What is the source of the conflict between Bolingbroke and King Richard?

The play opens with Bolingbroke accusing Mowbray (the Duke of Norfolk) of having orchestrated the murder of his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. The accusation leads Mowbray to throw down his gage, inviting Bolingbroke to settle the matter in single combat. Bolingbroke accepts the invitation, even though the king commands him not to. Ironically, as we find out in the following scene, it is King Richard himself who is responsible for the assassination of Gloucester. This is the major root of Bolingbroke’s conflict with Richard, though Richard makes matters worse by banishing Bolingbroke and seizing his inheritance when his father dies.

Why does Bolingbroke want to be king?

This is a surprisingly tricky question since Bolingbroke doesn’t seem intentionally set on the throne—at least at first. When Bolingbroke breaks the terms of his exile, he claims to have done so because Richard has defrauded him of his inheritance. His campaign against the king therefore seems to be about restoring what’s rightfully his. Yet he also knows that Richard played a role in the murder of their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and that Richard likely banished him under suspicious pretenses. His rebellion against the king therefore stems from a desire for vengeance. But this motivation is also arguably a charade. Indeed, his careful planning and tactical recruitment of key allies indicates a keen political acumen. In other words, Bolingbroke has a thirst for power that is no less evident for remaining unspoken.

Why do the people of England dislike Richard?

Richard is universally disliked by all his subjects—nobles and commoners alike. The nobles dislike Richard because, in his pettiness and greed, he has grossly mismanaged his coffers. To ensure that he has the funds to pay for his court and wage his wars, Richard has decided to tax the nobles heavily. In the case of John of Gaunt, Richard even goes so far as to seize his estate upon his death. The commoners dislike Richard for similar reasons. They increasingly feel the burden of taxation. However, they also believe he has mismanaged the kingdom. As indicated by the discussion between the gardener and his assistant in act 3, scene 4, the common folk see Richard as a vain and “wasteful king” who has “not so trimmed and dressed his land / As we this garden” (3.4.61 and 62–63).

What causes the Duke of York to shift his support to Bolingbroke?

Unlike many other members of the nobility, who are quick to abandon Richard for Bolingbroke, York agonizes over his pledge of loyalty to the king. The king rewards York’s loyalty by leaving him in charge of the kingdom while he is away fighting a war in Ireland. York takes the responsibility seriously, but he grows conflicted when Bolingbroke returns to England and makes a reasonable argument against the king’s unjust actions toward him. Though he feels internally conflicted, he eventually sides with Bolingbroke, presumably because he agrees that Richard’s actions as king have been deplorable. However, York’s decision is also surely influenced by the general tide turning against Richard. With the divinely anointed king lacking the symbolic and material resources to defend his crown, York decides to ally himself to Richard’s more politically astute usurper.

How does King Richard die?

King Richard is assassinated by Sir Pierce of Exton while being held prisoner at Pontefract Castle. Exton believes that he executed the deposed king at the new king’s bidding. As evidence of the new king’s request, he cites a scene in which Henry asked, “Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?” (5.4.2). Henry then looked directly at Exton, as if to insist that he go off and do the deed. However, the ambiguity of the exchange gives the new king plausible deniability. And indeed, in act 5, scene 6, the king denies having sent Exton to kill Richard and banishes the man from the court as punishment. It’s clear to the audience, however, that Henry is ultimately responsible for Richard’s death.