“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.


6 thoughts on “

  1. faithkinne

    I think your points are all very valid. I think its also important to take notice of the fact that King Richard is extremely selfish. He is only unfazed by Gaunt's death because it means more money for Kind Richard to put towards the war on Ireland. It is clear that Kind Richard is abusing his power immensely, as you mentioned in your blog post. King Richard is building up lots of bad karma.

  2. Brittany M

    I agree with the point you make about King Richard’s hypocrisy in bearing the symbol of lion. The lion is depicted as a powerful and proud beast, unmatched in dignity and strength, yet it is made clear that King Richard displays neither of these qualities. Despite his self-assured appearance, he is an insecure king at best who claims that his power is unquestionable, yet he fears the accumulating popularity and support Bolingbroke is acquiring which could make him a stronger competitor than King Richard himself. As far as the lion being associated with the concept of family, we can clearly see he doesn’t represent this concept of valuing the royal blood in his family. It is heavily implied he ordered the murdering of Thomas Woodstock, his cousin, and his behavior surrounding John of Gaunt’s death is detestable. Richard’s first thought upon hearing that the Duke of Lancaster has died is that he will use the inheritance money that should go to Bolingbroke to pay for the jackets his soldiers will wear in the war with Ireland. Where is his sense of familial rights in honoring Bolingbroke’s claiming of his title and inheritance? The king is by no means an embodiment of the lion emblem he bears.

  3. Jacey Lawler

    I love how you associated the lion emblem with a “pride” of lions. I didn’t even think of the lion usage in that manner. I strictly imagined it as being a symbol of power. It is interesting how the footnote also notes the leopard being on the heraldic banner of Mowbray, thus making it his ancestor’s symbol. Mowbray states: “The purest treasure mortal times afford/Is spotless reputation…” (1.1.177-178). These lines nicely play off the idea of spots a leopard is decorated with. It is fascinating that leaving a “spotless” or ideal legacy is spoken to King Richard, the character most distanced from a pure legacy.

  4. Ally Farzetta

    I think you make a great point! I would even compare the lion's pride on a grander scale to the country of England. In addition to (literally and metaphorically) severing his family ties, he is also mutilating the pride of his homeland. It is clear that the older generation (Gaunt, York, etc.) treated the country of England as their flesh and blood. Now that the new generation holds the power, England is sold off and shamed in an attempt to pay for a bloody and costly war. It is clear that Richard does not treasure the Pride/family of England like the generation before him did. He is willing to "kill off" the country that has birthed him just like he is willing to kill off the blood relatives that created him. In Richard's case, the lion should certainly not be the symbol for royalty.

  5. Natalie Giuliano

    I picked up on the animal references as well, especially the first quote you included. Richard likes to talk a big game but is careless with the details of the situation. He deems himself leader of the pack yet pays no attention to the commoners he rules over. I like your metaphorical approach to the family unit as a Pride of Lions –and a faulty one at that. We indeed witness the pride dissipating as Richard's flaws become clearer and clearer. His neglect and inability to see beyond himself foreshadow the later events that ensue. Bolingbroke sweeps in, taking full advantage of Richard's blind spots. Richard is off displaying his power and ferocity in Ireland while neglecting his own country. In order to win battles elsewhere, a king must have a solid foundation/homeland –King Richard is destroying his land and taxing his people for momentary, narcissistic pleasure. He is leader of the pride, but only takes on surface responsibilities. Bolingbroke, on the other hand, actually relates to the people of the nation.

  6. kateconti

    I like how you prove that this royal family is just as raw and primitive as a pack of lions. It is interesting to think that Shakespeare had this idea in his head while he wrote King Richard. Keeping that in mind, we need to see the characters in that light. Shakespeare calls careful attention to the idea that this royal family is representative of a pack of lions. He brings the idea up numerous times. The reader need to understand that the motives behind there actions are as straight forward as that of an actual wild animal. Shakespears' characters do not hold back and are as unpredictable as a lion.


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