“It’s a Jungle Out There”
While reading the first 2 acts of Richard II, I was struck by the animal reference and began to think about what the animals brought to mind. Richard says, “Lions make leopards tame” (1.1.176). The foot note in the Norton explains that “Lions were the King’s emblem”; Lions are usually associated with royalty, but they are also usually associated with a Pride, with Family. However, King Richard does not seem to care about his family at all. It is implied that he probably ordered the murder of his uncle, Thomas Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. He also sets up a clever rouse exile the two men that threaten him the most. One is his cousin, Bollinbroke and the other is the man who killed Woodstock, Thomas Mowbray. It is clear that family means nothing to the King if he can order the death of his uncle and purposefully banish his cousin to keep the execution covered up.
The King’s remaining relatives do not like him either. John of Gaunt, another of Richard’s uncles, is suspicious of Richard’s role in the death of his brother Woodstock. He eventually grows to hate him after the King banishes his son Bollinbroke. Gaunt pleaded for his son but Richard would not hear of it (1.3). Gaunt becomes sick with grief after the death of his brother and the exile of his son and he says, “Ill in myself to see, and in thee seeing ill” (2.1.94). Gaunt has finally seen the evil in King Richard. Gaunt dies after telling Richard this and the King is unfazed. He has no remorse or sadness over the death of his family member, he just moves onto the business at hand, the war in Ireland.
Another of the King’s uncles, the Duke of York, begins to see how Richard is abusing the crown and his power. The king wants to unfairly take away Bollinbroke’s rights and money after his father (Gaunt) dies. The Duke of York states, “Ah, how long Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong?/ Not Gloucester’s death, nor Hereford’s banishment,/ Not Gaunt’s rebukes, nor England’s private wrongs” (2.1.1164-167), he is listing out all the misdeeds Richard has done and in the same speech he makes reference to Richard’s father, his brother Edward, and how King Edward would never do what Richard has done. The Duke of York stays with him because he is loyal to the law not necessarily to Richard. Richard has alienated (or killed off) his whole family. This is a stark contrast to the idea of Pride of Lions, a tight knit family unit.