Richard II Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line)
I am too old to fawn upon a nurse,
Too far in years to be a pupil now.
What is thy sentence then but speechless death,
Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath? (1.3.3)
One of the issues the play explores is the extent to which language is a vehicle for power. Even though he seemed to dismiss speech as unimportant earlier, now that he's facing banishment, Mowbray reflects on the importance of language. Noting that he's too old to learn a new language, he says the king's sentence is metaphorically a death sentence. (There's a pun here: the king's "sentence" isn't just a legal term; it's also the unit of language – the kind of sentence that's made up of words.) To send Mowbray somewhere he can't use his language is to condemn him to "speechless death." In Mowbray's metaphor, language is so important that he equates the ability to speak with the ability to live.
Four lagging winters and four wanton springs
End in a word; such is the breath of kings. (1.3.8)
Henry Bolingbroke observes – possibly a little sarcastically – that Richard has the power to make time pass just by speaking. A word from him can reduce Henry's banishment from ten years to six. The way Bolingbroke puts it, though, the "breath of kings" can actually make four winters and four springs go by. (It's just possible that Richard actually believes his words have this kind of power.)
I have too few to take my leave of you,
When the tongue's office should be prodigal
To breathe abundant dolour of the heart. (1.3.9)
Henry Bolingbroke fails to reply to his friends when they regret his banishment. (Big surprise there.) When Gaunt asks him why he's "hoarding" his words, he says he doesn't have enough to express the pain of saying goodbye to his father.