William Shakespeare’s “Richard II”: A Retelling in Prose

Richard II Cover

This is an easy-to-read retelling of William Shakespeare’s “Richard II.” People who read this version first will find the original play much easier to read and understand. An excerpt:

— 2.2 —

The Queen, Bushy, and Bagot spoke together in the palace.

Bushy said to the Queen, “Madam, your majesty is too much downcast. You promised, when you parted from the King, to lay aside life-harming heaviness and depression and to maintain a cheerful disposition.”

“To please the King I did promise that,” the Queen replied. “To please myself I cannot do it, yet I know no cause why I should welcome such a guest as grief, except that I just bid farewell to so sweet a guest as my sweet Richard.

“Yet again, I think, some unborn sorrow, ready to be born from out of Fortune’s womb, is coming towards me, and my inward soul at nothing trembles. At something it grieves, more than with parting from my lord the King.”

Bushy said, “Each real grief has twenty shadows, which appear to be grief itself, but they are not so. Sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears, divides one thing that is complete in itself into many objects.

“These objects are like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon show nothing but confusion, but when they are eyed awry show clearly and distinctly a form.”

Bushy was referring to a kind of picture that when looked at from the front — the usual right way to look at a picture — did not reveal a form. But when looked at the side, the picture did reveal a form. For example, Holbein’s The Ambassadors had a greyish streak at the bottom when looked at from the front, but when looked at from the side, the greyish streak appeared as a human skull.

Bushy continued, “So your sweet majesty, looking awry — mistakenly — upon your lord’s departure, finds shapes of grief, more than himself, to bewail. Your lordship’s departure, looked on as it is, is nothing but shadows of what it is not.”

Here Bushy was referring to another kind of distorted vision. A multiplying glass was one that when looked through would reveal many images. The Queen, looking through her tears at her lord’s departure, saw many images of grief although her lord’s departure was the one image of grief she should have seen. Her tears performed the function of the multiplying glass.

Bushy continued, “So then, thrice-gracious Queen, do not weep at more than your lord’s departure. More grief is not seen, or if it is seen, it is because you are looking with sorrow’s false, not genuine, eye, which weeps for imaginary things rather than true things.”

The Queen replied, “What you say may be true, but yet my inward soul persuades me that it is otherwise. Whatever the truth may be, I cannot be anything but sad. I am so very sad that although I try to think about nothing, even that nothing makes me very faint and fearful.”

“It is nothing but your imagination, my gracious lady,” Bushy said.

“It is anything but mere imagination,” the Queen said. “Imagination is always derived from some real preceding grief. The grief I feel is not derived from any real preceding grief, for nothing has caused my grief about something, or something has the nothing for which I grieve. The grief is mine because I will inherit it, but what that grief is, that is not yet known to me. I cannot name that grief, and so it is nameless woe, I know.”

Green entered the room and said, “God save your majesty! Well met, gentlemen. I hope the King has not yet sailed for Ireland.”

“Why do you hope so?” the Queen asked. “It is better to hope that he has sailed for Ireland because his plans need haste, and his haste needs good hope. Why therefore do you hope he has not yet sailed for Ireland?”

Green replied, “So that he, our hope, might pull back his army and keep it in England, and drive into despair an enemy’s hope. An enemy has set foot in this land with a strong army. The banished Bolingbroke has himself repealed his sentence of banishment, and with arms brandishing weapons he has safely arrived at the port of Ravenspurgh.”

“God in Heaven forbid!” the Queen said.






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