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Richard II (1978)

King Richard the Second (original title)
The incompetent King Richard II is deposed by Henry Bolingbroke and undergoes a crisis of identity once he is no longer King.


David Giles


William Shakespeare (play)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Derek Jacobi ... Richard II
John Gielgud ... John of Gaunt
Jon Finch ... Henry Bolingbroke
Wendy Hiller ... Duchess of York
Charles Gray ... Duke of York
Mary Morris ... Duchess of Gloucester
David Swift ... Duke of Northumberland
Clifford Rose ... Bishop of Carlisle
Charles Keating ... Duke of Aumerle
Richard Owens ... Thomas Mowbray
Janet Maw Janet Maw ... Queen
Jeffrey Holland Jeffrey Holland ... Duke of Surrey
Jeremy Bulloch ... Henry Percy
Robin Sachs ... Bushy
Damien Thomas ... Bagot


The incompetent King Richard II is deposed by Henry Bolingbroke and undergoes a crisis of identity once he is no longer King.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

28 March 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: King Richard the Second See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Sir John Gielgud (John of Gaunt) and Sir Derek Jacobi (King Richard II) played Edward Masterson in adaptations of the 1934 novel "Murder on the Orient Express" by Dame Agatha Christie: Gielgud in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), though the character was called "Edward Beddoes" in that version, and Jacobi in Murder on the Orient Express (2017). See more »


Thomas Mowbray: A trespass that doth vex my grieved soul.
See more »


Followed by Henry V (1979) See more »

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User Reviews

spectacular acting and a largely excellent production though with some regrettable excisions
5 September 2019 | by mhk11See all my reviews

Derek Jacobi delivers a superb performance as Richard II, and John Gielgud is equally riveting as John of Gaunt. Gielgud's rendering of the famous "This royal throne of kings" speech is one of the highlights of the whole BBC Shakespeare Series, as is Jacobi's rendering of the exquisite soliloquy at the beginning of the penultimate scene of the play.

Likewise excellent is Jon Finch, whose portrayal of Bolingbroke is admirably nuanced (in line with his performances as Henry IV in the BBC's productions of the next two plays of the tetralogy). Charles Gray handles the difficult role of the Duke of York commendably. It is amusing to see him paired with Wendy Hiller as his wife, for the two of them were also in the BBC's production of "The Comedy of Errors" (he as Solinus and she as the Abbess). Clifford Rose, in a role very different from the role of Boyet which he performed in the BBC's production of "Love's Labour's Lost," is convincing as the Bishop of Carlisle.

I have rated this production with nine stars rather than with ten, for two reasons. First, the staging of the final scene of the first Act takes for granted the veracity of Bolingbroke's claims (at the outset of Act III) about the homosexual debauchery into which Richard was led by his favorites. Given that nothing else in the play supports those claims, and given that what Bolingbroke says about the Queen is not reconcilable with what we see of the interaction between Richard and her, the truth of Bolingbroke's allegations should not have been taken for granted. The staging of scene I.iv is not strictly inconsistent with anything in the text, but it goes well beyond the text.

Bolingbroke's claims about Richard and his favorites are likewise not supported by the interaction between the Queen and those favorites in II.ii. And here I come to my second reservation about this production. We never see the interaction between the Queen and Richard's favorites, because more than half of scene II.ii is cut. Almost as heavily cut is scene IV.i, including the encomium to Mowbray by the Bishop of Carlisle. Similarly gone are Bolingbroke's remarks about Prince Hal at the opening of V.iii, which prepare the way for the next two plays in the tetralogy. All of these excisions could and should have been avoided, without pushing the length of the production beyond three hours.

Still, my reservations are considerly outweighed by my plaudits. Overall, this version of "Richard II" is the best that I have ever seen.

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