Bolingbroke v. Richard: How should we feel?

      Throughout the play, I wasn’t sure how to feel about Bolingbroke. In the beginning of the play, he is returning from a six year exile that Richard sentenced him to after an argument between him and Mowbray. When he is gone, his father passes away. Richard uses Bolingbroke’s inheritance for the impending war on the Irish. When Richard leaves his land due to the war, Bolingbroke assembles an army and takes over a portion of Richards land. The people of England are angry at the way Richard is running the country, and as a result are loyal to Bolingbroke; “The King’s grown bankrupt like a broken man” (2.1.258). Upon Richards return he learns that he has few followers left. When Richard realizes this, he knows that there could be a battle and in an effort to avoid it, promises Bolingbroke the throne; “Cousin, I am too young to be your father, Though you are old enough to be my heir. What you will have I’ll give, and willing too; For do we must what force will have us do” (3.4.202-206). Shortly after Bolingbroke claims the throne, he forces King Richard to separate his wife; “Queen: And must we be divided? Must we part? Richard: Ay, hand from hand, my love, and heart from heart” (5.1.81-82). While being held prisoner, Exton, a man very loyal to the King, murders Richard; “Hath with the kings blood stained the King’s own land. Mount, mount, my soul; thy seat is up on high, Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die” (5.5.110-112). Exton kills Richard without King Henry ordering him to because he knew the King’s hatred for Richard; “Exton, I thank thee not, for thou hast wrought A deed of slander with thy fatal hand…Though I did wish him dead, I hate the murderer, love him murdered. The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labour” (5.6.34-41). Even though King Henry feels guilty that Richard was murdered he is still happy he is dead.
         Throughout the play, it is evident that readers may not have a clear understanding of the two characters. Richard has done wrong to his country and to Bolingbroke by stealing money that was not his to have. Bolingbroke, however, practically forced Richard into giving him the thrown, just to force him to leave his wife and keep him prisoner. How are readers supposed to feel towards Richard and Bolingbroke? Both men have done horrible things to other people, especially to each other (Arguably one more than the other). I, for one, am still not set on how I feel about the two men. Both have done wrong, and as we all know too well- two wrongs don’t make a right!

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3 thoughts on “Bolingbroke v. Richard: How should we feel?

  1. Nicole Wissler

    I agree with you in the fact that both men have arguably done wrong to one another, but I have to argue that at least Bolingbroke's was for good. He stands up for what he believes in and is backed up by a whole kingdom. He has to be doing something right to have them all in favor of his take over. Since it is seen as a sin to go against your king the people have to have been in very mistreated to go against their leader. I think that Bolingbroke has good intentions for the most part when he decides to get Richard off the throne. After watching a video of the ending scene I really think that Bolingbroke really was upset that Richard was murdered. I do not think he wanted anyone to get hurt but instead just do what was right for all. I commend Bolingbroke for fighting for what was rightfully his and for what the people really wanted.

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  2. Malissa Arjoon-Jerry

    At the beginning I thought that Bolingbroke was actually coming back just for his land. But rather than Richard giving Bolingbroke the throne, couldn't he have continued his reign over England and when he was about to die, give the throne over to Bolingbroke? I agree that two wrongs don't make a right, but no one can really understand what these men really wanted. Richard felt guilty about what he was doing to England and Bolingbroke was put into a position he didn't know how to handle.

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  3. Cyrus Mulready

    There is an ambiguity at the end of the play about Richard and Bolingbroke, and one that is difficult to resolve. You do a nice job here, Faith, examining the various moments in the play that raise this problem. I hope we'll be able to get some insight to this question in our readings of the rest of the plays in the tetralogy.

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