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Richard II

William Shakespeare

Act V, scene i

Act IV, scene i

Act V, scene ii-iii

Summary

Queen Isabel and her attendants have arrived in London, where they have stationed themselves on a street leading to the Tower of London so that they may meet the deposed King Richard when he passes by on his way to the Tower. Richard and his guard ride into view, and Isabel laments to see her lord so changed: "[B]ut see, or rather do not see, / My fair rose wither" (7-8). Richard sees her and tries to comfort her, telling her she must now learn to live with grief. He bids her imagine that her life has always been as it is now, tells her to think about the afterlife instead of this one, and instructs her to return to France (her native country) and enter a religious convent.

Isabel, angry and despairing, asks Richard what has happened to his courage and righteous indignation: has Bolingbroke taken that from him, as well as his crown? Richard replies that it is no longer of any use to try to fight: his fate is settled and Isabel should think of him as dead. He orders her again to go to France, and asks her to tell his tragic tale as a fireside story on long winter evenings--a tale to make its hearers weep.

Northumberland enters and tells Richard that Bolingbroke has changed his mind about what is to be done with him: Richard is not to go to the Tower of London, but is instead to be taken to Pomfret Castle in the north of England. Richard tells him--in something that sounds half like a curse, half like an ominous prophecy--that the peace between him and Bolingbroke will not last long: Northumberland and the new king will be at each other's throats soon enough. Northumberland replies curtly and orders him to take leave of Isabel: she is to be sent back to France immediately, and he must go to Pomfret. Richard and Isabel bid each other a long, touching farewell, in highly stylized language, and part to go their separate ways.

Commentary

The formal and stylized language of the farewell scene hearkens back to some of the play's earlier passages of challenge and sorrow. The complex poetry of their leave-taking strikes some readers as very beautiful, though others find it to be stiff and affected. The final farewell between the two, written in a long passage of rhymed couplets, uses the conventional Renaissance language of doomed lovers--groans, sighs, kisses, and weeping--to signal the grief of the pair at being forced to separate. Richard tells Isabel, "Weep thou for me in France, I for thee here; / Better far off than, near, be ne'er the near. / Go count thy way with sighs; I mine with groans." Isabel replies, "So longest way shall have the longest moans" (87-90).

Here, we see Richard as fully resigned to the loss of his kingship--not even Isabel's indignation can rouse him from his comfortable despair. He has even given up the poetic metaphors that he so often used as king; just as he has acknowledged Bolingbroke to be the sun in the preceding scene, Richard no longer claims to be, for instance, the lion--the traditional king of beasts. "[W]ilt thou, pupil-like, / Take correction mildly, kiss the rod . . . / Which art a lion and the king of beasts?" asks Isabel angrily (31-34). Richard will not rise to the bait, but prefers to picture himself instead as the doomed hero of a tragic story (40-50).

The curse--or perhaps it is better called a prophecy--that Richard gives to Northumberland before he is taken to Pomfret is, by now, a familiar one: the sins of the past will come back to haunt the current rulers. "The time shall not be many hours of age / More than it is, ere foul sin gathering head / Shall break into corruption," says Richard (57-59). Northumberland and Bolingbroke, he prophecies, will have a falling-out, and the one will rise in arms against the other. For "[t]he love of wicked men converts to fear, / That fear to hate, and hate turns one or both / To worthy danger and deserved death" (66-69). Northumberland, who ignore Richard now, will remember his words when the truth of this prophecy unfolds during the course of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2.

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Blog Post: Richard II

by DanMitchell23, January 09, 2013

I've recently read Richard II for my University course, here are my thoughts!

http://inbetweenthelines1.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/shakespeare-play-richard-ii/

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4 out of 4 people found this helpful

Too Much of a Good Thing for King Richard to Keep

by ReadingShakespearefor450th, February 26, 2013

I just finished King Richard II as part of goal to read all of Shakespeare by his 450th birthday.

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2 out of 7 people found this helpful

Who killed Richard?

by SallyMcC, November 15, 2013

I've recently seen an RSC production of Richard II and noticed that instead of being killed by Lord Exton Richard was instead killed by Rutland. Can anyone think of explanation for this? I was thinking that the actor playing Exton may have been incapable of playing the part on that night so the actor playing Rutland took over, but there was a clear recognition between the two after the murder so surely another actor would have played the part if this was the case?

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5 out of 5 people found this helpful

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