Study Guide

Richard II Quotes

  • Power

    God's is the quarrel; for God's substitute,
    His deputy anointed in His sight,
    Hath caused his death: the which if wrongfully,
    Let heaven revenge; for I may never lift
    An angry arm against His minister.
    Where then, alas, may I complain myself?
    To God, the widow's champion and defense.
    Why, then, I will. Farewell, old Gaunt. (1.1.2)

    John of Gaunt is willing to let the king get away with murder because he thinks Richard is God's "deputy" on earth, meaning Richard has been chosen by God to be king. He can do whatever he wants, since he doesn't have to answer to anyone but God. As we'll see, though, not everyone sees kingship this way.

    We will ourself in person to this war:
    And, for our coffers, with too great a court
    And liberal largess, are grown somewhat light,
    We are inforced to farm our royal realm;
    The revenue whereof shall furnish us
    For our affairs in hand: if that come short,
    Our substitutes at home shall have blank charters;
    Whereto, when they shall know what men are rich,
    They shall subscribe them for large sums of gold
    And send them after to supply our wants;
    For we will make for Ireland presently. (1.4.5)

    Richard has been lousy at managing his money and is too broke to fund his war in Ireland, which is why he's leased out his right to tax. This raises an important question: if the monarch is a lousy king who mismanages funds, steals from his own people, and murders his political enemies, do the people have a right to get rid of him? Richard's answer would be "no," because he sees himself as being chosen by God to be king. But are people just supposed to stand around waiting for God to get rid of the king?

    Ourself and Bushy, Bagot here and Green
    Observed his courtship to the common people;
    How he did seem to dive into their hearts
    With humble and familiar courtesy,
    What reverence he did throw away on slaves,
    Wooing poor craftsmen with the craft of smiles
    And patient underbearing of his fortune,
    As 'twere to banish their affects with him.
    Off goes his bonnet to an oyster-wench;
    A brace of draymen bid God speed him well
    And had the tribute of his supple knee,
    With 'Thanks, my countrymen, my loving friends;'
    As were our England in reversion his,
    And he our subjects' next degree in hope. (1.4.4)

    Richard is relieved when he has an excuse to banish Henry Bolingbroke from England. Here we learn that Henry is a favorite among the commoners. Even though Richard would insist that they don't technically have a say in who should be king, Richard is just a teensy bit nervous about Bolingbroke's popularity. What would happen if the people decided they wanted Henry to be their monarch?

    O my liege,
    Pardon me, if you please; if not, I, pleased
    Not to be pardon'd, am content withal.
    Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
    The royalties and rights of banish'd Hereford?
    Is not Gaunt dead, and doth not Hereford live?
    Was not Gaunt just, and is not Henry true?
    Did not the one deserve to have an heir?
    Is not his heir a well-deserving son?
    Take Hereford's rights away, and take from Time
    His charters and his customary rights;
    Let not to-morrow then ensue to-day;
    Be not thyself; for how art thou a king
    But by fair sequence and succession?
    Now, afore God – God forbid I say true! –
    If you do wrongfully seize Hereford's rights,
    Call in the letters patent that he hath
    By his attorneys-general to sue
    His livery, and deny his offer'd homage,
    You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
    You lose a thousand well-disposed hearts
    And prick my tender patience, to those thoughts
    Which honour and allegiance cannot think.
    Think what you will, we seize into our hands
    His plate, his goods, his money and his lands. (2.1.7)

    When John of Gaunt dies, Richard helps himself to all the guy's land and wealth. This is a big no-no (even for a king) because a man's land, wealth, and titles are supposed to pass down to his eldest son. (In this case, the eldest son is Henry Bolingbroke, who's recently been banished.) As York points out, if Richard takes away Henry Bolingbroke's birthright, he's crossing a major line. After all, the rules that say Henry should get his dad's land and wealth are the same rules that say kings should inherit the crown from their fathers. If Richard goes ahead and steals Henry's birthright, he'll lose the loyalty of his subjects. He'll also open himself up to the possibility that someone could come along and steal <em>his </em>birthright (the title of king).

    The commons hath he pill'd with grievous taxes,
    And quite lost their hearts: the nobles hath he fined
    For ancient quarrels, and quite lost their hearts. (2.1.4)

    According to Lord Ross, Richard has lost the confidence of his people. This is important, because even though Richard says the opinion of the people don't impact him one way or another, we know he's dead wrong.

    Well, well, I see the issue of these arms:
    I cannot mend it, I must needs confess,
    Because my power is weak and all ill left:
    But if I could, by Him that gave me life,
    I would attach you all and make you stoop
    Unto the sovereign mercy of the king;
    But since I cannot, be it known to you
    I do remain as neuter. So, fare you well;
    Unless you please to enter in the castle
    And there repose you for this night. (2.3.5)

    As York points out, there's nothing he can do to stop Henry from storming through England with his army and taking Richard's crown. This suggests that being a king requires physical power and a willingness to be forceful, which Richard II lacks.

    Not all the water in the rough rude sea
    Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
    The breath of worldly men cannot depose
    The deputy elected by the Lord:
    For every man that Bolingbroke hath press'd
    To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,
    God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay
    A glorious angel: then, if angels fight,
    Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right. (3.2.3)

    If you're looking for evidence that Richard II is completely naive, look no further. When he hears that Henry has gathered up his forces and is coming for him, Richard blows off the warning and says he is God's "deputy" on earth and is therefore untouchable. This is why Richard never fights back.

     I had forgot myself; am I not king?
    Awake, thou coward majesty! thou sleepest.
    Is not the king's name twenty thousand names?
    Arm, arm, my name! a puny subject strikes
    At thy great glory. (3.2.5)

    When Richard finds out that Bolingbroke is headed his way with a giant army, he believes that his subjects should automatically defend him, their king.

    Thou, old Adam's likeness, set to dress this garden,
    How dares thy harsh rude tongue sound this unpleasing news?
    What Eve, what serpent, hath suggested thee
    To make a second fall of cursed man?
    Why dost thou say Richard is deposed?
    Darest thou, thou little better thing than earth,
    Divine his downfall? Say, where, when, and how,
    Camest thou by this ill tidings? speak, thou wretch. (3.4.8)

    This is an interesting moment, because the queen views Richard's loss of the crown as a kind of second "fall." (This is a reference to Genesis in the Bible, where Adam and Eve fell from God's grace and changed the world forever.) Even though the play acknowledges that Richard was a bad king, Shakespeare is still a little nervous about the way Henry IV has come into power – he's stripped a king (who many believe was appointed by God) of his crown. How will this impact England? (By the way, in the next few history plays, we see how Henry's grab for power plagues England with a bunch of civil wars and turmoil.)

    Are you contented to resign the crown?
    Ay, no; no, ay; for I must nothing be;
    Therefore no no, for I resign to thee.
    Now mark me, how I will undo myself;
    I give this heavy weight from off my head
    And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand,
    The pride of kingly sway from out my heart;
    With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
    With mine own hands I give away my crown,
    With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
    With mine own breath release all duty's rites:
    All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
    My manors, rents, revenues I forego;
    My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny:
    God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
    God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
    Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
    And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved!
    Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit,
    And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit!
    God save King Henry, unking'd Richard says,
    And send him many years of sunshine days!
    What more remains? (4.1.5)

    This is an intense moment, don't you think? Richard gives up his crown without a physical struggle, but he certainly has a lot to say about it. We talk about this more in "Symbolism." See you there.

  • Family

    Further I say and further will maintain
    Upon his bad life to make all this good,
    That he did plot the Duke of Gloucester's death,
    Suggest his soon-believing adversaries,
    And consequently, like a traitor coward,
    Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of blood:
    Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries,
    Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth, (1.1.4)

    The play begins with Henry Bolingbroke's accusation that Mowbray killed the king's uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester. Of course, everybody at court knows that Richard was behind his uncle's death, but nobody can actually come right out and say that. But when Henry Bolingbroke compares Mowbray's actions to those of Cain (the biblical figure who murders his brother in the Book of Genesis), we catch his drift. We're also reminded that the conflicts in this play aren't just political – they're <em>family</em> matters.

    O thou, the earthly author of my blood,
    Whose useful spirit, in me regenerate,
    Doth with a twofold vigour lift me up (1.3.2)

    This play is filled with fathers and sons. Certain characters in the play suggest that sons can reproduce or "regenerate" their fathers' courage (like Henry Bolingbroke does here). Other characters (like Richard) are put down for their failure to live up to their fathers' reputations. Here, Henry Bolingbroke asks his father to grant him the strength he had when he was a young man, so that he can defeat Mowbray in battle.

    The pleasure that some father feed upon
    Is my strict fast – I mean my children's looks,
    And therein fasting hast thou made me gaunt. (2.1.4)

    Gaunt compares the joy of looking at his children to eating yummy food. He faults Richard here for depriving him of the pleasure of his son Henry Bolingbroke's company. By doing so, Richard has made him "gaunt" (thin and weak), which is obviously a pun on his name. The idea is that when Richard banished Gaunt's son, he took away one of the things he most valued and turned him into a starved man who doesn't have long to live.

    Gaunt: O, had thy grandsire with a prophet's eye
    Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons,
    From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame (2.1.8)

    The glory of Edward III (Richard's grandfather and Gaunt's father) haunts the characters in the play, many of whom are descended from him. The theory on which the English monarchy is based – that power should be passed down through inheritance – fails with Richard II and opens up the dangerous possibility that there are other ways to choose a king. In fact, it raises the possibility, present throughout the play, that there is nothing "divine" about the king at all, and that bloodlines don't guarantee anything. Here, Gaunt wishes that Edward III could have foreseen how badly Richard would damage his family – in particular, how he would destroy his uncles, Edward's sons – and stopped him from inheriting the throne. The only way to do this would be to create another system of government. In effect, Gaunt wishes Edward III had implemented a different model of royal inheritance.

    O, spare me not, my brother Edward's son,
    For that I was his father Edward's son.
    That blood already, like the pelican,
    Hast thou tapped out and drunkenly caroused. (2.1.9)

    The pelican was thought to feed its blood to its offspring. Here Gaunt suggests that Richard is like a hungry, cannibalistic bird who, instead of respecting his father's blood and those who share it, feeds on it and gets drunk on the power it carries.

    Brain Snack: Shakespeare's monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, often used the pelican as a symbol of the maternal relationship she had with her subjects. Check out this famous painting of Elizabeth known as the "Pelican Portrait." It features a brooch (a fancy pin) with a picture of, you guessed it, a mother pelican on it.

    His face thou hast, for even so looked,
    Accomplished with the number of thy hours;
    But when he frowned, it was against the French
    And not against his friends. (2.1.6)

    After Richard decides to seize Gaunt's property while Henry Bolingbroke is in exile, York unfavorably compares Richard to his father. Even though they look physically the same at around the same age, Richard's father had many good qualities Richard lacks, including a talent for punishing his enemies instead of his friends.

    Both are my kinsmen. (2.2.6)

    Puzzling over how to act, and whose side to take, York struggles between two different systems. One depends on hierarchy and loyalty to the king, who has no equal. The other is family. It's significant here that, at least according to the second system, Richard and Henry Bolingbroke are equals.

    Were I but now the lord of such hot youth
    As when brave Gaunt, thy father, and myself
    Rescued the Black Prince, that young Mars of men (2.3.2)

    Although York invokes his power as the king's representative in the line before these, he's really appealing to Henry Bolingbroke not as a king but as an uncle. The key here is to emphasize the military might of the family. The Black Prince is compared to Mars, the Roman god of war. Gaunt, by wishing he could be as strong as he was in former years so as to properly punish his nephew for returning early, is incidentally showing the fact that the monarchy is militarily weak. Richard may be young, but he hardly has the reputation of a "young Mars" that his father had.

    And by the honourable tomb he swears
    That stands upon your royal grandsire's bones,
    And by the royalties of both your bloods –
    Currents that spring from one most gracious head (3.3.4)

    Northumberland's interpretation of Henry Bolingbroke's vow to the king actually does the opposite of what it should. Instead of stressing Bolingbroke's status as Richard's subject, Northumberland emphasizes all the ways in which they're descended from the same man, and therefore equal.

    Cousin, I am too young to be your father,
    Though you are old enough to be my heir. (3.3.8)

    Richard expresses his real issue with Henry Bolingbroke: they share a bloodline. Still, Bolingbroke is breaking with tradition by seizing the crown: instead of the eldest son passing on the throne to his eldest son, Bolingbroke, a cousin, is stepping in. Richard invokes the old model of inheritance in order to show how Bolingbroke is breaking it. He tells Bolingbroke that he is too young to be his father – in other words, that Bolingbroke is messing with the system. By taking power, he is writing himself into history, not as Richard's son but as his heir. Because of his intervention, "son" and "heir" aren't synonyms anymore.

  • Language and Communication

    Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
    With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat,
    And wish – so please my sovereign – ere I move,
    What my tongue speaks my right-drawn sword may prove.

    Yikes! Sometimes, we get the feeling that Henry wishes he could make his words cause physical harm to his enemies, especially when he says to Mowbray, "With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat" (1.1.2). Unlike Richard, who always talks about his power and divinity without ever proving anything, Henry has no patience for words; he's all about action. Here he says he's going to "prove" what his tongue says with a weapon: his sword. Language is insufficient for Henry; it has to be "proven" or made concrete by acts.

    Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal.
    'Tis not the trial of a woman's war,
    The bitter clamour of two eager tongues,
    Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain;
    The blood is hot that must be cooled for this.
    Yet can I not of such tame patience boast
    As to be hushed and naught at all to say.
    First, the fair reverence of your highness curbs me
    From giving reins and spurs to my free speech,
    Which else would post until it had returned
    These terms of treason doubled down his throat. (1.1.2)

    The play is obsessed with the difference between words and deeds. Here Mowbray emphasizes that he can offer more than just "cold words" to prove his innocence. He's trying to keep Henry Bolingbroke from characterizing him as "all talk," and states that language won't resolve their disagreement. Henry and Mowbray agree on that much, <em>despite </em>being enemies. Unlike them, Richard will try to resolve the dispute through verbally commanding that they make peace. As king, he has come to believe that his words <em>are </em>actions. He's wrong, of course, and his order that the two be friends fails to heal the cracks developing in the kingdom.

    Something else worth noting here is the way Mowbray is a master of reversals. First he says words don't matter, but then he cleverly finds a way to talk anyway – he won't be "hushed." Then he tells the king that his respect for him "curbs," or stops, him from saying all he wants to about Henry. But then of course he goes on to do exactly that!

    The language I have learnt these forty years,
    My native English, now I must forgo,
    And now my tongue's use is to me no more
    Than an unstringed viol or a harp,
    Or like a cunning instrument cased up –
    Or, being open, put into his hands
    That knows no touch to tune the harmony.
    Within my mouth you have engaoled my tongue,
    Doubly portcullised with my teeth and lips... . (1.3.3)

    Mowbray says that even worse than his physical banishment from England is his banishment from his own language. First he compares his tongue, which can only speak English, to a useless or out-of-tune instrument. The king, he says, has metaphorically imprisoned his tongue within his mouth, since whatever freedom it had is lost the moment he leaves England and can no longer communicate with other men.

    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 <em>actually </em>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.

    What said our cousin when you parted with him?
    And, for my heart disdained that my tongue
    Should so profane the word, that taught me craft
    To counterfeit oppression of such grief
    That words seem'd buried in my sorrow's grave. (1.4.3)

    Whereas Henry Bolingbroke was genuinely at a loss for words when his friends said goodbye, Aumerle tells Richard that he faked it: when he said goodbye to Henry, he pretended to be so emotional that he couldn't speak. This is interesting, don't you think? What Aumerle is describing, really, is acting: conveying an emotion you don't really feel. This is what Richard's advisors are guilty of too. This is a play where it's very hard to know what anyone really feels about things. Remember, since he wants Richard to think he has no feelings about Henry's banishment, it's unclear to the audience whether he's telling the truth or not.

    His tongue is now a stringless instrument;
    Words, life and all old Lancaster hath spent. (2.1.2)

    This is what Northumberland says about Gaunt after the old man delivers a big speech about how Richard is ruining England and then dies. In describing Gaunt's death this way, Northumberland reinforces the link between language and life and highlights the fact that by trying to tell Richard the whole truth about himself, Gaunt "spent" his life. In other words, a certain kind of language is very expensive in this play: Richard has set up a government in such a way that it <em>costs </em>something to tell the truth.

    As I was banished, I was banished Hereford;
    But as I come, I come for Lancaster. (2.3.10)

    It's probably obvious by now that naming is extremely important in <em>Richard II</em>. Here, Henry Bolingbroke, who gets referred to by four different names throughout the play (Hereford, Bolingbroke, Lancaster, and finally King Henry IV), tells York that his banishment is no longer valid. Why? Because the man King Richard banished was Hereford. Now that John of Gaunt is dead, Henry, as his heir, has legally inherited the title of Lancaster, so he's no longer the "Hereford" whom the king banished. In an interesting way, Henry does the opposite of Richard: where Richard has a really hard time separating his identity from the title of king, Henry shuffles names and titles around until he finds the one that brings him the most power.

    He does me double wrong
    That wounds me with the flatteries of his tongue. (3.2.12)

    Long after John of Gaunt tried to warn him of the "wounds" he'd suffered at the hands of his flattering advisers, Richard learns his lesson. Moments earlier, Aumerle comforted him by suggesting that they appeal to Aumerle's father, York, for an army to fight the rebels. Richard, feeling hopeful once more, asks Scrope, who has just arrived with news, to "speak sweetly." But it's no use: Scrope can't sweeten the bad news.

  • Identity

    O, how that name befits my composition!
    Old Gaunt indeed, and gaunt in being old.
    Within me Grief hath kept a tedious fast,
    And who abstains from meat that is not gaunt? (2.1.4)

    Here, old John of Gaunt expresses his grief at his son's banishment from England. What's interesting about this passage is that Gaunt's wordplay experiments with the very problem of identity. He puns on his name, Gaunt, which means skinny and sickly looking, but by the end of the quote, everyone who "abstains from meat" (everyone who fasts) is included. Gaunt is making an important point: the name "Gaunt" can refer to many people (despite the king's efforts to make sure there will be no more "Gaunts" by banishing Gaunt's heir, Henry. Using this logic, it also becomes clear that that the name "king" can <em>also</em> refer to more than just one man, right?

    My lord, my answer is, to 'Lancaster',
    And I am come to seek that name in England;
    And I must find that title in your tongue
    Before I make reply to aught you say. (2.3.6)

    When Henry Bolingbroke returns to England to claim his birthright, he assumes a powerful position. He makes it clear that before he'll accept any message from the king's representative, he must first be acknowledged and officially recognized as "Lancaster," Gaunt's rightful heir. (Remember, John of Gaunt was the Duke of Lancaster, and when he died that land was supposed to be passed down to his son. Richard stepped in and basically stole it.) Since this is exactly what Richard was trying to deprive Henry of, it's a bold move. Keep reading...

    As I was banish'd, I was banish'd Hereford;
    But as I come, I come for Lancaster.
    [... ]
    Will you permit that I shall stand condemn'd
    A wandering vagabond; my rights and royalties
    Pluck'd from my arms perforce and given away
    To upstart unthrifts? Wherefore was I born?
    If that my cousin king be King of England,
    It must be granted I am Duke of Lancaster.
    You have a son, Aumerle, my noble cousin;
    Had you first died, and he been thus trod down,
    He should have found his uncle Gaunt a father,
    To rouse his wrongs and chase them to the bay.
    I am denied to sue my livery here,
    And yet my letters-patents give me leave:
    My father's goods are all distrain'd and sold,
    And these and all are all amiss employ'd.
    What would you have me do? I am a subject,
    And I challenge law: attorneys are denied me;
    And therefore, personally I lay my claim
    To my inheritance of free descent. (2.3.6)

    When York confronts Henry Bolingbroke for storming into England after he's been banished, Henry explains his rationale – he's returned with an army because King Richard has stolen his birthright by taking the land (Lancaster) that should have gone to Henry when his father died. The law says that when a man dies, all his wealth, titles, and land should be passed down to his eldest son. This applies to noblemen <em>and </em>kings. As Henry points out, the same system that allowed Richard to inherit the title "King of England" from <em>his </em>father is supposed to allow him, Henry, to inherit the title "Duke of Lancaster" from his dad. So if Richard denies Henry his title, Henry figures he's got a right to take away the king's.

    Richard: I had forgot myself. Am I not king?
    Awake, thou coward Majesty, thou sleepest!
    Is not the king's name twenty thousand names? (3.2.5)

    The moment Richard realizes just how much danger he's really in, he tries to rally by remembering that he's in a position of power. He's king, after all – a powerful name. Of course, he's right in one sense: the king's name is twenty thousand names, in the sense that the office of the king commands the loyalty of his twenty thousand or so subjects. What Richard fails to realize, though, is that he might not in any real sense <em>be </em>king anymore, because Henry Bolingbroke is about two seconds from forcing him to give up the crown.

    Richard: Arm, arm, my name! (3.2.5)

    This is kind of a weird moment, don't you think? Here Richard asks his own name to take up arms on his behalf. In other words, he thinks that language – both the title of king and his orders as king – becomes almost magic <em>because </em>he's king. There's something spell-like about this moment when Richard asks his own identity to defend him.

    King Bolingbroke... (3.3.4)

    When Henry Bolingbroke shows up with an army and backs Richard into a corner at Flint Castle, Richard knows he's not going to be king of England much longer. Here, Richard's sarcastic address to Henry does a lot of work. By refusing to call him "Lancaster," the title he should have inherited when Gaunt died, Richard is indirectly defending his seizure of Gaunt's property. Also, because "Bolingbroke" is a title that specifically refers to a <em>duke</em>, by calling him "King Bolingbroke" Richard is trying to show how ridiculous it is for Henry Bolingbroke to even <em>try</em> to assume an identity that can't, by definition, be rightfully his.

    My crown I am, but still my griefs are mine.
    You may my glories and my state depose,
    But not my griefs; still am I king of those. (4.1.3)

    On the verge of giving his crown to Henry Bolingbroke, Richard is exploring the relationship between his identity and his title. Here he tells Henry that even if he seizes power, Henry can't seize or "depose" those parts of Richard that are his regardless of whether or not he is king. Those parts add up, in the end, to grief. Even if his "glories" and his "state" cease to belong to him once Henry becomes king, Richard will still own, and be "king" of, his sadness.

    No lord of thine, thou haught insulting man,
    Nor no man's lord! I have no name, no title –
    No, not that name was given me at the font –
    But 'tis usurped. Alack the heavy day,
    That I have worn so many winters out
    And know not now what name to call myself. (4.1.8)

    Here we see just how important the relationship between identity and names or titles is for Richard. When Northumberland calls him "My lord," Richard lashes out – not only because of the hypocrisy (since Northumberland has rebelled against him) but also because he no longer has a clear place in a society structured around hierarchy. In the absence of a title, he's groping for an identity. Disoriented now that he's no longer king, Richard is searching not only for a name but for a sense of self.

    An if my word be sterling yet in England,
    Let it command a mirror hither straight,
    That it may show me what a face I have,
    Since it is bankrupt of his majesty. (4.1.8)

    This moment occurs after Richard has lost the crown to Henry Bolingbroke. Since Richard locates so much of himself in his role as king, he wonders (perhaps understandably) how the symbolic transformation has manifested itself physically. In other words, he wonders what he looks like now. Here he demands a mirror to inspect himself and see the physical evidence of the losses he's suffered. He's shocked to find his appearance unchanged, because he <em>feels</em> like he's been transformed.

    Here comes my son Aumerle.
                Aumerle that was,
    But that is lost for being Richard's friend;
    And, madam, you must call him Rutland now. (5.2.4)

    Here the former Duke of Aumerle's parents talk about what they should call their son now that he's been stripped of his dukedom for being buddy-buddy with the former king, Richard. Even though he's no longer the Duke of Aumerle, he's still the Earl of Rutland, so his dad says they should call him that from now on. But the moment York switches his allegiance to Henry Bolingbroke, his son gets renamed. All this shuffling of identities and names in the household ends pretty badly. It can also be pretty confusing and exasperating for us readers, don't you think?

  • Loyalty

    There lives or dies, true to King Richard's throne,
    A loyal, just and upright gentleman. (1.3.2)

    Mowbray shows up to the trial by combat ready to fight Henry Bolingbroke. His opening speech is actually less about what Bolingbroke charged him with than it is about affirming his honor and his loyalty to Richard. This is an interesting move: it shows that he has a grip on the real terms of the duel and knows exactly what this fight is really about – whether the king has the right to kill noble subjects and still expect loyalty, and what honor means when the king has started behaving illegally.

    A jewel in a ten-times-barr'd-up chest
    Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast. (1.1.6)

    Mowbray is certainly interested in defending his good name here, but he's also reminding Richard of his value. Mowbray, who really does remain loyal to Richard, is a jewel. The metaphor can stretch even further, because Mowbray could also be the vault or chest keeping the jewel safe. The image of a jewel safely locked up in a chest is a clever way for Mowbray to tell Richard, albeit in code, that his secret is safe.

    A dearer merit, not so deep a maim
    As to be cast forth in the common air,
    Have I deserved at your highness' hands. (1.3.3)

    Mowbray, who has remained crazy-loyal to Richard and has covered up his participation in Gloucester's murder, laments the king's lack of loyalty to him. In return for his service, he is banished. Here he lets Richard know how he feels, but Richard, who has an underdeveloped sense of loyalty throughout the play, doesn't seem to pay much attention.

    I would to God –
    So my untruth had not provoked him to it –
    The King had cut off my head with my brother's. (2.2.4)

    Reflecting on the mess the kingdom is in, York takes a moment to wish his troubles were over. It's interesting that he actually recognizes that Richard beheaded his brother (something the king never quite admits), yet remains loyal to the guy. Why is that? That York remains a loyal subject for as long as he does with this mentality shows how weird the concept of loyalty has become under Richard's rule.

    Why, foolish boy, the king is left behind,
    And in my loyal bosom lies his power. (2.3.4)

    York is telling Henry Bolingbroke here that he's out of line for coming back after he's been banished, and he's declaring himself the king's loyal representative. He's also making the title of king a transferable property. By suggesting that the king is "left behind" (meaning that he's left York as regent) and that Richard's power lies in his "bosom" (that is, on his person), he's implying that the king can be separated from his power.

    It would beseem the Lord Northumberland
    To say 'King Richard'. (3.3.1)

     Even though he's gone over to Henry Bolingbroke's side, York scolds Northumberland for referring to Richard by his first name. York shows, even this late in the game, that he's deeply pained by the transfer of the title of king from one man to another.

    Three Judases, each one thrice worse than Judas! (3.2.8)

    Richard hastily describes Bushy, Bagot, and Green as three Judases, assuming they've betrayed him. (Judas is the disciple who betrays Jesus in the New Testament.) Richard is obviously thinking of himself as the betrayed Christ – a comparison he loves making. But right after saying this, he learns that his "Judases" have been executed – they died for him. Would Christ have cursed his friends and called them Judases? Just the opposite: Christ forgave Judas. But it's typical of Richard to see himself as better than he is.

    But heaven hath a hand in these events …
    To Bolingbroke are we sworn subjects now (5.2.3)

    Here York quickly switches from a description of Richard's suffering to a matter-of-fact announcement that he, York, is now loyal to King Henry. York might be the character most obsessed with loyalty in the play, but he's ironically also the most fickle.

    Hadst thou groan'd for him
    As I have done, thou wouldst be more pitiful. (5.2.15)

    When the Duke of York finds out that his son Aumerle is plotting against King Henry, he wants to turn him in for treason. But his wife, the Duchess of York, isn't having it – Aumerle is their son, and there's no way she's going to let her husband's loyalty to the king put her child's life in danger. She says that if York had given birth to Aumerle ("groan'd for him") like she did, maybe he'd feel different.

    O heinous, strong and bold conspiracy!
    O loyal father of a treacherous son! (5.3.10)

    After York rats out his son to the new king, Henry declares that York is the "loyal father" of his disloyal son. York is "loyal" alright. He's loyal to the king, <em>not </em>his own flesh and blood.

  • Gender

    God's is the quarrel; for God's substitute,
    His deputy anointed in His sight,
    Hath caused his death: the which if wrongfully,
    Let heaven revenge; for I may never lift
    An angry arm against His minister.
    Where then, alas, may I complain myself?
    To God, the widow's champion and defense.
    Why, then, I will. Farewell, old Gaunt. (1.1.2)

    When the Duchess of Gloucester begs John of Gaunt to avenge the death of Gaunt's brother and her husband (Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester), Gaunt refuses because he believes his allegiance to the king is more important than his loyalty to his family. This is something we see over and over again in the play: the female characters put family ties above all else. For the most part, the male characters (like Gaunt and York) tend to put political alliances first.

    'Tis not the trial of a woman's war,
    The bitter clamour of two eager tongues,
    Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain; (1.1.2)

    When Mowbray prepares to duke it out with Henry Bolingbroke, he declares that physical combat is the manly way (and the <em>only</em> way) they can settle their differences. In the process of explaining his position, Mowbray manages to insult women by suggesting that when they "war" with one another, it's usually about something petty (not political), and their "bitter" tongues do all the fighting. Okay, so Mowbray's a jerk. But does this mean the play as a whole has no regard for women's voices? You could argue either way. On the one hand, nobody pays any attention to the queen when she begs to stay with her husband after Richard is sent to Pomfret Castle (5.1.4). On the other hand, when the Duchess of York shows up at King Henry's castle to beg for her son's life, she manages to convince Henry that her son should live, but only after Henry calls her a "shrill-voiced suppliant" (5.5.11).

    Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
    Which shows like grief itself, but is not so;
    For sorrow's eye, glazed with blinding tears,
    Divides one thing entire to many objects;
    Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon
    Show nothing but confusion, eyed awry
    Distinguish form: so your sweet majesty,
    Looking awry upon your lord's departure,
    Find shapes of grief, more than himself, to wail;
    Which, look'd on as it is, is nought but shadows
    Of what it is not. Then, thrice-gracious queen,
    More than your lord's departure weep not: more's not seen;
    Or if it be, 'tis with false sorrow's eye,
    Which for things true weeps things imaginary. (2.2.2)

    When the queen says she feels a sense of grief at her husband's departure for Ireland, Bushy tries to undermine her by suggesting that she doesn't understand her own feelings.

    Needs must I like it well: I weep for joy
    To stand upon my kingdom once again.
    Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand,
    Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs:
    As a long-parted mother with her child
    Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting,
    So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth, (3.2.2)

    When Richard comes back from Ireland, he gets all weepy about setting foot back on British soil. What's interesting about this passage is the way Richard compares himself to a mother who has just been reunited with her child. What's up with that? Seriously. Let us know when you work it out.

    Nimble mischance, that art so light of foot,
    Doth not thy embassage belong to me,
    And am I last that knows it? O, thou think'st
    To serve me last, that I may longest keep
    Thy sorrow in my breast. Come, ladies, go,
    To meet at London London's king in woe.
    What, was I born to this, that my sad look
    Should grace the triumph of great Bolingbroke?
    Gardener, for telling me these news of woe,
    Pray God the plants thou graft'st may never grow. (3.4.9)

    This is where the queen finds out that her husband has lost the throne. She's devastated, of course, but she's also outraged that she's the last one to know. (A few lines earlier, she overheard the news from her gardener, of all people.) What this passage tells us is that the queen (like a lot of women in the play) is totally out of the loop when it comes to political affairs.

    Why, York, what wilt thou do?
    Wilt thou not hide the trespass of thine own?
    Have we more sons? or are we like to have?
    Is not my teeming date drunk up with time?
    And wilt thou pluck my fair son from mine age,
    And rob me of a happy mother's name?
    Is he not like thee? is he not thine own? (5.2.13)

    When the Duchess of York learns that her husband plans to report their son for plotting against the king, she argues that family bonds are far more important than loyalty to the king. But York doesn't see it that way. Keep reading...

    Away, fond woman! were he twenty times my son,
    I would appeach him. (5.2.18)

    Although his wife believes that family bonds are more important than allegiance to the king, York thinks it's his duty to report his son's treasonous plot. Even if Aumerle is his son, he's going to turn him in anyway. It seems York hasn't learned anything from John of Gaunt's mistake....

    Hadst thou groan'd for him
    As I have done, thou wouldst be more pitiful.
    But now I know thy mind; thou dost suspect
    That I have been disloyal to thy bed,
    And that he is a bastard, not thy son:
    Sweet York, sweet husband, be not of that mind:
    He is as like thee as a man may be,
    Not like to me, or any of my kin,
    And yet I love him.
    Make way, unruly woman! (5.2.15)

    Here the Duchess of York continues to beg her husband not to turn in their son for treason. What's interesting about this passage is the way the Duchess first suggests that mothers have stronger bonds with their children than fathers do, because mothers give birth ("groan" for their children). But then she seems to realize that this point isn't going to change her husband's mind, because she quickly switches tactics and urges York to think of the father-son bond he shares with Aumerle. The Duchess insists that York can't turn in his son because he's flesh and blood. In fact, she adds, Aumerle is more like his dad than his mother. But this doesn't work. In fact, York distances himself from Aumerle and plays up the connection between his son and his wife. When York orders the Duchess away and calls her an "unruly woman," he suggests that she is both a disobedient wife and an "unruly" subject, <em>just like her son</em>.

    After, Aumerle! mount thee upon his horse;
    Spur post, and get before him to the king,
    And beg thy pardon ere he do accuse thee.
    I'll not be long behind; though I be old,
    I doubt not but to ride as fast as York:
    And never will I rise up from the ground
    Till Bolingbroke have pardon'd thee. Away, be gone! (5.2.16)

    Wow. The Duchess of York would sacrifice her life to save her son Aumerle from being executed. Here she urges her son to get to the king before his father can get there first and accuse him of treason. She promises she'll follow close behind (even though she's too old to go riding off after him on a horse) and that she'll throw herself onto the ground and beg the king for mercy.

    Thou frantic woman, what dost thou make here?
    Shall thy old dugs once more a traitor rear? (5.3.7)

    This is where York and his wife argue in front of King Henry about whether or not Henry should pardon their son, who plotted against the new king. York is particularly nasty in this passage. When he asks, "Shall thy old dugs [breasts] once more a traitor rear?" he's basically saying it's his wife's fault their son is a traitor. (In Shakespeare's day, people thought mothers could pass on traits to their children through breast milk.) In other words, York says his wife somehow passed on some rebellious traits when she breastfed their kid. Gee, we wonder how they celebrate Mother's Day in the York household.

    Banish us both and send the king with me.
    That were some love but little policy. (5.2.4)

    Things keep getting worse for the queen. When she learns that Richard is being sent away to Pomfret Castle, she begs Northumberland to let him go to France with her. That, of course, is impossible: Richard has just been dethroned, and if he's allowed to live with his queen in exile, they could have a child together, who could grow up to make a legal claim to the throne. (Remember, the English crown is supposed to pass from father to son.) But the queen doesn't get it, and Northumberland's response reminds us that she really is clueless about matters of state.

  • Appearances

    Uncle, even in the glasses of thine eyes
    I see thy grieved heart.
    Hath from the number of his banished years
    Plucked four away. (1.3.9)

    Richard isn't particularly good at reading people or situations, especially before his fall from power. Here he claims that he understands Gaunt's pain, but it turns out that he's totally failed to understand Gaunt at all. His effort to make him feel better by reducing Henry Bolingbroke's banishment by four years fails pretty badly – Gaunt will be dead by then!

    O, how that name befits my composition!
    Old Gaunt indeed, and gaunt in being old. (2.1.4)

    Gaunt jokes (in an incredibly sad way) that his body has come to match his name. Now that he's old, he's literally "gaunt" (thin and sickly looking).

    Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
    Which shows like grief itself, but is not so. (2.2.2)

    Bushy tries to convince the queen that her sense of impending doom is misplaced – he says she's confusing shadows with substance. As usual, it's Bushy who's wrong. As we know, Richard will soon be deposed by Henry, which means the queen will soon be separated from her husband.

    'tis with false Sorrow's eye,
    Which for things true weeps things imaginary. (2.2.2)

    In a typical example of how the "flatterers" mislead Richard by shielding him from anything negative, Bushy tries to convince the queen that she's mistaken to think anything is wrong. His argument that sorrow is "false" or misleading is, well, false and misleading. Sorrow is the only thing that helps Richard or his queen finally see things the way they really are.

    The bay trees in our country are all withered,
    And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven. (2.4.2)

    There's lots of discussion in this play of nature, and how to interpret natural "signs," which everyone assumes are happening in response to events at court. Here the Captain is saying that things look bad. The fact that the bay trees are withered and there are meteors both mean, to a lot of people, that the king is probably dead. Brain Snack: Shakespeare got this omen from Holinshed's <em>Chronicles</em>, a major literary source for the play.

    Men judge by the complexion of the sky
    The state and inclination of the day;
    So may you by my dull and heavy eye. (3.2.6)

    The ability to read situations accurately, and to infer the truth from appearances, is critically important in this play. Here Scrope is about to give Richard some bad news. In order to do so, he needs to retrain Richard – whose judgment is warped by years of being flattered and lied to – to judge appearances correctly.

    Yet looks he like a king. Behold, his eye,
    As bright as is the eagle's, lightens forth
    Controlling majesty. (3.3.4)

     Despite being trapped by Henry Bolingbroke's men, Richard still looks like a king, to York's eyes anyway. But York importantly mentions that the impression of power is just that – an impression, and a deceptive one. Two lines later, he regrets that "any harm should stain so fair a show!" By using the word <em>show</em>, York is highlighting how insubstantial Richard is and always has been.

    No deeper wrinkles yet? Hath Sorrow struck
    So many blows upon this face of mine
    And made no deeper wounds? (4.1.10)

    After Richard loses his crown, he looks in a mirror and expects to see that his face has aged as a reflection of his sorrow and grief. This is evidence that Richard constantly confuses surface and substance. Here he confuses his face with his experience. It seems logical to him that his face should have wrinkles to provide evidence of his suffering.

    O, flatt'ring glass,
    Like to my followers in prosperity,
    Thou dost beguile me. (4.1.10)

    As he continues to look into a mirror, Richard is surprised to find his face basically unchanged. Feeling that he's been deeply transformed by losing the crown, it troubles him that his face refuses to show his suffering, to provide an honest reflection of his reality. He accuses the glass of "flattering" him, of making him look healthier than he really is – much like his advisers did when he was still in power.

    You would have thought the very windows spake,
    So many greedy looks of young and old
    Through casements darted their desiring eyes
    Upon his visage, and that all the walls
    With painted imagery had said at once
    'Jesu preserve thee! welcome, Bolingbroke!' (5.2.12)

    Here York describes how Henry Bolingbroke rode into London after seizing power from Richard II. This is an interesting reversal: instead of describing the spectacle of Bolingbroke himself, York describes the public's reaction to the spectacle. It's a clever move that keeps us from seeing Bolingbroke clearly. Instead, we see windows and eyes: things that are used to watch instead of the thing they're watching. In one sense, York's description is all appearances and no substance: he starts this passage by saying "you would have thought," meaning it didn't really happen the way he says. It turns out you would have thought the walls had been painted with images welcoming Bolingbroke. What does this mean? York seems to give us information without actually telling us anything at all.

  • Suffering

    We see the very wrack that we must suffer,
    And unavoided is the danger now
    For suffering so the causes of our wrack. (2.1.7)

     This is a little confusing. Basically Ross is saying that Richard's bad decisions have led to terrible consequences (here, the theft of Henry Bolingbroke's inheritance), but that the nobles have allowed it to happen. It's an interesting little passage, because the definition of suffering changes. In the first line, the meaning is the same as in modern English. In the third line, it means "to allow." Just another example of how passivity leads to disaster.

    Go to Flint Castle. There I'll pine away. (3.2.9)

    Wow. When Richard finds out that he's outmatched by Henry's army, he <em>almost </em>seems to take pleasure in talking about all the suffering he plans to do. Drama queen!

    Of comfort let no man speak! (3.2.9)

    Jaded by a lifetime of being told what he wants to hear, Richard, who hasn't ever really suffered much, overreacts a little by forbidding anyone to give him what he most wants: comfort.

    Our sighs and they shall lodge the summer corn
    And make a dearth in this revolting land. (3.3.4)

    Richard fantasizes that his suffering will somehow be transformed into an act of revenge: his sighs and tears will cause a famine and punish the land.

    Richard: Now is this golden crown like a deep well
    That owes two buckets, filling one another,
    The emptier ever dancing in the air,
    The other down, unseen and full of water.
    That bucket down and full of tears am I,
    Drinking my griefs while you mount up on high. (4.1.2)

    In this metaphor, Richard links Henry Bolingbroke's luck to his own. In contrast to his former inability to see himself as separate from the crown, here he talks about the crown as if it were an independent thing, a well that fills either his or Henry's "bucket," but not both. In other words, when one bucket is full, the other is empty. One unexpected aspect of the metaphor is that the crown fills the buckets not with power or luck, as we might expect, but with suffering. Henry's good fortune is due to the fact that his bucket is "up" and therefore empty, while Richard's is heavy and low, because it's full of tears.

    Mine eyes are full of tears; I cannot see.
    And yet salt water blinds them not so much
    But they can see a sort of traitor here. (4.1.7)

    Suffering in this play often leads the sufferer to suddenly see the truth. Richard has by all accounts spent most of his tenure as king "blind" to the treason around him. In fact, he prefers to be surrounded by liars who tell him whatever he wants to hear, even if it damages his position in the kingdom. Having just lost his crown, Richard recognizes that, although his vision might be physically blurred (because he's crying), he's actually seeing clearly for the fist time. He recognizes (a little late, it's true) that the people surrounding him are traitors.

    Mark, silent King, the moral of this sport,
    How soon my sorrow hath destroyed my face. (4.1.11)

    Finding that his face doesn't "reflect" his new degraded state, Richard smashes the mirror and tells King Henry to look at how sorrow has "ruined" his face (actually the mirror). It's a smart switch: even more important than a "real" face, Richard seems to be saying, is the face's reflection. Smash the reflection and you also smash the thing it reflects. In other words, life is an illusion.

    Twice for one step I'll groan, the way being short... (5.1.7)

    In kind of a sweet moment, Richard promises the queen that, since she has a longer way to go, he'll groan twice as much so that they end up suffering the same amount. Notice that Richard has started using his expressions of grief to measure distance and, elsewhere, time.

    His face still combating with tears and smiles,
    The badges of his grief and patience... (5.2.3)

    York's description of Richard's humiliating walk is really moving and totally consistent with Richard's passivity. Even now, the only kind of "combat" he seems to be capable of is the combat of "tears and smiles."

    So sighs and tears and groans
    Show minutes, times, and hours (5.5.1)

    Richard, who once upon a time could (as Henry Bolingbroke put it) make four years go by in a breath, now measures time in units of misery. This reflects how totally he's lost control.

  • Passivity

    My dear dear lord,
    The purest treasure mortal times afford
    Is spotless reputation; that away,
    Men are but gilded loam or painted clay. (1.1.6)

    We might think Mowbray is a little passive when he refuses to rat out King Richard for the death of Gloucester, but here we see that he is willing to stick up for himself against Henry Bolingbroke's accusations. In response to the king's demand that Mowbray throw down Henry's gage, Mowbray insists on fighting for his reputation. He's no saint; he seems to have helped to kill Gloucester. But he recognizes how important it is to defend himself against that charge in court. If he refuses to accept Henry's challenge, his reputation will be ruined.

    Call it not patience, Gaunt; it is despair.
    In suff'ring thus thy brother to be slaughtered,
    Thou show'st the naked pathway to thy life,
    Teaching stern Murder how to butcher thee.
    That which in mean men we entitle patience
    Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts. (1.2.1)

    In this play, passivity is destructive, and it almost always ends badly. Here the Duchess of Gloucester tells John of Gaunt that his refusal to avenge his brother's death isn't patience (as he argues), but something worse: it's a decision to condone his brother's murder and accept a pattern of behavior that could very easily lead to his own death. (Gaunt is, after all, Gloucester's brother.) By tolerating this, he's morally guilty of murder, and what he calls patience is simple cowardice.

    That England that was wont to conquer others
    Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. (2.1.3)

    Gaunt bemoans the fact that Richard has "leased" English lands. Richard can be understood to represent England here. By binding the land in this way, the nation doesn't strive or fight for property, bounty, or glory; instead, it (or Richard) signed a piece of paper and "conquered" itself. What's worse, the nobility has let Richard get away with it.

    Northumberland: But basely yielded upon compromise
    That which his ancestors achieved with blows. (2.1.7)

    "Baseness" is the opposite of honor in Elizabethan England, so it's interesting to see what behaviors these characters find shameful. In this case, Northumberland criticizes Richard for compromising with France instead of fighting the way his ancestors did.

    Well, somewhat we must do. (2.2.4)

    When Richard goes to Ireland and leaves York in charge of the kingdom, York recognizes that he can't stay paralyzed by indecision. He's got to try to <em>do </em>something about the fact that Henry Bolingbroke is on his way to confront the king. In contrast to Richard's passive confidence that God will provide, York realizes that he has to be proactive. Despite the difficult circumstances, he issues actual orders.

    Not all the water in the rough rude sea
    Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
    The breath of worldly men cannot depose
    The deputy elected by the Lord:
    For every man that Bolingbroke hath press'd
    To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,
    God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay
    A glorious angel: (3.2.13)

    One of Richard's biggest problems is that he believes God has appointed him king of England and will send angels to protect him, no matter what. So does this explain why Richard never does much to defend himself against Henry's rebellion?

    Revolt our subjects? That we cannot mend.
    They break their faith to God as well as us.
    Cry woe, destruction, ruin and decay.
    The worst is death, and Death will have his day. (3.2.6)

    This is where Richard hears that he doesn't have any troops to protect him against Henry and his army. What's interesting is that Richard totally gives up, which says a lot about his weakness as a king. Instead of fighting or taking action, he feels sorry for himself and resigns himself to the fact that everybody dies sometime.

    For God's sake let us sit upon the ground
    And tell sad stories of the death of kings – (3.2.9)

    You've got to be kidding. Instead of defending himself (or even running away from Bolingbroke), Richard decides to sit down on the ground and tell stories about other kings who have been murdered. Rather than think of his people, or his kingdom, he wallows in self-pity and tries to think of himself as a story, or a literary figure (and therefore larger than life).

    My lord, wise men ne'er sit and wail their woes,
    But presently prevent the ways to wail. (3.2.1)

    Here Carlisle tries to talk some sense into Richard by telling him to get a grip and fight for his kingdom. Richard is a pretty unstable guy: the minute his power is threatened, he folds and starts feeling sorry for himself. In principle, this isn't that different from all the other ways Richard has let things go badly by refusing to take action.

    The devil take Henry of Lancaster and thee! (5.5.7)

    It's about time Richard did something to defend himself. Here he fights for his life against the men who have come to execute him while he's in prison. He even manages to grab someone's sword and use it! Unfortunately, it's too little, too late: Richard is killed and falls to the ground once and for all.

  • Pride

    Richard: Now, by my sceptre's awe, I make a vow
    Such neighbour nearness to our sacred blood
    Should nothing privilege him nor partialize
    The unstooping firmness of my upright soul. (1.1.7).

    Wow, Richard's got a serious god complex. Instead of invoking God or some other sacred symbol to swear by, he swears by <em>himself</em>. In other words, he's so full of himself that he can't think of anything more holy!

    We were not born to sue but to command;
    Which since we cannot do to make you friends,
    Be ready as your lives shall answer it
    At Coventry upon Saint Lambert's Day. (1.1.13)

    This is an important moment because Richard hits a limit to his power, long before he's stripped of his crown. Because he secretly ordered Gloucester's death, and Mowbray seems to have been involved, it's extremely awkward for Richard when he can't get Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke to drop charges. Despite his assertions of his power earlier in this scene, and despite his statement that he was born not to "sue" (beg or ask) but to command, he ends up having to give in to the men he claims he's commanding. No matter how big he talks, Richard is weak here.

    Landlord of England art thou now, not King.
    Thy state of law is bondslave to the law...  (2.1.8)

    O snap! Gaunt is trying to bring Richard down to earth by pointing out the emptiness of his claims to power. No matter how much Richard might proudly say he's all-powerful, what he's actually done is lease his land – a move several characters in the play identify as one of his worst mistakes. Gaunt points out that by acting as a landlord instead of a king, Richard is now subject to laws that he would have been above before.

    Not all the water in the rough rude sea
    Can wash the balm off from an anointed king; (3.2.3)

    Richard is really confident in his position as king, don't you think? Even as he's just returned to England because Henry Bolingbroke's men are gaining popularity, Richard shows us why he eventually loses the monarchy. Rather than take active steps to remain in office, Richard believes God and nature will protect the king, so he doesn't really have to bother.

    Proud Bolingbroke, I come
    to change blows with thee for our day of doom. (3.2.10)

    Richard accuses Henry Bolingbroke of pride here. Hmm... seems like someone is trying to put his own flaws on someone else.

    O God, O God, that e'er this tongue of mine
    That laid the sentence of dread banishment
    On yon proud man should take it off again
    With words of sooth! O, that I were as great
    As is my grief, or lesser than my name!
    Or that I could forget what I have been,
    Or not remember what I must be now! (3.3.3)

    Richard regrets having banished Henry Bolingbroke, the "proud man," and wishes his tongue still had the power to reverse the sentence with soothing words. It doesn't, of course, and this leads him to reflect on just how far he's fallen and how much less painful it would be if he could just forget that he had once been king.

    Down, down I come, like glist'ring Phaeton,
    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. (3.3.5)

    Richard has a habit of talking about his own fall from grace in a way that makes us feel sorry for him. One of Richard's gifts in this play is his ability to evoke our pity despite the fact that he spends so little time pitying others and so much time pitying himself.

    The comparison to Phaeton is interesting. Phaeton famously begged to steer his more powerful father Apollo's chariot. This didn't end well – he lost control of the horses, and the sun got so close to the earth that it nearly burned. Zeus finally had to kill Phaethon with a thunderbolt. Phaeton is in some ways a perfect symbol for Richard, who keeps getting compared unfavorably to his more powerful father and grandfather, and who, like Phaeton, is overconfident and loses control of his kingdom as a result. It's unclear, however, whether Richard means the comparison this way. His emphasis on "glist'ring Phaeton" and the fact that the sun was one of his chosen symbols both suggest that Richard might just be thinking of himself as a brilliant being in decline, whose death will scorch the earth.

    We at time of year
    Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit trees,
    Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
    With too much riches it confound itself. (3.4.2)

    The Gardener wishes Richard had been a better "gardener" of his kingdom and that he had done to his nobles what landscapers do to their trees: prune them back and keep them in check so they don't get overgrown or, in the case of the nobles, too swollen with pride. Of course, the description of something "over-proud" of its blood and ruined by too many riches applies pretty well to Richard himself.

    Would he not stumble? would he not fall down,
    Since pride must have a fall, and break the neck
    Of that proud man that did usurp his back? (5.5.4)

    This is what Richard says after he hears that Henry Bolingbroke rode through the streets on Richard's horse. Richard feels a little betrayed that his old horse pranced through the streets like a proud show pony. Then he wonders why his horse didn't fall, since, according to the famous passage from the Bible, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16.18). Translation: When you've got big head and think you're awesome, you're pretty much asking to be taken down a notch or two. Of course, we all know that this applies to Richard, not his horse.

  • Exile

    Think not the king did banish thee,
    But thou the king. (1.3.10)

    Foreshadowing alert! Gaunt's advice to Henry Bolingbroke as he's about to be banished (that he "pretend" he is the one in power) foreshadows the real events in the play. Bolingbroke ends up taking the mental exercise his father recommends quite literally by banishing (and later killing) the king.

    Well, he is gone, and with him go these thoughts. (1.4.1)

    In a fabulously mistaken moment, Green reassures the king that banishment will take care of the problem of Henry Bolingbroke, whose popularity in the kingdom had started to become worrying. This is, like pretty much everything Richard does, a passive and ineffective solution. While technically Green is right – getting rid of Henry helped the king feel better – this kind of thinking gave Henry all the time he needed to gather momentum and ended up costing Richard his kingdom.

    Then England's ground, farewell! Sweet soil, adieu –
    My mother and my nurse that bears me yet! (1.3.15)

    England's soil is an important symbol in the play. Richard's leasing of the land is used as evidence of his mistreatment of it. And by casting England as his mother, Henry Bolingbroke equates his sadness at leaving his father with his sadness at leaving his country.

    Where'er I wander, boast of this I can,
    Though banished, yet a true-born Englishman. (1.3.15)

    Henry Bolingbroke's reaction to banishment contrasts interestingly with Mowbray's. Whereas Mowbray sees his banishment from England as an enforced silence and a kind of death, Henry refuses to accept a passive position. He sees himself as aggressively communicating to the rest of the world that he is, and always will be, an Englishman.

    Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand,
    Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs.
    As a long-parted mother with her child
    Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting,
    So weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth,
    And do thee favours with my royal hands. (3.2.2)

    Though not, strictly speaking, a return from exile, Richard's belated return to England is an opportunity for him to reflect on what English soil means to him. Like Henry Bolingbroke at 1.3.15, he thinks of his relationship to the earth in terms of mother and child. However, where Henry saw himself as the child and the earth as his mother, Richard casts himself in the role of the parent. This is an important difference between the two rivals.

    Thou, old Adam's likeness, set to dress this garden,
    How dares thy harsh rude tongue sound this unpleasing news?
    What Eve, what serpent, hath suggested thee
    To make a second fall of cursed man?
    Why dost thou say King Richard is deposed?
    Darest thou, thou little better thing than earth,
    Divine his downfall? Say, where, when, and how,
    Camest thou by this ill tidings? speak, thou wretch. (3.4.8)

    When the queen finds out that Richard has been kicked off the throne by Henry, she compares his deposition to the Biblical fall of man, when Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden. What's up with that?

    Then give me leave to go.
    Whither you will, so I were from your sights.
    Go, some of you convey him to the Tower.
    O, good! convey? conveyers are you all,
    That rise thus nimbly by a true king's fall. (4.1.14)

    This is a weird little scene. After Richard gives up his crown to Henry, he asks if Henry will grant him permission to leave. This is odd, don't you think? Richard's not going on vacation – he's going to be locked up in solitary confinement. Although Richard isn't being expelled from England, his imprisonment is as just as bad as being exiled, wouldn't you say?

    Doubly divorced! Bad men, you violate
    A twofold marriage, 'twixt my crown and me,
    And then betwixt me and my married wife.
    Let me unkiss the oath 'twixt thee and me;
    And yet not so, for with a kiss 'twas made.
    Part us, Northumberland; I toward the north,
    Where shivering cold and sickness pines the clime;
    My wife to France: from whence, set forth in pomp,
    She came adorned hither like sweet May,
    Sent back like Hallowmas or short'st of day.
    And must we be divided? must we part?
    Ay, hand from hand, my love, and heart from heart. (5.1.3)

    When Richard learns that Henry has decided to send him to Pomfret Castle in Yorkshire instead of the Tower of London, he describes his imprisonment as a kind of double divorce. Not only has he been divided from his crown, but now he's being divided from his wife, who's being sent to France. Why doesn't Henry just banish Richard to some far off country? Keep reading...

    Banish us both and send the king with me.
    That were some love but little policy. (5.2.4)

    When the queen begs for her husband to be banished along with her to France, she reveals just how little she knows about politics. As Northumberland points out, it wouldn't be very smart for Henry to send Richard to France with his wife. He could come back with an army and challenge Henry. Or worse, they could have a child who might grow up and make a legal claim to the crown. Banishment isn't really an option here, which is why Henry suggests to Exton that someone needs to get "rid" of Richard... permanently.

    With Cain go wander through shades of night,
    And never show thy head by day nor light (5.6.6).

    At the end of the play, when Henry finds out that Exton has killed Richard (on Henry's behalf), he banishes the guy and compares him to Cain (who killed his brother Abel in the Bible). What's weird about this is how Henry refuses to acknowledge that <em>he</em> is the one who caused his cousin Richard's death. If anything, Henry is like Cain, so it seems unjust that Exton should be banished.

    This scene also reminds us of how and why Richard banished Henry back in Act 1, Scene 3. (Remember, when Henry publicly accused Mowbray of murdering Gloucester, he was really accusing Richard without coming out and saying so. Richard responded by throwing Henry and Mowbray out of the country.) Is Henry's banishment of Exton really any different than Richard's banishment of Henry and Mowbray?