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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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Notes

This scene provides an intimate look at Richard. This is the first scene in which Richard appears with his friends; he is not performing any public duty. His very first question concerns Bolingbroke's departure. He seems to have totally forgotten Mowbray. This leads one to suspect that he is not as impartial as claims to be in Scene 1. This is the private Richard, as opposed to his public self displayed in the earlier scenes.

A tone of skepticism and doubt enters the play as Richard questions Aumerle. This tone is in striking contrast to the strained lyricism of the earlier scenes. His question, "And say, what store of parting tears were shed?," seems to invite Aumerle's cynical response. Aumerle's display of bitterness towards Bolingbroke may stem from a sense of loyalty to Richard, but more possibly, he may be motivated by fear. This fear is echoed in Richard's comment about Bolingbroke's popularity among the general population of England. He prophetically comments that it seems that the whole of England were actually Bolingbroke's. He sees Bolingbroke's "courtship to the common people" as a calculated and shrewd move. It does not surprise him, and he considers this as a strategy on part of an ambitious man.

Richard, however, allows himself to be easily persuaded by Green that he need no longer worry about Bolingbroke and immediately turns his attention to the rebellion in Ireland. Richard thus again reveals his rash nature. Green's casual dismissal of Bolingbroke as a threat actually foreshadows the approaching crisis. Richard reveals his ugly side as a ruler, which contrasts unfavorably with Bolingbroke's qualities. For Richard, the commoners are merely "slaves," "poor craftsmen," "oyster-wenches" and "draymen." He speaks of them with contempt. He impulsively decides to lead the army himself into Ireland, even though the English state of affairs requires his presence. By this point in time, the audience has learned not to trust Richard's decision-making capacity, and his character has undergone a gradual decline.


Richard then moves on to acts that demonstrate his corrupt nature. He devises ingenious ways of raising money: farming the realm for taxes and issuing blank charters to the rich nobles. The apparent casualness with which he mentions these plans further damns him in the audience's eyes. His depraved nature is evident in this scene, where he receives the news of the impending death of Gaunt as an opportunity to make money. Gaunt represents the traditional ethos of England, associated with Edward III, and when Richard prays to hasten his death, he is in fact contributing to his own doom. Shakespeare shows in this scene that Richard is morally flawed and unworthy of holding the exalted office of the king. The depiction of Richard's downfall thus does not question the legitimacy of monarchic rule. This study of Richard has universal significance as a study of political behavior. Despite the grand conception of kingship that Richard holds, he is not capable of dealing with normal political realities, and he also betrays a morally questionable character. His character is always contrasted with that of Bolingbroke.

The character of Aumerle is sketched only briefly. He is the son of the Duke of York and shows loyalty to his king. His character is further developed in the later scenes of the play, but he is depicted here as a basically loyal subject.

The scene also focuses on the depravity of Richard's friends-- Green, Bushy and Bagot--who echo Richard's sentiments and pray along with him for Gaunt's speedy death.

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