List iconRichard II:
Act 1, scene 1
List icon

Richard II
Act 1, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

In Richard II, anger at a king’s arbitrary rule leads to his downfall—and sets in motion a decades-long struggle for the…

Act 1, scene 1

Henry Bolingbroke, King Richard’s cousin, publicly accuses Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, of treason. Among Bolingbroke’s charges is that Mowbray…

Act 1, scene 2

The widow of the duke of Gloucester begs John of Gaunt to avenge the murder of her husband. Gaunt says…

Act 1, scene 3

Bolingbroke and Mowbray prepare to fight to the death. King Richard suddenly calls off the fight and banishes Mowbray for…

Act 1, scene 4

Richard makes plans to fight in person in Ireland. To obtain money for the war against the Irish, he leases…

Act 2, scene 1

John of Gaunt, knowing that he is dying, speaks plainly to Richard about his deficiencies as king. Richard expresses his…

Act 2, scene 2

As the Queen grieves for Richard’s departure, news comes that Bolingbroke has landed in England with an army. As York…

Act 2, scene 3

Bolingbroke and Northumberland, just outside Berkeley Castle, meet young Henry Percy, Northumberland’s son. When the duke of York enters, he…

Act 2, scene 4

The Welsh troops, having waited ten days for Richard’s return, disperse. The earl of Salisbury predicts that Richard stands at…

Act 3, scene 1

Bolingbroke sentences Bushy and Green to death.

Act 3, scene 2

Richard, landing in England, greets his kingdom and expresses certainty that God will protect him against Bolingbroke’s threat. He learns…

Act 3, scene 3

Bolingbroke, approaching Flint Castle, learns that Richard is within. In answer to Bolingbroke’s trumpets, Richard and Aumerle appear on the…

Act 3, scene 4

Richard’s queen overhears a gardener describing Richard’s downfall and probable deposition.

Act 4, scene 1

Bolingbroke seeks information about the duke of Gloucester’s death. Bagot implicates Aumerle, and several nobles challenge Aumerle and each other….

Act 5, scene 1

Richard and his queen say their farewells, she to be sent to France, he to Pomfret Castle.

Act 5, scene 2

The duke of York expresses his sympathy for Richard but declares his allegiance to King Henry. When York discovers that…

Act 5, scene 3

Aumerle reaches King Henry and begs a pardon for an unnamed offence. The duke of York arrives and reveals the…

Act 5, scene 4

Sir Pierce Exton, reflecting on King Henry’s wish that Richard be removed, decides to carry out that wish.

Act 5, scene 5

Richard, imprisoned at Pontefract Castle, is visited by a former groom of his stable and then by the prison Keeper….

Act 5, scene 6

News is brought to Henry about the capture and punishment of rebel leaders. Henry pardons the bishop of Carlisle. Exton…

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Scene 1
Enter King Richard, John of Gaunt, with other Nobles
and Attendants.

 Old John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster,
 Hast thou, according to thy oath and band,
 Brought hither Henry Hereford, thy bold son,
 Here to make good the boist’rous late appeal,
5 Which then our leisure would not let us hear,
 Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
GAUNT I have, my liege.
 Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him
 If he appeal the Duke on ancient malice
10 Or worthily, as a good subject should,
 On some known ground of treachery in him?
 As near as I could sift him on that argument,
 On some apparent danger seen in him
 Aimed at your Highness, no inveterate malice.
15 Then call them to our presence.
An Attendant exits.
 Face to face
 And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 1

 The accuser and the accusèd freely speak.
 High stomached are they both and full of ire,
20 In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.

Enter Bolingbroke and Mowbray.

 Many years of happy days befall
 My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege.
 Each day still better other’s happiness
 Until the heavens, envying earth’s good hap,
25 Add an immortal title to your crown.
 We thank you both. Yet one but flatters us,
 As well appeareth by the cause you come:
 Namely, to appeal each other of high treason.
 Cousin of Hereford, what dost thou object
30 Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
 First—heaven be the record to my speech!—
 In the devotion of a subject’s love,
 Tend’ring the precious safety of my prince
 And free from other misbegotten hate,
35 Come I appellant to this princely presence.—
 Now, Thomas Mowbray, do I turn to thee;
 And mark my greeting well, for what I speak
 My body shall make good upon this earth
 Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.
40 Thou art a traitor and a miscreant,
 Too good to be so and too bad to live,
 Since the more fair and crystal is the sky,
 The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly.
 Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
45 With a foul traitor’s name stuff I thy throat,
 And wish, so please my sovereign, ere I move,

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 1

 What my tongue speaks my right-drawn sword may
 Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal.
50 ’Tis not the trial of a woman’s war,
 The bitter clamor of two eager tongues,
 Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain.
 The blood is hot that must be cooled for this.
 Yet can I not of such tame patience boast
55 As to be hushed and naught at all to say.
 First, the fair reverence of your Highness curbs me
 From giving reins and spurs to my free speech,
 Which else would post until it had returned
 These terms of treason doubled down his throat.
60 Setting aside his high blood’s royalty,
 And let him be no kinsman to my liege,
 I do defy him, and I spit at him,
 Call him a slanderous coward and a villain,
 Which to maintain I would allow him odds
65 And meet him, were I tied to run afoot
 Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps
 Or any other ground inhabitable
 Wherever Englishman durst set his foot.
 Meantime let this defend my loyalty:
70 By all my hopes, most falsely doth he lie.
BOLINGBROKE, throwing down a gage 
 Pale trembling coward, there I throw my gage,
 Disclaiming here the kindred of the King,
 And lay aside my high blood’s royalty,
 Which fear, not reverence, makes thee to except.
75 If guilty dread have left thee so much strength
 As to take up mine honor’s pawn, then stoop.
 By that and all the rites of knighthood else
 Will I make good against thee, arm to arm,
 What I have spoke or thou canst worse devise.

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 1

MOWBRAY, picking up the gage 
80 I take it up, and by that sword I swear
 Which gently laid my knighthood on my shoulder,
 I’ll answer thee in any fair degree
 Or chivalrous design of knightly trial;
 And when I mount, alive may I not light
85 If I be traitor or unjustly fight.
 What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray’s charge?
 It must be great that can inherit us
 So much as of a thought of ill in him.
 Look what I speak, my life shall prove it true:
90 That Mowbray hath received eight thousand nobles
 In name of lendings for your Highness’ soldiers,
 The which he hath detained for lewd employments,
 Like a false traitor and injurious villain.
 Besides I say, and will in battle prove,
95 Or here or elsewhere to the furthest verge
 That ever was surveyed by English eye,
 That all the treasons for these eighteen years
 Complotted and contrivèd in this land
 Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and
100 spring.
 Further I say, and further will maintain
 Upon his bad life to make all this good,
 That he did plot the Duke of Gloucester’s death,
 Suggest his soon-believing adversaries,
105 And consequently, like a traitor coward,
 Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of
 Which blood, like sacrificing Abel’s, cries
 Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth
110 To me for justice and rough chastisement.
 And, by the glorious worth of my descent,
 This arm shall do it, or this life be spent.

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 1

 How high a pitch his resolution soars!—
 Thomas of Norfolk, what sayst thou to this?
115 O, let my sovereign turn away his face
 And bid his ears a little while be deaf,
 Till I have told this slander of his blood
 How God and good men hate so foul a liar.
 Mowbray, impartial are our eyes and ears.
120 Were he my brother, nay, my kingdom’s heir,
 As he is but my father’s brother’s son,
 Now by my scepter’s awe I make a vow:
 Such neighbor nearness to our sacred blood
 Should nothing privilege him nor partialize
125 The unstooping firmness of my upright soul.
 He is our subject, Mowbray; so art thou.
 Free speech and fearless I to thee allow.
 Then, Bolingbroke, as low as to thy heart,
 Through the false passage of thy throat, thou liest.
130 Three parts of that receipt I had for Calais
 Disbursed I duly to his Highness’ soldiers;
 The other part reserved I by consent,
 For that my sovereign liege was in my debt
 Upon remainder of a dear account
135 Since last I went to France to fetch his queen.
 Now swallow down that lie. For Gloucester’s death,
 I slew him not, but to my own disgrace
 Neglected my sworn duty in that case.—
 For you, my noble Lord of Lancaster,
140 The honorable father to my foe,
 Once did I lay an ambush for your life,
 A trespass that doth vex my grievèd soul.
 But ere I last received the sacrament,
 I did confess it and exactly begged

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 1

145 Your Grace’s pardon, and I hope I had it.—
 This is my fault. As for the rest appealed,
 It issues from the rancor of a villain,
 A recreant and most degenerate traitor,
 Which in myself I boldly will defend,
150 And interchangeably hurl down my gage
 Upon this overweening traitor’s foot,
He throws down a gage.
 To prove myself a loyal gentleman,
 Even in the best blood chambered in his bosom;
 In haste whereof most heartily I pray
155 Your Highness to assign our trial day.
Bolingbroke picks up the gage.
 Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me.
 Let’s purge this choler without letting blood.
 This we prescribe, though no physician.
 Deep malice makes too deep incision.
160 Forget, forgive; conclude and be agreed.
 Our doctors say this is no month to bleed.—
 Good uncle, let this end where it begun;
 We’ll calm the Duke of Norfolk, you your son.
 To be a make-peace shall become my age.—
165 Throw down, my son, the Duke of Norfolk’s gage.
 And, Norfolk, throw down his.
GAUNT  When, Harry, when?
 Obedience bids I should not bid again.
 Norfolk, throw down, we bid; there is no boot.
170 Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot.
Mowbray kneels.
 My life thou shalt command, but not my shame.
 The one my duty owes, but my fair name,

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Despite of death that lives upon my grave,
 To dark dishonor’s use thou shalt not have.
175 I am disgraced, impeached, and baffled here,
 Pierced to the soul with slander’s venomed spear,
 The which no balm can cure but his heart-blood
 Which breathed this poison.
KING RICHARD  Rage must be withstood.
180 Give me his gage. Lions make leopards tame.
MOWBRAY, standing 
 Yea, but not change his spots. Take but my shame
 And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
 The purest treasure mortal times afford
 Is spotless reputation; that away,
185 Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
 A jewel in a ten-times-barred-up chest
 Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.
 Mine honor is my life; both grow in one.
 Take honor from me and my life is done.
190 Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try.
 In that I live, and for that will I die.
KING RICHARD, to Bolingbroke 
 Cousin, throw up your gage. Do you begin.
 O, God defend my soul from such deep sin!
 Shall I seem crestfallen in my father’s sight?
195 Or with pale beggar-fear impeach my height
 Before this out-dared dastard? Ere my tongue
 Shall wound my honor with such feeble wrong
 Or sound so base a parle, my teeth shall tear
 The slavish motive of recanting fear
200 And spit it bleeding in his high disgrace,
 Where shame doth harbor, even in Mowbray’s face.
 We were not born to sue, but to command,
 Which, since we cannot do, to make you friends,
 Be ready, as your lives shall answer it,

Richard II
ACT 1. SC. 2

205 At Coventry upon Saint Lambert’s day.
 There shall your swords and lances arbitrate
 The swelling difference of your settled hate.
 Since we cannot atone you, we shall see
 Justice design the victor’s chivalry.—
210 Lord Marshal, command our officers-at-arms
 Be ready to direct these home alarms.
They exit.