Richard II was one of Shakespeare’s political works depicting the rise and fall of King Richard II. Richard became king of England as a boy at 10 years of age, although his advisors made most of the political decisions of the kingdom until he matured. During this maturation period, Richard was more interested in learning about aesthetic things in life rather than things more responsible to the monarch. He had very little experience and talent in the areas of military tactics and his decisions relating to the monarch seemed arbitrary.
These traits that Richard displayed were not befitting to a king and a man who was suppose to lead. Rather than look out for the interests of his people, Richard was more inclined to favor the interests of the rich and greedy. He implemented excessive taxing, and took profits by appropriating other peoples land for his own benefit and to fund a foreign war. Richard also went as far as alienating himself from his most important supporters, the nobleman. Ultimately, this led to the downfall of his reign as king.
As public discontent with Richard grew, Henry of Bolingbroke, whom Richard had sent into exile, emerged as the strongest opposition to Richard’s thrown. In addition to banishment, Henry was also unfairly taken of his families’ wealth, land, and title, from which he was the rightful heir. Henry contrasted Richard in many ways, in that he was honest, and very practical. Furthermore, Henry was very reluctant to assume the role of future King, eventually accepting after urging and support from the other nobles.
While Richard left England to oversee the progress of his foreign war, Henry and the other nobles began plans to take Richard’s kingdom. This was a crucial mistake on Richard’s part. By not taking care of issues on the domestic front, Richard’s followers and soldiers grew increasingly weary of his ability to lead and be an effective king, eventually siding with Henry. Henry proceeded to capture Bristol Castle, a stronghold of Richard’s and began his plans on being ordained future king.
Upon Richard’s return to England, he learns of the events that had transpired in his absence. At first his own arrogance allows him to believe that since it is his God given right to rule as King, he will be protected. But then just as quickly, Richard’s arrogance turns into despair upon the realization that Henry has gained support of the nobles and the people of England. Henry and Richard finally meet at Ramparts Castle leading to the climax of the play. Henry demands retribution for the allocation of his families’ possessions and titles, and demands that his sentence of exile be revoked. Richard agrees to these demands with little or no resistance showing further proof of his weakness as a leader by not enforcing his decisions.
After replacing Richard as the dominant figure and more efficient leader, Richard reluctantly assumes the role of king; realizing that this is an unprecedented change going against the common belief that the reigning king is a title that is given by divine right. As king, Henry immediately imprisons Richard where he is eventually slain, securing Henry’s new role as king. Henry then shows his compassion as a leader by declaring a period of mourning, ending the play with a planned pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The play Richard II brings to light many important issues of leadership. Shakespeare eloquently shows the reader that effective rule is determined by ones decisions and results as a leader, rather than title alone. Furthermore, he illustrates that to be an effective leader, one must have the respect and support of those you govern or you will be replaced by someone who has these attributes. Richard’s inability to master these skills ultimately proves to be his downfall as he is eventually overthrown as king.
King Richard Cliff note