Night owl Introduction
I'm Richard II. I think I'm God's gift to the world, which makes me a total diva. When trouble comes my way, I make a big stink about it. And you know what I think?
Down, down I come; like glistering Phaethon,
Wanting the manage of unruly jades.
In the base court—base-court, where kings grow base,
To come at traitors' calls and do them grace.
In the base court. Come down—down, court, down, king!
For night-owls shriek where mounting larks should sing. (3.3.178-183)
Who Said It and Where
It's a royal smackdown at the palace. One noble, Bolingbroke challenges another, Mowbray to a "trial by combat," where two "gentlemen" go into an arena with swords until just one man is left standing. Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of—wait for it—the murder of Gloucester. Oh no he didn't.
Instead of letting the guys fight, Richard II decides to banish Bolingbroke for ten years and Mowbray forever. Why? Richard doesn't care about spilling blood—he's just trying to cover up the fact that he's the one who ordered Mowbray to kill Gloucester.
But Bolingbroke isn't about to take things lying down. After he leaves the country, he hears his dad has died and that Richard has snapped up all his land faster than you can say "funeral." He's ticked. So he comes back to England to get his dad's land back and call Richard out for his shenanigans.
Needless to say, this doesn't go over too well with Richard, who 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 back when he was banished is an act of war. Burn.
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, no sir. (Wink, wink.) King Richard backs off, but makes it clear that he's not happy about Bolingbroke's presence.
Northumberland goes back to Bolingbroke with the king's message. Meanwhile, Richard says, "O God, O God" and that he wishes he never banished Bolingbroke to begin with. But there are no take backs in this game.
Then Richard starts talking about himself in the third person and says he should just give up his "large kingdom for a little grave." Here's where things get interesting. Richard imagines being buried on the "King's highway," where suicides were buried. Common people walk on it every day, so it's not exactly a place fit for a king (never mind the name).
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. For a king, obeying a traitor's orders isn't the most uplifting of tasks.