Shakespeare in the Digital Age

Richard II

          The Tragedy of King Richard the Second was written and published roughly around 1595 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  Her reign was known as the Elizabethan era and William Shakespeare who wrote The Tragedy of King Richard II sought to embody Englands rich history in a series of plays.  Richard the second was the first play written out of the group of four historical plays, which included Henry IV part one; Henry IV part two, and Henry V. William Shakespeares Richard the second was quite popular during its time of production that it was even published several times while Shakespeare was still alive.  It was so popular that Queen Elizabeth herself made a point to comment “I am Richard the second, know you not that?”(“The Norton Shakespeare, based on the oxford edition second edition” 974).  Shakespeare had the boldness to ask the questions pertaining to the acquiring of royal power and the disposition of a monarch and he asked them all in his play, The Tragedy of King Richard the second.
       The Tragedy of King Richard the second is a historical drama about a naïve young king who harbors the dark secret of how he was responsible for the murder of his uncle. Later on in the play he banishes two major characters Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray into exile in an attempt to silence anyone who might expose him of the premeditated killing of his kin.  A foolish decision on his part because most of English court knows of the circumstances of his uncles death and that he was a part of it.  He earns further contempt of his court when he drains Englands funds into near bankruptcy.  He flees to Ireland and upon his return is usurped and publically has his title of king taken away and is thrown into prison.  In prison he questions who is really is and begins to develop an identity crisis. King Richard is eventually killed and his successor racked with guilt takes a religious pilgrimage to rid himself of the events that had taken place before him and because of him.
           Many of the themes, such as power, family bonds and betrayal, and characteristics that were introduced in Shakespeare’s work are very relatable and is still used in entertainment today. The references we used are both U.S based films and Japanese shows which help to show how influential Shakespeare’s work is across the world. Both the U.S based films and Japanese shows not only draw inspiration from Shakespeare’s work, but also closely follow the themes and vaguely follow plot details presented in the play. One theme we focused on was betrayal which can be applied in many different situations regardless of the social class an individual is a part of. The first reference we chose to use was The Emperor’s New Groove because Yzma, the emperor’s administrator, creates a plan to take over the emperor’s throne by trying to have him killed and the Emperor is unaware of Yzma’s malintent and her plans. Another reference we chose also follows the theme of betrayal but focuses primarily on the similarities of the characters in Richard II and The Fast and Furious, the importance of this is that Shakespeare’s characters are so relatable that they are able to still be used in many different plots. In The Fast and Furious it presents how Brian had to betray Dominic when he had to say he was a undercover cop because throughout the movie Brian acted like Dominic’s friend. Based on the characters similarities, Brian, like Richard II, is more soft spoken and passive aggressive whereas Dominic’s temperament is similar to that of Bolingbroke because of his aggressiveness. In regards to the theme of Divine Right, the show called Reign displays this by showing that King Henry believes he deserves his throne because it was God’s choice to have him rule.
         There were many different themes that were present within every individual act and each group member was able to find close connections in current day films and television shows that drew inspiration from Richard II. In Act I, Nathaly connected the theme of family bonds to a particular scene in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  In this scene Sirius Black is pointing to a family tree drawn on a wall that showed all members of his family.  Some members were burned off from the tree by another family member symbolizing that the bond is broken and beyond repair.  Act I scene two has the Duchess using the branches and roots of trees as a metaphor to symbolize family lineage and to remind John of Gaunt of where he comes from and how they are linked together. In Act II, Brandon connects the theme of wealth and power to specific character in the American television series Arrow.  In the show, the main character is named Oliver Queen who is considered to be a very wealthy and powerful individual with numerous connections.  During the first two seasons of the show Oliver was represented as a wealthy business man/ entrepreneur in the day but when night time came he went by his superhero persona/alias “Arrow”.  However, his wealth and power began to greatly diminish by the ending of the first two seasons.  Much like how King Richard began to lose his power, wealth, and status due to his lavish spending habits of unnecessary things.  In other words, Richard’s wealth and power defined him as a character but when he lost it all it made people see him for his true self. This demonstrates that regardless of having wealth and power is a commodity and how it can be taken away in a second In Act III , Lay Wah connects the theme of Identity and faith with the scene where Richard II looks into the mirror to see his own reality for the one last time before he forfeits his crown to Bolingbroke.  The symbolism of the mirror to Richards world was very much a like the symbolism to the mirror in Sailormoon to Queen Nehellena. During the last scene in the Sailor moon animation, Queen Nehellena was defeated by the Sailor Rangers. Her hopes and dreams, which was: Eternal youth, beauty and unlimited power was proven to her to be useless and the cause of her doom. Because of her aggressive craving, it has lead her to commit wrongs that left her isolated, lonely and sad.  The situation is similar to Richard’s as both himself and Queen Nehellena grew up in a Kingdom with people praising and admiring them due to their royal status. In return the blind and directionless Adulation has twisted the identity of both our characters. In the end, it is only after the biggest crisis have happened that both our characters had learned that , what they wanted was really understanding, friendship and loyalty in a cold kingdom that existed around them. Lastly, in Act IV, Briana connects the theme of betrayal that occurred in that act to the Japanese shows Naruto: Shippuden since someone who is greatly trusted by the king, betrays the king and takes the throne without his consent. What Naruto does is extend on how big of a part the country plays in deciding who should best serve them regardless if they are going against their initial leader.  
          In conclusion, our goals and expectations for our Pop Culture Edition is that we hope it will provide a stronger understanding and interpretation of the play The Tragedy of King Richard The Second by William Shakespeare.  In addition, we believe our Pop Culture Edition will be used by undergraduates and graduate students (especially English majors) because we provide many references that can enhance/enrich their analysis and argumentation of the play.  The purpose of these references is that it can push undergraduate and graduate students to think more critically and beyond the text because the play was structured and told in a way that leaves many readers puzzled about certain events (it even happened to our group) but when we came up with our references for our edition we saw how it intertwined with the play.  It cleared up our confusion and answered our questions.  Our Pop Culture Edition, made us come to the realization that this play may seem dated to literary critics but it has themes and ideas are still presented within our mainstream media and which are particularly relevant to modern culture because it shows Shakespeare’s ideas continue to resonate with audiences.     

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