Study On Shakespeare Richard II Drama Essay

The opening scene ofRichard IIis lighting on several counts. On the one manus, Richard II, as male monarch, appears to be moving out in full, his function as supreme supreme authority of the land, by presiding over an entreaty for lese majesty. This mediaeval test requires the presence of the male monarch as both swayer and immediate dispenser of justness.

On the other manus, as the scene unfolds, we bit by bit learn that what is being undermined is non merely the several reputes of the rival Lords, Bolingbroke and Mowbray, but the really claims of the king himself to his Divine Right to govern. We learn that what they are contending approximately is the slaying of Thomas of Woodstock, Richard II ‘s uncle. Bolingbroke appears to cognize that Richard had in secret ordered Woodstock ‘s decease. Obviously, it is impossible for Bolingbroke to impeach Richard straight of his ain offense.

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However, his solution, sums to a thinly-veiled accusal: he accuses Mowbray of slaying Woodstock while under his detention – knowing full well that Mowbray himself was transporting out Richard ‘s instructions. Meanwhile, for the same ground, Mowbray can non publically call the guilty adult male and resorts to a absolutely traditional game of returning Bolingbroke ‘s abuses and accusals. The otherwise absolutely conventional solution proposed by the male monarch, a tilt, is every bit much deployed in defence of his royal power, every bit presented as an honest solution for Lords.

At the really minute when the male monarch appears to be at his most powerful, we can already spot how unstable this clasp on power truly is and on what it rests: a conflation of political and divinely ordained authorization.

The deduction of the construct of the Divine Rights of Kings is that any challenge to royal power is unthinkable because it is non simply treason, as viewed in other civilizations, but besides tantamount to blasphemy. This becomes clear in scene 3 when Richard realizes that he may shortly lose his Crown. Richard refuses to admit that royal power relies on human, instead than divine intercession:

Not all the H2O in the unsmooth rude sea

Can rinse the balm from an anointed male monarch.

The breath of secular work forces can non force out

The deputy elected by the Lord. ( 3.2 50-53 )

The impression that the ceremonial anointing of the male monarch is divinely ordained and can non be outdone is acted out in its full poignancy when Richard II literally uncrowns himself in Act 4 in a eccentric mirror-ceremony.

On the face of it, Henry V as a character could non be more different from Richard II. Unlike Richard who simply ignores his topics and arouse their rebellion through unwise policies, Henry is much more magnetic and popular, while at the same clip, politically much more sharp. Through a combination of fluency and courage he is able to animate and unify his land against an external enemy in a manner that Richard could merely hold dreamt of.

Henry ‘s political accomplishments are most in grounds in 2.2 when he plays a instead Machiavellian fast one on the schemers Cambridge, Grey and Scrope. Henry asks their sentiment on whether he should be indulgent to treasonists. Having received the expected, hypocritical responses, Henry pretends to manus them their written military committees – to be carried out as his faithful topics. In fact, they are letters informing them that Henry knows of their secret plan. They are quickly arrested.

This is far from being an stray case of Henry ‘s cute side. During a intermission in the conflict in 4.1, he disguises himself as a common soldier and mixes with his foot, prosecuting them in conversation. Their talk centres on the several functions of male monarch and topic. Henry maintains that despite the evident gulf, the male monarch is basically the same as the common adult male:

I think the King is but a adult male, as I am. The violet smells to him as it doth to me ;

the component shows to him as it doth to meHis ceremonials laid by, in his nudity he appears but a adult male, and though his fondnesss are higher mounted than ours, yet when they stoop, they stoop with the similar wing. ( 4.1.99-104 )

Yet a few lines subsequently, he contradicts himself by countering Williams and Bates ‘ ( the common soldiers ) statement that the male monarch besides has greater moral duty that comes with power. Henry repudiates his earlier averment of shared humanity by asseverating his particular place as male monarch:

Twin-born with illustriousness: topic to the breath

Of every sap, whose sense no more can experience

But his ain wringing. What infinite wild pansy

Must male monarchs neglect that private work forces bask?

( 4.1, 216-219 )

The deduction is that because of his divinely ordained kingship, Henry ‘s actions can non be held to account and scrutinized on the same degree as common mans. Henry wants to keep a debatable and doubtful differentiation between his ain kingly force and the force of common work forces, which is simply condemnable. It becomes clear that Henry non merely likes power games, but wants to compose the regulations of the game excessively. This becomes evident subsequently, when he pardons Williams ‘s ( unwilled ) challenge to himself as the male monarch.

This scene is so deployed to exemplify royal munificence. To these illustrations can be added Henry ‘s courtship of Catherine in 5.2. Whether or non Catherine is won over is honestly irrelevant because in fact, the Gallic King had already, in scene 3, offered Catherine to Henry before his invasion of France. The courting scene is therefore, purely, otiose.

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We have seen how in both dramas, the impression of the Divine Rights of Kings is mobilized to support and widen royal privileges. InRichard II, Bolingbroke ‘s rebellion is portrayed as inherently unnatural because it is both unreliable and profane. Yet it is apparent how uneffective a sovereign Richard is. InHenry V, royal power is similarly portrayed as god-given but as we have seen it deployed we are forced to face the gulf between virtuous kingship and successful statesmanship based on the Machiavellian theoretical account. Both dramas raise the inquiry that what makes person an effectual male monarch may be really far removed from what makes a morally admirable one.


King Henry V – Arden Shakespeare, 1995

Richard II – Arden Shakespeare, 2002

Hamilton, Donna, The State of Law in Richard II Shakespeare Quarterly 34 ( 1983 ) : 5-17

Greenblatt, Stephen, Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and its Subversion, Henry IV and Henry V. Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Ed Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985.


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