Richard the 2

Anon. (1611)

Historical Records

Simon Forman's "Book of Plays"

Forman's heading: "IN Richard the 2 At the glob 1611 the 30 of Aprill/" (Riverside Shakespeare, p. 1967)
Forman's text:

Remember thein howe Iack strawe by his overmoch boldnes, not beinge pollitick nor supporting Anye thinge, was Soddenly at Smithfeld Bars stabbed by walworth the major of London & soe he and his wholle Army was over throwen Therfore in such a case or the like, never admit any party wthout a bar between. For A man Cannot be to wise, nor kepe him selfe to safe.

Also remember howe the duke of gloster. The Erell of Arundell oxford and others. Crossing the king in his humor. about the duke of Erland and Bushy wer glad to fly and Raise an hoste of men. and beinge in his Castell, howe the d of Erland cam by nighte to betray him wth 300 men. but hauinge pryuie warninge ther of kept his gates faste And wold not suffer the Enimie to enter, wch went back Again wth a flie in his eare, and after was slainte by the Errell of Arundell in the battell

Remember also. When the duke and Arundell cam to London wth their Army. kinge Richard came forth to them and me them and gaue them fair wordes. And promised them pardon and that all should be well yf they wold discharge their Army. vpon whose promises and faier Speaches, they did yt and Affter the king byd them all to A banker and soe betraid them And cut of their heades &c because they had not his pardon vnder his hand & sealle before but his worde/

Remember therin Also howe the ducke of Lankaster pryuily contryued all villany. To set them all together by the ears and to make the nobilyty to Envy the kinge and mislyke of him and his gouernmentes by which means. He made his own sonn king which was henry Bullinbrocke

Remember also howe the duke of Lankaster asked A wise man, wher him selfe should ever be kinge And he told him no, but his sonn should be a kinge. And when he had told him, he hanged him vp for his Labor. Because he should not brute yt abrod or speke ther of to others. This was a pollicie in the common wealthes opinion But I sai yt was a villaines parte and a Iudas kisse to hange the man. For telling him the truth Beware by this Example of noble men/ and of their fair wordes & sai lyttell to them, lest they doe the Like by thee for thy good will/

Theatrical Provenance

"Richard the 2" was performed at the Globe by the King's players in the spring of 1611; Forman saw the play on 30 April 1611, a Tuesday.

Probable Genre(s)

History (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Narrative Sources and Analogues

Hall's Union of … Lancaster and York

Mirror for Magistrates

Holinshed's Chronicles

Daniel's Civil Wars

Dramatic Sources and Analogues

There being controversy over just what play "Richard the 2" actually was, there is controversy also over its dramatic sources. If this play was discrete from previous dramatic treatments of the history of King Richard II (and that is the position of the LPD), its sources and analogues include the anonymous Jack Straw, the anonymous Woodstock', and Shakespeare's Richard II.

Jack Straw


Richard II

References to the Play

None known, though any reference after 1611 to a play on Richard II might be to the play Forman saw, "Richard the 2."

Critical Commentary

Richard II editions

S. P. Cerasano discusses "Richard the 2" in the context both of Simon Forman's playgoing and his interest in magic: "Forman is tied to theatrical circles by the common culture of the occult" (149). Expanding on that interest in witchcraft and drama, she adds in a note that "Forman's rendition barely sounds like Shakespeare's play" (149, n. 15). Further in the note, she provides a transcription of that portion of the entry in which Forman recalls the duke of Lancaster's consultation of a wise man (repeated below, For What Its Worth), observing that the dramatic moment "sounds remarkably like Macbeth. Cerasano confirms her inclination to separate the play Forman saw from the play Shakespeare wrote with this qualification: "Whether Shakespeare's Richard II or not …" (149, n. 15)


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For What It's Worth

Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels 1623-1673, received a "summer" benefit of £5 6s. 6d. for "Richard ye Second at the Globe," which played on 12 June 1631. Bawcutt transcribes the entry as follows: "12 June/ Received of Mr. Shanke, in the name of the kings company, for the benefitt of their summer day, upon ye second daye of Richard ye Seconde, at the Globe, this 12 of June, 1631, —5l. 6s. 6d (Item 219, p. 173). The Adams edition also transcribes this event, and it is available online (Herbert). Scholars have assigned the performance to Shakespeare's Richard II, but there is no compelling reason why this record could not be evidence for a performance of "Richard the 2" except for a universally assumed preference to assign performance records to Shakespeare's plays when a similarity in title permits.

Forman's entry, Cerasano transcription: "Remember also howe the Duke of Lankaster asked /a wise man, wher [whether] him self should ever be kinge / and he told him no, but his son should be a / kinge" (p. 149, n.15).

Works Cited

Cerasano, S. P., "Philip Henslowe, Simon Forman, and the Theatrical Community of the 1590s." Shakespeare Quarterly, 44 (1993): 145-58.
Evans, G. Blakemore, gen. ed. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
Forman, Simon. MSS Ashmole 208, fol. 201r—v (Division of Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library).
Richard II editions

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Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita; updated 11 October 2012.