Richard II

King Richard II Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Richard II is the king of England at the start of the play. He inherited his crown from Edward III, his grandfather, and he is John of Gaunt’s nephew and Henry Bolingbroke’s cousin. In one sense, the play can be seen as the story of Richard’s downfall. Throughout the play, Richard seems to abuse his power, and he rarely listens to advice from friends or advisors. He heavily taxes the country and spends frivolously, apparently spending more in peace times than other kings might during war. As Richard sees it, a king’s power to rule comes by divine right, and he constantly tells himself that he will not lose his crown since God is on his side. Ultimately, though, Richard’s focus on being king and the symbolism and divine aspects to the throne are outweighed by the need for a king to act and be successful, and Richard is deposed after a series of bad decisions.

King Richard II Quotes in Richard II

The Richard II quotes below are all either spoken by King Richard II or refer to King Richard II. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Richard II published in 2005.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

What I speak
My body shall make good upon this earth
Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.
Thou art a traitor and a miscreant.

Related Characters: Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV (speaker), King Richard II, Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Page Number: 1.1.37-40
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times-barred-up chest
Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.
Mine honor is my life; both grow in one.
Take honor from me, and my life is done.

Related Characters: Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (speaker), King Richard II
Page Number: 1.1.183-189
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Finds brotherhood in thee no sharper spur?
Hath love in thy old blood no living fire?
Edward's seven sons, whereof thyself art one,
Were as seven vials of his sacred blood,
Or seven fair branches springing from one root.

Ah, Gaunt, his blood was thine! That bed, that womb,
That metal, that self mold that fashioned thee
Made him a man; and though thou livest and breathest,
Yet art thou slain in him.

Related Characters: Duchess of Gloucester (speaker), King Richard II, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Duke of Gloucester, Edward III
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 1.1.9-26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

The language I have learnt these forty years,
My native English, now I must forgo;
And now my tongue's use is to me no more
Than an unstringéd viol or a harp,
Or like a cunning instrument cased up,
Or, being open, put into his hands
That knows no touch to tune the harmony.

What is thy sentence then but speechless death,
Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?

Related Characters: Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (speaker), King Richard II
Page Number: 1.3.161-175
Explanation and Analysis:

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How long a time lies in one little word!
Four lagging winters and four wanton springs
End in a word; such is the breath of kings.

Related Characters: Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV (speaker), King Richard II
Page Number: 1.3.218-220
Explanation and Analysis:

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Shorten my days thou canst with sullen sorrow,
And pluck nights from me, but not lend a morrow.
Thou canst help time to furrow me with age,
But stop no wrinkle in his pilgrimage,
Thy word is current with him for my death,
But dead, thy kingdom cannot buy my breath.

Related Characters: John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (speaker), King Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Page Number: 1.3.233-238
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

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,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,

England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Feared by their breed and famous by their birth,

This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out—I die pronouncing it—
Like to a tenement or pelting farm.

Related Characters: John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (speaker), King Richard II
Page Number: 2.1.45-66
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

O, but they say the tongues of dying men
Enforce attention like deep harmony.
Where words are since, they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.
He that no more must say is listened more
Than they whom youth and ease have taught to gloze.

Related Characters: John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (speaker), King Richard II, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Page Number: 2.1.5-13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

That power that made you king
Hath power to keep you king in spite of all.

Related Characters: Bishop of Carlisle (speaker), King Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Page Number: 3.2.27-28
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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AUMERLE
Comfort, my liege. Why looks your Grace so pale?

KING RICHARD
But now the blood of twenty thousand men
Did triumph in my face, and they are fled;
And till so much blood thither come again
Have I not reason to look pale and dead?

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Duke of Aumerle
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 3.2.76-81
Explanation and Analysis:

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I had forgot myself. Am I not king?
Awake, thou coward majesty, thou sleepest!
Is not the King's name twenty thousand names?
Arm, arm, my name! A puny subject strikes
At thy great glory. Look not to the ground,
You favorites of a king. Are we not high?
High be our thoughts.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Page Number: 3.2.84-90
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

What subject can give sentence on his king?
And who sits here that is not Richard's subject?

Related Characters: Bishop of Carlisle (speaker), King Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Page Number: 4.1.127-128
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Yet I well remember
The favors of these men. Were they not mine?
Did they not sometime cry "All hail" to me?
So Judas did to Christ, but He in twelve
Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Page Number: 4.1.175-179
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Alack the heavy day,
That I have worn so many winters out
And know not now what name to call myself.
O, that I were a mockery king of snow
Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke,
To melt myself away in water drops.—

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV
Page Number: 4.1.268-273
Explanation and Analysis:

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They shall be satisfied. I’ll read enough
When I do see the very book indeed
Where all my sins are writ, and that's myself.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.284-286
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father, and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humors like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker)
Page Number: 5.5.6-11
Explanation and Analysis:

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Exton, thy fierce hand
Hath with the King's blood stained the King's own land.
Mount, mount, my soul. Thy seat is up on high,
Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die.

Related Characters: King Richard II (speaker), Sir Pierce of Exton
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.5.112-116
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

They love not poison that do poison need,
Nor do I thee. Though I did wish him dead,
I hate the murderer, love him murdered.
The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labor,
But neither my good word nor princely favor.

I’ll make a voyage to the Holy Land
To wash this blood off from my guilty hand.

Related Characters: Henry Bolingbroke / King Henry IV (speaker), King Richard II, Sir Pierce of Exton
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.6.38-42
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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King Richard II Character Timeline in Richard II

The timeline below shows where the character King Richard II appears in Richard II. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
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The play begins with King Richard, John of Gaunt, and other nobles entering the stage. Richard asks Gaunt if he has... (full context)
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Both Henry and Mowbray praise Richard before beginning to accuse one another. Henry, who is prepared to die for this cause,... (full context)
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Again, Henry says that he is willing to prove his truth in battle. At Richard’s request, he gives more details of his accusation: Henry says that Mowbray has committed numerous... (full context)
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Mowbray then attempts to make his own case, noting that Richard and Henry are cousins. Richard, though, says that he is ever impartial, and vows that... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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...that the one who has the power to correct the situation or punish the killer (Richard) was the one involved with the murder. Facing this difficult situation, Gaunt resigns himself to... (full context)
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...intense speech, Gaunt still maintains that the quarrel must be left up to God, since Richard is king and God’s substitute on earth, and going against him would therefore be blasphemy.... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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Just as the fight is about to start, however, Richard arbitrarily stops it. He says that the kingdom’s earth should not be stained with the... (full context)
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...English language. The sentence is so harsh that Mowbray deems it a “speechless death.” But Richard does not relent. Instead, he makes the two men swear to follow his command, observe... (full context)
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But just after his exit, Richard sees how sad Gaunt is to lose his son to banishment, so the king reduces... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
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This scene takes place in Richard’s court. It begins with Richard asking Aumerle about Henry’s exit and if tears were shed.... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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...hopes the king will visit so he has the opportunity to give final advice to Richard, which he believes will be taken more seriously since it is coming from a dying... (full context)
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After Gaunt’s speech concludes, Richard enters, and Gaunt begins punning on his own name (since gaunt also means lean and... (full context)
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Richard interrupts this rant and even threatens to execute Gaunt, but Gaunt continues his tirade, saying... (full context)
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Upon hearing this announcement, Richard immediately decides to seize all of Gaunt’s property to support the war in Ireland. At... (full context)
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Ultimately, though, Richard ignores York and takes the land and money anyways. After York exits, Richard sends his... (full context)
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...like himself and that they disagree with the decision to disinherit Henry. Northumberland notes that Richard has spent more money during peace times than other kings have in war, suggesting Richard... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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In this scene, Bushy and Bagot, friends of Richard, attempt to comfort Richard’s Queen, who is upset since Richard is leaving for Ireland. She... (full context)
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As the discussion on grief ends, Green enters looking for Richard. Green hopes to tell Richard that Henry has returned and grouped with Northumberland, Ross, and... (full context)
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...of Gloucester has died. York says that though he is related to both Henry and Richard, and he acknowledges that Richard wronged Henry, he will still side with the king because... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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York then enters and begins scolding Henry for violating Richard’s decree of banishment by stepping again on English soil. He says that he would take... (full context)
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.../ and I challenge law,” demanding his rights and beginning to assert the notion that Richard can be held accountable for his actions on the throne. (full context)
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...and the other nobles agree that Henry has been mistreated, and even York agrees that Richard has been unfair and a subpar king. York says, however, that staging a rebellion is... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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...Captain tells Salisbury that the army has waited ten days, and, having no word of Richard, will now disperse. Though Salisbury tells him to stay, the captain refuses, saying that they... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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...deliver a long speech in which he chastises them for misleading the king and aiding Richard in the decision to banish and disinherit him. Henry thus sentences Bushy and Green to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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This scene takes place on the coast of Wales. Here Richard is thrilled to return to his kingdom (from Ireland), despite the fact that it is... (full context)
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Richard lashes out, saying that when the sun is on the other side of the globe... (full context)
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What’s more, Richard argues, nothing on earth, nor all the water in the sea can wash the royal... (full context)
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...dispelled when Salisbury enters and informs the king that the Welsh army has dispersed. Immediately, Richard turns pale, saying that the blood of those thousands of men has rushed from his... (full context)
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Again, though, Richard is deflated, as he braces for the worst possible news (his own death) when Scroop... (full context)
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With this news Richard feels completely defeated. He says that they should all begin preparing their wills, and that... (full context)
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After this lengthy speech, Carlisle tells Richard that fearing and wailing only strengthen their enemies, and that the king needs to prepare... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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The scene begins with Henry recapping the information learned in the previous scene: Richard’s armies have dispersed, and he has met his few allies on the coast. Northumberland reports... (full context)
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Percy then enters and says that Richard is in Flint Castle along with his remaining supporters. Henry instructs Percy to enter the... (full context)
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Just when Henry completes the message that he wants Percy to send, Richard appears. Henry compares the king to a “discontented sun” that is jealous of the clouds,... (full context)
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Richard then begins a speech in which he demands that his subjects treat him like the... (full context)
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Northumberland responds to this speech in an attempt to placate Richard, assuring him that Henry is bending his knee and only back in England to reclaim... (full context)
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When the two men finally stand in front of one another again, Henry kneels before Richard, but Richard accuses Henry of making an attempt to gain the crown. Henry still maintains... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
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In the Duke of York’s garden, Richard’s Queen is still sad, despite the efforts of a Lady to cheer her up. Soon... (full context)
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...as Adam in the garden of Eden, the Queen asks why he would say that Richard is deposed. The gardener responds that everyone has sided with Henry, making it all but... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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After a snarky comment from Carlisle, York enters and says that Richard has agreed to make Henry his heir and descend from the throne. York then announces... (full context)
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...Carlisle’s speech is figured as treason, and so he is arrested. Henry then calls forth Richard so that he may surrender in public. Richard soon enters and laments the betrayal of... (full context)
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Richard then takes the crown and tells Henry to seize it. They both hold on to... (full context)
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The final thing required of Richard is that he read out loud the list of accusations against him for crimes against... (full context)
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Looking into the mirror, Richard reflects on his face and the kingdom he has lost, before throwing it to the... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Act five begins with Richard’s Queen reflecting on Richard’s looming imprisonment and lamenting the recent turn of events. But when... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Richard also laments that he has been doubly divorced, since Henry has split him up from... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...Henry’s rise to power, and says that the common people cheered for the new king. Richard, on the other hand, received no such welcome, not even a singular “God save him.” (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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...me of this living fear?” Exton takes this to be an implicit order to kill Richard, and he leaves for Pomfret to commit the murder. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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Act five scene five opens with Richard alone in prison at Pomfret Castle. Speaking a soliloquy, Richard says that he would want... (full context)
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Suddenly, Richard hears faint music, which is painful, since he cannot hear it uninterrupted. He reflects on... (full context)
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...king. The groom explains that he dressed the horse that Henry rode on recently, and Richard asks if the horse bore Henry proudly, hoping that it might have thrown him to... (full context)
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After a few exchanges, Richard, who is tired of his imprisonment, begins beating the keeper. The keeper calls for help,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
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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.... (full context)