Richard II

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The Crown Symbol Analysis

The Crown Symbol Icon

The crown is a symbol of the throne, the king, and the powers of the king. When Henry gathers troops to support him, for example, Richard says that they are lifting steel against the crown, which represents the king himself and his claim to England. Most simply, the crown indicates who is king, and in the climax of the play, Richard physically hands the crown to Henry, both symbolizing and enacting the change in power. But there is also some complexity to the symbol, as Richard refers to the crown as “hollow,” which is both literal, since the crown has an empty space for the wearer’s head, and figurative, since it can suggest that the monarchy itself or the head within the crown are hollow or unsubstantial. What’s more, the crown is also tied to identity, especially since Richard’s identity is so tied up with the kingship. He says in the process of being deposed, “my crown I am.” On one hand, this suggests that his entire identity is that of a king, and that once he loses his crown he soon dies. But we can also note that this line may be a pun relying on the other meaning of the word “crown”: a head.

The Crown Quotes in Richard II

The Richard II quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Crown. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Throne Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Richard II published in 2005.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

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.
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.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV, Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Related Symbols: Blood, The Crown
Page Number: 1.1.156-163
Explanation and Analysis:

After Henry and Mowbray have made their accusations, argued, and offered to fight one another, King Richard intercedes in an attempt to placate both men and resolve the matter without violence. He tells them to “be ruled by [him],” emphasizing that at this point his position on the throne is still secure. He hopes to end the situation without blood being spilled. The symbol of blood is used most basically here with a literal meaning; violence causes blood to spill.

But Richard also evokes bloodletting, an early medicinal practice of letting someone bleed in order to heal them. Richard, we see, rules with language, and favors figurative imagery to make his points. We can also note the sage advice in “deep malice makes too deep incision,” which suggests that hatred often plunges too deep. Richard advises the men to forgive and forget the matter, and if they had listened to him, Richard’s downfall might have been prevented.

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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king.
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord.
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.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV, Duke of Aumerle, Bishop of Carlisle
Related Symbols: The Crown
Page Number: 3.2.55-62
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard speaks these lines in self-reassurance after being reminded by Carlisle (and Aumerle) that he is king by divine right. Despite the fact that his chances against Henry look bad, they say, God is on his side. Employing his heavily figurative language, Richard says that not all of the water in the sea can wash away his kingliness, nor can all the breath (speech) of every human depose a king who has been chosen by God. Humans and nature, he argues, simply do not have the power to dethrone God’s appointed substitute. For every soldier that Henry has gathered to fight against the crown (representing the throne and position of king), Richard says that God has an angel who will fight on his side.

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

He is come to open
The purple testament of bleeding war;
But ere the crown he looks for live in peace,
Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers' sons
Shall ill become the flower of England's face,
Change the complexion of her maid-pale peace
To scarlet indignation, and bedew
Her pastures' grass with faithful English blood.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Related Symbols: Blood, The Crown
Page Number: 3.3.95-102
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard says these lines to Henry in a proud speech. In it, he demands that his subjects treat him with the respect a king deserves, and he reminds these subjects that he is ruler by divine right. Here, he addresses Henry directly to say that he will fight to keep the throne. Richard says that Henry is causing a bloody war, and that before he can take the crown he wants in peace, ten thousand bloody crowns (heads) of mother’s sons will stain the face of England, which is figured both as a maiden and as a garden. Richard plays on the two meanings of crown here, and he returns to the image of the blood of thousands of men and the face of England. Though instead of the blood rushing from his own face as above, in Act 3 Scene 2, here the blood will be spilled and will stain the pale face of the body politic.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

If you crown him, let me prophesy
The blood of English shall manure the ground
And future ages groan for this foul act,
Peace shall go sleep with Turks and infidels,
And in this seat of peace tumultuous wars
Shall kin with kin and kind with kind confound.
Disorder, horror, fear, and mutiny
Shall here inhabit, and this land be called
The field of Golgotha and dead men's skulls.
O, if you raise this house against this house,
It will the woefullest division prove
That ever fell upon this curséd earth!

Related Characters: Bishop of Carlisle (speaker), King Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Related Symbols: Blood, The Crown
Page Number: 4.1.142-153
Explanation and Analysis:

After saying that technically, Henry cannot be crowned or pass sentence on Richard, Carlisle here offers his prophesy as to what will happen if Henry somehow is crowned. He says that the blood of the English will spill onto the ground, and that future generations will despise the foul deed of crowning Henry. Other lands will find peace while England becomes home to wars, where the family fights itself and people slaughter each other. Chaos and horror, he says, will rule England, if one house (family) rises against another. Dramatically, Carlisle says that it will be the worst split to ever occur on earth. This vivid, intense prophesy, audiences would know, will ultimately come true in later plays in the extremely blood Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York. We can note that part of the horror of this war is that it is a war between two sides of one family. Here the family drama is elevated to a royal scale, and to deadly effect.

Here, cousin, seize the crown.
Here, cousin.
On this side my hand, on that side thine.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well
That owes two buckets, filling one another,
The emptier ever dancing in the air,
The other down, unseen, and full of water.
That bucket down and full of tears am I,
Drinking my grief, whilst you mount up on high.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Related Symbols: The Crown
Page Number: 4.1.190-198
Explanation and Analysis:

In this climactic moment, the transition of power from Richard to Henry is made through the physical object of the crown, which symbolizes power and the throne itself. Both men hold either side of the crown, while Richard characterizes it as a deep well with two buckets alternately rising (when empty) and falling (when full of water). While Richard passes his power to Henry, he envisions Henry as a higher bucket pouring sorrows, grief, and tears down to a lower bucket that is Richard. It is fitting that as his fall is enacted and Henry’s rise to power is made official, Richard uses more low and high imagery with himself occupying the lowly figure.

With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duteous oaths.
All pomp and majesty I do forswear.
My manors, rents, revenues I forgo;
My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny.
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me.
God keep all vows unbroke are made to thee.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Related Symbols: The Crown
Page Number: 4.1.216-224
Explanation and Analysis:

In these powerful lines, which utilize anaphora, the literary device in which multiple lines begin with the same word or words (here, “with my own”), Richard officially transfers his powers as king over to Henry. These lines are significant because, while it seems that Henry’s perspective on the ability of subjects to pass sentence on kings has won, the notion that only a king can dethrone a king is not disproven. Rather, it is reinforced, as Henry’s coronation cannot be made official until Richard himself transfers the power. Thus it is crucial that Richard washes the “balm” (his anointment) with his own tears, gives the crown with his own hands, speaks the transfer with his own mouth, and makes Henry king with his own breath. It is also tragic, however, that his last speech act as king is to uncrown himself through the coronation of his foe.

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The Crown Symbol Timeline in Richard II

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Crown appears in Richard II. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, Scene 1
The Throne Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...inheritance of Henry, and that inheritance is the very means by which Richard received the crown. Seizing Henry’s inheritance, he says, is dangerous, since it calls into question Richard’s own power. (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...hopes this will provide them with the opportunity to “redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown.” (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
The Throne Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...earth of England itself to be hostile to Henry and those who would usurp Richard’s crown. After this speech, Carlisle reassures the king, saying that the power that made him king... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...“king” when referring to Richard. York is well aware of Henry’s ambition to take the crown, though Henry and Northumberland here deny it. (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...on English land taken by Henry is treason, and that before Richard peacefully surrenders the crown that Henry wants, “Ten thousand bloody crowns of mother’s sons / Shall ill become the... (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...Henry kneels before Richard, but Richard accuses Henry of making an attempt to gain the crown. Henry still maintains that he is here only for what is rightfully his, but Richard... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...to the throne. He calls Henry a traitor, and then makes a prophesy: “If you crown him, let me prophesy / The blood of English shall manure the ground / And... (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
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Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
But since Henry has been crowned, Carlisle’s speech is figured as treason, and so he is arrested. Henry then calls forth... (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
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Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
Richard then takes the crown and tells Henry to seize it. They both hold on to either end of the... (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...claims that he is now nameless, since his identity was so tied up with the crown. In his distress, he requests a mirror, and while it is brought out, Northumberland encourages... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
The Throne Theme Icon
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Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
To this the Queen asks if Henry has deposed Richard’s intellect along with his crown, questioning why he is surrendering and submitting without any fight whatsoever. But Richard merely says... (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
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England Theme Icon
...laments that he has been doubly divorced, since Henry has split him up from his crown and from his wife. Though they request to be banished together, in a painful moment,... (full context)