Richard II

Richard II: The Player-King

Thus I play in one person many people,

And none contented. Sometimes I am king,

Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,

And so I am.

V:v:31-34, King Richard II

While entangled in the throes of dramatic suspense, the self-reflexive concept of metatheatrics reminds an audience of its present relationship with the actors. Shakespeare often implements metatheatrics; exemplified by the 'play within a play' concept that occurs in both Hamlet (Shakespeare,1603) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare, 1596). In these and other examples, Shakespeare uses the stage as analogous to the world, and vice versa. In As You Like It (Shakespeare, 1600) Jaques succinctly demonstrates this analogy, saying "All the world's a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players" (II:vii:139). Metatheatrics are especially prevalent in the Henriad, with Kings Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Richard III, respectively, serving as performers in front of their court as well as literal performers on stage. Anne Righter in her study Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play describes this as the "Player-King image", in which Shakespeare illustrates the "contrast between the individual and the part which he assumed at...

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