1. Read the Greenblatt Chapters 4 & 5.Handout
2. Read Acts 1 – 3 of Shakespeare’s Richard II
3. Watch the film (50 minutes) Richard II with Derek Jacobi: Shakespeare
Uncovered. Link Here. If the link does not work then type the title into
the library database under videos and it will pop up. It’s the second
result link. Look for the orange or blue “View Now” button.
4. Answer the Journal question below.
What do you learn about Richard’s character in his opening speech? Are
you attracted to his character or repulsed by it–or both? Do your
feelings about Richard change as the play develops?
In Richard Greenblatt’s articles he mentions enablers and
characters. Compare his observations about Shakespeare’s characters
with Richard II. What in Greenblatt applies to Richard II?
Folger Shakespeare Library
From the Director of the Folger Shakespeare
Characters in the Play
From the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library
It is hard to imagine a world without Shakespeare. Since their
composition four hundred years ago, Shakespeare’s plays and poems
have traveled the globe, inviting those who see and read his works to
make them their own.
Readers of the New Folger Editions are part of this ongoing process
of “taking up Shakespeare,” finding our own thoughts and feelings in
language that strikes us as old or unusual and, for that very reason,
new. We still struggle to keep up with a writer who could think a mile
a minute, whose words paint pictures that shift like clouds. These
expertly edited texts are presented to the public as a resource for
study, artistic adaptation, and enjoyment. By making the classic texts
of the New Folger Editions available in electronic form as Folger
Digital Texts, we place a trusted resource in the hands of anyone who
The New Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s plays, which are the basis
for the texts realized here in digital form, are special because of their
origin. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is the
single greatest documentary source of Shakespeare’s works. An
unparalleled collection of early modern books, manuscripts, and
artwork connected to Shakespeare, the Folger’s holdings have been
consulted extensively in the preparation of these texts. The Editions
also reflect the expertise gained through the regular performance of
Shakespeare’s works in the Folger’s Elizabethan Theater.
I want to express my deep thanks to editors Barbara Mowat and Paul
Werstine for creating these indispensable editions of Shakespeare’s
works, which incorporate the best of textual scholarship with a
richness of commentary that is both inspired and engaging. Readers
who want to know more about Shakespeare and his plays can follow
the paths these distinguished scholars have tread by visiting the Folger
either in-person or online, where a range of physical and digital
resources exists to supplement the material in these texts. I commend
to you these words, and hope that they inspire.
Director, Folger Shakespeare Library
By Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine
Until now, with the release of the Folger Digital Texts, readers in
search of a free online text of Shakespeare’s plays had to be content
primarily with using the Moby™ Text, which reproduces a latenineteenth century version of the plays. What is the difference? Many
ordinary readers assume that there is a single text for the plays: what
Shakespeare wrote. But Shakespeare’s plays were not published the
way modern novels or plays are published today: as a single,
authoritative text. In some cases, the plays have come down to us in
multiple published versions, represented by various Quartos (Qq) and
by the great collection put together by his colleagues in 1623, called
the First Folio (F). There are, for example, three very different
versions of Hamlet, two of King Lear, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet,
and others. Editors choose which version to use as their base text, and
then amend that text with words, lines or speech prefixes from the
other versions that, in their judgment, make for a better or more
Other editorial decisions involve choices about whether an unfamiliar
word could be understood in light of other writings of the period or
whether it should be changed; decisions about words that made it into
Shakespeare’s text by accident through four hundred years of
printings and misprinting; and even decisions based on cultural
preference and taste. When the Moby™ Text was created, for
example, it was deemed “improper” and “indecent” for Miranda to
chastise Caliban for having attempted to rape her. (See The Tempest,
1.2: “Abhorred slave,/Which any print of goodness wilt not
take,/Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee…”). All Shakespeare
editors at the time took the speech away from her and gave it to her
The editors of the Moby™ Shakespeare produced their text long
before scholars fully understood the proper grounds on which to make
the thousands of decisions that Shakespeare editors face. The Folger
Library Shakespeare Editions, on which the Folger Digital Texts
depend, make this editorial process as nearly transparent as is
possible, in contrast to older texts, like the Moby™, which hide
editorial interventions. The reader of the Folger Shakespeare knows
where the text has been altered because editorial interventions are
signaled by square brackets (for example, from Othello: “ If she in
chains of magic were not bound, ”), half-square brackets (for
example, from Henry V: “With blood and sword and fire to win your
right,”), or angle brackets (for example, from Hamlet: “O farewell,
honest soldier. Who hath relieved/you?”). At any point in the text,
you can hover your cursor over a bracket for more information.
Because the Folger Digital Texts are edited in accord with twenty-first
century knowledge about Shakespeare’s texts, the Folger here
provides them to readers, scholars, teachers, actors, directors, and
students, free of charge, confident of their quality as texts of the plays
and pleased to be able to make this contribution to the study and
enjoyment of Shakespeare.
In Richard II, anger at a king’s arbitrary rule leads to his downfall—
and sets in motion a decades-long struggle for the crown that
continues in several more history plays.
Richard II begins as Richard’s cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, charges
Thomas Mowbray with serious crimes, including the murder of the
Duke of Gloucester. Bolingbroke’s father, John of Gaunt, privately
blames the king for Gloucester’s death. At Richard’s command,
Bolingbroke and Mowbray prepare for a trial by combat. The king
halts the fight at the last minute, banishing both men from England.
When John of Gaunt dies, Richard seizes his possessions to help
finance a war in Ireland, thus dispossessing Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke
returns to England, quickly gathering support. By the time Richard
returns from Ireland, many of his former allies have joined
Bolingbroke. Richard abdicates, yielding the crown to Bolingbroke.
Richard is held at Pomfret Castle and Bolingbroke becomes King
Henry IV. A murder plot against him is uncovered and stopped.
Richard is murdered by a follower of Henry.
Characters in the Play
KING RICHARD II
Sir John BUSHY
Sir John BAGOT
Sir Henry GREEN
JOHN OF GAUNT,
Duke of Lancaster
HENRY BOLINGBROKE, Duke of HEREFORD, son to John of Gaunt,
and later King Henry IV
DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER,
widow to Thomas, Duke of Gloucester
Edmund, DUKE OF YORK
DUCHESS OF YORK
DUKE OF AUMERLE,
Earl of Rutland, son to Duke and Duchess of York
Thomas MOWBRAY, Duke of Norfolk
officials in trial by combat
EARL OF SALISBURY
BISHOP OF CARLISLE
SIR STEPHEN SCROOP
supporters of King Richard
ABBOT OF WESTMINSTER
Henry Percy, EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND
son of Northumberland,
later known as “Hotspur”
DUKE OF SURREY
of Richard’s stable
of prison at Pomfret Castle
SIR PIERCE OF EXTON
Servingmen to Exton
Lords, Attendants, Officers, Soldiers, Servingmen, Exton’s Men
Enter King Richard, John of Gaunt, with other Nobles
Old John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster,
Hast thou, according to thy oath and band,
Brought hither Henry Hereford, thy bold son,
Here to make good the boist’rous late appeal,
Which then our leisure would not let us hear,
Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
GAUNT I have, my liege.
Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him
If he appeal the Duke on ancient malice
Or worthily, as a good subject should,
On some known ground of treachery in him?
As near as I could sift him on that argument,
On some apparent danger seen in him
Aimed at your Highness, no inveterate malice.
Then call them to our presence.
An Attendant exits.
Face to face
And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
The accuser and the accusèd freely speak.
High stomached are they both and full of ire,
In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.
ACT 1. SC. 1
Enter Bolingbroke and Mowbray.
Many years of happy days befall
My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege.
Each day still better other’s happiness
Until the heavens, envying earth’s good hap,
Add an immortal title to your crown.
We thank you both. Yet one but flatters us,
As well appeareth by the cause you come:
Namely, to appeal each other of high treason.
Cousin of Hereford, what dost thou object
Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
First—heaven be the record to my speech!—
In the devotion of a subject’s love,
Tend’ring the precious safety of my prince
And free from other misbegotten hate,
Come I appellant to this princely presence.—
Now, Thomas Mowbray, do I turn to thee;
And mark my greeting well, for what I speak
My body shall make good upon this earth
Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.
Thou art a traitor and a miscreant,
Too good to be so and too bad to live,
Since the more fair and crystal is the sky,
The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly.
Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
With a foul traitor’s name stuff I thy throat,
And wish, so please my sovereign, ere I move,
ACT 1. SC. 1
What my tongue speaks my right-drawn sword may
Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal.
’Tis not the trial of a woman’s war,
The bitter clamor of two eager tongues,
Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain.
The blood is hot that must be cooled for this.
Yet can I not of such tame patience boast
As to be hushed and naught at all to say.
First, the fair reverence of your Highness curbs me
From giving reins and spurs to my free speech,
Which else would post until it had returned
These terms of treason doubled down his throat.
Setting aside his high blood’s royalty,
And let him be no kinsman to my liege,
I do defy him, and I spit at him,
Call him a slanderous coward and a villain,
Which to maintain I would allow him odds
And meet him, were I tied to run afoot
Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps
Or any other ground inhabitable
Wherever Englishman durst set his foot.
Meantime let this defend my loyalty:
By all my hopes, most falsely doth he lie.
BOLINGBROKE , throwing down a gage
Pale trembling coward, there I throw my gage,
Disclaiming here the kindred of the King,
And lay aside my high blood’s royalty,
Which fear, not reverence, makes thee to except.
If guilty dread have left thee so much strength
As to take up mine honor’s pawn, then stoop.
By that and all the rites of knighthood else
Will I make good against thee, arm to arm,
What I have spoke or thou canst worse devise.
picking up the gage
I take it up, and by that sword I swear
Which gently laid my knighthood on my shoulder,
I’ll answer thee in any fair degree
Or chivalrous design of knightly trial;
And when I mount, alive may I not light
If I be traitor or unjustly fight.
ACT 1. SC. 1
What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray’s charge?
It must be great that can inherit us
So much as of a thought of ill in him.
Look what I speak, my life shall prove it true:
That Mowbray hath received eight thousand nobles
In name of lendings for your Highness’ soldiers,
The which he hath detained for lewd employments,
Like a false traitor and injurious villain.
Besides I say, and will in battle prove,
Or here or elsewhere to the furthest verge
That ever was surveyed by English eye,
That all the treasons for these eighteen years
Complotted and contrivèd in this land
Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and
Further I say, and further will maintain
Upon his bad life to make all this good,
That he did plot the Duke of Gloucester’s death,
Suggest his soon-believing adversaries,
And consequently, like a traitor coward,
Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of
Which blood, like sacrificing Abel’s, cries
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth
To me for justice and rough chastisement.
And, by the glorious worth of my descent,
This arm shall do it, or this life be spent.
ACT 1. SC. 1
How high a pitch his resolution soars!—
Thomas of Norfolk, what sayst thou to this?
O, let my sovereign turn away his face
And bid his ears a little while be deaf,
Till I have told this slander of his blood
How God and good men hate so foul a liar.
Mowbray, impartial are our eyes and ears.
Were he my brother, nay, my kingdom’s heir,
As he is but my father’s brother’s son,
Now by my scepter’s awe I make a vow:
Such neighbor nearness to our sacred blood
Should nothing privilege him nor partialize
The unstooping firmness of my upright soul.
He is our subject, Mowbray; so art thou.
Free speech and fearless I to thee allow.
Then, Bolingbroke, as low as to thy heart,
Through the false passage of thy throat, thou liest.
Three parts of that receipt I had for Calais
Disbursed I duly to his Highness’ soldiers;
The other part reserved I by consent,
For that my sovereign liege was in my debt
Upon remainder of a dear account
Since last I went to France to fetch his queen.
Now swallow down that lie. For Gloucester’s death,
I slew him not, but to my own disgrace
Neglected my sworn duty in that case.—
For you, my noble Lord of Lancaster,
The honorable father to my foe,
Once did I lay an ambush for your life,
A trespass that doth vex my grievèd soul.
But ere I last received the sacrament,
I did confess it and exactly begged
ACT 1. SC. 1
Your Grace’s pardon, and I hope I had it.—
This is my fault. As for the rest appealed,
It issues from the rancor of a villain,
A recreant and most degenerate traitor,
Which in myself I boldly will defend,
And interchangeably hurl down my gage
Upon this overweening traitor’s foot,
He throws down a gage.
To prove myself a loyal gentleman,
Even in the best blood chambered in his bosom;
In haste whereof most heartily I pray
Your Highness to assign our trial day.
Bolingbroke picks up the gage.
Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me.
Let’s purge this choler without letting blood.
This we prescribe, though no physician.
Deep malice makes too deep incision.
Forget, forgive; conclude and be agreed.
Our doctors say this is no month to bleed.—
Good uncle, let this end where it begun;
We’ll calm the Duke of Norfolk, you your son.
To be a make-peace shall become my age.—
Throw down, my son, the Duke of Norfolk’s gage.
And, Norfolk, throw down his.
When, Harry, when?
Obedience bids I should not bid again.
Norfolk, throw down, we bid; there is no boot.
Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot.
My life thou shalt command, but not my shame.
The one my duty owes, but my fair name,
ACT 1. SC. 1
Despite of death that lives upon my grave,
To dark dishonor’s use thou shalt not have.
I am disgraced, impeached, and baffled here,
Pierced to the soul with slander’s venomed spear,
The which no balm can cure but his heart-blood
Which breathed this poison.
Rage must be withstood.
Give me his gage. Lions make leopards tame.
MOWBRAY , standing
Yea, but not change his spots. Take but my shame
And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times-barred-up chest
Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.
Mine honor is my life; both grow in one.
Take honor from me and my life is done.
Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try.
In that I live, and for that will I die.
KING RICHARD , to Bolingbroke
Cousin, throw up your gage. Do you begin.
O, God defend my soul from such deep sin!
Shall I seem crestfallen in my father’s sight?
Or with pale beggar-fear impeach my height
Before this out-dared dastard? Ere my tongue
Shall wound my honor with such feeble wrong
Or sound so base a parle, my teeth shall tear
The slavish motive of recanting fear
And spit it bleeding in his high disgrace, …
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