Richard II Essay, Research Paper
The problem with Richard is that he is not really a man of action; he confronts and deals with difficulties by internalising and talking about them.
Richard is not at all a man of his action. Whenever a problem arises, he internalises and talks to himself or the surrounding people, but does not do anything to resolve the problem. He is not ready to stand up and do something about it, and instead complains about the situation to himself. I think that it is because of this trait that Richard loses the kingship of England, and Bolingbroke, a man who is always ready to take action when a problem arises wins the throne over Richard.
In the first scene, where Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of killing Gloucester, Richard plays a major part in the action and at first look, I think that the reader could think that Richard is in fact a ‘man of action’ because of his handling of the Mowbray-Bolingbroke situation. When Richard pronounces that Mowbray and Bolingbroke shall fight to the death “At Coventry upon St. Lambert’s Day” (I, i, 199), the reader could mistake this act of ’showmanship’ as the act of a leader who was ready to stand up and take action when a problem arose. However, as we see later, in Act 1 scene 3, Richard’s order for Mowbray and Bolingbroke’s lives to answer their accusations was only to fuel Richard’s own desire to be the centre of attention; it was his ’showman’ quality that lead him to do this, not his ability to take action when a situation that required good leadership skills arose.
In Act 3, scene 2, Richard, on his return to England, finds that his ‘favourites’ (Bushy, Bagot and Greene) have all been killed by Bolingbroke. Richard is struck down with immense sorrow and self-pity and illustrates very clearly his passive nature. Instead of becoming extremely angry and wanting revenge for his friends’ deaths, he says that they should “sit upon the ground / And tell stories of the death of Kings” (III, ii, 155-156), and talk only of death and other morbid topics. When someone is murdered, people that knew them usually become very angry towards the murderer and often try to seek revenge. In ‘Richard II’, Richard, the king of England, has had his best friends, his ‘favourites’ killed by his worst enemy, a person he had banished from the country, a person who is clearly trying to steal the throne from Richard, and all Richard can do is sit around and tell sad stories and speak about death. Bolingbroke has done so much to Richard and yet even after he has killed his friends, Richard still makes no attempt to stop Bolingbroke, or at the very least avenge his death of his friends. This short speech by Richard shows the reader that Richard is certainly not a man of action.
I believe that a true ‘man of action’ would not simply accept what was happening to him as fate; he would fight back and try to do something about it instead of just accepting it and letting it happen. In the play, we see Bolingbroke take the above action. He is banished by Richard for a crime he did not commit, but instead of accepting it and making a new life for himself, he fights back and returns to England to take back what was rightfully his. Richard, on the other hand, who is not a man of action, accepts what is happening to him as fate, as something he cannot stop, and so he just lets Bolingbroke continue. “Our lands, our lives and all, are Bolingbroke’s, / And nothing can we call our own but death” (III, ii, 151-152) Richard says when he discovers that his ‘favourites’ have been murdered by Bolingbroke. He has clearly given in to Bolingbroke and accepts what is happening, instead of making a stand and fighting against Bolingbroke. Later, in Act 4, Scene 1, when Richard meets Bolingbroke and his supporters, he finally hands the crown over to Bolingbroke. He does this without even trying to do anything about Bolingbroke, he talks about the problems he has with Bolingbroke and his leadership, but never does anything about it. He then gives up the crown himself, without being forced at all – “Now, mark me how I will undo myself” (IV, i, 203). The hand-over of his leadership is totally his decision.
Throughout the play, Richard becomes less a man of action and more passive, a man who thinks about the situation and internalises his thoughts, instead of making a stand. He accepts what is happening to him as fate, as something he cannot change, and I think, gives in too easily. These qualities that Richard has makes him an inadequate and poor king, not ready to make a stand against the people that threaten his country and its people. A king cannot simply accept what is happening to his country if it is being invaded or overrun, he must enable armies and fight the intruders to stand up for his country and actually rule the country. Richard does not do this. His country is being ‘taken over’ by Bolingbroke and Richard simply gives in to him, handing over the crown himself.
Richard is a passive man, and an inappropriate king. He internalises his thoughts and thinks about his situation, making him a poor ruler. People want to see their ruler making a stand against what is wrong and what is against the people’s morals. Richard, instead thinks about problems and does nothing about it. Throughout the play, Richard deals with problems badly and suffers because of the decisions he makes. He is certainly not a man of action, but a passive man, who internalises his feelings and thoughts.