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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Oil Paintings on Shakespearean Themes

#83 "KING RICHARD II: THOUGHTS"
Description of Painting - Oil on Masonite 23" x 30"
by Hannah Tompkins

 

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In the dismal confines of his prison Richard has time to think, but he does not think about the wrongs and injustices that provoked the course of events leading to his deposition. He thinks only about himself. He says:
"I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world; 
And for because the world is populous,
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it; yet I'll hammer it out.

My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
For no thought is contented..." (Act V. sc.v.)
Richard had an almost unshakeable belief in that omnipotent power that endows kingship with divinity. He thought his royal world of crowns and stones would endure forever, but the fatal coup of Bolingbroke (Henry IV) exploded that world in a single blow.

The painting shows that explosion and the ensuing rubble. To the far right is the memory of his former castle. The colors of passion and fury make up his complexion and rise to fill the upper canvas as his thoughts.

Upper right are the male and female images mentioned in the above quote, as his brain and soul. The naked male form is in a posture of crucifixion while the female hangs her head in futile resignation and mourning.

The skull and ghoulish forms in the upper left represent the hellish torture of violent and discontented thoughts.

The head of Richard is sightless, for he was blind to his own folly.

Stones do not a castle make, nor crowns a king.

FIN


Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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