Crowns of Power Can Taint the Minds of Any Man

The entirety of act four was a layout of previous predictions I made.  I had said that there would most likely be such a revolt by the people if the king, the person who was supposed to be the one who put the well-being of the people and their kingdom ahead of himself, did not find original honor of his position.  That original honor is what the title of king, previously expressed, stands for.  The entire play was a lead up to the moment when Richard’s crown would be taken.  The reality of what has led to that moment, though, seems to have escaped from Richard’s view: he clearly does not see the injustices made on his part as having done wrong.

            When Bolingbroke seizes the crown, it is done so through more assumption than violence.  It is assumed by Richard that if Bolingbroke is capturing him then he must surrender his crown, and it seems to play out as such an event because of this assumption.  When Bolingbroke takes power, it seems as though in his mind he is taking it for the good of the people.  And while that may be the intention, it’s clear that there are some self-serving motivations occurring.  While there is an understanding for this (Richard having stolen his inheritance and dishonored his father, family, home, and name), Bolingbroke should still take caution.  The men who stood so faithful and diligent by the side of their now demeaned king are at his side now, supposedly just as diligent and devoted; it’s something that he should be mindful of. 

            Unlike Bolingbroke, the audience is aware of the aspiring conspiracies.  So when the names of those who are planning to murder him come out, the surprise is mostly within the realm of Bolingbroke’s mind as opposed to everyone’s.  It’s almost as though a circle has come about, the way in which Richard had taken the thrown (supposedly) and how now Bolingbroke has now; how most of Richard’s loyal men betrayed him and are not behind Bolingbroke (they’re probably standing behind him with a dagger held up high, ready to plunge it down when the time seems right).  The main difference though would be that there were some better intentions on Bolingbroke’s part for seizing the crown, but there still lays some selfishness nonetheless.  Maybe that’s something that Shakespeare wanted to point out.  That no matter what the intention is, once power is seized, it really does go to the person’s head and they inevitably feel it rage and crash inside them.

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2 thoughts on “Crowns of Power Can Taint the Minds of Any Man

  1. elisebrucche

    Michelle, your observation of the play’s symmetrical structure is dead on. I think that Shakespeare really wants the audience to question whether Henry’s allegedly moral superiority over Richard, which is largely what Henry is resting his take-over on, is legitimate. The question of legitimacy plays into your thoughts about Henry and Richard’s assumptions in really enlightening ways. In the first half of the play, Richard assumes that his reign will be protected by divine authority. Similarly, once he is has ascended the throne, Henry seems to assume that his right to be king will go largely unquestioned. Yet, both of these men face challenges to their authority. Furthermore, these challenges come from peers who are unhappy with their approach to government. By mirroring the actions of Acts One through Three in Acts Four though Five, Shakespeare forces the audience to question their own assumptions regarding whether the king’s authority is truly sacred or whether a king really has limitless, unquestionable power.

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  2. cassieerossetti

    I agree with everything that you said and I also feel that there is something even more pressing that Bolingbroke needs to be aware of. Through his taking of Richard’s crown he has shown that a king can be overruled while he is still alive. I think Bolingbroke does not realize how dangerous this act was, what is to stop one of their other cousins from deciding that he is more worthy of the crown and attempting to overthrow Bolingbroke? Before this the royal crown was passed down when a king died only, and I feel this act is one that will have people questioning how divine the “divine” right actually is.

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