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Ricardo II: Episodes 9 & 10

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Mar 02, 2021 at 06:51 PM in Fringe Projects

An uneasy transition of power drives the tension in episodes 9 and 10 of Merced Shakespearefest's Ricardo II: A Bilingual Adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard II

In episode 9, “Alguna otra Diversión / Some Other Diversion,” Henry Bolingbroke sits atop a bleak, concrete step as he stages a trial of Ricardo's allies, attempting to expose Gloucester's murderer among their ranks. When Aumerio is named as the killer, instead of justice, what proceeds is a flurry of disputes (in a near-parody of the opening confrontation between Bolingbroke and Mowbrary) as various courtiers throw down their gauntlets to challenge Aumerio, and then one another, causing some chaos. 

What interrupts this is not any resolution, but the arrival of the Duke of York, who proclaims that Ricardo has adpoted Bolingbroke as his heir, and will relinquish the throne to him. As most of the court rejoices, the Bishop of Carlisle objects, pleading with Henry not to take the throne. For Carlisle's pains, however, Northumberland arrests him for treason. 

Elsewhere, Queen Isabella awaits the verdict upon her husband, wondering what will become of him should he abdicate. While two attendants try to entertain her with "some other diversion," the Queen foresees Ricardo's divided responses to his coming deposition, embodying the political anxiety that underscores the play's denouement. 

This tension persists through episode 10, “Rey de Nieve / King of Snow.” Ricardo is brought before Henry Bolingbroke, appearing crownless and dishevelled, lamenting how he has not learned how to kneel and submit to authority. What follows is the climax of the king's bitter ambivalence: multiple times, he moves to crown Henry, only to seize the crown back, then wrestle with Henry over it, then to wrench it back onto his own head. Finally, in a deeply emotional speech that echoes his earlier imagery of downfall at his enemies' ascent, Ricardo physically forces himself to throw both the crown and scepter at Henry's feet, relinquishing his power at last. 

Possibly rattled by his earlier lack of authority in handling the disputing courtiers, the newly crowned King Henry seems cautiously gentle with Ricardo, as the latter visibly begins to lose grips with his identity. Between Ricardo's speech about being the titular "mockery king of snow" melting before Bolingbroke's sun, and his demands for a mirror (here, a cell phone) he shatters upon seeing his reflection, the new king seems inclined to have some mercy upon his predecessor. 

This spell is broken suddenly by Northumberland, who interrupts Ricardo's poetic lamentation with demands that the former king account for his crimes and mismanagements, quite literally throwing the book at him. Northumberland is aggressive in accusing Ricardo, despite Henry commanding him to stand down, foreshadowing that this transition of power has not resolved the instability of the kingdom. 

The episode ends as Ricardo is conveyed to prison, and with Henry making plans for his coming coronation. In the shadows, Aumerio meets with the rebellious Bishop of Carlisle, who is plotting something.... The episode closes not with the usual theme song, but with a mournful, slowed-down version that suggests more ominous events to come.

Join the conversation about this brilliant series by tagging us on Twitter at @ecocymbeline, and Merced Shakespearefest at @mercedshakes.