Down with the King

This is my first time reading Shakespeare’s Richard II and so far I am not in favor of the king. From act I we see that he is not very respected, he had little control over the feud between Bolingbroke and Mowbray. The king orders them to stop only to see that neither party was going to back down, “We were not born to sue but command/ which since we cannot do… (1.1.196-97) what does this lack of respect say about his subjects? I think it says how they simply don’t wish to be ruled by Richard. It was at this point where I was still on Richard’s team until I learned why there was the feud between Mowbray and Bolingbroke. Mowbray is accused of being a traitor; he didn’t protect the Duke of Gloucester from being murdered. This is because he could not tell his king that he knows he was the one that had a hand in the death of his uncle, Duke of Gloucester. This turns the story into showing how ruthless and deceiving King Richard II is.

In order to take control back of the feud between both men, Richard decides to have a formal dual between them. As it is time for the dual to begin, we see Richard stop and go straight to sentencing them. Why does he do this? Maybe to show them both and everyone there that he has the final say what will go on and he does not want there to be a formal dual like he said in the first place. King Richard only thinks of himself and how he looks to others. This is evident when he changes Bolingbroke’s sentencing from ten years down to six years. The king claims it is for his sad uncle John of Gaunt’s sake because he can’t bare to see him so upset. In actuality it is because Richard is well aware of how popular Bolingbroke is with Londoners and does not want to be unfavorable to them. Richard disguises genuine concern with his own selfish plans.
Richard makes it clear that he knows how loved his cousin Bolingbroke is with the people, “how he did seem to dive into their hearts” (1.4.24). It was really in Richard’s best interest to send him away so it does not interfere with his reign. Richard makes a comment that Bolingbroke is foolish to waste his time saying goodbye to peasants. This is the difference between both characters, Bolingbroke understand that you get more with honey than you do with vinegar.

We see another lovely side of Richard when we see that he wants to go to war with Ireland. This of course is to make sure that he has no one trying to take his crown so to war it is. How to pay for it? Oh just tax everyone and rent out parts of England. This whole plan just shows how little he actually cares about the people he rules over. He rules them and he is always in favor of himself. When poor Gaunt is on his death bed his nephew Richard is thrilled of the news, “the lining of his coffers shall make coats to deck our soldiers for these Irish wars” (2.1.60-61). This proves that he doesn’t care about his uncle, never cared about making his uncle happy by lowering the sentence either. It was all for show to make him look good in front of everyone else. Now, when push comes to shove, and his uncle is lying on the death bed we do not see any emotion of sadness. Richard is immediately thinking about how he can use his uncle’s money to help him in the war in Ireland.

Richard is a real sweetheart.


One thought on “Down with the King

  1. lauriegrl14

    Hi Amanda,
    After reading Act 1, it left me questioning King Richards intentions. The biggest question I pondered was the dual between Bolingbroke and Mowbray. Why did the King challenge the his two noblemen to a dual? Why did he stop it before it started? After reading your post I think I have a better understanding why King Richard did what he did. I hadn’t considered that he was taking back control over the hostile situation between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, perhaps he felt that he didn’t have control or power over the situation, after all he was King. The two noblemen were certainly ready for a fight and it didn’t seem as if either were going to listen to their King and back off one another. Now it seems to make more sense to me that he was taking back the control of the situation. But why did he stop the fight? Was it for the same reason? Was it to prove that he had the power? Or perhaps he had a better understanding of the consequences if Mowbray won and remained in England. Perhaps he felt threatened by Mowbray. Maybe Mowbray really knows what happened to Richard’s uncle. And if Bolingbroke won and remained in England, Richard would not have access to his uncles money and property which he needs to fund the war in Ireland. So I guess the best solution to all his problems was to run the both of them out of the country.


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