Richard II

by: William Shakespeare

Act V, scene ii-iii

Summary Act V, scene ii-iii

In addition, we see that, despite the change in kings, some aspects of court life never change. When Aumerle enters, returning from the king's company, his mother asks him, "Who are the violets now / That strew the green lap of the new-come spring?" (45-46). She means that, since Richard's former allies (including Aumerle), have fallen from grace, there must now be new favorites in the court. Aumerle may no longer be a "violet," but someone will have sprung up to replace him. And, only half-jokingly, Aumerle's father York warns him: "[B]ear you well in this new spring of time, / Lest you be cropp'd before you come to prime" (50-51).

The rather bizarre scene at the climax of Act V, scene iii, in which the Duke and Duchess of York argue with King Henry over Aumerle's fate, seems to beg explanation, but it is difficult to know quite what to make of it. The ritualistic spectacle of Aumerle and the Duchess formally pleading (in rhymed couplets) for the king's forgiveness is placed against the counterpoint of York's insistence that Aumerle be executed as a traitor.

What are we to make of York's almost fanatical insistence that the king execute his son? One possibility is that the conflicts of loyalty which have been tearing at York since the beginning of the play--the enormous burden of responsibility left to him when Richard made him Lord Governor of England during the Irish war, his failure to defend Richard's kingdom against the invading Bolingbroke, the painfully difficult decision to abandon Richard's cause and leave the kingdom open to Bolingbroke's invasion--have left York with the sense that his value systems have been overturned. All he has left to cling to, perhaps, is his firm conviction that he must remain loyal to the King of England--who now is Bolingbroke. As York says in Act V, scene ii, "To Bolingbroke we are sworn subjects now, / Whose state and honour I for aye allow" (39-40). Even if it requires turning in his own son as a traitor, York seems to be obsssed with the idea of maintaining his loyalty to the king.