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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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Act V, Scene 6

This last scene opens in Windsor Castle, where Bolingbroke is talking with York. Bolingbroke informs York that rebels in Gloucestershire have gutted the town of Ciceter, and it is not known whether the rebels have been apprehended or slain. Northumberland enters with good news. He informs Bolingbroke that Salisbury, Spencer, Blunt and Kent have been executed. Fitzwater enters with more good news and says that the same has happened to Brocas and Sir Bennet Seeley, two of the dangerous traitors who were part of the conspiracy to murder Bolingbroke at Oxford. Thereupon Harry Percy enters with the Bishop of Carlisle and informs him that the Abbot of Westminster, the chief architect of the conspiracy is dead, but Carlisle has been captured alive. Bolingbroke sentences Carlisle to life imprisonment, but spares his life, even though he has always been Bolingbroke's enemy because of his high moral integrity.

Exton enters with guards bearing Richard's coffin. Exton expects to be rewarded for having murdered the mightiest of Bolingbroke's enemies and for having released him from the clutches of his buried fear. But Bolingbroke repudiates him for this slanderous deed. He is unswayed by Exton's assertion that he murdered Richard because of Bolingbroke's own words. Although Bolingbroke admits that he had wished Richard dead, he banishes Exton: "With Cain go wander through the shade of night, / And never show thy head by day or light." He announces that he will make a voyage to the Holy Land to expiate the deed.


Notes

The mood of the final scene is one of foreboding. The consequences of Richard's deposition as prophesied by him play themselves out. Bolingbroke's usurpation has not brought peace and stability in the realm. The account of the conspiracy hatched against Henry is greatly compressed in lines amounting to dramatic reportage. There is a long list of names and epithets applied to persons who do not actually appear themselves on stage. There is some stress laid on the Abbot of Westminster because he was the chief architect of the plot. He dies out of sheer melancholy and grief at their failure to kill Bolingbroke. In actual historical terms it is not possible to determine the extent of the Abbot's involvement with the plot.

This scene is filled with predictions of doom. Images of violence and disharmony abound: the town of Cicester is gutted, there are six beheadings, Carlisle is imprisoned for life, Exton is banished and Richard's corpse destroys Henry's peace of mind. The play ends on a note of possible redemption as Henry vows to go on a voyage to the Holy Land to expiate his sins.

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