Richard II

Richard II Background #

Bloodline succession, from antiquity, has been associated with parricide and endless factional civil warfare. The logic behind hereditary succession defies reason, however it has been endured from the early Pharoahs 3500 BCE and contiues to this day.

Transition from feudalism to medieval kingship #

Constantine’s conversion to Christianity was of beneficial advantage to both the empire and the church. The Catholic Church became so powerful, that apostacy set in and the Church lost Christ’s message of peace, service and humility, by adopting the Roman Army’s hierarchical system together with its callous disregard for human dignity. Roman Catholicism became one the most imperial and tyrannical system in the world, and the least Christian.

The Catholic Church filled the vacumn when the Roman Empire collapsed and wielded its domination over the invaders, through promises of paradise, as most professed a nominal Christianity. The Pope’s power to excommunicate a ruler and all subjects, was a powerful weapon. Most invading tribles had adopted a notional Christianity. The Visigoths who invaded Spain immediately began to build their Cathedrals to win God’s blessing.

Yet, at times the laity has managed to fulfil Christ’s mission with great humanitarian service. There are many great Catholic teachers and laymen, however it is the institution that has squandered its moral authority.

Unfortunately some of its institutions frequently fell into their antipathies, became Orwellian, like the Sisters of Mercy, showing none. Many orphanages and Nunneries showed little compassion or humanity.

With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Popes became the virtual rulers of Europe, transcendng national borders.

When the German King Henry IV attempted to appoint his own bishops, Pope Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV and all his subjects, in 1076. This meant his subjects were condemned to eternal damnation, so they began to lose trust in their king.

Henry IV trekked from Speyer to Canossa Castle in Emilia-Romagna, barefoot, wearing a hair shirt, to obtain the revocation of the excommunication imposed on him by the Pope Gregory VII. He was forced to humiliate himself on his knees waiting for three days and three nights before the entrance gate of the castle, while a blizzard raged in January 1077.

The conflict ended in 1122, when The Investiture Controversy was resolved by Pope Callixtus II and Emperor Henry V at the Concordat of Worms. ‎ However the Spanish Inquisition demonstrated the Church’s absolute control over thought, but eventually the secularists won out when Martin Luther broke the monopoly of the Church and Henry VIII declared himself head of the English Church, seized all Church properties and hung rebellious Priests.

It was the rise of stronger principalities and city states like Ravenna, Venice, Florence, Milan and the Germanic states began to assert their interest in power. Following the bloody religious wars, in 1648, The Treaty of Westphalia 1648, attempted to curb the power of the Vatican shifting power to the nation state.

English Monarchies #

England’s original monarchical succession was determined by The Witan (the king’s council), however in reality, whoever rules is determined by brute force or intrigue through murder, mystery and short lived triumph. It has always been thus and will always be thus.

Any assessment of these King’s reigns must avoid imposing our values. All were born and lived in times of warfare. The moral concerns of later generations make little sense.

The second Anglo Saxon King, AETHELWULF 839-856, travelled to Rome with his son Alfred to see the Pope in 855 and on his return was forced to abdicate by his eldest son, AETHELBALD 856 – 860. EDWARD THE MARTYR 975 – 978 was murdered at Corfe Castle by followers of Aethelred. EDMUND II IRONSIDE 1016 – 1016, was most likely assassinated within a year of becoming King. HARTHACANUTE 1040 – 1042 died at a wedding whilst toasting the health of the bride; he was aged just 24 and was the last Danish king to rule England.

WILLIAM I (The Conqueror) 1066- 1087

William came to England from Normandy, claiming that his second cousin Edward the Confessor had promised him the throne, and defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066.

William swore an oath to uphold the laws laid down by Edward the Confessor. However he claimed to own all the land in England and the right to distribute it at his will to loyal subjects.

EDWARD II 1307 – deposed 1327 was deposed and held captive in Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire. His wife joined her lover Mortimer in deposing him: by their orders he was murdered in Berkley Castle – as legend has it, by having a red-hot poker thrust up his anus!

In Feudal times soldiers primary loyalty was to their feudal lords, and the lords in turn swore an oath of allegiance to the Monarchy. Sometimes feudal lords were more wealthy than the King and had bigger armies. This was instable because a group of disenchanted nobles could rise up against an unpopular regent.

We can trace the transition of a Feudal monarchy to a centralised Medieval one. In Feudal monarchies the Barons and Dukes choose the King, but by Medieval times Monarchies, gradually through civil warfare, , the Dukes and Barons have been killed off and the King appoints new Dukes and Barons creating his own loyal aristocracy. This is more stable. Henry VIII is a prime example.

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The Magna Carta 1215 represented an attempt at limited monarchy. Upset by what they saw as King John’s unchecked powers, about 40 rebel barons confronted him with a list of demands, known as the Articles of the Barons, revised and turned into the Magna Carta — literally, the Great Charter.

Seeking to avoid a major conflict, the King affixed his seal to the agreement at Runnymede on June 15, 1215.

The right to justice and a fair trial was established as a basic, yet unprecedented, idea: that every free man is subject to the law, including the King.

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions . . . except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land,” Article 39 of the text states.

The most important provisions have been interpreted as the basis for the right to justice and due process for all.

Article 40 then continues: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

Tom Ginsburg, the University of Chicago, describes the document as the result of an “intra-elite struggle, in which the nobles were chiefly concerned about their own privileges”.

Only a few weeks after it was signed, King John appealed to Pope Innocent III to cancel the Magna Carta, which he promptly did. The Pope called the document:

“illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people” and declared it “null, and void of all validity forever.”


b: 1312, reigned 1327 – 1377 Richard’s Grandfather.

Son of Edward II, he learned from his father, what not to do – be overbearing and authoritarian. Though he was well educated, he preferred the outdoors and felt the ability to lead his people in battle was paramount.

Succeeded to the throne at 15, the power was held by his mother Isabella and Mortimer for almost 3 years until Edward had Mortimer executed and his mother retired to a castle. Considered to be one of the best kings, he reigned for 50 years. His ambition to conquer Scotland and France plunged England into the Hundred Years War, beginning in 1338. The two great victories at Crecy and Poitiers made Edward and his son, the Black Prince, the most renowned warriors in Europe, however the war was very expensive. Calais was taken in 1347 and held until 1558.

From 1341 CE the English Parliament was beginning to take the form it has today with two separate houses sitting, the lower and the upper house (what would become the House of Commons and House of Lords respectively). The Parliament was able to push for more powers as the king became more desperate for funds, and these included the Houses first approving any new taxes, imposing a pledge of acceptance of the 1215 CE Magna Carta charter of liberties by royal ministers, and prohibiting the king from arbitrarily annulling statutes.

It was the introduction of the long bow, replacing the more clumsy cross bow that gave the English an advantage over larger armies of the French. His claims to territories in France led to the most significant battles of the 100 years war. He also was the first to introduce the canon in western Europe.

Edward III introduced the Order of the Garter as part of Royal honours.

The outbreak of bubonic plague, the ‘Black Death’ in 1348-1351 killed half the population of England. The Bourbonic Plague was spread by fleas from rats originating from the Genoese merchants. England fared better because of quick mass graves, quantines, and emphasis on sanitation.

To combat the labor shortages he introduced the Statutes of Labourers in 1351 to regulate the wages to pre-pandemic levels. When social unrest developed he gave more power to the Justices of the Peace in each county avoiding the Peasant’s Revolt until 1381. He also made criticism of the monarch a capital treasonalbe offence.

In 1351 he also introduced gold and silver coins as legal tender.

Under his rule, the English language, a hybrid of Norman and Saxon emerged. Through the Statute of Pleading, English became the official language of the law courts and of Parliament in 1363.

Chaucer began as a page boy in the court of the third son of Edward III, John of Gaunt. Later he became a personal attendant of the King as his “beloved valet”, before being promoted to the position of esquire where his duties included entertaining the court. Chaucer became a diplomat and made several trips to the continent, especially Italy.

Chaucer gives no indication that he took sides in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, following from the Black Deaths of 1349 - 1351. His writings do contain brief lyrics lamenting, in guarded tones, the disorderliness of his age.

“Now may men weep and cry. For in our days there is nothing but greed, duplicity, treason, envy, poison, manslaughter, and murder of many kinds.”

Like Aristotle’s philosophy of Katharsis, Chaucer evinces empathy or evokes pathos with:

“Pity runneth soon in the gentle heart” in four occasions.

Edward III had seven sons ( 5 legit) which meant his heirs would fight the War of the Roses to claim the right to rule. It wasn’t his seven sons who would fight over the heavy crown, it was his grandsons.

This is his family tree:


b: 1367 - 1400 - reigned 1377 – deposed 1399 (32 years old)

From the 19th century and up to World War II, Shakespeare’s histories were seen as a patriotic panorama underscoring the glories of empire and the superiority of England. But subsequent horrors such as Hiroshima, the Holocaust and the misery of the Cold War soured perceptions of the romance of military conquest.

Elizabeth I patrtonised wandering theatre troupes to promote pride in the understanding of English history. Shakespeare follows that tradition, but appears to add nuances and subtleties that advocate for good governance. Shakespeare has the ability to capture the subtlest nuances of human emotions, the slightest variations of the mind and the soul of his distinctive characters.

The two tetralogy Chronicle plays were not written in chronological order - the dates written are in brackets:

Richard II, (1595/6) cf. King Lear
Henry IV, 1 & 2 , (1596/7) cf. Hamlet
Henry V, (1599)

2nd Tetralogy:

Henry VI, 1, (1993) 2, (1991) & 3 (1592)
Richard III (1593/4). cf.Macbeth

They not only gave illiterate English audiences a grasp of their own history, but tend to illustrate the banality of succession, by blood line, of monarchs. Edward, (The Black Prince) the first born son of Edward III, a brilliant leader of armies won many battles against the French but died of dysentery in France, requiring the passing of the Hollow Crown to his 10 year old son, Richard in 1377. The Regency went to his uncles, The Duke of Gloucester, (Woodstock), John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edmund Duke of York.

It wasn’t Edward’s five sons who squabbled over the hollow crown; it was his grandsons, spurned on by their mothers.

Conflicts between rivals were already brewing in the early years of his reign which included England beginning to lose the Hundred Years’ War with France, border clashes with Scotland, problems in Ireland, and economic strains brought on by the Black Death thirty years prior.

For more see:

Following the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, pressures were made to find the now 15-year old Richard a suitable bride Anne of Bohemia.

Anne was a devout Christian who had read the four gospels in three languages and in her reign she protected the religious reformer John Wycliffe against prosecution and potential death. With her encouragement, Bohemian students traveled to Oxford to study under Wycliffe. As a result, many writings and teachings of Wycliffe were carried back to Prague, Bohemia and throughout central Europe. Jan Huss and later Martin Luther would take up the cause of reforming the Church.

Wycliffe also took up the cause of the poor:

lords many times do wrongs to poor men by extortion & unreasonable [fees] and unreasonable taxes, & take poor men’s goods…& despise them & menace them & sometime beat them when they ask their pay. & thus lords devour poor men’s goods in gluttony & waste and pride, & they perish for mischief, & hunger & thirst & cold, & their children also…[they] withhold from poor men their hire, for which they have spended their flesh & their blood. & so in a manner they eat & drink poor men’s flesh & blood & are mankillers…and more to the same effect.

Other writiers, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, William Langland, enjoyed the protection of important figures, notably John of Gaunt, Richard II and his wife, Anne of Bohemia. It was Henry IV who took a harder line arresting and burning the Lollards at the stake. While Wycliffe died in his own bed, many other reformers like Jan Huss died as martyrs to freedom of thought.

In 1394, Queen Anne died the plague.

In 1396, to ensure peace with France, Richard arranged a political marriage to Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, two years after Anne’s death. She was only six years old at the time and it would be several years before their marriage was to be consummated.

Much of Richard’s reign were chronicled as tyranny with levied forced loans, arbitrary arrests, and murdering of the king’s rivals. Historians debate whether Richard was suffering from mental illness during this time. Richard’s friends quickly deserted him.

In 1386 Duke of Gloucester had a number of the king’s friends executed. In 1389 Richard (aged 22) gained the upper hand and 1397 Richard arrested him and two other leading appellants. Committed to the charge of Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham (later Duke of Norfolk), at the English port of Calais, France, Gloucester was murdered, possibly on orders from Richard.

John of Gaunt acted as peacemaker between the followers of King Richard II and the followers of Gloucester. John of Gaunt spent three years in France and Spain attempting to claim his inherited territory before returning in 1397. Gaunt’s wife Constance had died in 1394, and two years later he married his mistress, Katherine Swynford.

Richard was extravagant, unjust and faithless. In 1381 came the Peasants Revolt, led by Wat Tyler. Holed up in the Tower of London, Richard, at 16, decided to ride out and meet with the rebels with the regalia of his kingship. It worked and he promised to consider their demands if they dispersed to meet a week later. This time he was supported by an army and put the rebellion down with great severity by hanging more than 100 of its leaders.

The sudden death of his first wife Anne of Bohemia completely unbalanced Richard and his extravagance, acts of revenge and tyranny turned his subjects against him.

The period of time was one of tumult. Recovering from The Black Death was slow and resolving the resulting Peasant’s Revolt, plus the continued hundred years war with France taxed the budget. Then there were the various factions fighting for influence and power. Irritating issues with John of Gaunt, briefly in charge of his regency surfaced and eventually became rancorous.

In 1399, Bolingbroke, Henry of Lancaster returned from exile to find his patrimony gone and with other aggrieved nobles, deposed Richard, becoming annointed King Henry IV. Richard was murdered, probably by starvation, in Pontefract Castle in 1400.

The History plays are much more about Shakespeare’s own times than about medieval England. To call any of his plays “histories” is somewhat misleading because historical events and personages are so heavily fictionalised. To the Elizabethans, history was a mix of myth, legend, folklore, moralising and propaganda. Historical figures and events were drawn on to illustrate moral treatises, patterns of behaviour, warnings of consequences and character archetypes.

Polish critic Jan Kott, with his seminal 1974 book Shakespeare Our Contemporary, ripped away the veil of romantic nostalgia that tradition had draped over the history plays. Rather, he saw them as a demonstration of realpolitik, the grinding and heartless machinations of political systems throughout the ages. Kott’s scepticism appealed to the intellectual theatre directors of the 1960s and 70s, such as Peter Brook, Peter Hall and Michael Bogdanov, the latter seeing in Shakespeare’s Prince Hal the archetype of the Machiavellian political animal.

Richard II is the only play written entirely in verse. Richard formed the belief that he was divinely ordained, unimpeachable and personably God’s reflection on earth. He was the first to demand to be always addressed as his Majesty. He loves giving eloquent speechs as a sole actor with himself as the audience.

Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex #

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex bcame a member of Queen Elizabeth’s Court. His charm helped play the courtier’s role of currying favour with the Queen through flattery and flirtation, despite being 34 years her junior. Elizabeth indulged him and put him in charge of a number of important military operations. Essex was tall, handsome and hungry for martial success. He was also arrogant, ambitious and temperamental.

In April 1599 Essex was sent to Ireland as Lieutenant and Governor General, with an army of 17,000 men and explicit instructions to crush the Earl of Tyrone’s rebellion and bring Ireland under control. Instead of following orders, Essex had a secret meeting with Tyrone, made a truce in Elizabeth’s name and abandoned his post to return to London and explain his decision to the Queen.

Elizabeth was furious and had him put under house arrest while an inquiry into his behaviour was held. He was found guilty of disobedience and dereliction of duty, stripped of most of his positions, and banished from court as punishment. In August 1600 Essex was released and determined to regain his position as favourite and councillor. He wrote Elizabeth many pleading and outraged letters.

A bid for power: the Earl of Essex’s rebellion

In September 1600, the Queen refused to renew the lease and patent on Essex’s farm (provitable control) of wines. Essex was livid and decided to make a bid for power. He and his supporters, mostly disaffected nobles and soldiers, planned to capture the Queen, rid the Council of the ‘caterpillars of the Commonwealth’ and proclaim James VI her successor.

Shakespeare’ Company came under the shadow of the scaffold with his play Richard II, which depicted Richard being deposed by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke and handing over his crown.

The play was at first banned and then allowed to be performed only if the deposition scene was cut, thereby gutting the play.

At the turn of the 17th century, the play could certainly be seen as provocative, if not politically subversive and even treasonous.

It is certainly true that ‘Richard II’ , played a part in the Essex rebellion of 1601.

On Saturday 7th February 1601, Shakespeare’s company was paid ten pounds to perform the play ‘Richard II’ at the Globe Theatre.

The play tells the story of the last two years of Richard II’s reign and how he was deposed by Henry IV, imprisoned and murdered. Shakespeare wrote (co-wrote?) and performed ‘Richard II’ around 1595 but the first editions of the play were printed without an important scene: the Parliament scene or ‘abdication episode’ which shows Richard II resigning his throne. Historically correct, at the time it was considered politically unwise to include the scene because of parallels between the ageing queen and the former king. King Richard had relied heavily on politically powerful favourites, as did Elizabeth; her advisors included Lord Burleigh and his son, Robert Cecil. Also, neither monarch had produced an heir to ensure the succession.

It is very likely that Elizabeth was aware of the political parallels between herself and Richard II, and of the potential ramifications.

Indeed, the request to perform the play on that date was made by supporters of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who planned to mount a rebellion the very next day and seize the throne. His supporters paid Shakespeare’s company forty shillings above the normal rate to perform the play, hoping it would convince the public of the righteousness of their cause and bring events ‘from the stage to the state’.

Elizabeth herself fumed: ‘I am Richard the Second; know ye not that?’

In 8 February 1601 Essex’s followers marched into the City where they thought they would be joined by legions of delighted Londoners. The anticipated support did not materialise and the rebellion collapsed within the day.

Essex and some of his co-conspirators were executed for treason on 25 February 1601. Elizabeth was shocked and devastated by his betrayal.

Source: Ellen Castelow, Historic UK

Motifs and Themes #

Self-knowledge #

Aristotle’s theory of tragedy is based on Greek Drama. Sophocles - Oedipus Rex: Human activity is a quest for self knowledge, a search for identity, self discovery, and self recognition which can lead to confidence and empowerment or to sobering humility and disillusionment. We begin in ignorance; we do not know where we came from, who fathered us, where we are, but go blinded by life and hope towards a destiny we cannot comprehend. Heroism is defined as an anguished acceptance of our own identity and nature forged in action and in a world we never made.

”born thus, I ask to be no other man than that I am and will know who I am”

The hero’s suffering leads to Disclosure, (Anagnorisis) or self-recognition as they become aware of their true predicament, puncturing all their illusions of themselves.

KING RICHARD responding to Gaunt’s charge that he is merely the landlord of England

Darest with thy frozen admonition
Make pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood
With fury from his native residence.
Now, by my seat’s right royal majesty,

KING RICHARD - When he hears that all his nobles and their armies have abandoned him, clings to his deluded position:

I had forgot myself. Am I not king?
Awake, thou coward majesty! thou sleepest!
Is not the King’s name twenty thousand names?
Arm, arm, my name! A puny subject strikes
At thy great glory. Look not to the ground,

Later, instead of confronting his singular position, he justifies it with generalised observations:

For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings—
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed,
All murdered. For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,

Go to Flint Castle. There I’ll pine away;
A king, woe’s slave, shall kingly woe obey.
That power I have, discharge, and let them go
To ear the land that hath some hope to grow,
For I have none.

During the deposition scene, RICHARD compares himself as a Christ figure several times:

So Judas did to Christ, but He in twelve,
Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.

Though some of you, with Pilate, wash your hands,
Showing an outward pity, yet you Pilates
Have here delivered me to my sour cross,
And water cannot wash away your sin.

RICHARD chides himself for giving in:

I find myself a traitor with the rest;
For I have given here my soul’s consent
T’ undeck the pompous body of a king,
Made glory base and sovereignty a slave,
Proud majesty a subject, state a peasant.

The looking glass is a double-edged symbol of vanity and truth-telling.


The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed
The shadow of your face.


Say that again.
The shadow of my sorrow? Ha, let’s see.
’Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
And these external manner of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul.

In prison RICHARD finally comes to full realisation of his fate, but does he ever reach full self-knowledge?

Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am. Then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I kinged again, and by and by
Think that I am unkinged by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing. But whate’er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing.

Grief #

The DUCHESS of Gloucester, talking to JOHN of GAUNT

Farewell, old Gaunt. Thy sometimes brother’s wife
With her companion, Grief, must end her life.


Sister, farewell; I must to Coventry.
As much good stay with thee as go with me!


Yet one word more. Grief boundeth where it falls,
Not with the empty hollowness, but weight.

Later GAUNT on his death bed

Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast,

KING RICHARD experiences his,

My crown I am, but still my griefs are mine.
You may my glories and my state depose,
But not my griefs; still am I king of those

KING RICHARD dwells on his own grief more than 8 times

’Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
And these external manner of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul.

Justice #

KING RICHARD to his Marshal,

Ask him his name, and orderly proceed
To swear him in the justice of his cause.

MOWBRAY avers that he is,

A loyal, just, and upright gentleman.

KING RICHARD to John of Gaunt:

Thy son is banished upon good advice,
Whereto thy tongue a party-verdict gave.
Why at our justice seem’st thou then to lour?

YORK protests Richard’s seizing Gaunt’s estate and Bolingbroke’s inheritance:

Is not Gaunt dead? And doth not Hereford live?
Was not Gaunt just? And is not Harry true?


Tomorrow next
We will for Ireland, and ’tis time, I trow.
And we create, in absence of ourself,
Our Uncle York Lord Governor of England,
For he is just, and always loved us well.

NORTHUMBERLAND asserts that Bolingbroke as Duke of Lancaster is entitled to his right of patrimony.

Richly in both, if justice had her right.

HARRY PERCY siding with Fitzwater.

Aumerle, thou liest. His honour is as true In this appeal as thou art an unjust;

KING RICHARD claims he is just and impartial in judging between Bolingbroke and Mowbray:

The unstooping firmness of my upright soul.

KING RICHARD later appears to favor Bolingbroke:

We will descend and fold him in our arms.
Cousin of Hereford, as thy cause is right,

MARSHAL asserts that trial by combat is in the hands of God.

Harry of Hereford, Lancaster, and Derby,
Receive thy lance; and God defend the right.

YORK questions Richard seizing Bolingbroke’s inheritance:

Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
The royalties and rights of banished Hereford?

Later Hereford appeals to York on the same principles:

Will you permit that I shall stand condemned
A wandering vagabond, my rights and royalties
Plucked from my arms perforce and given away
To upstart unthrifts?

YORK warns them that aiding Bolingbroke is still treason.

My lords of England, let me tell you this:
I have had feeling of my cousin’s wrongs
And laboured all I could to do him right.
But in this kind to come, in braving arms,
Be his own carver and cut out his way
To find out right with wrong, it may not be.
And you that do abet him in this kind
Cherish rebellion and are rebels all.

Westminster Hall procedures:

The Lords spiritual on the right side of the throne; the Lords temporal on the left; the Commons below.

Before the French Revolution, the Estates-General determined that the traditionalists sat on the right while the reformers on the left - sinister and weaker side.

RICHARD continues to claim his entitlement:

And some will mourn in ashes, some coal-black,
For the deposing of a rightful king.

RICHARD warns Northumberland of the consequences of his actions:

Show us the hand of God
That hath dismissed us from our stewardship;
For well we know no hand of blood and bone
Can gripe the sacred handle of our sceptre,
Unless he do profane, steal, or usurp.
And though you think that all, as you have done,
Have torn their souls by turning them from us,
And we are barren and bereft of friends,
Yet know: my master, God omnipotent,
Is mustering in his clouds on our behalf
Armies of pestilence, and they shall strike
Your children yet unborn and unbegot,
That lift your vassal hands against my head
And threat the glory of my precious crown.
Tell Bolingbroke—for yon methinks he stands—
That every stride he makes upon my land
Is dangerous treason. He is come to open
The purple testament of bleeding war;
But ere the crown he looks for live in peace,
Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers’ sons
Shall ill become the flower of England’s face,
Change the complexion of her maid-pale peace
To scarlet indignation, and bedew
Her pastures’ grass with faithful English blood.

Later RICHARD warns Henry Lancaster about the precedence he is setting by usurping the crown; Northumberland and others may challenge his hold.

And he shall think that thou, which knowst the way
To plant unrightful kings,

Power #

KING RICHARD believes in the divine right of Kings until he is forced to face the reality that it come down to military force:

Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;

Later he realises his tears are enough:

With mine own tears I wash away my balm,

BUSHY forsees that unless Richard returns from Ireland soon, the odds are against them.

The wind sits fair for news to go to Ireland,
But none returns. For us to levy power
Proportionable to the enemy
Is all unpossible.

YORK initially warns Bolingbroke:

Com’st thou because the anointed king is hence?
Why, foolish boy, the King is left behind,
And in my loyal bosom lies his power.

YORK realises he does not have the military power to enforce loyalty.

Well, well, I see the issue of these arms.
I cannot mend it, I must needs confess,
Because my power is weak and all ill-left;
But if I could, by Him that gave me life,
I would attach you all and make you stoop
Unto the sovereign mercy of the King.

BISHOP CARLISLE assures the KING that God is on his side:

Fear not, my lord. That Power that made you king
Hath power to keep you king in spite of all.

KING RICHARD asks Salisbury:

Welcome, my lord. How far off lies your power?


Nor near nor farther off, my gracious lord,
Than this weak arm.

Once RICHARD becomes aware he has no military support he resigns:

That power I have, discharge, and let them go.

For do we must what force will have us do.

Bolingbroke stakes his claim for his lawful right on the basis of military force:

Even at his feet to lay my arms and power,
Provided that my banishment repealed
And lands restored again be freely granted.
If not, I’ll use the advantage of my power
And lay the summer’s dust with showers of blood
Rained from the wounds of slaughtered Englishmen—

KING HENRY once he is invested, uses his power to eliminate all opposition:

But for our trusty brother-in-law and the Abbot,
With all the rest of that consorted crew,
Destruction straight shall dog them at the heels.
Good uncle, help to order several powers
To Oxford, or where’er these traitors are;
They shall not live within this world, I swear,

Quotes #

All is uneven,
And everything is left at six and seven.
(state of confusion, disorder or disagreement) Originally Job, then Chaucer.

Tying up loose ends #

ACT II, Sc. 2.

A SERVINGMAN comes into announce:

An hour before I came, the Duchess died.


Westminster Hall.

The Lords spiritual on the right side of the throne; the Lords temporal on the left; the Commons below. Enter Bolingbroke, Aumerle, Surrey, Northumberland, Harry Percy, Fitzwater, another Lord, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Abbot of Westminster and attendants.

BOLINGBROKE. Returns to the initial dispute to find out who killed the Duke of Gloucester.

Call forth Bagot.

Enter Officers with Bagot.

Now, Bagot, freely speak thy mind,
What thou dost know of noble Gloucester’s death,
Who wrought it with the King, and who performed
The bloody office of his timeless end.

Bagot denies his involvement deflecting the blame to Fitzroy and Aumerle, who also deny any blame.


These differences shall all rest under gage
Till Norfolk be repealed. Repealed he shall be,
And, though mine enemy, restored again
To all his lands and signories. When he is returned,
Against Aumerle we will enforce his trial.

CARLISLE. reveals that Mowbray has served time in the Holy lands.

That honourable day shall ne’er be seen.
Many a time hath banished Norfolk fought
For Jesu Christ in glorious C hristian field,
Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross
Against black pagans, Turks, and Saracens;
And, toiled with works of war, retired himself
To Italy, and there at Venice gave
His body to that pleasant country’s earth
And his pure soul unto his captain, Christ,
Under whose colours he had fought so long.

Preparing for Henry IV #

Act V. SCENE III. (missing in video)

Windsor. A room in the Castle.

Enter Bolingbroke as King, Harry Percy and other Lords.



Can no man tell me of my unthrifty son?
’Tis full three months since I did see him last.
If any plague hang over us, ’tis he.
I would to God, my lords, he might be found.
Inquire at London, ’mongst the taverns there,
For there, they say, he daily doth frequent
With unrestrained loose companions,
Even such, they say, as stand in narrow lanes
And beat our watch and rob our passengers,
While he, young wanton and effeminate boy,
Takes on the point of honour to support
So dissolute a crew.


My lord, some two days since I saw the Prince,
And told him of those triumphs held at Oxford.


And what said the gallant?


His answer was he would unto the stews,
And from the common’st creature pluck a glove
And wear it as a favour, and with that
He would unhorse the lustiest challenger


As dissolute as desperate! Yet through both
I see some sparks of better hope, which elder years
May happily bring forth.