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Divine Right of Kings Implied in the Bishop of Carlisle's Speech in Richard II

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Introduction

Divine Right of Kings Implied in the Bishop of Carlisle's Speech in Richard II Shakespeare's Tragedy of King Richard II drips with references to the divine right of kings and the appropriate response of passive obedience by a king's subjects, as it explores the implications of Richard's involvement in the murder of Thomas of Woodstock, Duck of Gloucester, and Bolingbroke's revenge for that murder: the overthrowing of King Richard II. Numerous characters speak of the strong parallel between God and the king, but none approach the subject quite as directly as the Bishop of Carlisle does in his speech condemning Bolingbroke's acceptance of Richard's invitation to ascend the throne in Act IV, scene 1 of the play. ...read more.

Middle

This proclamation demonstrates that the position he is taking is a moral position, one that should be addressed to Christians by church officials. In fact, Bevington informs in his introduction to Richard II that parishioners were familiar with the doctrine, "for they heard it in church periodically in official homilies against rebellion" (722). Therefore, Carlisle is clearly not out of line in speaking to the issue. He asserts that none of the present nobility is really noble, as they do not have "forbearance from so foul a wrong" (121) as to "show so heinous, black, obscene a deed" as to judge their king, much less when he is not even present (132). Using rhetorical questions, Carlisle makes it clear that each man has a duty to his king: "What subject can give sentence on his king? ...read more.

Conclusion

The people understood that they were to have faith that God's plan was for their best. [Should this be the first paragraph following the introduction?] While Carlisle's (and several other characters') position asserting that passive obedience, as Bevington points out, "the moderate position between the extremes of tyranny and rebellion," greatly affects the audiences response to the play, readers must be careful not to consider it Shakespeare's position (723). The accepted moral standards of the church are called into question; when Bolingbroke ascends the throne, becoming King Henry IV, does his ascension assert that God has divinely appointed him king and that Richard must now submit to his authority? Whether audiences choose to see Henry's usurpation of the throne as rebellion against God or appoint by God, Carlisle's speech will elicit great thought on the matter, providing justification for the doctrines of divine right and passive obedience. ...read more.

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