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Act I, Scene 3
The scene opens in Coventry with a conversation between the Lord Marshal and Aumerle, who reveal to the audience that both Bolingbroke and Mowbray are ready for the trial by combat and await the king's arrival. There is a blowing of trumpets as King Richard enters with his knights: Gaunt, Bushy, Bagot, Green and others. A Herald precedes the entrance of Mowbray, who is wearing armor. Richard asks the Marshal to question "yonder champion" regarding his name and identity and the cause of his arrival in arms. On being questioned by the Marshal regarding the same, Mowbray states his identity, recounts the cause of the quarrel, and proclaims his aim to defend himself and to prove Bolingbroke a traitor. Bolingbroke enters armed in a similar fashion. Richard again asks the Marshal to ask him his name and the cause of his arrival. Bolingbroke restates his charges against Mowbray and vows to prove him a traitor. Bolingbroke then asks to kiss the king's ring and take leave of his friends. Richard grants this request. Richard wishes Bolingbroke luck and says that if he gets killed in combat, his death will surely be lamented, but not avenged. Bolingbroke then takes leave of his friends, relatives and his father, and then tells them not to shed any tears if he should be killed by Mowbray. Old John of Gaunt wishes his son good luck and reminds him to fight well. Then Mowbray takes his leave of Richard. He says that regardless of his fate in this trial, he has always been a loyal subject. Just as Bolingbroke and Mowbray are about to engage in the duel, King Richard throws down his warder (a rod or a staff) to indicate that everything must come to a halt. Richard commands the Marshal to order the two to return to their seats.
Richard tells Mowbray that it is not dignified to be passionate and to complain after he has announced the sentence. As the men turn to leave, Richard calls them back. He asks them to swear by his sword that they shall not contact each other during the period of exile or plan any crimes against the state. Both promise accordingly. As they are about to go their separate ways, Bolingbroke asks Mowbray to confess his crime before he leaves the realm and thereby free his guilty soul from its burden. Mowbray refuses to claim responsibility for the charges levied against him, reiterating his innocence before leaving.
Richard sees that Gaunt is distressed by his son's sentence. He immediately shortens Bolingbroke's sentence to six years, instead of ten. Bolingbroke is grateful and marvels at the power of the king, which can with such ease alter the course of men's lives. Gaunt thanks the king for reducing the sentence of his son's exile but laments that he will not profit by it. He fears that he may not live until Bolingbroke returns. Richard attempts to console him by saying that he still has many years to live. Gaunt replies that Richard cannot add another minute to that allotted to him. He can only shorten his days with sorrow; he does not have the power to bestow another tomorrow.