Richard II


When Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of murdering the Duke of Gloucester, Richard knows that there is a chance of Mowbray telling about Richard's involvement in the crime. Gaunt also understands Richard's position but he also knows that there is no stopping Richard, because "... correction lieth in those hands / which made the fault that we cannot correct" (I, ii, 4-5). Richard is seen as God's representative on Earth and only Richard can punish himself, so it is a matter only God can resolve.

"God's is the quarrel - for God's substitute,
His deputy anointed in His sight,
Hath caus'd his death..."


Although Gaunt seems satisfied with this fact in Act I, scene ii, later, from his deathbed he seems more dissatisfied with this and reminds Richard that "... violent fires soon burn out themselves" (II, i, 34) and tells him that "His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last"(II, i, 33)

Lady Gloucester, however, thinks that Richard can be stopped and thinks that he must be stopped by Gaunt. She thinks that if Richard is not stopped, he will continue to kill, and Gaunt could be next. " ... To safeguard thine own life / The best way is to venge my Gloucester's death." (I, ii, 35-36)

Richard could have allowed Bolingbroke and Mowbray to fight to the death, but if he had allowed this and if Bolingbroke had won, Richard's full part in the murder could be exposed. On the other hand, if Mowbray had won, Richard would be in debt to him even more so than he already was. The only other option was to exile both Bolingbroke and Mowbray, stopping both from exposing Richard's part in the murder.

Richard chooses at first to allow them to fight to the death "... Your lives will answer it, / At Coventry upon St. Lambert's Day" (I, i, 198-199). He allows the fight at first to go ahead, but shortly before the first blow is struck, Richard calls a halt to the fight and exiles them both, claiming "... Our kingdom's earth should not be soil'd / With that dear blood that it hath fostered" (I, iii, 125-126). Bolingbroke is exiled for 10 years, which Richard consequently lowers to 6, and Mowbray is exiled for life.

The way that Richard first forbids Bolingbroke and Mowbray to fight to the death, saying, "Our doctors say this month is no month to bleed" (I, i, 157). Then, later in the same scene completely changes his mind and allows them to fight "... Your lives will answer it, / At Coventry upon St. Lambert's Day" (I, i, 198-199). This shows us that Richard is indecisive, and this trait is further demonstrated when Richard suddenly stops the fight and exiles both Bolingbroke and Mowbray.

Through act 1, scene 4, we learn that Richard has bankrupted the country through his extravagant gifts to people, particularly his 'favourites' and is now in need of more money, in particular to pay for the upcoming Irish Wars. We also find out how heartless and cruel Richard is. After hearing that old John of Gaunt is on his deathbed, Richard remarks

"Now put it, God, in the physicians mind
To help him to his grave immediately!
The linings of his coffers shall make coats
To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars.
... Pray God we may come too late!"


Not only does Richard wish that Gaunt dies, but he also plans to take all of Gaunt's land, money and possessions and sell them to furnish his army. Richard has no right to steal Gaunt's things which are now Bolingbroke's. This shows us just how cruel and corrupt Richard is. He firmly believes that he is God's representative and he believes that he can do as he pleases.