Shakespeare/Richard II term paper 12572

Shakespeare term papers
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Richard became king at the age of ten, taking over for his father, Edward the

Black Prince, Edward III’s oldest son, who predeceased his father. This

elevation gave the boy authority over all nobles, including his uncles. Once

crowned, Richard’s right to rule and to have his commands obeyed was supported

by the order of God, since it was believed that the king’s power was issued

directly from God. The king served as the representative of God on Earth, and to

resist the will of the king was to onset oneself against the order of the

universe and the will of God. Therefore, the king ruled by divine right, and it

was this belief that served as Richard’s primary weapon. Richard is a king and

not simply a man and this play is about the claim of a king. Most of Richard’s

actions have to do with the act of kingly power or the failure to act. Richard

is not just; the matter of Gloucester’s death proves just that. As long as

Richard is king he is just the landlord of England. Richard is unjust towards

Gaunt and replies with rage and threat “A lunatic lean-witted fool.” His

coldness at the passing of a great man is shocking but with his next lines he

moves from the insensitive to the illegal. When he seizes Gaunt’s possessions

he breaks the law and deprives Bolingbroke of his inheritance he strikes at the

foundations of his own power but still believes that he is right in everything

that he does. If Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and the son of the Duke of

Lancaster, does not inherit his father's lands and titles, Richard is

challenging the same rule that gave him the right to govern England, by

inheritance from his father the Black Prince and his grandfather Edward III.

When King Richard lands on the coast of Wales, he is aware of the existence of

the rebellion but convinced that the nature of the kingship will protect him.

Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the balm from an anointed

king… For every man that Bolingbroke hath pressed To lift shrewd steel against

our golden crown, God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay A glorious angel…

Richard’s elaborate comparison here of the king to the sun, leads into his

belief of divine right. Many qualities of this quotation reflect the character

of Richard; he sees himself as the glorious fire, which is parallel to the

traditional image of the King as the sun. When Richard actually removes the

crown, he does so with a poetic flair that intimates that he, a divinely

ordained king, will always possess a majesty that Bolingbroke, forever a

usurper, can only dream of: With mine own tears I wash away my balm, With mine

own hands I give away my crown… The implication is that only a lawful king can

follow this ceremony, and Bolingbroke will never have such status, he will

forever be smaller then Richard, who concludes his performance with a line of

forgiveness. Though I did wish him dead, I hate the murderer… Henry banishes

the knight from his presence and decides on a voyage to the Holy Land to

compensate his guilt. For he has killed a king, the Lord’s ordained, and it is

a crime that will cast a dark shadow over England for a long time to come. I

believe that Shakespeare was writing this play with the belief in divine right.

Shakespeare is writing this play for the Queen’s pleasure and his views cannot

be so drastic or he could be beheaded. There are many references to God in

relation to Richard and divine right. When Richard gives up his crown he also

loses his identity, we should hate Richard for being a weak ruler and love

Bolingbroke for being strong and able to take a stand on the many issues Richard

could not, but the reverse happens at the end of this play.


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