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Spotless reputation Introduction

I'm Thomas Mowbray. I'm one of the only guys who's still loyal to Richard II. But don't go assuming that means I'm weak. And you know what I think?

Yea, but not change his spots: take but my shame.
And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation: that away,
Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times-barr'd-up chest
Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.
Mine honour is my life; both grow in one:
Take honour from me, and my life is done:
Then, dear my liege, mine honour let me try;
In that I live and for that will I die. (1.1.175-185)

Who Said It and Where

At the royal pad, King Richard II tries to settle a fight between two seriously ticked-off noblemen, Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray. Bolingbroke's got a beef with Mowbray and he's come before the king to officially accuse Mowbray of the following crimes:

  • plotting against England
  • stealing money from the crown
  • murdering the king's uncle, Thomas of Woodstock (a.k.a. the Duke of Gloucester)

Mowbray, of course, does not appreciate being accused of treason. Mowbray says he has a "spotless reputation" and would rather die than give that up. He's not dramatic at all.

Before Richard can make an official decision about who's telling the truth and who's a big fat liar, Bolingbroke calls for a medieval smackdown by throwing down his "gage" (a hat or a glove). This is an official challenge to a "trial by combat," where two "gentlemen" go into an arena with swords until just one man is left standing. Mowbray reaches down and picks up Henry Bolingbroke's gage. Game on.

After witnessing a lot of trash talk and even more gage throwing, King Richard tries to make peace, but it's no use. Bolingbroke says he'll never agree to a truce. In fact, he'd rather tear out his own tongue with his teeth and spit it in Mowbray's face. (Gross.)

Richard is exasperated by all this gage throwing and threat-making. So he gets all huffy and says he doesn't have time to play Dr. Phil. They can have their fight—a trial by combat at Coventry. Then all this nonsense will be over with.

Brain Snack: A trial by combat is when two guys (usually knights) duke it out in a crowded tournament arena until one or the other dies or can't get up—sort of like going into a Mixed Martial Arts Octagon, except with swords and stuff.

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