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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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Notes

A note of melancholy pervades this scene. Queen Isabel voices her premonition of disaster, which is shortly afterward confirmed by Green's announcement. She uses a metaphor of childbirth to express her grief: "So, Green, thou art the midwife to my woe / And Bolingbroke my sorrow's dismal heir." This metaphor is especially meaningful in the context of a play in which legitimate rule is called into question. Within a brief period of time, disaster does indeed descend upon Richard, whose kingly authority Shakespeare scrutinizes. The scope of the play narrows to an imminent conflict between Bolingbroke and Richard.

Bushy's attempt to comfort the queen is interesting. He draws a distinction between appearance and reality, especially as regards one''s emotions: "Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows / Which shows like grief itself, but is not so." He continues with the image of an eye brimming with tears, which distort the true nature of the objects one sees. Likewise, the grief of parting from Richard has filled the queen with fear and premonitions, which Bushy argues are not real.


However, Green's announcement of Bolingbroke's arrival rudely disrupts this notion of fabricated fear and foreboding. The shadows of grief become concretized into substance, and reality intrudes upon the queen's world. The news that Richard has been deserted by his friends and supporters (Northumberland, Percy, Worcester, Ross and Willoughby) proves too much for the queen, who responds with a poetic outburst. Bushy predictably advises her to "despair not."

The entrance of York brings little consolation. He is too old, and the demands of the office of Lord Governor overwhelm him. A servant enters with the news of the death of the Duchess of Gloucester, and the last symbol of old England falls from the landscape of the play. York is left alone to deal with a disastrous situation. He exclaims in agony, "God for his mercy, what a tide of woes / Comes rushing on this woeful land at once!" York is confused and indecisive regarding the course of action to be followed. He is torn between the conflicting claims of loyalty and kinship.

The scene ends on a note of despair, hopelessness and disorder as Bushy and Green desert Richard and seek refuge in Bristol Castle. Only Bagot decides to go to Ireland to join Richard.

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