Richard, A Weak King?

Sam Montagna
Shakespeare II
Professor Mulready
5 March 2012
Richard, A Weak King?
A typical king is supposed to be strong enough to be able to handle the struggles of his people. The king is divinely chosen and has the ultimate power over his people. To go against the king was to go against God. However, what if the king is not right for the job? Is overthrowing him going against God? Or is God appointing a new king in favor of the old one? It is clear that Richard has power, but is he necessarily cut out for his job? Richard has ultimate power but does he cross the line when he aims to seize Hereford’s inheritance to pay for the war in Ireland? Does it make him a coward to banish the two men who may know the truth about the Duke of Gloucester’s death? Or is he just protecting himself in the only way he can? A king and leader should be clear about his motives to keep the loyalty of his people. After his plan to fight Ireland failed and his power and faith in himself dwindled quickly after banishing Bolingbroke and Mowbray. Bolingbroke comes back to England after being exiled to reclaim his inheritance and Richard does nothing about it. He, instead, names Bolingbroke his heir. Richard then makes a speech similar to Shylock’s speech from The Merchant of Venice. Richard declares himself no different than any other man even though he is king. Richard states “I live with bread, like you; feel want, taste grief, need friends. Subjected thus, how can you say to me I am a king?” (1016.171-173). This statement is true for every king but Richard admits it. In other people’s or other kings’ eyes, that confession may make him less of a king. Richard’s humanity can be viewed as a weakness and it can justify why he is, in fact, weak. Richard gives up his throne without any fight. History states that a king will typically defend his throne to the death. Richard hands it over and wishes Bolingbroke “many years of sunshine days” (1028.211). These actions mean that either Richard was not a good king, realized that his time was up and went gracefully or he simply did not want to fight for his throne, especially since Bolingbroke was gaining so much leverage. This event reminds me of the Glorious Revolution which occurs in England. The crown changes hand without bloodshed. This behavior is far from king-like, however. Richard can be considered the King of England who did not act like a king.

One thought on “Richard, A Weak King?

  1. Nicole Wissler

    I think what came down to it with Richard giving up the throne without a fight was that he cut his losses while he was ahead. He knew there was no reason to fight because it was impossible to win. No one was on his side at this point and he knew that he was wrong. He took Bolingbrokes money to pay for a war and his people were wronged by him. He did not seem to care about anything but himself. He became king at such a young age so he really was not set up to be a good ruler in the first place. Perhaps Richard knew that Bolingbroke would be a better king then he would be since he has already gained the trust of the people. Its hard to say what makes a good king. Could you really blame Richard for being so weak? The odds were just not in his favor so giving up the throne seemed like the smartest thing he could have done for himself and his people. In the aspect of going against God, how could someone be ruled by the appointed man of God who is treating them so badly? Perhaps Bolingbroke can be seen as a messenger of God to take over the throne and save the people from harm. I do not see what Bolingbroke did as a sin, I see it as him being a savior if I had to define it religiously.


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