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