Nahum Tate’s Richard II and the Late Stuart Succession Crisis

Politicised adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays proliferated in the Restoration. The earliest ones celebrated the return of Charles II, while the later ones contested or else sought to shore up Stuart rule. The number of new versions peaked in the late 1670s and early 1680s, with the deepening of political divisions and emergence of political parties – the Whigs and the Tories. In this film Professor Paulina Kewes and Dr Joseph Hone discuss Nahum Tate’s provocative adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II which sought to intervene in the fraught politics surrounding the Popish Plot and Succession Crisis (1678-81).

Key Questions

  • How did Tate alter Shakespeare’s Richard II in a bid to address the unfolding Succession Crisis?
  • Is Tate’s a Whig or a Tory play?
  • What does the reception of Tate’s Richard II tell us about Restoration theatre’s scope for political expression and Shakespeare’s standing in the period?

Further Reading:

  • Michael Dobson, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).
  • Paulina Kewes, ‘Shakespeare and New Drama’, in David Womersley (ed.), A Companion to Literature from Milton to Blake (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 575-88.
  • Susan J. Owen, Restoration Theatre and Crisis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Unless otherwise noted, images in this film are reproduced by courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.

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