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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

Richard II is located in various parts of England and Wales. The tournament scene (Act I, Scene 2) is at Coventry, in the Midlands. Bolingbroke, although coming from Brittany, in France, lands on the north coast of England and undertakes the tediously long march southwest through the Cotswolds to Berkeley and on to Bristol. Richard returns from Ireland and lands at Barkloughly. He moves in a northwesterly direction towards Flint Castle, where he encounters Bolingbroke. The climactic scene takes place in Parliament in London. Then Richard is sent to the prison of Pomfret Castle, which is in Yorkshire.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

King Richard - Richard, the play's protagonist, is a poetic and intensely charming man, but a fatally weak monarch. His unshakable faith in his own quasi-divinity constitutes his tragic flaw, as does his bad judgment. He enjoys the role of performer, and after he is deposed, he casts himself as a martyr.

Henry Bolingbroke - Bolingbroke is the Duke of Hereford and the son of John of Gaunt. After the latter's death, he becomes the Duke of Lancaster. Bolingbroke is a practical and ambitious man who replaces Richard on the throne. At the beginning of the play, Bolingbroke believes in the divinity of kings and in the need to obey them, regardless of their cruelty. He meekly accepts his sentence of exile. Only after his father dies and Richard reveals the extent of his corruption does Bolingbroke transform. However, he has misgivings about assuming power. As king he becomes Henry IV.

John of Gaunt - He is the Duke of Lancaster and uncle to Richard. Gaunt is immensely powerful and wealthy. Shakespeare also casts him as a figure of great wisdom and dignity. He is loyal to Richard and cautions him from his deathbed against the flatterers who surround him; he also berates him for misappropriating royal funds.

Duke of York - The Duke is modeled on the historical figure, Edmund of Langley. Initially, he is the strongest supporter of Richard and is left as the Lord Protector of England during Richard's offensive in Ireland. As soon as Bolingbroke demonstrates his power, however, the Duke shifts his loyalty to him. Later, he reveals the role of his son, Aumerle, in the plot against Bolingbroke. His loyalty to country and king is his distinguishing trait.

Mowbray - He is the Duke of Norfolk. Bolingbroke accuses him of treason before King Richard, and Mowbray challenges Bolingbroke to a single combat to defend his honor. At the last moment, Richard calls off the tournament and banishes Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for ten years. After this, Mowbray drops out of the play. He dies in Venice within a year.


Minor Characters

Duke of Aumerle - He is the son of York. At the beginning of the play, he is one of Richard's favorite courtiers. When he is challenged by Bagot and others before Bolingbroke in the Parliament scene in Act IV, he launches into furious rhetoric that is quite uncharacteristic of him. When his involvement in the conspiracy against Bolingbroke becomes known to his father, he gallops to London at the pleading of his mother to beg forgiveness before York can accuse him.

Queen Isabel - The Queen stands on the periphery of events and appears only four times in the play. She is either ignored or patronized by her husband and spends her time with courtiers, like Bushy and Green, whose tasks are to give her bad news and to comfort her when she grieves. In real life, Richard's queen was a child of nine.

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