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Richard II: Q & A

Down, down I come;
Like glistering Phaethon,
Wanting the manage of unruly jades. (3.3.180-1)

To what does "glistering Phaethon" refer?

As Richard's throne is usurped he compares himself to "glistering Phaethon." Richard is referring to the fable of Phaethon, son of Helios, who convinced his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun, with its mighty steeds, across the path of the sky from east to west. But Phaethon was an incompetent charioteer, unable to control the willful horses. The chariot of fire came too close to the earth and began to consume forests and cities. Thus Zeus, sure that Phaethon would soon incinerate the entire earth, struck him dead with a thunderbolt. Primarily due to Ovid's vivid account of the tale in his Metamorphoses, the Elizabethans came to love the story of Phaethon.

"Jades" here means vicious or wild horses. Just as Phaethon has failed to control his unruly horses, King Richard has failed to control his unruly subjects.

Does Richard II contain any prose?

No. King John and Richard II are the only two Shakespeare plays containing no prose.

Which texts did Shakespeare use as his sources for Richard II?

Shakespeare most likely relied upon Holinshed's Chronicles as he constructed Richard II. Many of Shakespeare's additions and alterations serve to illustrate the moral and political ramifications of usurpation. In fact, some view Shakespeare's second tetraolgy (collectively, Richard II, 1 and 2 Henry IV, and Henry V) as a didactic treatise on the importance of a legitimate ruler.

How to cite this article:

Mabillard, Amanda. Richard II Q & A. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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