The Sad Death of a King: The Legacy of Richard the Second
Master of Arts in English, Stony Brook University, December (2007)
The Tragedy of Richard II is the most influential play to emerge from Shakespeare’s dramas. This thesis explores how this one particular history play not only influenced the genre but served as a mirror to contemporary political events.
This thesis begins with an analysis of the source material Shakespeare utilized for his depiction of Richard II. Holinshed’s Chronicles, Samuel Daniel’s epic The First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Wars, The Chronicles of Froissart, as well as other sources were used to piece together the life of Richard II. This portion examines the stylistic choice Shakespeare may have taken in incorporating or omitting specific events.
The thesis continues with an examination into the manner in which Shakespeare portrayed Richard II in his play. The flaws Shakespeare incorporates into the character of Richard, his failure as a king, and his departure into the realm of abstract thought are discussed here. This portion explores the nature of identity as it pertains to a king.Richard emerges as a tragic figure because he is unable to divorce his concept of self with his royal title.