Shakespeare And Shakespeare : Shakespeare Histories And Tragedies

1282 Words6 Pages
Alyssa Miller
21 October 2014
ENGL 201: Shakespeare Histories and Tragedies
Stephen Krewson


Shakespeare’s Richard II gets a bad rap among the other plays in the second tetralogy. Lacking big, bloody battles, comedic characters such as Falstaff, and a polarizing protagonist that populate both Henry IV’s and Henry V, this play is a notoriously harder sell. However, King Richard II’s relationship to his identity as king and the concept of kingship in English society is crucial to the progression of the tetralogy, and indeed, the entire history of the monarchy of England. The dramatic tension Shakespeare realizes through Richard II’s character shows a pivotal shift in the way the people, and the king himself, view the role of the
…show more content…
When confronted by his uncle John of Gaunt regarding his decision to banish both Mowbray and Bolingbroke, Richard maliciously admonishes: “Now by my seat’s right royal majesty, Wert thou not brother to great Edward’s son, This tongue that runs so roundly in they head Should run they head from they unreverent shoulders.” (2.1.121-124)

This not only asserts Richard’s authority as king, but also shows his faithfulness in the royal line. He will not punish John of Gaunt because he is a “brother to great Edward’s son”, that is, the nephew of Edward III, but criticizes John of Gaunt’s “unreverent shoulders”, demonstrating King Richard’s belief that he deserves to be revered much like a divine being.
It is not until King Richard begins to mismanage the kingdom monetarily that his kingship is called into question, and the idea of rebellion begins to percolate in the minds of those perhaps better suited to leadership. Immediately after John of Gaunt dies, King Richard proclaims he will “seize into our hands / His plate, his goods, his money, and his lands”(210). This is of course angering to Bolingbroke and those who understand that Gaunt’s inheritance does not belong to the king. In the first words of defiance against the king, Northumberland remarks that “The King is not himself, but basely led / By flatterers” (2.1.241-243). While King Richard was allowed to get away with the murder of the
Get Access