I Wasted Time, and Now Doth Time Waste Me

Richard II, Act V


Modern audiences have become so accustomed to sequels that many of us now wait until the end of the closing credits just for a tacked-on bonus scene to tease us for the next installment. While this may seem a decadent byproduct of a Hollywood movie industry in steep decline, it will probably surprise you to encounter the same sort of shenanigans at the end of a Shakespeare history, laying pipe (as screenwriter’s call it) for the sequel by foreshadowing hard times in Henry IV’s near future.

I still find Richard II baffling at the end of the play – both the story and the character. it feels like the middle volume in a trilogy, the tweener neither introducing nor wrapping up the plot’s central conflict. Succession sagas by now have jumped the shark. Richard II is neither heroic nor despicable and definitely not leading-man material. The actions and their consequences are hardly edge-of-the-seat exciting. Even NBC might have to pull the plug. This is not your Blockbuster Event Thrill-Ride of the Summer.

I believe the fault (if indeed it’s a fault) lies with character and not the action. Richard for my money is too wishy-washy for audiences either to fear or sympathize with. His greed and ego prove his undoing, failing to endear him with his subjects…or us. In Act V he gets murdered by a couple of Henry’s lackeys and I confess to not getting worked up about it. Even the play’s central tragic plotpoint turns on an accidental misunderstanding. Yawn.

Must not have been sweeps week at the Globe.

Not knowing the history behind Henry IV’s reign, I can only guess that things will not go so well moving forward. When the inevitable happens, I’ll surely experience an epiphany tracing back to Richard II when I shout out – hopefully not in a crowded theater – how now I understand why, alas, poor Henry was fated to the horrors that befall him.

For now, I’m left with few fond memories of Richard, but certainly with a great deal of exciting dread for the new guy on the throne, Henry. Richard II may ultimately have been a bit of a letdown, but I have high hopes for Richard II: II.

Coming this April to a blog near you. Rated PG13. Viewer discretion advised.


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