“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” – Sir Walter Scott

King Richard II secretly ordered the death of Woodstock beginning a web of confusion and mistrust. Because kings are considered divinely chosen, both Bolingbroke and Mowbray are forced to keep the secret. They accuse each other of the crime even though both knows the truth. They are both angered at the others accusations and decide to toke to matter to the king directly. Richard, knowing the truth, tries to encourage the men to resolve the matter peacefully. Unwilling to resolve things peacefully, both men insist upon a fight for honor; honor that is owed to both at the expense of the king.
At the fight, the king once again tries to untangle his web by throwing down his warder (staff) to halt the fight and end the disagreement without the unnecessary death of either man. Richard decides to banish both men but adds a swear to “Nor never by advised purpose meet/ To plot, contrive, or complot any ill/ ‘Gainst us, our state, our subjects, or our land.”(1.3.182-184) This is a foreshadow of coming web entanglements.
In 1.1.115, the king proclaims his ability to be impartial. Then after banishing Mowbray permanently, Mowbray leaves and Gaunt pleas with Richard for his son’s punishment to be reduced. The web weaver tangles his web some more by shortening the banishment to only six years.
In this brief portion of the play, the web of lies and deception are woven large already; with several acts to go, will the web get larger? Will it break? Or will it be untangled?

5 thoughts on ““Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” – Sir Walter Scott

  1. ShaynaGreenspan

    I really like the points that you bring up and how there is much deception throughout the play. I think an even greater emphasis is on who can “outwit” the other when in reality neither the King nor Mowbray or Bolingbroke are that clever, based on their actions. Your questioning of if the lies and deceit and if it will get larger, almost doesn’t seem like a question to me, rather when and how. I also found it very strange that the King reduced the banishment of Mowbray’s banishment to six years because it seemed useless. Was this reducing of Mowbray’s punishment done to make us feel different towards the King for a split second? Or was this intentionally put in there to reinforce the fact that most everything the King does is pointless?

  2. alexatirapelli

    I love this web analogy. It makes Richard seem much more like an evil spider, spinning around all of these secret plots into a giant master plan. Your description seems to work in a way that makes me think all of these small things Richard is doing now will come back later on in the plot to blow up in his face. I like that you also mentioned that kings are “divinely chosen” and that is why the two men do not challenge Richard; they think that he is close to God. This brings an important power to Richard’s character that seems as though it will never be challenged. By this, I’m saying that it seems as if no one will be able to deceive him because they would in turn be deceiving god himself. I also wonder what will happen to this “web”. Guess we’ll just have to keep reading!

  3. deabarbieri

    I like how you point out the King’s deception and manipulation throughout these first few scenes of the play. He’s gotten himself into quite a situation with Mowbray and Bolingbroke, as well as in foreign affairs which he doesn’t have adequate funds for. The king is very underhanded in his motivations and actions, which I think will continue to be a crucial flaw in the upcoming scenes.

  4. Pingback: On Leaving Mrs. Brown’s Lodgings By Sir Walter Scott | Renard Moreau Presents

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