Lend Me Your Ears

Lend Me Your Ears: Richard II

Which is the more legitimate king—the one chosen by God or the one chosen by the people?

Photo illustration by Slate.

Lend Me Your Ears is a podcast miniseries exploring how Shakespeare’s works have shaped our modern views on politics. Each month, host Isaac Butler will dig into a different Shakespeare play to explore how Shakespeare was responding to his current events, and how they map onto our own. Read Isaac’s introduction to the series and listen to the first episode on Julius Caesar now.

Richard II is God’s anointed representative on earth, but by the end of the play that bears his name, he’s dead and his cousin sits on his throne. This is the story of how Shakespeare used English history to ask still-relevant questions about legitimacy, and about how a performance of Richard II played a role in the last aristocratic rebellion against the English crown.


In this second episode of Lend Me Your Ears, host Isaac Butler talks to University of Richmond professor Kristin Bezio, Vanderbilt professor Peter Lake, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Julie Felise Dubiner about what made Richard II an intriguing figure, what defines legitimacy, and what audiences can learn from the play today.*

The actors in this episode were Abe Goldfarb as the Duke of York and Earl of Northumberland, Daryl Lathon as Henry Bollingbroke, David Rosenberg as Richard II, and Sid Solomon as John of Gaunt.

Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Lend Me Your Years every month. This episode, Isaac is joined by Slate books and culture columnist Laura Miller and Washington Post assignment editor Jacob Brogan about the beautiful poetry of the play, its views on monarchy, and the complex and contradictory ways that legitimacy can operate in politics.

If you are logged into your Slate Plus account, you can find this week’s bonus episode in the player below this paragraph, or find it in your members-only podcast feed. Not yet a member? Click here to join.

Podcast produced by Chau Tu.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival 2018 Season, the Chicago Tribune’s top choice of 20 “must-see” cultural attractions in Illinois, starts June 30. Go to IllinoisShakes.com.

*Correction, June 12, 2018: This post originally misspelled Julie Felise Dubiner’s last name.