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Richard II Act 4, Scene 1 Summary

  • Bolingbroke orders Bagot to be brought forth and asks him to tell him the truth about Gloucester's death.
  • Bagot asks to be placed in front of Lord Aumerle and accuses him of talking trash about Henry and bragging that he killed Gloucester.
  • Aumerle throws down his gage. (You know what that means: he wants a fight.)
  • Bolingbroke tells Bagot not to take the challenge.
  • Fitzwater offers to fight Aumerle in Bagot's place. He says he too heard Aumerle say he caused Gloucester's death.
  • Aumerle accepts the challenge. Amid the trash talk that starts between the two, Henry Percy breaks in to call Aumerle a liar and challenges him by throwing down his gage too. Another lord does the same.
  • Aumerle accepts all the gages and says he'll fight everybody in the room if he has to.
  • Then Surry and Fitzwater start to argue. Surry throws down his gage against Fitzwater.
  • Fitzwater accepts the challenge and accuses him of "lies, and lies, and lies." He repeats that Aumerle is guilty and adds that he heard from Norfolk (Mowbray) that Aumerle sent two of his men to execute Gloucester.
  • Aumerle once again denies it, borrows someone else's gage, since he's all out, and throws it down again, asking that Mowbray be recalled from banishment so he can fight him. (Dang. This is getting ridiculous.)
  • Bolingbroke says all the duels will have to wait till Mowbray is recalled from exile. He declares Mowbray's banishment will be repealed, despite their animosity, and all his property will be restored to him.
  • Carlisle chimes in that, actually, Mowbray died in Venice, so he's not coming back to England any time soon.
  • Bolingbroke is bummed out by the news and says he hopes Mowbray went to heaven. Then he tells all the assorted combatants they can settle their challenges later when he assigns the days of their trial.
  • York comes in to tell Bolingbroke (whom he addresses as "Great Duke of Lancaster") that he's just come from "plume-plucked Richard," who has agreed to adopt him as an heir and yield the throne to him. He finishes with "Long live Henry, of that name the fourth!"
  • Bolingbroke enthusiastically accepts. Carlisle, startled, says "God forbid!" He says none of the men present are noble enough to judge "noble Richard." He adds that a truly noble man would ever do such a thing; no subject can sentence a king.
  • Carlisle calls Bolingbroke by his banished name, Hereford, and calls him a "foul traitor" to his king. He prophesies that if Henry is crowned there will be bloodshed and a grim future – namely, civil war.
  • Northumberland tells Carlisle he has spoken very well, then he arrests him for capital treason (punishable by death). He puts him in Westminster's custody.
  • Bolingbroke demands that Richard be brought forth, so he can hand over the crown in front of witnesses. That way, nobody can question what happened.
  • York volunteers to bring him.
  • Then Bolingbroke, speaking with the royal "we," tells the remaining men that they are under arrest and need to provide "sureties" (a form of bail) to guarantee they will appear on the days of their trials (when they'll duel each other). As a new ruler, he isn't happy about their internal squabbling: "Little are we beholding to your love, And little looked for at your helping hands."
  • Richard appears with York, followed by officers holding the crown and scepter.
  • Richard asks why he is sent for to a king before he has officially shaken off his royalty. He hasn't had time to learn to bow to another man and flatter him. He asks for time so his grief can teach him submission. He compares himself to Christ.
  • Richard says "God save the king!" When no one says "Amen," he says it himself, and adds, "God save the king, although I be not he." He asks why he has been summoned.
  • Richard asks York to give him the crown. He tells Bolingbroke to seize it. When each of them has their hand on it, he compares it to a deep well with two buckets. His bucket is heavy with tears, and weighing down his side, while Richard's bucket dances in the air, rising higher.
  • Bolingbroke says he thought Richard was willing to step down. Richard replies that he is his crown and his grief, and while Bolingbroke can depose his glories, he can't depose his grief. He is still king of his own sadness.
  • Bolingbroke says Richard is giving him many of the "cares" or responsibilities of the crown. Richard says his burden hasn't lessened; new cares come in.
  • Bolingbroke asks whether Richard is "contented" to resign. Richard says "Ay no. No, ay." Then he asks everyone to watch how he "undoes" himself, and gives Bolingbroke the crown and scepter.
  • Richard gives a speech on how what is his (his tears, his hands) manage to give away other things that seemed to be just as irrevocably his (his crown, his sacred state).
  • Richard ends by saying, "God save King Henry," and asks what else is expected of him.
  • Northumberland presents a list of accusations and charges against him. They're crimes Richard allegedly committed against the state. Henry (Bolingbroke) wants him to confess to everything so the public will think he deserves to be booted out of office.
  • Richard says, "Do I have to?" He reflects to Northumberland that as long as he's revealing his ugly past, it might be interesting to read a lecture on Northumberland's crimes, the most recent of which was the deposing of a king and breaking an oath.
  • Richard compares his enemies to Pontius Pilate, the Roman judge who sentenced Jesus to be crucified in the New Testament. (And yes, that means Richard is comparing himself to Christ.)
  • Northumberland tries to give him the paper again and asks him to read it.
  • Richard says he can't because his eyes are full of tears. He continues on with his "woe is me" routine until Northumberland asks him again to sign the paper.
  • Richard asks for a mirror.
  • Bolingbroke sends for a mirror. Northumberland tries to get him to read the list again. Richard calls him a fiend tormenting him before he's gone to Hell.
  • Bolingbroke tells Northumberland to give it a rest because he's acting like a bulldog.
  • Northumberland points out that the people won't be happy without the confession.
  • Richard grabs the mirror and looks at himself. He can't believe that he doesn't look as old and ugly as he feels. (Go to "Symbolism" if you want to know what the heck this is all about.)
  • Richard asks permission to go anywhere, as long as its away from the court.
  • Bolingbroke is all, "Well, I think I'll send you to the Tower of London."
  • They take him.
  • Bolingbroke announces that his coronation will be the following Wednesday and tells everyone to get ready because there's going to be a serious party afterward.
  • Everyone leaves except Westminster (the Abbott), Carlisle and Aumerle.
  • Abbott remarks that the scene they just witnessed was a "woeful pageant." (Translation: "Wow. There's a whole lot of drama up in here!")
  • Carlisle says the woe is coming – things will get worse and future children will see this day as a thorn. (Uh oh.)

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