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The Shakespeare Tarot - Richard II

2 of Staffs - Richard ii

Dramatis Personae: Richard II.

Text & Context: The second Staff card sees a Christ-like Richard. He holds the globus cruciger in his right hand while his feet rest on the royal sceptre. His raiment is the red and white of the St. George's Cross and the Tudor Rose, itself comprised of the War of the Roses' red House of Lancaster and white House of York. Richard's body, from the head down, is Essex. He stands alone, as in an Irish fen, or his prison cell in Pomfret castle, playing in one person many people. Music is heard, discordant. Yet, 'tis a sign of love; and love to Richard is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.



Subtext: "I am Richard II, know you not that?" Queen Elizabeth told William Lambarde, the legal theorist and keeper of the records of the Tower of London - Tudor precursor to the National Archives. The childless Richard had been deposed by the usurping Earl of Derby, Henry Bolingbroke [Henry IV].

 Richard's deposition scene, penned by Shakespeare, was banned from public performance. On the day preceding his attempted coup, the Earl of Essex hired the Lord Chamberlain's Men to perform Richard II, with the deposition scene, complete with Richard's murder, intact. At Essex's trial, Francis Bacon claimed the Earl's servants wished to watch a tragedy their master was bringing “from the stage to the state”. Depositions were taken from Gilly Merrick, who arranged the performance, and the actor Augustine Phillips along with some of his fellow thespians; William Shakespeare was never questioned. Essex was beheaded. His co-conspirator and right-hand man, the Earl of Southampton, was pardoned. 

 Three years later, on the night of the 17th Earl of Oxford's death, the Earl of Southampton was again arrested and questioned. Edward de Vere [Oxford], Robert Devereaux [Essex], and Henry Wriothesley [Southampton], were all wards of William Cecil [Lord Burghley], making them, in a sense, brothers. 


Intertext: Staffs 10 Richard III.

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