Richard II in William Shakespeare Essay

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Richard II in William Shakespeare

The plays of William Shakespeare are generally easy to categorize, and the heroes of these plays are equally so. However, in the history play Richard II, Shakespeare’s king is more ambiguous than Hamlet or Romeo– there is no clear cut answer to whether Richard II is a tragic hero... or simply a tragedy. Historically, Richard II was crowned at a very young age, forced into the role of monarch, and thrust without hesitation into the murky world of political intrigue, which perhaps lends his character sympathy because he had no choice in his fate. However, despite his forced role in life, Richard II seems to rely on the concept of divine right to secure his throne, making no effort to sustain it once it
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This is just the first of many non-actions that Richard takes on his way to losing the throne. Because he was set to rule at such a young age, Richard II assumes the facade of a ruler at the same time as he accepts the crown. It becomes obvious through the course of the play that Richard II is king only on the surface– he commits acts such as exiling Bolingbroke that temporarily secure his throne but do nothing for the good of England or the surety of his monarchy. Richard pays lip service to the idea of defending England and his people, but acts against Ireland, quelling a land that is not his own and leaving England open for revolt. Similarly, once Bolingbroke begins his invasion and Richard’s supposedly loyal nobility turns against their ineffective monarch Richard simply gives up the only way of life he has ever known, trusting in God to protect his divine right to rule. Because of his seeming cowardice and most of all his complete lack of action, Richard II lacks the courage and fortitude of many of Shakespeare’s heroes, leaving the possibility open that Richard II possibly has the potential to become a tragic hero, but never taking responsibility for his lack of leadership.

Throughout the action related in Richard II, Shakespeare portrays Richard as a weak and almost irrelevant ruler, unsympathetic to the plights of his people– these are not the traits of a tragic hero. A tragic hero is supposed to be above the common man, a role model
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