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Richard II /

An Introduction to This Text: Richard II

By Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine
Editors of the Folger Shakespeare Library Editions

Richard II was first printed in 1597 as a quarto (Q1). The present edition is based directly on this printing of the play, except for a passage in 4.1 that the quarto does not print.1 Richard II was a popular book; it went through four more editions in quarto before its appearance in the First Folio of 1623. The Second Quarto (Q2) simply reprints Q1, and, in turn, the Third Quarto (Q3) reprints Q2. The Fourth Quarto (Q4) in the main reprints Q3, but Q4 adds about 160 lines (the so-called Deposition Scene) in 4.1. These lines, which appear in no earlier extant quarto, would seem then to have been printed from manuscript copy. (When the “Deposition Scene” was printed in the 1623 Folio, it seems to have been printed from yet a different manuscript, since the passage in Q4 differs considerably from the lines printed in the Folio. The differences between the Q4 and Folio versions of the “Deposition Scene” will be described below.) Finally, the Fifth Quarto (Q5) simply reprints Q4.



Explore the Second Quarto, a reprinting of the First Quarto, of Richard II (1598) in Miranda.

For the most part, the Folio text of 1623 was printed from an edited copy of one of the later quartos, most likely the Fifth Quarto of 1615.2 There are, however, quite a number of significant differences between the Folio version of Richard II and what one finds in the later quartos like Q5. (1) The Folio restores many Q1 readings that had been corrupted in the printing of the later quartos (though it reproduces as much of this corruption as it corrects). (2) It omits passages that total fifty-one lines; some omissions seem to be rough cuts whose edges are difficult to join. (3) The Folio supplements the meager stage directions of the quartos. (4) The Folio offers the fuller, and better, version of the “Deposition Scene.” (The Q4 version lacks several lines and part-lines found in the Folio, and the Q4 verse is very badly divided. Some editors have argued that the Q4 version is a memorial reconstruction of the F version, but the differences between the versions hardly resemble the kinds of differences attributed to memorial reconstruction in other texts to which this theory has been affixed.) (5) Finally, the Folio version is divided into acts and scenes.

Editors have tried to imagine from what source this array of changes could have arisen. Their speculation has favored a theatrical manuscript, which they see as having been compared in a rather perfunctory way to the printed quarto used by the Folio printers as their copy.3 In support of this suggestion, these editors point to the many necessary entrances and exits that appear for the first time in print in the Folio, as well as directions for trumpets, drums, and colors (banners) that would be relevant and necessary to theatrical production. (They instance, for example, the exit of Gaunt in 1.1.) One difficulty with the supposition that the changes came in by way of a theatrical manuscript is that some of the Folio’s additions to Q’s stage directions contradict theatrical practice of Shakespeare’s time. For example, when Richard enters in 3.3 “on the walls,” in the theater he would actually appear in the gallery above the stage—that is, among the best seats in the house, from which the actors would be loath to displace paying patrons. In Q1 Richard appears there with Aumerle, with whom he converses, but the Folio entrance surrounds him with a silent crowd of actors, “Carlile, . . . Scroop, Salisbury,” who would have no place in an actual theater gallery. The addition of these extra, nonspeaking characters seems more literary than theatrical, since a reader who noticed that the dialogue has described Carlisle, Scroop, and Salisbury as having accompanied Richard to Flint Castle might expect them to appear with him on the castle walls. There are thus difficulties with the view that the Folio’s stage directions trace back to a manuscript from the theater. Nonetheless, the Folio stage directions can often be useful to readers in imagining the play onstage, and where they seem useful we have included them in our edition. We also follow the Folio act and scene division (with one exception near the end of Act 5), and follow the Folio printing of the “Deposition Scene.” With these exceptions, this edition is based directly on Q1.

For the convenience of the reader, we have modernized the punctuation and the spelling of the quarto. Sometimes we go so far as to modernize certain old forms of words; for example, when a means “he,” we change it to he; we change mo to more and ye to you. But it is not our practice in editing any of the plays to modernize words that sound distinctly different from modern forms. For example, when the early printed texts read sith or apricokes or porpentine, we have not modernized to since, apricots, porcupine. When the forms an, and, or and if appear instead of the modern form if, we have reduced and to an but have not changed any of these forms to their modern equivalent, if. We also modernize and, where necessary, correct passages in foreign languages, unless an error in the early printed text can be reasonably explained as a joke.

Whenever we change the wording of the quarto or add anything to its stage directions, we mark the change by enclosing it in superior half-brackets ( ). (Within the “Deposition Scene” in 4.1, which already appears in superior half-brackets because it is drawn from the Folio, we mark changes to the Folio lines by enclosing them in pointed brackets [ ].) We want our readers to be immediately aware when we have intervened. (Only when we correct an obvious typographical error in the quarto does the change not get marked.) Whenever we change the quarto’s wording or its punctuation so that meaning changes, we list the change in the textual notes, even if all we have done is fix an obvious error.

We regularize a number of the proper names, as is the usual practice in editions of the play. For example, the name “Fitzwater” appears variously in Richard II as “Fitzwater,” “Fitzwaters,” and “Fitz.” We reduce this diversity to “Fitzwater” in both the dialogue and speech prefixes. Richard II, which focuses specifically on the transfer of the title of king from one man to another, presents an interesting problem in the naming of the two kings. Our general policy is to leave a character’s name unchanged throughout a given play; in Richard II, we alter this policy in order to follow the quarto designations of Richard and Bolingbroke. The quarto names Richard “King” until partway through Act 5. Then the speech prefix “King” is transferred to Bolingbroke, and Richard becomes “Richard” or “Ric.” As in the quarto, Richard is “King Richard” in our edition until Bolingbroke becomes “King Henry,” at which time the former king becomes simply “Richard” in stage directions and speech prefixes. As can be observed in these examples, we expand the often severely abbreviated forms of names used as speech headings in early printed texts into the full names of the characters. Variations in the speech headings of the early printed texts are recorded in the textual notes.

This edition differs from many earlier ones in its efforts to aid the reader in imagining the play as a performance. Nevertheless, when Q1’s stage directions give prominence to the fictional, we adjust our additions to these stage directions accordingly. Thus when Richard is about to appear “on the walls,” as Q1 puts it in 3.3, we have Northumberland approach “the battlements,” rather than, say, “the rear of the stage.” Whenever it is reasonably certain, in our view, that a speech is accompanied by a particular action, we provide a stage direction describing the action. (Occasional exceptions to this rule occur when the action is so obvious that to add a stage direction would insult the reader.) Stage directions for the entrance of characters in mid-scene are, with rare exceptions, placed so that they immediately precede the characters’ participation in the scene, even though these entrances may appear somewhat earlier in the early printed texts. Whenever we move a stage direction, we record this change in the textual notes. Latin stage directions (e.g., Exeunt) are translated into English (e.g., They exit).

In the present edition, as well, we mark with a dash any change of address within a speech, unless a stage direction intervenes. When the –ed ending of a word is to be pronounced, we mark it with an accent. Like editors for the past two centuries we display metrically linked lines in the following way:

BOLINGBROKE 
 Yea, my good lord.
KING RICHARD  Then I must not say no.

However, when there are a number of short verse lines that can be linked in more than one way, we do not, with rare exceptions, indent any of them.


  1. We have also consulted the computerized text of the First Quarto provided by the Text Archive of the Oxford University Computing Centre, to which we are grateful. The First Quarto presents unusual challenges to the reader to discern the difference between some of its commas and its periods because these punctuation marks look so much alike.
  2. It has been suggested more than once that the Third Quarto of 1598 was used as Folio printer’s copy, but because there are errors in the Folio that are identical to some first made in the course of printing Q5, this suggestion needs to be supplemented by further speculation about how the text of Q5 may have influenced Folio printers when they were allegedly using Q3 as their copy. The more speculation, the less attractive the hypothesis.
  3. It has been argued—although not persuasively, it seems to us—that the Folio version is Shakespeare’s revision of the Q1 version.