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Ricardo II: Episode 11

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Mar 16, 2021 at 05:04 PM in Fringe Projects

Merced Shakespearefest's Ricardo II: A Bilingual Adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard II takes a brief genre detour in episode 11, "Perdón por Reyes / Pardon for Kings." Contrasting with the rich, outdoor settings of most of the action so far, this episode examines the play's political conflict in the microcosm of the Duke and Duchess of York's domestic life, revolving around their son, Aumerio. 

Aumerio returns to his home, here presented as a dark hall with hardwood floors and a long table. The Duke and Duchess are glad to see their son return, but the Duke quickly becomes suspicious upon discovering a letter on Aumerio containing plans for a treasonous plot against the newly crowned king Henry IV. An uncharacteristically comedic slapstick bit ensues when York calls for his boots so he may go inform the king of his son's treason, but is foiled by Aumerio and the Duchess playing keep-away, tossing the boots back and forth between them while they beg the Duke not to condemn Aumerio. The oddly playful music that scores this scene adds to the contrast between the serious matter--literally, the life-or-death matter of an assasination plot--and the feel of a comedic family squabble. 

In the following scene, Aumerio has outpaced his father and arrives in a cramped room where he confronts Henry, and begs for mercy. Through a glass window beside the door, we see York arrive, struggling to enter while his son blocks the door, and finally breaking in bearing the letter. Playing "loyal father to a treacherous son," York tells Henry about the plot against his life, but is interrupted when the Duchess arrives, shouting through the locked door and the window to be admitted. 

The Duchess's moving speech begging Henry to pardon her son for his crime is again, unusually, played comedically in this scene. While she falls to her knees and speaks, she fumbles with large sunglasses and a floppy sunhat, both of which she tears off ecstatically when Henry concedes. The shifting genre in this episode is further emphasized by the music in this scene: a light, mellow melody follows Henry's pardon of Aumerio as he and his mother celebrate, but is suddenly interrupted by a dark, ominous beat for only a few seconds as the king adds that he will in turn seek the highest punishment against all the other conspirators.

While unexpected in tone, this episode's comedic turns in suddenly claustrophobic, indoor settings set up a foil for the coming grand tragedy of the play's final act, and the series' final episode. Perhaps the only flaw in this directorial choice is the effect on the audio, since the tight indoor spaces used in this episode cause a significant echo, especially when the Duchess of York delivers many of her lines through a shut door and window. 

Stay tuned for our discussion of the final episode of Ricardo II in two weeks, and tag @mercedshakes and @ecocymbeline in your discussions of this exciting series on social media.