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Shakespeare, Richard II, poetry, narrative


The relation of Shakespeare's plays to other literary forms like lyric and narrative is a topic that continues to invite speculation. A number of his plays contain songs and sonnets, reported stories and winter’s tales. In this essay I examine lyrics and narratives in Richard II and their dialogic relation to the surrounding text. In a play about a self-enclosed King these utterances tend to occur in enclosures: Richard delivers lyrics while immured at Flint Castle and the dungeon at Pomfret, whereas his Queen laments in an enclosed garden and promises to tell the King’s story during her exile in a French cloister. The lyrics and narratives that Richard and his Queen fashion within such private, interior spaces fittingly define inwardness in the play. Their despairing rhetoric and tears grant them additional avenues for express- ing their grief. Richard’s prominent displays of affection ally him with weeping women in the play and serve as a traditionally feminine form of defense. His woeful utterances provide him with a significant means of resisting his disempowerment.