This play opens with King Richard II and his uncle John of Gaunt trying to convince Henry Bolingbroke (Gaunt's son) and Thomas Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk) settle a quarrel, wherein Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of murdering Richard's brother the Duke of Gloucester (Thomas of Woodstock). Although Mowbray didn't kill him, he could have prevented it or at least told the truth that Richard II had ordered it. Richard II cannot calm them, so he allows them to compete in a joust, then stops the joust while it is starting and sentences the two to banishment from England Mowbray forever and Bolingbroke for five years. Mowbray predicts while leaving that Bolingbroke will retaliate and defeat Richard II. In despair, Bolingbroke's father Gaunt dies, and Richard II seizes all of Gaunt's lands and money. The Earl of Northumberland (Henry Percy), his son Henry Percy (Hotspur), Lord Ross, and Lord Willoughby all criticize Richard II of wasting England's money, for taking Gaunt's money to fund a war with Ireland, of taxing the commoners, and of fining the nobles for crimes their ancestors committed. Bolingbroke secretly returns to England with their help to usurp Richard II and correct these problems. Gaunt's brother (Richard's last surviving uncle) Edmund of Langley (1st Duke of York) tells Bolingbroke that he is doing wrong to defy Richard's order of banishment.
Bolingbroke defeats and executes Sir John Bushy, Sir Henry Green, and the Earl of Wiltshire, all accused by Bolingbroke of being favorites to Richard II and of misleading him. Edmund's (York's) son the Duke of Aumerle helps Richard II defend the crown, gaining courage from the hope that Heaven will support the "right", since Richard II feels he is the rightful King of England. Unfortunately, Richard's 12,000 Welsh soldiers disperse when they hear a false rumor that he is dead. Furthermore, the commoners revolt and Edmund (York) joins Bolingbroke. Consequently, Richard II flees to Flint Castle with Aumerle, the Earl of Salisbury, Sir Stephen Scroop, and Bishop Carlisle. There Richard II meets Bolingbroke asks Richard to repeal his banishment in exchange for peace. Richard, regretfully, replies, then becomes deeply depressed feeling Bolingbroke will usurp the throne. Bolingbroke does, by practically forcing Richard II to hand over the crown to him, renaming Bolingbroke to King Henry IV. Bishop Carlisle echoes Richard's prediction that England will fall to disorder because of the usurpation, so Northumberland arrests him. Aumerle wishes Richard II were still king and Lord Fitzwater falsely accuses Aumerle of killing Gloucester.
Richard II is ordered by Henry IV (Bol.) to go to Northern England and Richard's wife (the Queen) is ordered to return to her native France. Edmund (York) tells his wife (Duchess of York) of Richard's tragic journey to the north where the commoners threw dust at him. Their son Aumerle (renamed Rutland by Henry IV for being a friend to Richard II) plots with others to poison Henry IV at Oxford. Edmund (York) informs Henry IV and Aumerle and his mother plea for Aumerle's pardon, which Henry IV reservedly grants. Sir Pierce of Exton murders Richard II (in prison at Pomfret Castle) thinking it is Henry IV's wish that Richard II is dead. Richard II manages to kill two of Exton's helpers before dying himself, however. Henry IV has the Earl of Salisbury, Lord Spencer (formerly the Earl of Gloucester), Sir Thomas Blunt, and the Earl of Kent executed for treason. Sir Leonard Brocas and Sir Bennet Seely are also executed for plotting with Aumerle to poison Henry IV. The Abbot of Westminster kills himself, to avoid capture by Henry IV, though Bishop Carlisle is captured, then released by Henry IV and ordered to hide away in some secret place. Finally, Exton shows Richard II's body to Henry IV, whereby Henry IV reveals that though he wanted Richard II dead, it will now only slander him and may bring repercussions. Henry IV banishes Exton.
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What do they think of each other?
“Now mark me how I will undo myself” Discuss the extent to which Shakespeare presents Richard II as being responsible for his own downfall in “Richard II”.
In Shakespeare's Richard II, the king banishes Bullingbrook for quarreling with the Duke of Norfolk. After hearing the sentence, Bullingbrook consults with his father: HENRY BOLINGBROKE: Nay, rather, every tedious stride I make Will but remember me what a deal of world I wander from the jewels that I love. Must I not serve a long apprenticehood To foreign passages, and in the end, Having my freedom, boast of nothing else But that I was a journeyman to grief? JOHN OF GAUNT: All places that the eye of heaven visits Are to a wise man ports and happy havens. Teach thy necessity to reason thus; There is no virtue like necessity. Think not the king did banish thee, But thou the king. Woe doth the heavier sit, Where it perceives it is but faintly borne. Go, say I sent thee forth to purchase honour And not the king exiled thee; or suppose Devouring pestilence hangs in our air And thou art flying to a fresher clime: Look, what thy soul holds dear, imagine it To lie that way thou go'st, not whence thou comest: Suppose the singing birds musicians, The grass whereon thou tread'st the presence strew¹d, The flowers fair ladies, and thy steps no more Than a delightful measure or a dance; For gnarling sorrow hath less power to bite The man that mocks at it and sets it light. HENRY BOLINGBROKE: O, who can hold a fire in his hand By thinking on the frosty Caucasus? Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite By bare imagination of a feast? Or wallow naked in December snow By thinking on fantastic summer's heat? O, no! the apprehension of the good Gives but the greater feeling to the worse: Fell sorrow's tooth doth never rankle more Than when he bites, but lanceth not the sore. JOHN OF GAUNT: Come, come, my son, I'll bring thee on thy way: Had I thy youth and cause, I would not stay. HENRY BOLINGBROKE: Then, England's ground, farewell; sweet soil, adieu; My mother, and my nurse, that bears me yet! Where'er I wander, boast of this I can, Though banish'd, yet a trueborn Englishman. (I, iii) Henry's father believes that imagining better circumstances would improve his son's exile, while Bullingbrook thinks that fantasizing would only lead to more misery. Later in the play this argument gets reiterated by the Queen and Sir John Bushy. Who do you agree with? Does imagination only cause pain by tantalizing us with impossibilities or does it help us escape grief? Feel free to be as imaginative as you want with the responses
Richard II, was more than simple entertainment when it was first performed. It played an active political role in the Essex Rebellion of 1601. The rebellion was touched off, in part, by the elderly Queen's refusal to name an heir, but there were other complex issues at stake. At the end of the 16th century, Elizabeth, like Richard II, "was criticized for having abdicated many of her powers in favour of Cecil and Raleigh" (de Chambrun 189). Robert Cecil and Walter Raleigh were particular enemies of Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, a longtime favorite of Queen Elizabeth, and a close friend of the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's patron. By the beginning of 1601, Essex and a group of supporters had determined to resolve his difficulties and to rid Elizabeth of corrupt counsellors in one move. They planned to storm the Palace, arrest Essex's enemies, and proclaim, "Long live the Queen and after her, long live King James of Scotland, only legitimate heir to the English throne". To generate support for the rebellion amongst Londoners, Essex's supporters arranged for Richard II to be played the day before the rebellion. Sunday dawned and the Earl marched into the streets with his followers. But the play had failed to stir up support for Essex, and worse, news of his plan had been leaked to his enemies. Essex and his men met with armed resistance at the Palace and were orced to withdraw. They retreated to Essex House where they were besieged for a few hours before giving themselves up to arrest. There is no direct evidence that Shakespeare's Company was ever punished for its part in the Rebellion. Some historians think that the actors were told to leave London for a period of time, but the Company played again for Elizabeth in December of 1601. The Queen had the last word in this affair, as an excerpt from a conversation between Elizabeth and the historian, William Lambarde, shows. Examining some antiquated historical documents, "her Majesty fell upon the reign of King Richard II, saying `I am Richard II. know ye not that?' " Gaunt and the Duke of York await the King. Gaunt hopes that Richard will listen to the advice he has to offer, but York doubts that he will. In York’s opinion, Richard listens only to flatterers and has too much of a taste for luxury. Gaunt says that Richard’s reign will not last long; it will burn itself out. Then he gives a long speech in praise of England which he finishes with bitter regrets about the dismal state into which the nation has fallen as a result of Richard’s misgovernment. When the King enters with his courtiers, Gaunt puts his complaints directly to Richard. He says that if Richard’s grandfather, Edward III, had known how Richard would destroy the land he rules, he would have prevented Richard from becoming king. The situation is shameful, Gaunt says, claiming that Richard’s policy of “farming” the realm has turned him into a landlord rather than a king. Richard responds angrily, saying that if Gaunt were not his uncle, he would have him beheaded. Gaunt is not intimidated, and says Richard should not spare him, since Richard has already killed Gaunt’s brother, Gloucester. Gaunt sees himself as a prophet and warns that Richard’s vanity and treatment of the people he is supposed to govern will not last long, and will in fact be his undoing. Methinks I am a prophet new inspired And thus expiring do foretell of him: His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, For violent fires soon burn out themselves; Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short; He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes; With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder: Light vanity, insatiate cormorant, Consuming means, soon preys upon itself. He sees that Richard believes that England is his to do with as he will. In the following soliloquy he admonishes Richard for violating the social order and for leasing out his land, the land he lovingly calls Eden and states that it is the envy of less happier lands. This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, Gaunt continues heaping glory upon glory on England as his monologue continues and calls the country that he loves a nurse, and equates the land to a mother. To Gaunt, England is a mother that breeds kngs that are feared by their very breeding and lineage, which makes them renowned throughout the then known world for their deeds. This deeds, he intimates, are instigated by some higher power for Christian service and true chivalry. His exultation of these kings of renown does not include Richard as Gaunt ends his speech and his life with a condemning admonishment against his nephew, and king, for his treatment of the land and its people. This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth, Renowned for their deeds as far from home, For Christian service and true chivalry, As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry, Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son, This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it, Richard does not realize that in violating the established social order he will bring disaster on his head. The passing of property and titles from one generation to the next was a foundation of the medieval social order. When Richard violates this by illegally seizing Gaunt’s lands, he offends the very system, sanctioned by God, that confers legitimacy on his own position as king. Like King John, Richard II is a political play. Where in King John Shakespeare showed the pretensions of majesty – the monarch’s glory and greatness, his just right to govern, and his moral obligation to govern well – being undercut at every turn by tickling commodity, in Richard II, Shakespeare combines his sources to bring out the bnfull complexity of the conflict between an incompetent king and an efficient usurper. He constructs his plot around the successive stages in the development of this conflict, and he defines his characters by the two principles that arise from it – the nature of kingship and the right of rebellion. The play’s central figure Richard, is characterised in terms of his conception of himself as king, and his tragedy as a man is inseparable from his tragedy as a ruler of a people, a people who must continue to suffer the consequences of that tragedy long after he himself has been released from it. It is in the double focus created by the play’s structure
The above was a fair summary of the play, however, what would be interesting is to have an analysis of the meaning of the play for example in which way does the play represent the idea of kingship and government, and what comparisons can be made between the play and its sources. Also what functions do these sources perform as opposed to the play's function..ie are they didactic. A historical contextulisation of the play would also be interesting, giving the political and social context as well as the possible way it was recieved by different people. How contentious was the play, and why did the censors feel that the deposition scene needed to be omitted?
This website is indeed impressive with useful search index. I don't know if you will feel bothered to offer suggestions to me on my research paper. I am now trying to "acquiring patriotism in Renaissance England" through Shakespeare's Richard II. I wonder if it is possible for you to give me some advices. In Richard II, the deposing scene and the murder of a king are shocking or can be refered to as an act of counter-patriotism in modern sense. How can I direct the deposing scene to echo my acquiring patriotim in Renaissance England? I will be honored to hear from you.
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I am in GREAT need of help with King Richard II. I keep reading and keep getting confused. Any help you can give me will be most appreciated! Plot, theme, mood, character analysis....anything!!!! Thank you!
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