Comparing Development of the King in Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V

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Shakespeare’s Development of the King in Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V

Shakespeare's plays beginning with Richard II and concluding with Henry V presents an interesting look at the role of a king. England's search for "the mirror of all Christian kings" provided the opportunity to explore the many facets of kingship showing the strengths and weaknesses of both the position and the men who filled that position. Through careful examination, Shakespeare develops the "king" as a physical, emotional, and psychological being. By presenting the strengths and weaknesses of these characteristics, Shakespeare presents a unified look at the concept of "kingship" and demonstrates that failure to achieve
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In Richard II I.iv, Richard describes how he and his friends have

Observ'd his [Bullingbrook's] courtship to the common people, How he did seem to dive into their hearts With humble and familiar courtesy, What reverence he did throw away on slaves, Wooing poor craftsmen with their craft of smiles And patient underbearing of his fortune, As 'twere to banish their affects with him. (24-30)

In taking his position for granted, Richard opens the English throne to Bullingbrook's usurpation and thus precipitates all the unrest that troubles England for another century. With the breaking of the glass in the mirror scene (RII IV.i), we see the symbolic destruction caused by Richard's failure to be "the mirror of all Christian kings." He has reflected a mere illusion without substance. If Richard had successfully filled his role as the "mirror of all Christian kings," Bullingbrook's usurpation would never have been a reality. This movement towards Richard's deposition through his failing as a king is begun in Richard II I.ii in the discussion between Gaunt and the Duchess of Gloucester. It continues in Richard II II.ii.104-108 where Gaunt and York discuss the king and Gaunt eventually says to Richard "O had thy grandsire

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