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Here, have some genfic from a play nobody ever writes fic about (except for commodorified and me! But nobody else). I started this ages ago, got stuck at the end, and then pulled it up while thinking about something else I'm working on. I apologize in advance for the wankiness of the author's note.

Title: Entre Deux Morts
Play: Richard II
Pairing/characters: Richard II and a bunch of dead people
Rating: gen; contains implicit theory
Word Count: 140
Prompt(s) used: legacy (from 2/09. I love that set of prompts because they practically scream "HEY LEA, GO WRITE SOME RICHARD II FIC NOW." And Lord knows I can't resist Richard II.)
Summary: Within the hollow crown keeps Death his court.
Author's Notes: I started on this before the prompts came up, but it actually fit one, so I finished it (eventually). This is almost as much historical fic as it is Shakespearean, but the deposition as imagined here is Shakespeare's invention, so it totally counts. Also, this piece owes something of a debt, in an inverted fashion, to Ernst Kantorowicz's The King's Two Bodies, as well as Jacques Lacan (from whom I took the title. The deux morts are literal and symbolic; the link explains this more concisely than I can) by way of Slavoj Žižek, by way of Paul Strohm (who applies this principle to the historical Richard II in England's Empty Throne), something I didn't realize until I'd written most of it. This sort of thing is what happens when you let pretentious graduate students loose in your fic communities.

When Richard of Bordeaux was nine years old, his father, warrior though he had been, could not defeat the illness that had wasted him, and everyone wept because he had died too soon.

A year later Richard's grandfather followed his father into the earth, and everyone wept because he had lived too long.

So Richard was crowned King of England, and as he lay on the cloth of gold and the archbishop anointed his forehead, his hands, his breast, the air in the Abbey was thick with incense and ceremony, and when they laid the crown on his head its weight was like the closing of the earth over him.

When, twenty years later, he put that crown from his own head, and embraced his own death, it was, nevertheless, both communion and consummation.

Kingship, after all, is a fellowship of the dead.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
I love the last line. Because kingship totally is. Why else would Lydgate have titled his Giant Book o'Dead People The Fall of Princes?

The equation of coronation with death works beautifully too -- especially considering that the two ceremonies weren't all that different when you think about it a certain way. It's a very Richard way of thinking about it too. In every ceremony, he sees his coronation and his death, since his kingship defines him completely and when he loses that he loses himself.

And this comment is almost as long as the ficlet. If not possibly longer.
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
You win for referencing Lydgate! ;)

But, yeah. Shakespeare, and Kantorowicz talks about this a lot, has this whole inverted-rites thing when he talks about the deposition scene, and how it's very realistic but it's for a ceremony that doesn't actually exist, if that makes sense. And, yeah, Richard II is incredibly morbid and I think that's because if you think very hard about kingship it totally is.

Also, the other thing I was thinking of when I wrote this was this passage on the deposition from Daniel's Civil Wars:
And forth he's brought unto th'accomplishment,
Decked with the crown in princely robes that day,
Like as the dead, in other lands, are sent
Unto their graves in all their best array,
And even like good did him this ornament.
For what he brought he must not bear away,
But buries there his glory and his name,
Entombed in both his own and others' blame.

Not quite the same theoretically, but certainly of a piece with it.
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, Samuel Daniel. Channeling de casibus much? It really is all about how the bodies of kings die but kingship has to go on and so forth -- unless, of course, you have no children and then there are Problems.

And very interesting point about there not being any set ceremony for deposition. Because it's unnatural, a perversion of what ought to be happening, so of course there's no ceremony for it. And, in contrast, you look at Edward II and there isn't even a ceremony at all.
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
Daniel is constantly trying to squish Richard II into de casibus tropes -- in fact, he even has Richard soliloquize in prison about how he'll be an Example of How Not To Do It -- except that it doesn't work all that well, because Daniel's anxiety is transparent and it's quite clear that he's trying to fit a threatening narrative into a safe generic space. Which is actually a pretty good phrasing, if I do say so myself. *writes this down to put into the diss*

Edward II doesn't need ceremony because it's not concerned with the mystical dimension of kingship. The focus there is more centered on regulation of transgressive bodies -- that's obviously a big deal in Shakespeare's Richard II as well, but in Marlowe it doesn't have the mystical veneer to offset the dirty, dirty politics.
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
Yay for diss thoughts!

he's trying to fit a threatening narrative into a safe generic space

I love that phrasing. I have something similar when talking about Vergil and women because he totally does the same thing. Ah, genre. You are very useful.

And, no, Edward II doesn't concern itself with much beyond the here and now. There's that one speech of Edward's, but it's got a very different flavour, since Edward doesn't really seem to care that much about being king for the sake of being king, so much as being king because it gets him what he really wants (hot men).
Jun. 12th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
so much as being king because it gets him what he really wants (hot men).


But that's true: hot men, and also annoying the peers. And there's that line he has about "okay, take the damn kingdom, just let me keep my boyfriend" (although he talks about it in terms of nooks and frolicking and stuff). But the thing he says about being an ex-king --
Know thou I am a king. O, at that name
I feel a hell of grief. Where is my crown?
Gone, gone, and do I remain alive?

There's some of that, but it's less, I don't know, mystical.

Also, hooray for genre studies! I went through a phase a few years ago where I decided I didn't believe in genre, but Dr. M thought it was important, and he was right. As he was about most things. Except the prison soliloquy. I still think he was wrong about that.
Jun. 12th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
O, at that name
I feel a hell of grief.

Interesting -- Gaveston uses that same phrase 'hell of grief' when he leaves for Ireland. Not sure if it's a popular phrase, as I've not seen it anywhere else, but if not, it would tend to signify that even at this moment when he's alone and there's nothing but him and the lack of the crown, his dead lover is somewhere at the heart of the problem. It's a lot easier to draw a parallel between Edward and Richard in Woodstock, for instance, who wants to be king only for what it gets him. While Shakespeare is doing something else entirely.

And while I don't like genre in a general sense (ever since I had a creative writing prof who disdained 'genre fiction' vocally and at length, it's left a sour taste in my mouth), it has worked wonders for my dissertation. The fact that genre serves as a vehicle for containment, whether for inconveniently deposed kings or equally inconveniently powerful women, is very useful when talking about marginalised figures.
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Mmmm. I like the last line, of course, it's so perfect - but even more, I love the idea of 'communion and consummation', it plays so nicely on the idea of 'ordained by God' and all the mythology surrounding the idea of how the true King will always be recognised, even in death.

I love that you referenced Lacan, too.
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's sort of like Kantorowicz in ficlet form. ;) The real problem with the deposition in the play is that there's no real way to undo kingship -- you're king until you die and there's no way around that. I mean, Richard calls on his royal power to uncrown himself, and that just underscores the impossibility of what he's doing (assuming you buy into divine-right kingship).

My dissertation director is a big Lacanian, so I have absorbed a lot.
Jun. 12th, 2008 12:00 am (UTC)
Yes, the sheer contradiction of his using his divine right to undo the divine right makes your head spin. It's rather tempting to point out to him 'Actually, you know things that Just Don't Work Like That? Yes. What you're doing now is one of them.'

I envy you your director!
Jun. 12th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)
But I think he would probably say "Don't you think I know that?" Because the deposition scene is all about taking that impossibility and shoving it into everyone's faces. After all, he hasn't got access to more traditional channels of resistance, so he fights back by Ruining It For Everyone Else.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 12th, 2008 05:24 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 14th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! And yeah, Žižek rocks. He's rather important to my diss as well (all the theorists I mentioned in the author's note are).

R2 is full of that imagery of burial -- I mean, the most famous bit of it starts out "Let's talk of graves, and worms, and epitaphs..." So I decided to project it backwards, which is implicit in the text.

And I am, myself, rather proud of the opening paragraphs, so I am glad you like them!
Aug. 5th, 2015 02:49 pm (UTC)
Oh yes very good:)
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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