Richard II

Richard II Act 5, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Summary
Analysis
Act five begins with Richard’s Queen reflecting on Richard’s looming imprisonment and lamenting the recent turn of events. But when Richard meets her on stage, he urges her not to be sad and to think of his time as king as merely a happy dream. He tells her to go to France and hide in a religious house where she will be safe.
Richard’s suggestion that his Queen think of the situation as a happy dream echoes Gaunt’s attempts to console Henry after the new king was banished, though the roles have been reversed by the shift in power.
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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 that she should think of this interaction as his deathbed, and he asks her to tell his sad story to others: that of a rightful king deposed.
The Queen questions if Richard’s intelligence has also been taken away, suggesting that he is acting foolishly and cowardly, but Richard is emotionally broken and believes himself to be essentially dead already.
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At this point Northumberland enters and says that Henry has decided Richard will be taken to Pomfret instead of the Tower. To him, Richard (accurately) predicts that the peace between Henry and Northumberland will not last, as Northumberland will not be satisfied no matter what Henry gives him, and Henry will always know that Northumberland helped unseat one king and will therefore fear that he might attempt it again.
Though Henry’s power over Richard is absolute at this point, Richard is able to see that the alliance between Northumberland and the new king will soon fracture. This breakage makes up much of the conflict of the plays that follow.
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Richard also 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, the two are forcibly separated as Richard is taken to his imprisonment.
Richard’s assertion that he was married to his crown (and now divorced from it) could be an echo of Queen Elizabeth I’s status of “virgin queen,” married to England itself, in Shakespeare’s time.
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