Defective Rulers in Henry IV and Richard II
It has been shown again and again throughout history and literature that if there is a perfect human he is not also the perfect ruler. Those traits which we hold as good, such as the following of some sort of moral code, interfere with the necessity of detachment in a ruler. In both Henry IV and Richard II, Shakespeare explores what properties must be present in a good ruler. Those who are imperfect morally, who take into account only self-interest and not honor or what is appropriate, rise to rule, and stay in power.
Throughout Richard II, Bolingbroke is up against King Richard. Richard is, to a considerable degree, the morally void opportunist: he does after all sieze Gaunt's lands at the moment of his death, taking the entire inheritance away from Gaunt's sons. Richard lacks a sense of morality when it is to his advantage to ignore morality, and proclaims what is right when he thinks he can save his crown. At Gaunt's death, when York attemps to point out that what Richard is doing is wrong, Richard says simply: 'Think what you will, we sieze into our hands/ His plate, his goods, his money and his lands'. Yet later, as Richard is surrounded and on the verge of defeat: 'We are amazed, and thus long have we stood/ To watch the fearful bending of thy knee,/ Because we thought ourself thy lawful king;/ And if we be, how dare thy joints forget/ To pay their awful duty to our presence?'. Richard uses morality as a tool, a necessary quality in a good ruler, yet he is not manipulative enough. Bolingbroke not only ignores morality in his dealings, but keeps up the appearance of moral right and goodness. Bolingbroke knows how to let others take the fall...
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...Bolingbroke because of the doom his need for honor must lead him to.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Bloom, Harold. Henry IV, Part One: Bloom's Notes. New York: Chelsea House, 1996.
Cruttwell,Patrick. Hernry IV. Shakespeare For Students, Vol. II. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1999.
Dean, Leonard F. "Richard II: The State and the Image of the Theatre." PMLA 67 (1952): 211-18.
Kantor, Andrea. Henry IV, Part One. London: Baron's Education Series, Inc, 1984.
Princiss, G.M. Richard II Criticism. Shakespeare For Students, Vol.II. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1999.
Shakespeare, William. Henry IV, Part One, Penguin Books, Lim, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England. 1987.
Shakespeare, William. Richard II. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. G. B. Harrison. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1948. 430-67.