Richard II, Shakespeare: analysis of act 2, scene 1

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Richard II, Shakespeare

Analysis of act 2, scene 1

Act II scene one is one of the most important scenes of the play ; just before dying, John of Gaunt makes a prophesy : he tells Richard he hopes the king will die soon and that his “shame” will outlive him (line 135). And indeed, this curse comes true, which suggests that Richard is destined to destruction and downfall. This clearly makes Richard II a true Shakespearean tragedy.

        This scene has, first of all, an important setting. It involves three places : Ely House in London, where Richard visits Gaunt who glorifies England with his famous and insisting speech : “This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise” (lines 40 to 43). As well as Ireland ; in this scene we find out that Richard is headed to Ireland to take care of a war that broke out there. And Brittany ; we learn that Bullingbrook has raised a huge army there and is getting ready to sail back to Britain.

        Secondly, this scene shows Richard’s passivity. Indeed, when Northumberland says about Richard that “Wars hath not wasted it, for warred he hath not, But basely yielded upon compromise That which his ancestors achieved with blows. More hath he spent in peace than they in wars.” (lines 252 to 255), it is interesting to see what behaviours these characters find shameful : here Northumberland criticizes Richard for compromising with France instead of fighting as his ancestors did.

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We also learn about Richard towards power in this scene : through his long speech, from “O my liege” (line 187) to “Which honour and allegiance cannot think” (line 208), York explains that if Richard steals Bullingbrook’s birthright by taking Gaunt’s land and wealth (as they’re supposed to be bequeathed to his eldest son, i.e. Bullingbrook), he will lose the loyalty of his subjects. In fact, the rules that say Bullingbrook should get his dad’s land and wealth are the same rules saying that kings should inherit the crown from their fathers. So by doing this, Richard will also expose ...

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