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John Boydell

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Image of King Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

John Boydell
English, 1719–1804
Josiah Boydell (aka Joshua Boydell)
English, 1752–1817
James Parker
English, 1750–1805
after William Hamilton
English, 1751–1801

King Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

about 1804
From Boydell's Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare

Object Type: Print
10 1/8 x 6 3/16 in. (26 x 16 cm)
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Accession Number: 2016.0008.0010

Credit Line: Gift of Dora Kaufman Nelke, by exchange, and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase

In 1786, a successful London publisher, alderman John Boydell, conceived of a gallery of art devoted to scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Named for its founder, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery was one of the first large-scale commercial endeavors intended to promote British literature and artists both in Great Britain as well as throughout the European continent. He commissioned over 167 paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and produced engravings based on these paintings. In creating the engravings, John Boydell partnered with his son, Josiah, whose name appears after his father’s in the list above. The third name is that of the engraver, and the fourth is that of the painter who created the original composition in oils. The role of the engraver was to transfer the painter’s composition onto plates for printing.

About this scene:
This begins [Shakespeare’s] second tetralogy of history plays (about 1595), the prequel events to those already staged.

Bolingbroke indirectly accuses his cousin, King Richard, of having a royal uncle murdered; consequently, Bolingbroke is banished. Insolvent, war-bound Richard then seizes Bolingbroke’s vast inheritance to pay for his Irish war, but Bolingbroke returns to demand his rights. In the etching, Richard disembarks from Ireland to learn that his close friends raised no army before Bolingbroke killed them, that his thousands of Welsh soldiers have gone home, and that his few supporters stand there before him—his crown is hollow. Bolingbroke, though not the heir, then seizes the crown as well as his dukedom and suggests he would like to be rid of Richard, which he soon is, so a kinsman’s blood now stains new King Henry’s hands, too.
-Susan Willis, dramaturg, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, September 28, 2020

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