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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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Richard despairs prematurely, and despite the efforts of Aumerle and the Bishop of Carlisle to rouse his drooping spirits, he fails to take any positive action. The news that he has been deserted by all his friends and supporters, including York, proves too much for him to bear and leads to a dreary speech. He announces his decision to go to Flint Castle and pine away his remaining days. His collapse is unremitting and fatal. He surrenders unconditionally to Bolingbroke. Richard increasingly turns from the real world to imagined glory and becomes a poetic dawdler who seems to luxuriate in his own grief. He is finally captured by Bolingbroke and brought to London. His abdication is likewise marked by high drama and theatricality. He seems to conspire in his own downfall, as he offers absolutely no resistance. There is some degree of regeneration of his character. Undoubtedly, Richard sinned by his abject and unconditional surrender to Bolingbroke because he not only abdicated the office of kingship, but he also shunned his responsibilities as the deputy of God on earth. The outcome of this sinful act can only be death. But in his farewell to his queen, Richard exemplifies stoic resignation, which enables him to endure his fate. In his prison at Pomfret Castle, Richard becomes more introspective and gains a new understanding of his situation. His conversation with the groom reveals that he has become more humble.


Henry Bolingbroke

Bolingbroke's character serves as a contrast to Richard's. He is a practical and ambitious man who replaces the weak, poetic and much more charming Richard on the throne. While Richard's character is fixed from the start and revealed piecemeal from scene to scene, Bolingbroke's character develops from simplicity to complexity as he reacts to the changing situations. Richard's character is that of a performer. Bolingbroke, on the contrary, is an introvert who has to be coaxed by Gaunt to speak after Richard has banished him from England for six years. At the beginning of the play, Bolingbroke is hardly distinguished from the other quarreling lords such as Mowbray. His adherence of the chivalric code of honor appears almost absurd. Even when Richard arbitrarily stops the proceedings of the duel at Coventry and banishes him along with Mowbray, Bolingbroke meekly accepts it as his fate. He is a loyal subject, who believes that kings are divinely ordained and that they must be obeyed despite their capriciousness and cruelty. Bolingbroke thus appears to be a reluctant rebel. It is only after his father's death and the confiscation of the property that rightfully belongs to him that Bolingbroke violates the sentence of his exile and comes to England with an army of three thousand men. Even at this point Bolingbroke is only concerned with the restitution of his property and displays no desire to usurp the throne.

His ambition grows as opportunities present themselves. At no point in the play can he be condemned as a traitor or denounced as a usurper who forcefully seizes the crown from Richard. In fact, Richard practically gives him the crown, along with all the cares associated with kingship. Bolingbroke does not make use of force or diplomacy to wrench away the crown from Richard. Bolingbroke's character develops to that of a mature arbiter as he settles the quarrel among gage-throwing nobles who spit accusations at one another in Act IV, Scene 1. He smoothes the quarrel between York and his son, Aumerle, later in Act V, Scene 3. The contrast between the characters of Bolingbroke and Richard is evident in the deposition scene, where Bolingbroke remains calm and speaks in curt and clipped sentences. Richard, by contrast, launches into poetic and unbalanced speeches, glorying in self-pity and playing the part of a tragically wronged king. Bolingbroke is aware of the magnitude of his crime in deposing Richard, who is the agent of God on earth. He knows that the source of his power will be dubious and that he cannot count on the unquestioned loyalty of his subjects. But in contrast to Richard, Bolingbroke is aware of his duties and responsibilities as king. In the last scenes of the play, the audience sees that Bolingbroke is plagued by the same problems that Richard faced. There are glimpses of rebellion and conspiracies. Bolingbroke sees the waywardness of his son, Prince Hal, as the punishment for his sin of deposing the king. When Exton brings him Richard's corpse, his moral certainty collapses, and he shows concern for his own moral state and that of the country. He vows to make a voyage to the Holy Land to repent for his crime. Thus, by the play's end, Bolingbroke acquires the characteristics which one might associate with Richard. He becomes self-absorbed to the point of madness, and his hands are soiled with royal blood.

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MonkeyNotes-Richard II by William Shakespeare
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