IV (Part 1) has aired as of September 27, Henry IV (Part 2) is set to air October 3, and Henry V on October 10, on PBS. Check your local listings.


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