The Hollow Crown

The Hollow Crown: Richard II

Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

There’s a scene in this production where King Richard idly writes his name in the sand of a beach with the end of his sceptre. It’s an affecting moment from Ben Whishaw, who makes a wonderfully fey, self-absorbed monarch, often toying with the trappings of power like a bored teenager. (He has a pet monkey who later returns to scowl at Bolingbroke.)

Television has been known to make a right hash of Shakespeare but if the other three versions in this Hollow Crown series are as sure-footed as this one, we’re in for a feast. The adaptation (which unfolds in period settings and doesn’t much bother straining for relevance) is poised, intense and beautifully filmed.

It’s style with substance: when John of Gaunt (a gruff Patrick Stewart) delivers his famous speech on the glories of England (“This sceptr’d isle...”) then denounces Richard, it feels as televisually thrilling as a power-play in The Sopranos. With a cast to die for (Davids Suchet and Morrissey are both superb) this is one to watch, record and treasure.

About this programme

The BBC presents four of Shakespeare's history plays - Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V, following events during 16 years of monarchy, from the machinations of the royal court to the bloody battlefields of England and France. Ben Whishaw heads the cast as King Richard, who is asked to settle a dispute between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray, but when the quarrel gets out of hand he banishes both men from the realm - setting in motion a chain of events that will come back to haunt him. Rory Kinnear, David Suchet, Patrick Stewart, Lindsay Duncan and David Morrissey co-star.

Cast and crew


King Richard
Ben Whishaw
Rory Kinnear
Duke of York
David Suchet
Earl of Northumberland
David Morrissey
Duchess of York
Lindsay Duncan
Thomas Mowbray
James Purefoy
Queen Isabella
Clemence Poesy
Duke of Aumerle
Tom Hughes
David Bradley
John of Gaunt
Patrick Stewart
Abbot of Westminster
Richard Bremner
Daniel Boyd
Lord Ross
Peter De Jersey
Sir Stephen Scroop
Tom Goodman-Hill
Sir Henry Green
Harry Hadden-Paton
Sir John Bushy
Ferdinand Kingsley
The queen's serving lady
Isabella Laughland
Lord Marshall
Finbar Lynch
Welsh captain
Rhodri Miles
Bishop of Carlisle
Lucian Msamati
Samuel Roukin
Lord Willoughby
Adrian Schiller
Gardener's assistant
Simon Trinder


Adapted By
Rupert Goold
Adapted By
Ben Power
Ruport Goold
Rupert Ryle-Hodges