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Ricardo II: Episode 5

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Jan 21, 2021 at 06:09 PM in Fringe Projects

Episode five of Merced Shakespearefest's Ricardo II: A Bilingual Adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard II is titled "Hombres de Guerra / Men of War," but the standout character in this installment of the play is Queen Isabella. 

The episode opens with a group of the nobility crossing a deeply symbolic bridge, as they cross from their alignment with the king to acknowledging Ricardo's trespasses against his citizenry. As the nobles complain of the king overtaxing citizens to fund his lavish spending and forecast disaster on the kingdom, the Earl of Northumberland reveals that Henry Bolingbroke is en route to England with an army of men to lead a rebellion against the corrupt king. 

This news reaches the royal court just as the Queen is processing her husband's political failures, including his recent departure for Ireland. In the original text, the Duke of York enters the scene at this point, and gives a speech lamenting the state of the kingdom, and calling for armies to be mustered against the Bolingbroke's rebel forces. However, in Ángel Nuñez's bilingual adaptation of the play, this speech is given by the Queen herself: first, as she telephones the Duke of York to share the alarming news, and then to her court, as she takes command in the absence of her husband and his steward.

This continues a strategic pattern established in episode 4, in which more of York's lines were also given to Queen Isabella. As Cymbeline in the Anthropocene project leader Randall Martin observed on Twitter, this choice to give the Queen more dialogue transforms her "into a voice of domestic & political protest" in contrast to her more passive role in the original text. Delivering her dialogue entirely in Spanish, in contrast to the language-switching of most other characters, she emerges as a resolute agent of moral authority in the court. Credit is due to actress Claudia Boehm, who powerfully portrays the Queen's transition from a quiet but wise observer in the earlier episodes into a masterful figure capable of taking command when her values are compromised. 

Queen Isabella exits the scene to muster defensive forces, leaving her nervous attendants to debate their place in the coming conflict. Watch the episode above, and join us in two weeks for our discussion of episode six!