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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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The reaction to Richard's confiscation of Gaunt's property is dramatized in the conversation between Northumberland, Willoughby and Ross, who have been present throughout the scene. They are incensed at Richard's high-handedness. They discuss the state of royal affairs and the king's misdeeds. Northumberland tries to excuse Richard on the grounds that "the king is not himself, but basely led by flatterers." Their conversation essentially presents a list of Richard's crimes, and the rebellion they consequently plan seems justified. Shakespeare was faced with a formidable task in this play: he had to stress the justification for deposing a bad ruler while at the same time maintain the sanctity of the divine office of kingship. Thus the conversation between the three men mentions the ruthless policy of taxation and the moral bankruptcy of Richard as both man and king. At this point, Bolingbroke has already set sail for England. The action of the play moves forward to the anticipated conclusion. Bolingbroke's return to England is seen as necessary for the restoration of order.


The scene begins with the individualized expression of anger by Gaunt and closes with the conversation of the three lords, which reveals that this anger has become generalized. Everybody is exasperated with Richard's political mismanagement. The situation anticipates Bolingbroke's rebellion and the wide support that it receives from both the nobility and the commoners. Using this strategy, Shakespeare ensures that the audience perceives the rightness of Richard's deposition. Northumberland's words as the scene draws to a close are, "even through the hollow eyes of death / I spy life peering."

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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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