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Video Clip: RSC Richard II with David Tennant

 David Tennant gives a moving performance of the abdication of Richard II. It’s worth noting how, in the first half of this clip, his performance is filled with pauses, particularly when compared with the other actors in the clip. Of particular note, his use of a prolonged pause in the line

“Here cousin, seize the crown, <long pause> here cousin”

to build dramatic effect.

Then in the second half of the clip, the pauses go so that the rhythm of the verse and the rhyming couplets is felt, even, or especially, when the couplets cross speakers.

The Director

Other Video Clips:

James Corden in One Man Two Guv’nors – an NT-Live production

Roger Allam as Falstaff in The Globe’s production of Henry IV Part I (The Play within the Play)

Joseph Millson as Macbeth in the Globe Production of Macbeth

Read Players-Shakespeare.com’s Introduction to Richard II with links to free downloads of play – click here.

Read Players-Shakespeare.com review of RSC production of Richard II with David Tennant – click here.


5 Responses to "Video Clip: RSC Richard II with David Tennant"

  • travellingjanJan Kaye
    July 9, 2014 - 10:01 am Reply

    This abdication scene from Richard 2 is so powerful that it was banned by the Tudors as dangerous. David T portrays for me the dignified kingly Richard in all his ambivalence. Defeated by his cousin, Bolngbroke he is left with no choice other than comply yet he reminds the court most thoroughly of their crime against an anointed king, apologizing to God for the potential for confusion. The pause during the handing over of the crown which gets a nervous laugh from the audience underlines for me the depth of concern in Bolngbroke to be seen to ‘seize the crown’ His public position would be so much better if Richard could be seen to willingly abdicate. But Richard has been forced and is unwilling. Shakespeare shows us many times in later plays how this scene haunts Henry 4, 5 and 6th. That pause is very effective as it ridicules and stressed the enormity of the act to be committed. David T handles the scene with incredible intelligence and his timing and command are wonderful to behold.

  • Discover Fine Acting
    July 23, 2014 - 12:22 pm Reply

    Absolutely, Jan! The whole question of what is forced and what offered is huge here, playing with what is said and what is really felt. The reason you point out for why Bolingbroke does not move is definitely important – thanks!

  • Danielle Farrow
    July 23, 2014 - 12:25 pm Reply

    An Actor’s Comments:

    Yes, great use of pauses. That beautiful long pause is Shakespeare’s – it is right there in the text, with ‘Here cousin’ having a line all of its own – so what we see here is what can be done with such a gift: Tennant and director Gregory Doran find a way to make sense of two words being a full verse line.

    This is exactly why noting Shakespeare’s verse and then finding a connected way to play it is so important. There are clues to performance in the verse, but you are not constrained in what you do with those clues – there are many ways to play these two words, and we see here something that works for these actors in this production. Playing about with the possibilities is all part of the fun!

    Oliver Ford Davies is a particularly fine ‘verse speaker’ – he is incredibly natural and believable in a ‘modern’ way, yet he is using Shakespeare’s verse very clearly: “To do that office of thine own good will / Which tired majesty did make thee offer, / The resignation of thy state and crown / To Henry Bolingbroke.” Here he makes it clear that he is reinforcing / underlining the fact that Richard has said he will co-operate and offered his abdication – the psychological thought – by stressing ‘will’ and ‘offer’. In the verse these words are shown to be important by their placings at the end of the verse lines – the technique. Again, we see a fine actor interpret why those words are important and give a clear meaning in performance.

    Then, as the two kings converse / debate, you do indeed get that rhythm and those rhyming couplets, including shared ones, just as Richard mentions, and in these we also see antitheses (mentioned in my comment re. the clip of James Corden in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’), with related / opposing thoughts being set up against each other.

    There is also wonderful sound play going on: repetition of words, and sounds within words, not just at the end of verse lines, but also within them.

    This is a very interesting clip to look over with the text beside it and see how well the verse is being used. The ‘crowning’ achievement is that the actors make what they say seem natural (including when Richard switches to more of a proclamation style for renouncing the crown officially – natural for what he is doing at the time), while really utilising the verse and its clues.

    A truly fine example of great writing brought to great life!

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