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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 1

Act IV consists of only one scene, which deals with Bolingbroke's assumption of the throne and Richard's renunciation of kingship. It occurs in Westminster Hall in London. Historically speaking, Bolingbroke brought Richard to London in August, and was himself crowned Henry IV on 13 October. The scene focuses on the deposition of Richard by Bolingbroke, an issue that generated heated debate amongst the nobility. The scene affords a close look at the proceedings that occurred in Parliament. Bolingbroke, Aumerle, Surrey, Northumberland, Harry Percy, Fitzwater, John Bagot, the Bishop of Carlisle, and the Abbot of Westminster are among those present in this climactic scene of the play. It will be recalled that in Act II, Bagot had gone away to Ireland to meet Richard after learning that Bolingbroke was in England with an army of three thousand men. He had thus escaped the fate that befell Bushy and Green, who were captured at Bristol Castle and executed. Apparently, Bagot has been taken into captivity and is now brought before the Parliament for the purposes of interrogation.

Bolingbroke's very first question to Bagot regards the murder of Gloucester. He demands to know who performed this despicable deed at Richard's instructions. Bagot accuses Aumerle of complicity in Gloucester's murder. Bagot bases his accusation on the fact that Aumerle had once insinuated during the time when Gloucester's death was plotted that he could commit the murder. Bagot further says that he had heard Aumerle state that he would rather refuse the offer of a hundred thousand crowns than aid in Bolingbroke's return to England. Aumerle had in fact said that Bolingbroke's death would be a blessing to England. Aumerle refutes these charges as being baseless and throws down his gage as a challenge to Bagot. Aumerle holds that Bagot's sole aim in making these false charges is "to stain the temper of (his) knightly sword." Bolingbroke restrains Bagot from taking up Aumerle's challenge. But the situation takes a turn for the worse when Fitzwater supports Bagot's accusations against Aumerle. Harry Percy and an anonymous Lord also substantiate Bagot's charges. The Duke of Surrey defends Aumerle against Bagot's charges. Surrey spits accusations and insults at Fitzwater in Aumerle's defense. Fitzwater denounces Surrey as a liar and says that Mowbray himself had made a similar charge. Bolingbroke states that the settlement of the quarrel will have to wait until Mowbray can be recalled to England. But the Bishop of Carlisle discloses that this will not be possible since Mowbray has died in Venice during a crusade to the Holy Land.


The Duke of York enters and informs Bolingbroke that Richard has willingly adopted Bolingbroke as his heir and passed to him the possession of his "high sceptre." He then declares: "And long live Henry, fourth of that name!" Bolingbroke proclaims in turn, "In God's name, I'll ascend the regal throne." The Bishop of Carlisle protests Bolingbroke's assumption of the throne and states that no subject can judge his sovereign who is the "captain, steward, deputy elect" of God on earth. He objects to Richard's being tried when he is not even present. He denounces Bolingbroke as a "foul traitor" and his trial of the king as a "black, obscene deed." He prophesies that if Richard is deposed, bloody consequences will result: "Peace shall go sleep with Turks and infidels, / And in this seat of peace tumultuous wars / Shall kin with kin and kind with kind confound." Carlisle is vehemently against Richard's deposition, and in this speech he urges the Lords present in Parliament not to attack their Christian, anointed king. He is stopped by Northumberland, who orders his arrest on the grounds of treason.

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