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Richard II
Act 2, scene 1

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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 John of Gaunt sick, with the Duke of York, and
Attendants.


GAUNT 
 Will the King come, that I may breathe my last
 In wholesome counsel to his unstaid youth?
YORK 
 Vex not yourself nor strive not with your breath,
 For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.
GAUNT 
5 O, but they say the tongues of dying men
 Enforce attention like deep harmony.
 Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in
 vain,
 For they breathe truth that breathe their words in
10 pain.
 He that no more must say is listened more
  Than they whom youth and ease have taught to
  gloze.
 More are men’s ends marked than their lives before.
15  The setting sun and music at the close,
 As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
 Writ in remembrance more than things long past.
 Though Richard my life’s counsel would not hear,
 My death’s sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.
57

59
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

YORK 
20 No, it is stopped with other flattering sounds,
 As praises, of whose taste the wise are fond;
 Lascivious meters, to whose venom sound
 The open ear of youth doth always listen;
 Report of fashions in proud Italy,
25 Whose manners still our tardy-apish nation
 Limps after in base imitation.
 Where doth the world thrust forth a vanity—
 So it be new, there’s no respect how vile—
 That is not quickly buzzed into his ears?
30 Then all too late comes counsel to be heard
 Where will doth mutiny with wit’s regard.
 Direct not him whose way himself will choose.
 ’Tis breath thou lack’st, and that breath wilt thou
 lose.
GAUNT 
35 Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
 And thus expiring do foretell of him:
 His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
 For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
 Small showers last long, but sudden storms are
40 short;
 He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
 With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder;
 Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
 Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
45 This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
 This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
 This other Eden, demi-paradise,
 This fortress built by Nature for herself
 Against infection and the hand of war,
50 This happy breed of men, this little world,
 This precious stone set in the silver sea,
 Which serves it in the office of a wall
 Or as a moat defensive to a house,

61
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

 Against the envy of less happier lands,
55 This blessèd plot, this earth, this realm, this
 England,
 This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
 Feared by their breed and famous by their birth,
 Renownèd for their deeds as far from home
60 For Christian service and true chivalry
 As is the sepulcher in stubborn Jewry
 Of the world’s ransom, blessèd Mary’s son,
 This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
 Dear for her reputation through the world,
65 Is now leased out—I die pronouncing it—
 Like to a tenement or pelting farm.
 England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
 Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
 Of wat’ry Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
70 With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds.
 That England that was wont to conquer others
 Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
 Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
 How happy then were my ensuing death!

Enter King and Queen, Aumerle, Bushy, Green, Bagot,
Ross, Willoughby, etc.


YORK 
75 The King is come. Deal mildly with his youth,
 For young hot colts being reined do rage the more.
QUEEN, to Gaunt 
 How fares our noble uncle Lancaster?
KING RICHARD, to Gaunt 
 What comfort, man? How is ’t with agèd Gaunt?
GAUNT 
 O, how that name befits my composition!
80 Old Gaunt indeed and gaunt in being old.
 Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast,
 And who abstains from meat that is not gaunt?

63
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

 For sleeping England long time have I watched;
 Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt.
85 The pleasure that some fathers feed upon
 Is my strict fast—I mean my children’s looks—
 And, therein fasting, hast thou made me gaunt.
 Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave,
 Whose hollow womb inherits naught but bones.
KING RICHARD 
90 Can sick men play so nicely with their names?
GAUNT 
 No, misery makes sport to mock itself.
 Since thou dost seek to kill my name in me,
 I mock my name, great king, to flatter thee.
KING RICHARD 
 Should dying men flatter with those that live?
GAUNT 
95 No, no, men living flatter those that die.
KING RICHARD 
 Thou, now a-dying, sayest thou flatterest me.
GAUNT 
 O, no, thou diest, though I the sicker be.
KING RICHARD 
 I am in health, I breathe, and see thee ill.
GAUNT 
 Now He that made me knows I see thee ill,
100 Ill in myself to see, and in thee, seeing ill.
 Thy deathbed is no lesser than thy land,
 Wherein thou liest in reputation sick;
 And thou, too careless-patient as thou art,
 Commit’st thy anointed body to the cure
105 Of those physicians that first wounded thee.
 A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown,
 Whose compass is no bigger than thy head,
 And yet encagèd in so small a verge,
 The waste is no whit lesser than thy land.

65
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

110 O, had thy grandsire with a prophet’s eye
 Seen how his son’s son should destroy his sons,
 From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame,
 Deposing thee before thou wert possessed,
 Which art possessed now to depose thyself.
115 Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
 It were a shame to let this land by lease;
 But, for thy world enjoying but this land,
 Is it not more than shame to shame it so?
 Landlord of England art thou now, not king.
120 Thy state of law is bondslave to the law,
 And thou—
KING RICHARD  A lunatic lean-witted fool,
 Presuming on an ague’s privilege,
 Darest with thy frozen admonition
125 Make pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood
 With fury from his native residence.
 Now, by my seat’s right royal majesty,
 Wert thou not brother to great Edward’s son,
 This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head
130 Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders.
GAUNT 
 O, spare me not, my brother Edward’s son,
 For that I was his father Edward’s son!
 That blood already, like the pelican,
 Hast thou tapped out and drunkenly caroused.
135 My brother Gloucester—plain, well-meaning soul,
 Whom fair befall in heaven ’mongst happy souls—
 May be a precedent and witness good
 That thou respect’st not spilling Edward’s blood.
 Join with the present sickness that I have,
140 And thy unkindness be like crooked age
 To crop at once a too-long withered flower.
 Live in thy shame, but die not shame with thee!
 These words hereafter thy tormentors be!—

67
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

 Convey me to my bed, then to my grave.
145 Love they to live that love and honor have.
He exits, carried off by Attendants.
KING RICHARD 
 And let them die that age and sullens have,
 For both hast thou, and both become the grave.
YORK 
 I do beseech your Majesty, impute his words
 To wayward sickliness and age in him.
150 He loves you, on my life, and holds you dear
 As Harry, Duke of Hereford, were he here.
KING RICHARD 
 Right, you say true: as Hereford’s love, so his;
 As theirs, so mine; and all be as it is.

Enter Northumberland.

NORTHUMBERLAND 
 My liege, old Gaunt commends him to your Majesty.
KING RICHARD 
155 What says he?
NORTHUMBERLAND  Nay, nothing; all is said.
 His tongue is now a stringless instrument;
 Words, life, and all, old Lancaster hath spent.
YORK 
 Be York the next that must be bankrupt so!
160 Though death be poor, it ends a mortal woe.
KING RICHARD 
 The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he;
 His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be.
 So much for that. Now for our Irish wars:
 We must supplant those rough rugheaded kern,
165 Which live like venom where no venom else
 But only they have privilege to live.
 And, for these great affairs do ask some charge,
 Towards our assistance we do seize to us

69
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

 The plate, coin, revenues, and movables
170 Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possessed.
YORK 
 How long shall I be patient? Ah, how long
 Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong?
 Not Gloucester’s death, nor Hereford’s banishment,
 Nor Gaunt’s rebukes, nor England’s private wrongs,
175 Nor the prevention of poor Bolingbroke
 About his marriage, nor my own disgrace,
 Have ever made me sour my patient cheek
 Or bend one wrinkle on my sovereign’s face.
 I am the last of noble Edward’s sons,
180 Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first.
 In war was never lion raged more fierce,
 In peace was never gentle lamb more mild,
 Than was that young and princely gentleman.
 His face thou hast, for even so looked he,
185 Accomplished with the number of thy hours;
 But when he frowned, it was against the French
 And not against his friends. His noble hand
 Did win what he did spend, and spent not that
 Which his triumphant father’s hand had won.
190 His hands were guilty of no kindred blood,
 But bloody with the enemies of his kin.
 O, Richard! York is too far gone with grief,
 Or else he never would compare between.
KING RICHARD 
 Why, uncle, what’s the matter?
YORK 195 O, my liege,
 Pardon me if you please. If not, I, pleased
 Not to be pardoned, am content withal.
 Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
 The royalties and rights of banished Hereford?
200 Is not Gaunt dead? And doth not Hereford live?
 Was not Gaunt just? And is not Harry true?
 Did not the one deserve to have an heir?

71
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

 Is not his heir a well-deserving son?
 Take Hereford’s rights away, and take from time
205 His charters and his customary rights;
 Let not tomorrow then ensue today;
 Be not thyself; for how art thou a king
 But by fair sequence and succession?
 Now afore God—God forbid I say true!—
210 If you do wrongfully seize Hereford’s rights,
 Call in the letters patents that he hath
 By his attorneys general to sue
 His livery, and deny his offered homage,
 You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
215 You lose a thousand well-disposèd hearts,
 And prick my tender patience to those thoughts
 Which honor and allegiance cannot think.
KING RICHARD 
 Think what you will, we seize into our hands
 His plate, his goods, his money, and his lands.
YORK 
220 I’ll not be by the while. My liege, farewell.
 What will ensue hereof there’s none can tell;
 But by bad courses may be understood
 That their events can never fall out good.He exits.
KING RICHARD 
 Go, Bushy, to the Earl of Wiltshire straight.
225 Bid him repair to us to Ely House
 To see this business. Tomorrow next
 We will for Ireland, and ’tis time, I trow.
 And we create, in absence of ourself,
 Our uncle York Lord Governor of England,
230 For he is just and always loved us well.—
 Come on, our queen. Tomorrow must we part.
 Be merry, for our time of stay is short.
King and Queen exit with others;
Northumberland, Willoughby, and Ross remain.


73
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Well, lords, the Duke of Lancaster is dead.
ROSS 
 And living too, for now his son is duke.
WILLOUGHBY 
235 Barely in title, not in revenues.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Richly in both, if justice had her right.
ROSS 
 My heart is great, but it must break with silence
 Ere ’t be disburdened with a liberal tongue.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Nay, speak thy mind, and let him ne’er speak more
240 That speaks thy words again to do thee harm!
WILLOUGHBY, to Ross 
 Tends that thou wouldst speak to the Duke of
 Hereford?
 If it be so, out with it boldly, man.
 Quick is mine ear to hear of good towards him.
ROSS 
245 No good at all that I can do for him,
 Unless you call it good to pity him,
 Bereft and gelded of his patrimony.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Now, afore God, ’tis shame such wrongs are borne
 In him, a royal prince, and many more
250 Of noble blood in this declining land.
 The King is not himself, but basely led
 By flatterers; and what they will inform
 Merely in hate ’gainst any of us all,
 That will the King severely prosecute
255 ’Gainst us, our lives, our children, and our heirs.
ROSS 
 The commons hath he pilled with grievous taxes,
 And quite lost their hearts. The nobles hath he fined
 For ancient quarrels, and quite lost their hearts.

75
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

WILLOUGHBY 
 And daily new exactions are devised,
260 As blanks, benevolences, and I wot not what.
 But what i’ God’s name doth become of this?
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Wars hath not wasted it, for warred he hath not,
 But basely yielded upon compromise
 That which his noble ancestors achieved with blows.
265 More hath he spent in peace than they in wars.
ROSS 
 The Earl of Wiltshire hath the realm in farm.
WILLOUGHBY 
 The King grown bankrupt like a broken man.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Reproach and dissolution hangeth over him.
ROSS 
 He hath not money for these Irish wars,
270 His burdenous taxations notwithstanding,
 But by the robbing of the banished duke.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 His noble kinsman. Most degenerate king!
 But, lords, we hear this fearful tempest sing,
 Yet seek no shelter to avoid the storm;
275 We see the wind sit sore upon our sails,
 And yet we strike not, but securely perish.
ROSS 
 We see the very wrack that we must suffer,
 And unavoided is the danger now
 For suffering so the causes of our wrack.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
280 Not so. Even through the hollow eyes of death
 I spy life peering; but I dare not say
 How near the tidings of our comfort is.
WILLOUGHBY 
 Nay, let us share thy thoughts, as thou dost ours.

77
Richard II
ACT 2. SC. 1

ROSS 
 Be confident to speak, Northumberland.
285 We three are but thyself, and speaking so
 Thy words are but as thoughts. Therefore be bold.
NORTHUMBERLAND 
 Then thus: I have from Le Port Blanc,
 A bay in Brittany, received intelligence
 That Harry Duke of Hereford, Rainold Lord
290 Cobham,
 That late broke from the Duke of Exeter,
 His brother, archbishop late of Canterbury,
 Sir Thomas Erpingham, Sir John Ramston,
 Sir John Norbery, Sir Robert Waterton, and Francis
295 Coint—
 All these well furnished by the Duke of Brittany
 With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
 Are making hither with all due expedience
 And shortly mean to touch our northern shore.
300 Perhaps they had ere this, but that they stay
 The first departing of the King for Ireland.
 If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,
 Imp out our drooping country’s broken wing,
 Redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown,
305 Wipe off the dust that hides our scepter’s gilt,
 And make high majesty look like itself,
 Away with me in post to Ravenspurgh.
 But if you faint, as fearing to do so,
 Stay and be secret, and myself will go.
ROSS 
310 To horse, to horse! Urge doubts to them that fear.
WILLOUGHBY 
 Hold out my horse, and I will first be there.
They exit.