A general conclusion of most critics is that Richard II is a play about the deposition of a "weak and effeminate" king. That he was a weak king, will be conceded. That he was an inferior person, will not. The insight to Richard's character and motivation is to view him as a person consistently acting his way through life. Richard was a man who held great love for show and ceremony. This idiosyncrasy certainly led him to make decisions as king that were poor, and in effect an inept ruler. If not for this defect in character, Richard could be viewed as a witty, intelligent person, albeit ill-suited for his inherited occupation.
Immediately the reader is shown the adoration of ceremony and drama that Richard holds. He hears the accusations brought to him by his cousin Bolingbroke and Mowbray. Mowbray fearing impartiality on the kings part is reassured by Richard: "impartial are our eyes and ears./ Were he my brother, nay my kingdom's heir...Now by my scepter's awe I make a vow. (I.i.120-123). Notice the love Richard has of his power and of the ceremony itself that the kingship brings with three words, "my scepters awe". Interestingly until this point Richard has used the royal "we" in his speech; here it becomes his personal status. Additionally, he asks them to "be ruled by me" (i.i157) and follows this line with clever poetry. "Lets purge this choler without letting blood./ This we prescribe, though no physician;/ Deep malice makes too deep incision." (I.i.158-160). Richard is showing off his poetic talents, not necessarily his kingly talents. There seems to be a strong feeling that he enjoys this display of his talent. At this point the reader may be amused and entertained by his ...
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... He was though very inconsistent. He lapses into moods and publicly displays his feelings. Inconstancy is not the way to rule a country. His entrance into "reality" stems from his adversity with Bolingbroke. Would Richard have matured if not faced with the opposition of Bolingbroke. Sadly the answer seems to be no. Richard was consistently acting through his reign, yet that was his true personality. Such is the paradox that is Richard II.
Calderwood, James L. and Howard E. Tolvier, eds. Essays in Shakespearean Criticism. NJ:Prentice Hall, Inc. 1970
Cubeta, Paul A., Twentieth Century Interpretations of Richard II. NJ:Prentice Hall, Inc. 1971
Dean, Leonard F., ed. Shakespeare Modern Essays in Criticism. New York:Oxford University Press. 1967
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Richard The Second. New York: Washington Square Press. 1962
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