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Richard II Act 3, Scene 3 Summary

  • Bolingbroke, Northumberland, and York are outside Flint Castle talking about the news that King Richard has returned to England.
  • Northumberland refers to King Richard as "Richard," omitting his title (oops!). York tells him it would be more respectful to refer to him as King Richard.
  • Northumberland says "my bad" and explains that he was just trying to save time.
  • York says there was a time when that kind of time-saving would have cost him his life. (And yes, the word "time" really shows up a lot in this conversation. What's up with that? Is Shakespeare telling us that Richard's time is about to run out?)
  • Bolingbroke tells York not to worry; it was an innocent mistake and doesn't mean anything. York warns Bolingbroke not to push his luck.
  • Henry Percy comes in to announce that the castle won't yield. It turns out King Richard is inside, with Aumerle, Salisbury, Scrope and a religious man.
  • Bolingbroke tells Northumberland to go to the castle and give the king a message. It sounds like this: "Hey Richard, I'm back in England and hope we can get together for coffee. I'd like to talk to you about revoking my banishment and giving me back all the land you stole from me when my dad died. I'll even get on my knees and kiss your ring, so long as you come out of the castle peacefully. If not, I've got this giant army here with me and I'm not afraid to use it. Your Friend, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster.)
  • Northumberland doesn't mind doing Henry's dirty work. He goes off to deliver the message.
  • King Richard comes out and stands on the castle's walls with Carlisle, Scrope, and Salisbury.
  • Bolingbroke looks up and says Richard looks the same way the "sun" does when it's about to get smothered up by a bunch of clouds. (Translation: Richard's not going to be king much longer. Go to "Symbols" for more about all this Richard being like the sun business.)
  • Richard yells at Northumberland for not kneeling in his presence. Unless he can show that the hand of God has dismissed him from the throne, he's still king, and no other man can hold the scepter without being a thief or a usurper (someone who takes the throne illegally).
  • Gaining steam, Richard tells Northumberland that God is gathering "armies of pestilence" on his behalf that will punish his children's children for this insult to the crown. He says to tell Bolingbroke that every step he takes is an act of treason, and that his coming is an act of war.
  • Northumberland kneels and says that Bolingbroke swears on his dad's and grandfather's graves that he's only come to get his land back and to end his exile – he's definitely not trying to steal Richard's crown.
  • King Richard agrees immediately to these terms but makes it clear that he's not happy about it.
  • Northumberland goes back to Henry with the king's message.
  • Meanwhile, Richard says, "O God, O God" and that he wishes he never banished Bolingbroke to begin with. Then Richard starts talking about himself in the third person and says he should just give up his "large kingdom for a little grave."
  • Richard imagines being buried on the "King's highway," where suicides were buried, and which common people walk on every day.
  • Northumberland comes back to Richard and Richard sarcastically asks, "What says King Bolingbroke?" Apparently Bolingbroke wants to chat with Richard face to face.
  • Richard goes down to meet him and reflects on how he's going down in the world as well: a king obeying a traitor's orders.
  • They meet. Bolingbroke gets on his knees, and Richard says he should get up and stop pretending he's not here to take the throne.
  • Bolingbroke repeats that he's only come for what is his. Richard says Bolingbroke can have anything he wants. After all, Bolingbroke's got a giant army and enough power to take whatever he wants.
  • Bolingbroke pretends that he won't take anything Richard doesn't willingly give him.
  • Richard reaches out to his uncle, York, who is weeping, and asks him to dry his eyes, since tears will do no good. He tells Bolingbroke that although he is not his father, Bolingbroke is nevertheless his heir, and he'll willingly give him whatever he wants. (In other words, Richard has given up his power without a fight and recognizes Henry as the next King of England.)
  • They head to London.

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