What I found extremely interesting was Richard’s literal and figurative descents throughout the play, which we see a number of towards his final actions. The very first descent that I took note of — which intrigued me enough to start noticing more — was when Henry Bolingbroke came back with his army just to “get his land back.” We later learn that may not have been his only intentions. Bolingbroke arrives at the castle in Act III and, through a message from Northumberland, asks King Richard to come down from the castle walls to have a chat with him about revoking his banishment. And Richard does. Is King Richard really taking orders from a man in exile? Yeah, you read correctly. But it’s alright, he won’t be King for very long. His literal descent from the castle walls turned to a figurative descent quite quickly; the talk about exile actually became a chat about Bolingbroke inheriting the throne.
The next descent, and also farewell, was the scene between Richard and Isabel. Here we see a dynamic side of Richard, which we haven’t seen before.
“What, is my Richard both in shape and mind
Transformed and weakened? Hath Bolingbroke
Deposed thine intellect? Hath he been in thy heart?
The lion dying thrusteth forth his paw
And wounds the earth, if nothing else, with rage
To be o’erpowered” (4.1.26-31).
She sees his strength and willpower being diminished and is visibly upset over it. But what made this scene so interesting to me was how they didn’t want to part: “One kiss shall stop our mouths, and dumbly part. / Thus give I mine, and thus take I thy heart.” (5.2.95-96). Richard even asked if he could be sent away with his wife but was denied the pleasure – probably because of the threat of a child who could inherit the throne. Although this side of Richard is paralleled with growing weakness and exile, does his relationship with his wife change the way you feel about him?
And even more generally, does the proof that he can show genuine emotion for someone other than himself change the way you feel for his character? Does it create more depth for an otherwise shallow and straight-forward individual?