Richard II

Richard II Act 5, Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Summary
Analysis
King Henry reports to York that he still awaits news on the rebels. Northumberland then enters and says that they have been captured and killed. The originator of the plan, Percy says, is dead, but the Bishop of Carlisle has been captured alive. However, Henry elects to pardon him because he has seen “high sparks of honor” in Carlisle.
Henry’s balance of harsh punishment and mercy is showcased again, as the rebels are reported dead, but Carlisle is granted a pardon for the singular reason that Henry saw honor within him. This comment at once solidifies the importance of honor and the idea that honor is somehow internal and distinct from mere appearance. One can appear honorable, but Carlisle is granted a pardon because his honor is internal and therefore viewed as legitimate.
Themes
The Throne Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
After the pardon is delivered, Exton enters with Richard’s coffin. Henry is careful not to thank Exton, and says that he never ordered this. Though he did wish Richard dead, he cannot thank Exton for the murder, which he did not explicitly desire. The play ends with Henry feeling guilty for shedding blood in his path to claim the throne, and so he makes the decision to start a crusade to the Holy Land to “wash this blood off from my guilty hand.”
Henry must be careful not to create a situation like the one that started the play, where a king is implicated in the murder of a royal family member. Though there has been little battle or resistance in Henry’s claim of England, the new king feels guilty for shedding blood, and so he announces his intent to make a pilgrimage to wash that blood away (although, of course, with a crusade he’d also be going to spill more blood—just in a foreign and “heathen” land instead of in England). As shown in the following plays, however, Henry never really carries out this plan to launch a crusade.
Themes
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon