Bonds… Blood Bonds

We spoke a lot about bonds in our discussion of Taming of the Shrew and I find this topic coming up again in Richard II.  The scene that really caught my attention was 5.3, when a conflict of interest occurs in regards to bonds.  The Duke of York discovers that his son Aumerle, (now Rutland), was to take part in a plot to kill the king, and was contractually bound by his own signature.  However, Aumerle goes back on his word and begs forgiveness from his cousin Henry IV, and the Duchess does so as well on her son’s behalf.  The Duchess of York makes her argument in favor of the bonds between blood. Blood is family and family is love. During our class discussion, we spoke of the complications that arise from being directly related to the king. I was personally pleasantly surprised that Henry IV decided to pardon his cousin. But did he act justly?

Not according to the Duke of York, he didn’t. In class, the idea was brought up that York was the conscience of the play, and after this scene I believe that wholeheartedly.  He was willing to rat out and sacrifice his own son if it meant that justice would be served. Unlike his wife, York is more concerned with being bound by duty and honor rather than blood. If we consider the Duchess’s argument to be a feminine take on the matter, and the Duke’s more masculine, what does that say about Henry IV as a king? Will he be seen as weak in the eyes of his people? Or is he just trying to distance himself from Richard, to whom the bonds of family meant nothing? Maybe Henry wants to prove that he is not someone who would banish his own cousin and steal their inheritance.

I found the Duchess’s argument particularly moving. “His eyes drop no tears, his prayers are in jest./ His words come from his mouth, ours from our breast./ He prays but faintly, and would be denied;/ We pray with heart and soul, and all beside./… His prayers are full of false hypocrisy;/ Ours of true zeal and deep integrity…” (5.3.99-106). It made me question why York was so quick to sell put his son. We learn earlier in the act that Aumerle has been stripped of his dukedom for siding with Richard.  Does York see this as his son’s loss of masculinity? Is he ashamed? And will he be ashamed Henry for pardoning Aumerle? Henry is giving his family member special treatment, since he still resolves to punish the others involved in the conspiracy. I guess this answers a question I asked in my post about Romeo and Juliet; for Henry, blood bonds are stronger than a signature on paper or any other written law.


5 thoughts on “Bonds… Blood Bonds

  1. pamsutherland

    I think that by keeping Aumerle alive Henry is only playing an act to show the people that he is a good king. All of his actions thus far have been all show. He shows up with an army (when the king and army are away) to reclaim his inheritance. An army is excessive for the task yet he has them. He is a very smart talker and gets people to listen to what he says and to believe him. York was easily convinced of the king’s wrong doing and allowed Bolingbroke to stay and tend his business. The act of allowing his cousin to live was just another in this long line of ploys to get the people to see him as a caring and sensible king. Henry was also happy to have Richard dead but could not have the death on his hands because it made him look bad (so he threw a fit and went to the holy land to cleanse himself).
    I do not think he acted with compassion towards the bonds of blood. It was just an act.

  2. paragwagle

    This play makes you throw family connections out of the window. York gave up his own son, after finding the letter to kill the king. Richard II banished his own cousin, Bolingbroke. He also wanted his uncle, John of Gaunt dead so he could take his land and money. There’s also Bolingbroke having a possible hand in the murder of Richard II. It doesn’t matter who you are, the race for greed and power overcomes all.

  3. gmedulla727

    I love that you brought this up because I too found it to be strange that York took the side of the law over his son. I understand the law is the law, but it is your son, don’t you think you should do some research York? I don’t have any kids, but I have siblings and I get offended if someone tells me something negative about them. No one is perfect, but I found it strange that he did not really look into this issue. All of the family values in this play are meaningless. The crown is about blood and being related to royalty, but what good is it if you can’t even love and appreciate the people who made you all-powerful? Everyone involved in this royal family seems corrupt in some way, and yes I even think York is suspicious. I don’t know why, but something is strange about him. I guess I’ll find out more about my intuitions in the next play.

  4. VincentFinoWriting

    Interesting post, Coleen, and it’s certainly sparked discussion. I fee like we often read York’s character in relation to our modern idea of family, which is most often our nuclear circle, and then expanded to aunts and uncles. We, as a society, strongly put our blood first, and would even lie to the law (not incriminating myself, just posing an example) or do something equally as dangerous to protect our nuclear family. Therefore, we abhor York’s actions regarding his son, or at least I do.

  5. mcoh31g

    I predicted York would get in some strange predicament where he was forced to choose between his family and the law. Although it is his son, the man respects the place he lives and respects the laws. Do I agree with York’s action? No, a law is just a law; it is not some ingrained legitimate fact blessed on the very grounds they walk on. Although family has a link of blood and history. I think York symbolizes the type of proud and dedicated citizen during this time who respected the law at ALL costs.


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