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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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CONFLICT

Protagonist: Richard is the protagonist; even at the time of his defeat, he dominates the play. At the beginning, he is shown to be outwardly self-confident and inwardly corrupt. Since he is implicated in Gloucester's murder, he does not have the moral right to govern, even though he has the legal right. His tragic flaws are his unshakable faith in his own divinity and his self- destructive arrogance, which the Greeks termed "hubris." He also displays inflexibility in the face of fate, which becomes one of the chief causes of his downfall. His unlawful seizure of Gaunt's property after his death marks the onset of his downfall. He recognizes the inevitability of his doom in Act III when he exclaims, "Down, down I come, like glistering Phaethon." From this moment onwards, he seems to conspire in his own downfall.

Antagonist: Henry Bolingbroke acts as the antagonist in the play on a simplistic, textual level. He is a practical and ambitious man, who replaces the weak and corrupt Richard on the throne of England. At the beginning of the play, he believes in the divinity of all kings and in the need to obey them, however cruel or careless their acts might be; therefore, he meekly accepts the sentence of his banishment issued by Richard. It is only after Richard seizes the money and lands that rightfully belong to him that he returns from exile with an army of three thousand men. Even at this point he seems to be more concerned with the restitution of his property than with usurping the throne. His ambition increases with his opportunities, and the crown is practically given to him by Richard, rather than wrenched away by force or won by diplomacy.

In reality, Richard's neurotic self-absorption, his firm belief in his own divinity, his arrogance, incompetence and unpopularity are the real causes of his downfall. Richard denies the laws of succession, upon which his own claim to kingship depends, by seizing the property that belongs to Bolingbroke. It is, therefore, Richard, and not Bolingbroke who first disturbs the order of this society. In the end, Richard is responsible for his own fate, and he is his own worst enemy.


Climax: The climax of the play occurs in Act IV when the power of the throne is transferred. It is the central, pivotal scene of the play. Everything that occurs before this episode builds up to it, and everything that follows is a consequence of it. The first three acts are a preparation for this event. Richard hands over his crown to Bolingbroke, who becomes Henry IV. The Bishop of Carlisle warns of the bloody effects of this act, which are confirmed by the later events of the play.

Outcome: The play ends in tragedy, for Richard II is defeated by his own pride, and Bolingbroke seizes the throne from him. The concluding Act V chronicles the consequences of Richard's deposition. A rebellion breaks out in Gloucestershire, resulting in bloodshed and political turmoil. Fitzwater reports that an uprising in Oxford has been quelled. The Abbot of Westminster dies, and the Bishop of Carlisle is arrested and later pardoned by Henry. In short, Act V presents the bloody consequences of the deposition. The play ends even more tragically, with the murder of Richard by Exton.

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