Richard II Summary
Read the full text of Richard II with a side-by-side translation HERE.
At the royal pad (that would be Windsor Castle), King Richard II tries to settle a fight between two seriously ticked-off noblemen, Henry Bolingbroke (the Duke of Hereford) and Thomas Mowbray (the Duke of Norfolk). Bolingbroke's got a beef with Mowbray and he's come before the king to officially accuse Mowbray of the following crimes: 1) plotting against England, 2) stealing money from the crown, and 3) 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.
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 between the two noblemen. But they're way too fired up and demand to be allowed to hack into each other with their swords. Eventually Richard gives in and says fine – they can have their fight. It'll go down at the big tournament arena in Coventry, which apparently was like the Las Vegas of medieval England when it came to combat fighting.
In the meantime, over at John of Gaunt's house, Shakespeare lets the audience in on a little secret: Mowbray did kill the king's Uncle Gloucester, but King Richard is the one who told him to do it. (Gasp!) Apparently everybody at court already knows this, but nobody's really doing anything about it. (Unless you count Bolingbroke, whose recent charge against Mowbray is obviously his passive-aggressive way of accusing the king of murder.) But when Gloucester's widow begs Gaunt to avenge her husband's death, Gaunt is all, "Gee, I can't do anything about it because Richard's the king of England, which means he doesn't have to answer to anybody but God."
In Coventry, a big crowd gathers at the tournament arena to watch Mowbray and Bolingbroke go toe to toe. (Psst. Here's what a medieval tournament arena looks like.)
Just as Henry Bolingbroke and Mowbray are getting pumped up for the big showdown, Richard steps in at the last minute and... cancels the fight. (Cue the loud boos and hissing.) Richard says he's changed his mind about the trial by combat and he's decided that he doesn't want anyone spilling blood all over England's soil. (That stuff totally stains.) Instead of letting the guys fight, he's banishing Bolingbroke for ten years and Mowbray forever. (Of course, everyone knows that 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.)
When Richard sees that Henry Bolingbroke's dad (John of Gaunt) is really bummed out about all this banishment business, Richard changes his mind again and says, something like, "Okay, fine, Bolingbroke can come back in six years instead of ten – will that make you happy, Uncle Gaunt?" Gaunt says this is a nice idea but it doesn't really matter because he's so old and heartbroken that he'll be dead by the time his son gets to come home.
Gaunt's not kidding: soon after Henry Bolingbroke is booted out of the country, he croaks. But first he gets in a famous speech about how awesome England used to be until Richard came along and trashed it by spending all of its money and leasing out the royal lands. (Actually, these are probably the most famous lines in the play: "This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, / This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, / This other Eden, demi-paradise." You really should read Gaunt's speech. After all, he used up his last breath to deliver it.) This is when we find out that Richard has not only blown through England's savings account, but he's also come up with some rather creative fundraising ideas – he's even leased out some royal land, which is a big no-no.
It gets worse when Richard finds out Gaunt is dead. Instead of being sad or feeling guilty about speeding up his death by banishing his son, Richard thinks he's hit the jackpot. Since Richard is broke and needs some quick cash to pay for his war in Ireland, he decides to snatch up all of Gaunt's property to fund his army.
The Duke of York (another one of Richard's uncles / trusted advisors) thinks this is a terrible idea. He chimes in that taking Gaunt's property is sort of illegal. As Gaunt's oldest son, Henry Bolingbroke is the legal heir to all of Gaunt's property, titles, and wealth, so technically, Richard would be stealing. But Richard couldn't care less. He figures, "Hey, God's chosen me to be the king of England, so I can do whatever the heck I want."
So far, the members of the nobility have been willing to let Richard get away with murder, and they've also pretty much kept quiet about Richard's bad financial decisions. But apparently, stealing property from a nobleman is the final straw. (The nobility get all their power from the land they control, so they're never happy when someone comes along and tries to take it from them.)
Meanwhile, Henry Bolingbroke is still banished. But instead of moping around on the couch, watching Family Guy reruns, and ordering take-out, he's started building an army across the English Channel in Brittany (northern France). He's also got a bunch of English noblemen on his side, and the commoners all seem to love him. While Richard's away in Ireland (fighting that war we mentioned earlier), Henry makes his move. He shows up in England with a bunch of troops to claim his rightful inheritance. Richard hightails it back home to confront Henry, but when he gets there, he finds out that he's got little to no protection. (Apparently, an army was supposed to meet him there, but when they heard a rumor that Richard was dead, they decided to leave and go out for pizza instead.) Now Henry, who's been marching across England to confront the king, can take back his land.
When Henry Bolingbroke finally corners Richard at Flint Castle, he orders Richard to... hand over his crown. Huh?! When did Henry decide he wants to be king? We thought he just wanted his land back. Has he been planning this all along, or did he just now decide that, what the heck, why not take Richard's crown, since he can't defend himself? Seriously – let us know when you work that one out, because it's had audiences and literary critics scratching their heads for centuries.
Richard has no choice but to give up his crown peacefully, but that doesn't stop him from kicking up a fuss and being a total drama queen (drama king, that is). In a theatrical "deposition scene" (where the king is "deposed," or stripped of his title and power), Richard makes a big show of removing his crown and handing it over to Henry Bolingbroke (along with his matching gold wand). Then Richard says a tearful goodbye to his wife and is imprisoned at Pomfret Castle, where he spends all of his time moping about his misfortune and trying to figure out who he is now that he's not king anymore.
While Richard's busy soul searching and making a lot of big, dramatic speeches about his feelings, King Henry gets down to the business of ruling England. Henry's got a ton of stuff to worry about, like figuring out what to do with the ex-king and his loyal followers. Also, Henry's been trying to track down his good-for-nothing son, Prince Hal, whom he hasn't seen in three months. (Not a good sign, since this kid is now heir to the English throne.) We learn that Hal is probably off partying at one of his favorite bars in London. If he's not there, then he's likely to be out getting rowdy with his posse of loser friends. (This is Shakespeare's way of gearing us up for Henry IV Part 1, which is all about Prince Hal's wild ways.)
Meanwhile, a guy named Exton thinks that King Henry wants him to make Richard disappear... permanently. We wonder where Exton got that idea. Oh, we know. Henry looked right at him and said something like, "Dang, I'm so stressed out. I sure wish I had a friend who loved me enough to help me get rid of the thing that's causing me so much anxiety." Hint, hint.
Naturally, Exton kills Richard at Pomfret Castle. But when he proudly drags Richard's body over to Windsor Castle, Henry is all, "OMG! What the heck have you done? Who told you to kill Richard?!" When Exton replies, "From your mouth, my lord, I did this deed," Henry backpedals. He admits that he wanted Richard dead but he never fesses up that he actually asked Exton to kill him. (Yep – Henry is being a hypocrite, all right.)
Henry feels really guilty about the "mix-up," so he does a couple things to make himself feel better. First he banishes Exton so he doesn't have to see the guy's face and be reminded of what he's done to the former king. (Hmm – remind you of anybody else? Like, say, Richard himself, when he exiled Henry?) Second, Henry orders everyone to be officially sad about Richard's death. Third, he announces that he's going to go on a pilgrimage (read: take a road trip to Jerusalem and start a Holy War) to make up for his sins. He says, "I'll make a voyage to the Holy Land, / To wash this blood off from my guilty hand." Okay, we really like the way our new king rhymes, but maybe someone should tell Henry to go talk to Lady Macbeth. She can probably explain to him how hard it is to wash a dead king's blood off your hands (Macbeth, 5.1.1).
To be continued in Henry IV Part 1...
Act 1, Scene 1
Read the full text of Richard II Act 1 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At Windsor Castle, Richard II just wants to chill out and enjoy the benefits of being a king who (almost) everyone thinks has been handpicked by God to rule England. But he can't relax because two seriously angry noblemen have arrived at the castle and want him to play Judge Judy.
- The angry noblemen are Henry Bolingbroke and Mowbray. Richard invites them in and asks what the problem is.
- Bolingbroke and Mowbray are pretty formal here – they bow down to the king and proceed to do a lot of brown-nosing.
- Richard's not having it. He orders each one to give his side.
- Things heat up pretty quickly. Bolingbroke and Mowbray immediately start to hurl a lot of nasty accusations and creative insults at each other, which sound a lot like this:
- Bolingbroke: I'm officially accusing you of being a traitor, Mowbray! And if I could, I'd stuff my words down your throat.
- Mowbray: You talk a lot of trash, Bolingbroke. And by the way, talking trash is for girls who fight with words because they can't fight with swords, which is why I'm not going to do it. But, if I were going to talk smack, I'd say that you're a "slanderous coward and a villain."
- Bolingbroke: Don't worry, Mowbray – I'll put my money where my mouth is. In fact, I'm going to get medieval on you with my sword.
- In the middle of all this trash talk, Bolingbroke throws down his "gage" (probably a glove or a hat), an official challenge to throwdown.
- Mowbray reaches down and picks up the gage. Challenge accepted.
- Finally we find out what all the fuss is about. Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of stealing a bunch of money from the crown and plotting against the kingdom.
- Then Bolingbroke gets to the good stuff: he accuses Mowbray of killing Richard's uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester (who is Bolingbroke's uncle, too).
- Mowbray is pretty adamant that he's not a thief or a traitor, but he waffles when it comes to whether or not he's responsible for Gloucester's death. (Don't worry – we find out more in the next scene.)
- Mowbray doesn't want to look like a wimp, so he throws down his gage.
- Naturally, Bolingbroke picks it up.
- 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. 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.
- 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. These trials were common in medieval England (the setting here) but they were pretty old-school and outdated by the time Shakespeare was writing the play. (And yes, the trial by combat is the great grandfather of the "wild west gunfight," where two cowboys take twenty paces before drawing their weapons from their holsters and blasting each other.)
Act 1, Scene 2
Read the full text of Richard II Act 1 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- When the scene opens, John of Gaunt is in the middle of a private chitchat with his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Gloucester. The Duchess is the widow of the late Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester.
- The Duchess is heartbroken about her husband's murder and has just asked her brother-in-law (John of Gaunt) to avenge his death.
- Gaunt admits to the Duchess that her husband (his brother) was murdered. But he says she is out of luck if she expects him to do anything about it, because there's no way he's going to lift a finger against the king.
- (The king? Say what?! Okay, Shmoopsters. Shakespeare's letting us in on the big secret here. It turns out that Mowbray was involved in the murder the king's Uncle Gloucester, but King Richard ordered him to do it. No wonder Mowbray acted all weird when Bolingbroke accused him of the murder.)
- The Duchess accuses John of Gaunt of being a lousy brother. She argues that loyalty to one's own flesh and blood is the most important thing in the world.
- Then she reminds him of his family history: he's one of King Edward III's sons. In other words, he's royal, and so was his brother, which is why Richard shouldn't be allowed to get away with murdering his uncle, even if Richard is a king.
- Gaunt disagrees. He argues that he can't do anything to Richard because he's a monarch and, like all kings, he's God's "deputy" on earth.
- Brain Snack: Gaunt's talking about a political theory that's often referred to as the "divine right of kings," which says that kings have a right to rule because they've been chosen by God to do so. What this means is that kings don't have to answer to anybody but God. This also means that if a subject rebels against the king, he's basically rebelling and sinning against God too. Now, back to the play.
- Fine, says the Duchess, but where the heck is she supposed to go for justice if Gaunt's not going to help her get revenge?
- Gaunt says she'll have to take it up with God – he's the only one who can help her.
- The Duchess gives up the argument but adds that she hopes that Bolingbroke's sword will "butcher Mowbray's breast" at the big trial by combat that's coming up.
- Then the Duchess hints that she's going to go off to die of grief and/or commit suicide.
Act 1, Scene 3
Read the full text of Richard II Act 1 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The day of the big throwdown (a.k.a. trial by combat) has finally arrived. Everyone gathers at the tournament arena in Coventry. (Psst. Here's what a medieval tournament arena looks like.)
- Bolingbroke and Mowbray are all suited up in their armor and ready to throw down.
- King Richard arrives and makes a big, red-carpet-worthy entry, complete with trumpet blasts and kneeling subjects. (In case you hadn't noticed, Richard's kind of a diva.)
- Richard gives the go-ahead for the trial by combat to begin.
- The Lord Marshal tells Mowbray to explain why he plans to fight.
- Mowbray, more or less following the script for a duel, swears an oath to God and the king to prove that he's innocent and Bolingbroke is the one who is a traitor. Then Mowbray asks "heaven" to "defend" him.
- Trumpets sound and Bolingbroke appears. The Lord Marshal asks him to give his name and present his case. He does.
- Bolingbroke compares the fight to a pilgrimage (a trip to a holy land) and asks King Richard if he can kiss his hand goodbye.
- Richard comes down from his shiny, bejeweled throne to hug Bolingbroke. He wishes him luck and says that if he's telling the truth about Mowbray being a traitor, hopefully he'll win the fight. Richard adds that if Henry loses, he'll probably cry for him, but he won't lift a finger to avenge his death.
- Brain Snack: We've already explained that a trial by combat was a way for "gentlemen" to settle disputes in medieval England (where the play is set). During the trial, two noblemen would go toe to toe until one died or had to be taken off on a stretcher. The last guy standing was the winner. Here's something else you should know: in medieval England, people thought that God would make sure that the good guy won the fight and the bad guy lost. That way everyone would know who was lying and who was telling the truth. As a bonus, the guilty party would be punished in the process (by getting the you-know-what beat out of him).
- Bolingbroke says not to worry. In Shakespearean trash-talk, he explains that he's like a falcon and Mowbray's like the bird the falcon hunts. Then he says goodbye to his father, "the earthly author of my blood," and asks him to pray for his success.
- Gaunt says he hopes he hacks Mowbray's helmet in God's name.
- Bolingbroke answers that his innocence and Saint George's will win the day. (FYI – Saint George was the patron saint of England, so Henry's basically trying to make himself England's rep.)
- When it's Mowbray's turn to speak, he says his cause is just and makes fun of Bolingbroke's big, violent speeches: "truth has a quiet breast," he says.
- Richard is a little chilly toward Mowbray. He doesn't hug him, but he does say he sees "virtue with valour" in Mowbray's eye.
- Just as the throwdown is about to start, Richard steps in and is all, "Hold up a minute, guys. I've changed my mind and don't want you two hacking into each other with your swords and staining the earth with your blood."
- Richard says Mowbray and Bolingbroke need to go back to their chairs and wait for him. He goes off somewhere with his advisors to talk about what should happen next.
- When Richard comes back, he announces that he's banishing Mowbray from the kingdom... forever. (Dang. That's what Mowbray gets for being obedient to King Richard?)
- Also, he's banishing Bolingbroke from the kingdom for ten years.
- Mowbray calls this "a heavy sentence" and compares his banishment to being imprisoned, since he doesn't speak any language but English, which won't be any use to him if he's sent to go live in a foreign country.
- Richard tells him it's no use whining – he's made up his mind and wants Mowbray gone ASAP.
- Richard tells both Bolingbroke and Mowbray to swear on the king's sword that they won't see each other, write to each other, or communicate ever again. Also, they have to swear that they'll never plot against him while they're banished. (Yeah right.)
- Bolingbroke tries to get Mowbray to fess up. He says he might as well tell the truth, since they're both banished anyway.
- Mowbray says if he's a traitor, his name should be crossed out from the book of life (in other words, he would be damned). He adds that he, like God, knows the truth about Bolingbroke. (In other words, nobody's about to admit anything.)
- Richard notices that John of Gaunt is really bummed out that his kid is getting booted out of the country.
- Richard makes what he thinks is a generous offer. He says that since Gaunt has been so loyal and is so old, he'll shorten Bolingbroke's banishment by four years so Henry can come back to England in six years instead of ten.
- Bolingbroke makes a smart-aleck crack about how powerful the "breath of kings" can be (since by uttering just a few official words, Richard can seemingly make four years of Henry's life go by in an instant.)
- Gaunt says Richard's offer is no good. Since he's super old, he'll probably be dead by the time his son gets to come home, even if the banishment is six years instead of ten.
- Richard tries to make Gaunt feel better and says something like, "Don't be silly, Gaunt, of course you'll be alive when Henry comes home."
- Gaunt's not having it. He points out that kings can shorten other people's lives (by sentencing them to death, etc.) but they can't make people live longer.
- Then Richard gets defensive. He says he's shocked to hear Gaunt say all of this, because Gaunt's the one who advised him to banish Bolingbroke and Mowbray in the first place.
- Gaunt's all, "Yeah, but when I said that I was hoping you'd step up and say that banishment is too harsh. Plus, you never should have asked me about punishing my own son."
- Richard tunes this out and tells Gaunt to say adios to his kid.
- Everyone says goodbye to Bolingbroke.
- Bolingbroke is silent.
- When Gaunt asks his son why he's being so quiet, Bolingbroke claims he doesn't have the right words to express his pain, so he's just not going to say anything at all.
- Gaunt tries to comfort him. He tells him to think of his banishment as an adventure and a place to get "honour." He suggests that Bolingbroke pretend the roles were reversed: "Think not the king did banish thee, / But thou the king." (Foreshadowing alert! Get your highlighters out, because this is important.)
- Bolingbroke says he's not in the mood to play "let's pretend."
- Then Bolingbroke says goodbye to England, and says at least he can say that he's "a trueborn Englishman."
Act 1, Scene 4
Read the full text of Richard II Act 1 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Aumerle reports to King Richard that he just escorted Bolingbroke to the edge of town, where things got a little awkward.
- Richard wants every juicy detail and is all, "Did anyone cry when Bolingbroke left?"
- Aumerle says he didn't cry, but a northeast wind might have made his eyes water. (Yep, Aumerle's being sarcastic all right.)
- Aumerle then tells the king that all Bolingbroke said in the end was "Farewell." Aumerle claims he didn't say anything back because he didn't want to be a phony by wishing him good luck. Instead, he pretended to be too sad to talk. (It's hard to tell whether this is true, or whether he's hiding his real feelings.)
- Richard is a teensy bit worried. The commoners really like Bolingbroke, who's sort of a man of the people. Banishing Bolingbroke could turn out to be a seriously bad PR move for Richard.
- Green chimes in that Richard's got much bigger fish to fry: the rebels in Ireland are acting up again.
- Richard snaps out of it and is all, "Ugh. Those Irish rebels are such a pain. Looks like I'll have to go to war myself."
- There's just one tiny problem: Richard is broke because he's spent so much money decorating his palace, buying fancy clothes, and tricking out his coaches with fancy rims and the best horses. It turns out there's not a lot of cash leftover for a war.
- We find out that Richard also did a dangerous thing: he basically mortgaged his right to tax the people in order to get a little extra money fast. This means he's letting his deputies collect money from the richest men. How the heck is he going to raise any money now?
- A man named Bushy comes in to announce that John of Gaunt is sick.
- Richard says the timing is perfect. Hopefully Gaunt will hurry up and die so Richard can snatch up his land and money and use it to fund the war in Ireland.
- Brain Snack: Legally Richard doesn't actually have a right to take Gaunt's land when the old man dies. According to a system called "primogeniture," the eldest son gets to inherit all of his father's land, wealth, and titles. So technically all of Gaunt's property should go to his oldest son, Henry Bolingbroke. This is important.
Act 2, Scene 1
Read the full text of Richard II Act 2 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At Ely House in London, John of Gaunt hangs out with the Duke of York.
- Gaunt is at death's door, and he says he hopes King Richard will listen to good advice if it comes from a dying man.
- York tells him it's useless. Richard's too busy listening to all the brown-nosers who only tell the king what he wants to hear.
- Gaunt prophesies that Richard is like a violent fire that will burn out too quickly and come to a bad end. (Sound familiar? Friar Laurence says something similar about the love affair between Romeo and Juliet: "These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder" (Romeo and Juliet, 2.6.1). By the way, Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet around the same time he whipped up Richard II. 1595 was a productive year.)
- Henry compares Richard to a cormorant, a greedy bird known for eating fish whole. Richard, Gaunt says, will end up eating England herself. He gives a gorgeous description of England, then laments that Richard has already mortgaged it like a "worthless farm."
- When the king and queen arrive, Gaunt puns on his name and describes himself as literally "gaunt," starving from grief because of his son's banishment.
- Richard is all, "Gee, Gaunt can't be that sick if he's got enough energy for witty wordplay."
- Gaunt answers that though he himself is sick, Richard is the one dying.
- Gaunt warns Richard that he is "in reputation sick," and that instead of seeking help from good doctors, he's entrusted his health to the very doctors who first made him ill. (Translation: Richard has surrounded himself with a bunch of brown-nosers, and this bad decision is destroying the country. If Richard doesn't watch out, he'll lose all his power.)
- Gaunt ends by calling Richard a landlord, not a king, since he's leased out royal lands to raise money.
- Richard gets all huffy and calls Gaunt a "lunatic lean-witted fool." He says the only thing saving Gaunt from being beheaded is the fact that he is Richard's uncle, brother to his father. (Yep, this is ironic all right. As we know, Richard has already had one of his uncles murdered.)
- Gaunt tells Richard not to bother sparing his life. He compares him to a bird again, this time a baby pelican.
- FYI – it was thought that mother pelicans wounded themselves to feed their ungrateful children on their own blood. Rather than call Richard "king," he calls him "my brother Edward's son" and accuses him of greedily drinking his ancestors' blood.
- Brain Snack: Shakespeare's monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, often used the pelican as a symbol of her maternal relationship with her subjects. But don't just take our word for it. 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.
- Gaunt dares Richard to go ahead and kill him. Then he makes a dramatic exit by demanding to be taken first to bed, then to his grave. Only men who have love and honor want to live; since he has neither, he wants to die.
- York tries to make excuses for Gaunt. He's all, "Hey – the old man misses his son and he's dying, so he's acting a little crazy right now." He tells Richard that Gaunt really loves him just as much as he loves his son Henry.
- Richard purposely misunderstands York and says something like, "Yeah, Gaunt's love for me is like Henry's 'love' for me." (Remember, Richard banished Henry for possible treason.)
- The Earl of Northumberland enters to announce that Gaunt has died. Richard is all, "It's about time!"
- Richard announces that he's going to seize all of Gaunt's property to help pay for the Irish wars.
- York (who, remember, is Gaunt's brother and Richard's uncle) feels things have gone too far. He tells Richard that up until now, he overlooked his brother Gloucester's death, Henry's banishment, England's troubles, and his own disgrace. Not anymore.
- York tells Richard that he's nothing like his father was, because his dad (King Edward) didn't go around killing his own relatives.
- Richard asks why York is all mad.
- York says he's got to be honest. It's totally not cool for Richard to steal Gaunt's property, which is supposed to go to his heir, Henry.
- York warns Richard that if he goes through with this, everyone's going to hate him – maybe even turn against him.
- Richard basically says, "But look at all the money!" York tells Richard he'll have nothing to do with it and leaves.
- Richard tells Bushy to start seizing Gaunt's property ASAP. Then he appoints York Governor of England while he's off at war in Ireland.
- Everyone exits except for Northumberland, Willoughby, and Ross.
- Willoughby, Northumberland, and Ross can't believe what the king has done. They're shocked that Henry's going to lose his inheritance after being banished from England. This is not fair, they say.
- Then they start to badmouth Richard and name all the reasons he's such a lousy king: he's stolen money from the nobility and he's also bankrupted England.
- Northumberland says he heard a rumor that Henry has just slapped together an army and is headed to England to challenge the king.
- Northumberland's on his way to hook up with Henry's army. Willoughby and Ross say they'll come too.
Act 2, Scene 2
Read the full text of Richard II Act 2 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At Windsor castle, Bushy tries to cheer up Queen Isabella, who seems sad and preoccupied now that her husband has run off to fight a war in Ireland.
- Isabella says she's worried that something terrible is about to happen, even though she can't quite put her finger on what it is that's bothering her.
- Brain Snack: In the play, Shakespeare makes Queen Isabella a grown-up, but historically she was only 7 years old when she married Richard and 10 when Henry Bolingbroke invaded.
- Bushy tells Isabella to chill out – she's just imagining things.
- But Isabella insists that her woman's intuition is correct and that something awful is about to go down.
- Then Green shows up and announces that... something awful has just gone down. Henry Bolingbroke has landed with a huge army at Ravenspurgh (a.k.a. Ravenspur), on the northeastern coast of England.
- Not only that, but a bunch of the English nobility have joined up with Bolingbroke against the king – including Northumberland, his son Henry Percy, Worcester, Ross, Beaumont, and Willoughby.
- York shows up dressed in battle gear and looking all serious and stressed out.
- Queen Isabella asks York for comfort.
- He says something like, "Sorry sweetie – I'm an old man and can barely comfort myself. Plus, I'm pretty busy trying to defend the kingdom while your husband's off fighting some silly war on Ireland."
- A Servingman shows up and announces that York's son Aumerle has run off, probably to hook up with Bolingbroke's army. (Remember Aumerle? He's the one who said he was glad Bolingbroke got booted out of England back in Act 1, Scene 4.)
- York orders the Servingman to go ask his sister-in-law (the Duchess of Gloucester) if he can borrow some cash so he can put together an army and confront Henry Bolingbroke.
- York's timing couldn't be worse. The Servingman tells him the Duchess won't be lending out money any time soon – she died about an hour ago.
- York is shocked. He says he wishes he had been beheaded along with his brother Gloucester.
- York wonders how to pay for the wars and asks his men to go rustle up some soldiers to help defend the kingdom against Bolingbroke. Then he worries about who he should be loyal to. On the one hand, Richard is his king, but both Richard and Bolingbroke are his family, and Richard was wrong to steal Bolingbroke's inheritance.
- Everyone leaves except Bushy, Green, and Bagot.
- Bushy and Green know that Richard is going down. They don't want to be anywhere near him when it happens, since Bolingbroke will likely come after them too. So they decide to hightail it to Bristol Castle to hide.
- Bagot says he'll go to the king in Ireland.
Act 2, Scene 3
Read the full text of Richard II Act 2 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The scene opens in Gloucestershire (a county in southwest England), where Bolingbroke and Northumberland are leading Henry's army toward Cotswold to meet up with Berkeley, Ross, and Willoughby (the other noblemen who have decided to join "Team Henry").
- Tip: Now would be a good time to take a look at this map to see how far Henry has marched (from Ravenspurgh to Gloucester).
- Northumberland's son Henry Percy shows up. He says Northumberland's brother Worcester left the court and is on his way to join Henry's army because Northumberland had been declared a traitor.
- Northumberland yells at his son for not showing Henry enough respect.
- Ross and Willoughby show up. Bolingbroke thanks them for coming and promises to reward them. For now he offers them all he has: his thanks.
- Berkeley arrives to deliver a message to Bolingbroke and calls him "my lord of Hereford" (since Henry is the Duke of Hereford).
- This irritates Bolingbroke, who replies he'll only answer to the name "Lancaster," the title Richard took away. (Remember, because Henry's dad has died, the dukedom of Lancaster was supposed to pass down to Henry, but then King Richard stepped in and stole the land.)
- Berkeley's message is from the Duke of York. It goes something like this: "Dear Henry, in case you forgot, you've been officially banished from England. So what the heck do you think you're doing showing up here with a big army? Love, Uncle York.)
- As Bolingbroke is about to reply, York appears in person. Bolingbroke kneels and calls him "uncle." York says, "show me thy humble heart, and not thy knee."
- York says he is "no traitor's uncle," and asks again why Bolingbroke has returned from his banishment to disturb England's peace while the "anointed King" is away.
- Bolingbroke is all, "Gee, Uncle York. What on earth have I done wrong?"
- Rebellion and treason, York says.
- Bolingbroke gets up off his knee, stands, and says that technically, he was banished as the Duke of Hereford. Since he's now the Duke of Lancaster, he should get to come home. After all, King Richard didn't say anything about the Duke of Lancaster being banished.
- Then Bolingbroke plays the dead dad card and tells his uncle York to cut him some slack.
- Bolingbroke also points out that if Richard can take away his inheritance, then maybe Henry should take away Richard's (the crown).
- Northumberland, Ross, and Willoughby join in and try to convince York that Bolingbroke has been wronged. York agrees in principle, but says that Henry shouldn't have shown up with an army. It sort of sends the wrong message.
- Northumberland chimes in that Henry has sworn to come only to claim his own property and not to take over England. (Get your highlighters out, because this is important.)
- York gives up. He says he's too weak to stop Henry from rebelling.
- It's late and Henry's army has had a big day, so York generously offers to let them all spend the night at the king's castle so they can be bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. (This is weird, right?)
- Bolingbroke is all, "Thanks Uncle York, but I need to get to Bristol Castle ASAP so I can take care of Bushy and Green. Why don't you come with?"
- York pauses. He really hates it when people like Henry break the laws of the land, but he finally agrees to go with Henry. (Hmm... If York is as loyal to the king as he says he is, why the heck is joining up with "Team Henry"?)
Act 2, Scene 4
Read the full text of Richard II Act 2 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- On the coast of Wales, a Welsh Captain and his troops have been waiting around for King Richard to show up so they can help him fight Henry Bolingbroke's army. (Remember, Richard has been in Ireland, and he's on his way back to England for a showdown with Henry.)
- The Captain tells the Earl of Salisbury that he's sick and tired of waiting for Richard. He's going to send all his men home if Richard doesn't show up in the next two seconds.
- When Salisbury begs him to stay just one more day, the Welsh Captain says forget about it. Everyone thinks the king is dead anyway.
- The Captain and his army leave.
- Salisbury notes that when Richard shows up he's going to be totally screwed, because he'll have little to no protection.
Act 3, Scene 1
Read the full text of Richard II Act 3 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- When the scene opens, Bolingbroke has captured Bristol Castle, where Bushy and Green have been hiding out.
- Bolingbroke doesn't want there to be any confusion, so he tells everybody why he's sentencing Bushy and Green to death.
- First Bolingbroke accuses Bushy and Green of corrupting the king and coming between him and his friends and family members (including Bolingbroke).
- Then, since no political drama is complete without a sexual scandal, Bolingbroke implies that Bushy and Green both had sex with Richard, making a "divorce betwixt his queen and him" by breaking "the possession of a royal bed."
- Finally, Bolingbroke says that Bushy and Green helped King Richard steal his land from him, which basically stripped Bolingbroke of his identity as a "gentleman." (Remember, a nobleman's name and all his power come from his land.)
- Bushy and Green say they'd rather die and go to heaven than live in England with Henry Bolingbroke running around.
- Bolingbroke orders Northumberland do his dirty work for him by making sure Bushy and Green are put to death. Northumberland is all over it.
- Bolingbroke turns to York and says he wants to make sure the queen is treated fairly. (How considerate of him.)
- Then he says something like, "Okay guys, time to get back to our uprising. If we work hard now, we can party later."
Act 3, Scene 2
Read the full text of Richard II Act 3 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Meanwhile, Richard and his crew have arrived at Harlech Castle, on the coast of Wales.
- Richard is grateful to be back on British soil. So grateful, in fact, that he bends down, picks up some dirt, and starts to sweet-talk the soil: "Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand."
- Then Richard asks the earth not to help the rebels – in fact, he hopes the earth will poison them with toads, spiders, and adders or make them march through "stinging nettles." (Is Richard just being poetic, or is he starting to lose it?)
- Carlisle reassures Richard that everything will be okay. Aumerle is less optimistic. He says Bolingbroke is growing stronger by the minute.
- Richard tells Aumerle that he's wrong and should pipe down. Richard says God gave him a right to rule England, so God will protect him.
- Salisbury comes in with some bad news: the group of Welsh soldiers that were supposed to meet Richard at Harlech Castle decided to leave and go home. Apparently they heard a rumor that Richard was dead. If Richard had arrived one day sooner, he would have had an army to back him up.
- Richard is shocked at the news, but not for long. He declares he is a king, gosh darn it, and a king's name is the same as forty thousand names! (Whatever that means.)
- Scrope comes in to deliver more bad news. Richard says he's prepared to hear the worst. Scrope tells him the entire kingdom (including old men, young boys, and women) has turned against him.
- Richard wants to know where his allies are so he can chop off their heads for letting this happen.
- Scrope tells him it's too late: they've already been beheaded by Henry Bolingbroke.
- Richard decides to give up. He gives a big speech about death and then sits down in the dirt and says it's time to "tell sad stories of the death of kings." (Get your highlighters out, because this is important too.)
- The Bishop of Carlisle tells Richard wise men don't whine. He needs to get his butt off the ground and fight!
- Richard seems like he's ready to take action, but then he hears that York has also joined Team Henry Bolingbroke.
- Hopeless, Richard decides to run away to Flint Castle, where he'll spend all his time moping around. He tells his advisors his mind is made up and forbids them to speak.
- Aumerle asks if he can just say one little thing.
- Richard says no.
Act 3, Scene 3
Read the full text of Richard II Act 3 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Bolingbroke, Northumberland, and York are outside Flint Castle talking about the news that King Richard has returned to England.
- Northumberland refers to King Richard as "Richard," omitting his title (oops!). York tells him it would be more respectful to refer to him as King Richard.
- Northumberland says "my bad" and explains that he was just trying to save time.
- York says there was a time when that kind of time-saving would have cost him his life. (And yes, the word "time" really shows up a lot in this conversation. What's up with that? Is Shakespeare telling us that Richard's time is about to run out?)
- Bolingbroke tells York not to worry; it was an innocent mistake and doesn't mean anything. York warns Bolingbroke not to push his luck.
- Henry Percy comes in to announce that the castle won't yield. It turns out King Richard is inside, with Aumerle, Salisbury, Scrope and a religious man.
- Bolingbroke tells Northumberland to go to the castle and give the king a message. It sounds like this: "Hey Richard, I'm back in England and hope we can get together for coffee. I'd like to talk to you about revoking my banishment and giving me back all the land you stole from me when my dad died. I'll even get on my knees and kiss your ring, so long as you come out of the castle peacefully. If not, I've got this giant army here with me and I'm not afraid to use it. Your Friend, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster.)
- Northumberland doesn't mind doing Henry's dirty work. He goes off to deliver the message.
- King Richard comes out and stands on the castle's walls with Carlisle, Scrope, and Salisbury.
- Bolingbroke looks up and says Richard looks the same way the "sun" does when it's about to get smothered up by a bunch of clouds. (Translation: Richard's not going to be king much longer. Go to "Symbols" for more about all this Richard being like the sun business.)
- Richard yells at Northumberland for not kneeling in his presence. Unless he can show that the hand of God has dismissed him from the throne, he's still king, and no other man can hold the scepter without being a thief or a usurper (someone who takes the throne illegally).
- Gaining steam, Richard 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 is an act of war.
- 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.
- King Richard agrees immediately to these terms but makes it clear that he's not happy about it.
- Northumberland goes back to Henry with the king's message.
- Meanwhile, Richard says, "O God, O God" and that he wishes he never banished Bolingbroke to begin with. Then Richard starts talking about himself in the third person and says he should just give up his "large kingdom for a little grave."
- Richard imagines being buried on the "King's highway," where suicides were buried, and which common people walk on every day.
- 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: a king obeying a traitor's orders.
- They meet. Bolingbroke gets on his knees, and Richard says he should get up and stop pretending he's not here to take the throne.
- Bolingbroke repeats that he's only come for what is his. Richard says Bolingbroke can have anything he wants. After all, Bolingbroke's got a giant army and enough power to take whatever he wants.
- Bolingbroke pretends that he won't take anything Richard doesn't willingly give him.
- Richard reaches out to his uncle, York, who is weeping, and asks him to dry his eyes, since tears will do no good. He tells Bolingbroke that although he is not his father, Bolingbroke is nevertheless his heir, and he'll willingly give him whatever he wants. (In other words, Richard has given up his power without a fight and recognizes Henry as the next King of England.)
- They head to London.
Act 3, Scene 4
Read the full text of Richard II Act 3 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- In her private garden, the queen chills out with her two ladies in waiting.
- They suggest lawn bowling and dancing and storytelling. She rejects them all.
- One lady offers to sing, and the queen answers that she'd rather hear her cry. The second lady offers to weep, and the queen says she'd sing if hearing her weep would help.
- A Gardener comes in with two men and starts ordering his workers around. He tells one of them to bind the apricot trees to give them more support. He tells the second one to prune some plants that are growing too fast.
- Then the landscapers start to talk politics. The first man asks why they should bother keeping the garden in such good order when the kingdom – a metaphorical garden – is in such a shambles.
- The Gardener says Bolingbroke has pulled up the "weeds" that were keeping the king weak. (He's talking, of course, about how Bolingbroke ordered the deaths of Bushy and Green, Richard's lousy advisors.)
- The second man is surprised to hear that Bushy and Green are dead. The Gardener explains that Bolingbroke has also taken the king prisoner.
- The Gardener says he wishes King Richard had been a better "gardener" of the kingdom. If he had "grown" loyal men and enjoyed the "fruits" of their duty, he would have kept the crown.
- The first man is surprised, and asks whether the king will be deposed (stripped of his crown). The Gardener answers yep, Richard's going to be tossed off the throne all right.
- Meanwhile, the queen has been eavesdropping on her gardeners, and she's not happy about what she hears.
- She jumps out of the bushes and yells at the Gardener, accusing him of being just like "Old Adam." (According to the Bible, Adam was the first man. He fell from God's grace and got kicked out of the Garden of Eden along with his wife, Eve. In other words, the queen thinks Richard's fall is worse than the fall of mankind, and she's blaming the Gardener for what's happened. We talk about this more in "Symbolism.")
- When she asks him where he heard this news, the Gardener apologizes but insists that what he said was true and is actually pretty common knowledge: Bolingbroke has all the English peers on his side.
- The queen is ticked off that she's the last person to find out about this. She curses the Gardener's plants, hoping they won't grow. (Um, okay.)
- The Gardener feels sorry for the queen and decides to plant some rue, an herb associated with compassion and repentance. He plants the stuff where one of the queen's tears fell.
Act 4, Scene 1
Read the full text of Richard II Act 4 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- 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.)
Act 5, Scene 1
Read the full text of Richard II Act 5 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The queen is waiting in a public street for the king to pass by on his way to the Tower of London, where he's going to be imprisoned.
- When the king appears, the queen compares him to a withering rose and hopes that those watching might dissolve into dew and refresh him with tears of love. (Aw, that's so sweet. But it's probably not going to happen, because we're pretty sure the people lined up on the streets are throwing rotten tomatoes at Richard.)
- Richard asks the queen not to grieve with him so as not to make his life end sooner from despair. He tells her to remember the good times as a happy dream.
- Richard tells his queen to go live in a convent in France and dedicate herself to religion.
- Surprised, the queen asks whether Richard has lost his mind. She tells him to act like a lion, not a whiny little schoolboy.
- Richard laughs at her characterization of him as "king of beasts" and says he wishes he governed anything but beasts. He tells her to go to France, tell stories, and proceed as if he were dead. He asks her to imagine this as his deathbed, their final goodbye.
- Northumberland shows up to tell Richard that Bolingbroke has changed his mind and wants him to go to Pomfret Castle instead of the Tower. He tells the queen she has been ordered to go France.
- Brain Snack: Pomfret Castle is sort of in the middle of nowhere, so basically Bolingbroke is sending Richard to the medieval equivalent of Siberia.
- Richard calls Northumberland the ladder Bolingbroke climbed to the throne and warns him that Bolingbroke will become suspicious of him once he's king. Once a man decides to depose a king, he might do it again. (Uh-oh. Looks like Shakespeare is trying to drop some hints about what's going to happen in the next play, Henry IV Part 1.)
- Northumberland says he can deal with his guilt and tells the king and queen to hurry up and say their goodbyes already.
- Richard exclaims that he's "doubly divorced": once from his queen, and once from his kingdom. To the queen he "unkisses" the oath they made.
- The queen asks Northumberland if Richard can join her in her banishment to France, instead of being locked up. Northumberland is all, "Um, that's not such a good idea." (If Richard and Isabella are together, they could have a child, who could one day make a claim to the throne.)
- The king and queen have a very sad parting scene, trading kisses and, metaphorically, hearts.
Act 5, Scene 2
Read the full text of Richard II Act 5 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The Duchess asks York to finish telling her about their two cousins' (Richard and Bolingbroke) arrival in London.
- He had left off telling her about the people throwing dust and garbage on Richard's head from their windows. Bolingbroke, York continues, rode on horseback and was welcomed by the people.
- The Duchess asks where Richard was riding. York compares Richard's appearance after York to an actor who shows up onstage after the star has left. No one welcomed him. They threw dust at him, which he shook off patiently.
- Despite all of this, York says, heaven had a hand in it all, and he and she are sworn subjects of Bolingbroke's now.
- Aumerle comes in, and York laments his friendship with Richard, since he's now been stripped of his title. He tells his wife their son isn't Aumerle anymore. He's the Earl of Rutland.
- The Duchess welcomes her son and asks him "who are the violets now?" – meaning, who is in favor at the new court? Aumerle says he doesn't know or care. York warns him to be careful or he'll be "cropped" before his time.
- York notices a seal around his son's neck and asks to read it. Aumerle tries to stop him but York insists and finds evidence of a conspiracy against Bolingbroke.
- Furious, York tells a Servingman to saddle his horse. He swears to denounce his son. The Duchess, perplexed, asks what's going on. Aumerle tells her their son will have to pay for his treachery with his life. York calls for his boots. The serving man arrives with the boots. The Duchess tells Aumerle to hit the serving man. He doesn't, and she tells the serving man to go away.
- The Duchess asks York whether he won't hide his son's mistakes, pointing out they're unlikely to have any more sons. York calls her a madwoman and asks whether she really wants to hide "this dark conspiracy" to kill the king at Oxford.
- The Duchess suggests they keep their son at home and prevent his participation. York refuses and says he would denounce him if he were twenty times his own son.
- The Duchess replies that he would have more pity if he had delivered him himself, and accuses York of suspecting that Aumerle isn't his own son. (She implies that he's accusing her of being unfaithful.) She swears she's been loyal and points out that Aumerle takes after his dad's family more than hers.
- York tells her to get out of his way and goes. The Duchess tells Aumerle to try to get to the king before his father does and beg his pardon. She plans to go too.
Act 5, Scene 3
Read the full text of Richard II Act 5 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- King Henry (Bolingbroke) asks if anyone has had news of his son, whom he hasn't heard from for three months. He calls him a "plague" hanging over the new kingdom and orders a search of the taverns, where the prince is known to hang out with criminals.
- Henry Percy replies that he saw him two days ago and told him about the combat trials at Oxford. He says the prince made a crack about going to the brothels instead.
- King Henry hopes his kid will grow up someday.
- Aumerle walks in, dazed, and asks where the king is. King Henry asks him why he's acting all crazy. Aumerle says he wishes to speak to the king alone. Henry orders everyone else out.
- Aumerle begs for forgiveness. King Henry asks whether the offense is "intended" – that is, still in the planning stages, or done. If only intended, he'll forgive him. Aumerle asks for permission to lock the door so that no one can enter until he finishes his confession.
- Henry allows this. Aumerle locks the door just as York starts banging on the door from outside, yelling to King Henry that he's locked in with a traitor.
- Henry draws his sword on Aumerle, who tells him he has no reason to fear. York yells to the king to open the door. King Henry unlocks it and asks York to tell him what's going on. York shows him the paper Aumerle had around his neck.
- Aumerle reminds the king of his promise to forgive him for an intended offense and says he repents.
- York calls his son a villain and asks the king not to take pity on him.
- King Henry, shocked, praises York's honesty and calls Aumerle a "deadly blot." York says his son has spent his honor with his shame. He insists that by allowing his son, a traitor, to live, the king would be killing him, an honest man.
- The Duchess arrives and begs King Henry to allow her inside. Henry tells Aumerle to let her in, and York warns him again that by letting Aumerle live, the rest of the body will be infected.
- The Duchess addresses the king. York asks her if she wishes to raise another traitor. She kneels in front of the king and says she will walk forever on her knees unless he pardons her son. Aumerle kneels too, joining his prayers to hers. York kneels against them both, asking for Aumerle's punishment.
- The Duchess accuses York of false prayers and hypocrisy. Henry tells her to stand up. She tells him to say "pardon" first, and then she'll stand.
- York asks the king to say "pardonne-moi," a polite refusal. The Duchess points out that Henry hates French – they should just talk to the king in plain English.
- Henry finally pardons Aumerle, but orders the destruction of the rest of his group of traitors.
Act 5, Scene 4
Read the full text of Richard II Act 5 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At Windsor Castle we bump into a guy named Exton.
- Exton thinks he just heard King Henry say the following: "Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?" But Exton's not sure he heard right, so he double checks with a servant, who says yep – Henry said that all right.
- Exton points out that King Henry was looking right at him when he said this and decides he was secretly ordering him to kill Richard.
Act 5, Scene 5
Read the full text of Richard II Act 5 Scene 5 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- In prison at Pomfret Castle, Richard gives a long, weird, but very poetic speech about his loneliness. He says he can't compare his prison to the rest of the world because the world is full of people and he is all alone in prison. Then he imagines that his brain is female and his soul is male. If his brain and soul could get together and breed, he could "people" (fill up) his prison with a bunch of his thoughts. (We told you this was a weird speech.)
- Then he imagines digging his way out of his walls and takes comfort in imagining other people who have also suffered. In this way he plays the roles of many people, though none of them are happy. Sometimes he is a king and wishes he were a beggar, since beggars are immune to treason. But poverty makes him think he was better off as king. In the end, he decides no man will be happy until he is "eased with being nothing" – that is, dead.
- A Groom (someone who takes care of horses) comes in and tells Richard that he just saw Henry riding Richard's old horse through the streets on his way to be officially crowned king.
- Richard asks how "Barbary" behaved under his new master. Proudly, the groom says. Richard declares that his horse is an ingrate and a traitor.
- A Keeper comes in with a dish of food and tells the Groom to leave. (Uh-oh.)
- The Groom reluctantly does so.
- The Keeper invites Richard to chow down, but Richard thinks this isn't a great idea. Maybe the Keeper should taste the food first, just to see what will happen.
- The Keeper says he doesn't dare: Sir Piers of Exton, who comes from the king, told him not to.
- Richard figures the plate of food has been poisoned. He declares, "The devil take Henry of Lancaster and thee!" and attacks the Keeper.
- Exton and four of his servants rush in. Richard snatches one of the servants' weapons and kills him with it. (Wow. Who knew Richard had it in him?)
- Then Richard kills another.
- Then Exton stabs Richard.
- Richard's not about to go down quietly. He accuses Exton of staining "the king's own land" with royal blood. Then he dies.
- Exton admires Richard's courage and says he feels kind of bad about killing the former king. He wishes he hadn't done it.
- They exit with the dead bodies.
Act 5, Scene 6
Read the full text of Richard II Act 5 Scene 6 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Henry chills at his new pad, Windsor Castle.
- We find out that there's been a rebel uprising against Henry. The rebels have burned down the town of Cirencester, but Henry hasn't heard whether they've been captured or killed.
- Northumberland comes in to announce that he just had a bunch of Henry's enemies beheaded (Salisbury, Spencer, Blunt, and Kent). Their heads have been Fed-Exed to London.
- Henry is grateful. He says he owes Northumberland a solid.
- Fitzwater comes in to say that two more traitors, Brocas and Seely, have also been beheaded.
- Henry promises not to forget his service.
- Henry Percy comes in with Carlisle as his prisoner. Westminster, he reports, is dead.
- The king tells Carlisle that, despite being his enemy, he's got to give him props for being so brave and honorable. Instead of beheading Carlisle, Henry says he can spend the rest of his days under house arrest.
- Exton enters with a coffin and is all "Ta da! Here's Richard and he's DEAD, just like you wanted!"
- Henry is all, "OMG! Richard's dead? Why did you kill him!"
- Exton's confused, since he got the order straight from Henry's mouth.
- Henry waffles. He admits that he wanted Richard dead, but now that he is he hates the man who murdered him.
- Henry banishes Exton. (We're guessing that just looking at Exton makes Henry feel all guilty.)
- Henry quickly thinks up a way to make up for all of sins: he decides to start a Holy War so God will forgive him. (Hmm, we wonder how that's going to work out.)
- They all exit, carrying out the big, creepy coffin.
- To be continued in Henry IV Part 1...