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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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THEMES

Major Theme

The removal of a divinely appointed but unworthy king constitutes the main theme of the play. Richard's tragic flaw, or what the Greeks termed 'hamartia,' is his firm belief in his own divinity. He also suffers from self-destructive arrogance. Shakespeare makes Richard responsible for his own misfortunes, and his downfall is not simply the result of the turning of fortune's wheel.

Richard II is also concerned with the fall of the England that he represents. Thus, another theme of the play may be said to be the fall of England and her subsequent regeneration. Gaunt's famous dying speech gives several examples of England's lost glory. Shakespeare depicts the initial fall of the line of Lancaster and its subsequent rise, which also entails the regeneration of England.

Minor Themes

Several minor Themes pervade the play. Abstract Themes enrich the play's texture, such as man's lust for power and authority, the desire for friendship and company, the juxtaposition between moral principles and actual practice, the discrepancy between appearance and reality, the disillusionment following achievement, the option between imposing punishment and granting pardon, the conflict between idealized allegiance to the monarch and transference of loyalties to the victorious side, and the continual threat from the dethroned king.


MOOD

The prevailing mood of the play is one of darkness and despair. Richard II is a play almost entirely without humor. There is a fatalistic view of human affairs, and the problems plaguing England continue, irrespective of who is king. Once Bolingbroke becomes the ruler, he faces many of the same problems that Richard faced. There is thus the sense of an endless cycle of misery as the tragic action unfurls.

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