Richard II

Blood Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Blood Symbol Icon

In Richard II, blood symbolizes family and lineage, royalty and the divine right of kings, honor and obligation, violence and guilt, and humanity itself. One of the earliest mentions of blood refers to king Richard’s “sacred blood,” a phrase which carries two spheres of meaning. Firstly, Richard has come to power because of his royal bloodline; he inherited the throne because of his blood and family lineage. But sacred blood also expresses the special character of a king’s blood: it is (supposedly) divine. Thus blood also comes to represent the divine right of kings in the play. Sharing blood with someone, especially divine blood, creates a strong and complicated relationship. This relationship is explored when the Duchess of Gloucester appeals to Gaunt’s sense of family honor, saying that an attack on the Duke of Gloucester, Gaunt’s brother, is an attack on his blood and therefore an attack on Gaunt himself, thus obligating the living brother to act. But since Gaunt is also related to Richard and recognizes the royal aspect of Richard’s blood, he is unable (at first) to say or do anything.

Though there is not much violence in the play, blood is often evoked in threats of violence or moments where violence might potential break out, and blood is also used to symbolize guilt, as Henry ends the play hoping to wash any blood from his hands with a crusade to Jerusalem. Finally, blood also represents humanity, as Richard, in a moment of weakness when he fears he’ll lose his seat on the throne, says that he is only “flesh and blood.”

Blood Quotes in Richard II

The Richard II quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blood. 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

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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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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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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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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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

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:

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

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:

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.

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:

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.

Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

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:

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.

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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Blood Symbol Timeline in Richard II

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood appears in Richard II. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
...Henry will not receive special treatment just because he is near to the king’s “sacred blood.” Mowbray then continues to make his own case, in which he also says he is... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
...Edward III’s sons, she says, including Gaunt and the Duke of Gloucester, all contained sacred blood. She says an attack on one is an attack on all of them; killing Gloucester... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...arbitrarily stops it. He says that the kingdom’s earth should not be stained with the blood that it made, and that he hates to see neighbors fight. He continues to say... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
The Throne Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...of Henry, and all of the bad things happening in England, he feels Richard is “bloody with the enemies of his kin.” York explains that Gaunt’s lands and money should legally... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...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 face. But he forgets himself for... (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...echo other Shakespeare plays. It is here that he refers to himself as flesh and blood, and asks, since he is so subjected, how can he be called a 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
...then where is the hand of God that has deposed him? No human hand “of blood and bone,” he says, can remove a king’s power, unless by evil usurpation. He continues... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...traitor, and then makes a prophesy: “If you crown him, let me prophesy / The blood of English shall manure the ground / And future ages groan for this foul act;... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
The Throne Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...final breath, Richard tells Exton that he has stained the king’s land with the king’s blood. He cries that his soul is going up while his body sinks, and he dies. (full context)
The Throne Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
Exton then laments spilling valor and royal blood, and wishes that the deed was good. He decides to take the dead king back... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
The Throne Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Honor and Appearance Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
...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... (full context)