Bolingbroke is a central, dominant, and essential character throughout Shakespeare’s play, Richard II. His dominance was prevalent after he returned from exile because he was infuriated that King Richard II stole Bolingbroke’s deceased father’s money. This money that King Richard II stole would have been passed down to Bolingbroke, which caused Bolingbroke to seek revenge against King Richard II. When Bolingbroke came back to the land ruled by Richard II, he came back with a vengeance. He wanted to take back the money that belonged to him and take King Richard II’s crown. There is evidence throughout the play that showed that Bolingbroke wanted to overthrow King Richard II and become king of the land.
One part of the play that showed that Bolingbroke wanted to take the crown was when he was first exiled to leave England. When he was leaving England, King Richard II noticed that Bolingbroke was acting as if he had power over others. He noticed that Bolingbroke was a very popular man and everyone seemed to show their love for him as he departed England. Bushy, a nobleman to King Richard II, noted that when Bolingbroke left England, he demonstrated his “courtship to the common people” (1.4.23). The way that Bolingbroke acted when he left the land made King Richard II think that Bolingbroke was acting as if he wanted to be the next king of England. I believe that this section of the play demonstrates aspects of foreshadowing because the current king fears Bolingbroke’s return to England after his exile. He fears that Bolingbroke will take his crown due to his popular attitude and demands among the people. Later in the play, Bolingbroke does take King Richard II’s title because of his popularity.
When King Richard II steals John of Gaunt’s money after he died, this infuriated Bolingbroke because this money belonged to him after his father’s death. This gave Bolingbroke a motive to return to England to steal back his wealth. He decided to travel back to England when King Richard II was away in Ireland fighting a war with the money that belonged to Bolingbroke. When Bolingbroke returned, he returned with an army and ships that were provided by the King of Brittany. If Bolingbroke planned to return to England just to get the money back that was his, why did he go when Richard II was in Ireland? That doesn’t allow him to gain his wealth back because the man that took it is in a different country. Also, if Bolingbroke only returned to gain what is his, why did he create such a large army? The large army he created will be used to help him overthrow King Richard II.
Throughout the play, many of Richard’s allies and friends became a traitor toward him and joined Bolingbroke’s side. Some of these men include Lord Northumberland, Lord Ross, Lord Willoughby, and many other people. Bushy and Greene are two men that remained loyal to Richard II. However, Bolingbroke captured both of these men and had them executed. He did this because he has said that Bushy and Greene were disloyal to the king. He said that they purposely gave King Richard II bad advice and lead to Richard II’s downfall. Bolingbroke says “You have mislead a royal king, / A happy gentlemen in blood and lineaments, / By you unhappied and disfigured clean” (3.1.8-10). Bolingbroke says that he remained loyal to the king and had Bushy and Greene killed because they were disloyal to him. However, if he was loyal to the king, would he have killed Richard II’s two best allies and most loyal men? This aspect demonstrates that Bolingbroke may have had a different motive behind killing these men. Maybe he killed Bushy and Greene because they were on Richard II’s side and that would cause Richard’s army to be weaker.
Finally, at the end of the play, King Richard II gives Bolingbroke (renamed King Henry IV) his crown and declared him as king. King Richard II stated, “With mine own hands I give away my crown, / With mine own tongue deny my sacred state” (4.1.198-199). The only wish that Richard II had was to be able to walk away from the kingdom as a free man. Bolingbroke refused to let him walk away and had him escorted to the Tower of London as a prisoner. This part of the play shows Bolingbroke’s motive because it shows that he did not want King Richard II to be free. He wanted King Richard II to be punished for his actions and did not want him to get in the way during his time as king.
Throughout the play Richard II, Bolingbroke was a power hungry character who did everything such as kill other men to become the king. Bolingbroke says that he remained loyal to King Richard II; however, the audience can see that Bolingbroke made great efforts to take the throne from him. He created a large army, weakened King Richard II’s army, and timed events so that he became king. In the end, Bolingbroke was the king of England and Richard II was murdered creating many hardships in this society.