List of Characters
King Richard II—King of England and grandson of the late King Edward III.
Edmund, Duke of York—Son of the late King Edward III; uncle to Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke and father of the Duke of Aumerle.
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster—Another son of the late King Edward III; uncle to Richard II and father of Henry Bolingbroke.
Henry Bolingbroke (Bullingbrook), Duke of Hereford—John of Gaunt’s son and cousin to Richard II; later King Henry IV.
The Duke of Aumerle—Son of Edmund, Duke of York; cousin to Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke.
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk—A nobleman who is accused of treason by Henry Bolingbroke.
The Earl of Salisbury—An ally of King Richard II who commands the English army when Richard is in Ireland.
The Earl of Berkeley—A nobleman and ally of the King.
Sir John Bushy—A courtier and favorite of King Richard II.
Sir William Bagot—Another courtier and royal favorite.
Sir Henry Green—A third courtier favored by the King.
The Earl of Northumberland—A nobleman who joins Henry Bolingbroke’s rebellion against King Richard.
Harry Percy—Son of the Earl of Northumberland who joins his father in his alliance with Bolingbroke.
Lord Ross—An ally of the Earl of Northumberland who joins in Bolingbroke’s rebellion.
Lord Willoughby—Another ally of the...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Richard II Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
King Richard II
King Richard II, a self-indulgent and irresponsible ruler. He neglects the welfare of his country and brings on his own downfall. He is insolent in his treatment of his dying uncle, John of Gaunt, and greedy in his seizure of the property of his banished cousin, Henry Bolingbroke. To his lovely young queen he gives sentimental devotion. Being forced to give up the crown, he wallows in poetic self-pity, playing with his sorrow and theatrically portraying himself as a Christ figure. He dies well.
Henry Bolingbroke (BOL-ihn-brook), the duke of Hereford (afterward King Henry IV), the son of John of Gaunt. Able and ambitious, and roused to anger by Richard’s injustice and ineptitude, he forces the latter to abdicate. Although as king he desires the death of his deposed and imprisoned cousin, he laments the death and banishes the murderer permanently from his presence.
John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt (gahnt), the duke of Lancaster, the uncle of King Richard. Grieved by the banishment of his son and his country’s decline, he delivers a beautiful and impassioned praise of England and a lament for its degradation under Richard. Angered by Richard’s insulting behavior, he dies delivering a curse on the young king that is carried out in the future.
Edmund of Langley
Edmund of Langley, the duke of York,...
(The entire section is 917 words.)
Aumerle (Character Analysis)
Also: Duke of Aumerle; afterwards, Earl of Rutland
He is the duke of York's son as well as a cousin of Bolingbroke and King Richard. He first appears in I.iii to confirm Bolingbroke's entry into the lists (arena) for combat against Thomas Mowbray and remains cordial to Bolingbroke throughout this scene. However, in I.iv, Aumerle tells Richard that his dislike for his banished cousin is so strong that he had difficulty pretending he was sorry to see him leave England.
Aumerle is staunchly loyal to King Richard and tries to bolster Richard's spirits after word is sent that Bolingbroke has invaded England with the support of several noblemen and the approval of the people. "Comfort, my liege, remember who you are," he tells the king (III.ii.82). The fact that ultimately Richard bitterly rejects Aumerle's comfort—"He does me double wrong / That wounds me with the flatteries of his tongue" (III.ii.215-16)—serves to reveal Richard's weakness in a crisis.
Aumerle runs into trouble in IV.i when he is accused before parliament and a newly ascendant Bullingbrook of conspiring to kill his uncle Thomas of Woodstock, the duke of Gloucester; IV.i is also the scene in which Richard is deposed, and at its close, Aumerle angrily plots with the abbot of Westminster and the bishop of Carlisle to have Bullingbrook assassinated.
Aumerle's plot ends abruptly once it is discovered in V.ii by his outraged father, the duke of York. In this...
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Bolingbroke (Character Analysis)
Also: Bullingbrook, Henry Bolingbroke (Bullingbrook), Duke of Herford; afterwards, King Henry IV of England
Bolingbroke is John of Gaunt's son and King Richard's cousin. With the death of his father, Bolingbroke is supposed to inherit Gaunt's title—the duke of Lancaster. By V.iii he has become King Henry IV.
In the play, the defining moments for Bolingbroke are his banishment by the king in I.iii, followed by Richard's expropriation of his inheritance in II.i—for Richard's taking of his property and the revocation of his new title (Duke of Lancaster) provoke Bolingbroke to defy banishment and return to England as an outlaw and possible usurper.
As Richard's opponent, Bolingbroke is frequently compared to the king concerning his temperament and his potential to govern well. While Richard has been described as imaginative and theatrical with a poetic sensitivity to language, Bolingbroke has been called practical and taciturn. Indeed, after he is banished, Bolingbroke is chided by his father for saying nothing in response to his friends' farewells (I.iii.253-54). And when Gaunt suggests that his son pretend he is on vacation rather than in exile, Bolingbroke replies that imagining things cannot make them real:
O! who can hold a fire in his hand...
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
By bare imagination of a feast?
(The entire section is 1016 words.)
Mowbray (Character Analysis)
Also: Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
He appears as early as I.i, when Bolingbroke accuses him of embezzlement and of murdering Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester. Mowbray and Bolingbroke are so incensed with each other that they ignore King Richard's commands to solve their differences peacefully. His next and final appearance is in I.iii, when Richard convenes a trial by combat between him and Bolingbroke, only to call it off and banish them both. In IV.i, we are told that Mowbray has died in exile.
Mowbray's presence in the play is brief but revealing with regard to King Richard's personality and motives. When his calls for a peaceful resolution go unheeded by Mowbray and Bolingbroke, Richard asserts that "We were not born to sue, but to command," yet orders the two men to settle their quarrel by combat and, in effect, follow their own wishes rather than his commands (I.i.196-205). When Richard subsequently stops the battle and banishes both men, it is significant that he sends Mowbray away for life: Mowbray has in fact killed Richard's uncle Gloucester on orders from Richard. Dutiful as Mowbray has been, it is therefore embarrassing and undiplomatic for the king to have him close by.
Mowbray's reaction to banishment is bitter. He feels that the king owes him thanks, rather than punishment, for following orders and tells him so:
A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege,
And all unlook'd...
(The entire section is 288 words.)
Percy (Character Analysis)
Also: Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Hotspur's father, this Percy is usually referred to as Northumberland. He is a supporter of Bolingbroke, helping him to regain his inheritance and ultimately the crown. In II.i, Northumberland meets with two other of Bolingbroke's sympathizers, Lord Willoughby and Lord Ross, to complain about the banished duke's mistreatment by King Richard and to criticize Richard for relying on his corrupt favorites, for overtaxing both rich and poor, and for misgoverning the country in general. It is from Northumberland that we first learn of Bolingbroke's decision to return and claim his inheritance.
Throughout most of the play, Northumberland is unique in showing open disrespect for King Richard. In III.iii.7-8, the duke of York reproaches him for referring to the king simply as "Richard." In III.iii.72-76, Northumberland fails to kneel before the king as is required by law and custom. During the deposition scene, it is Northumberland who repeatedly insists that King Richard read out loud his list of crimes, provoking Richard to call him a "Fiend" and a "haught insulting man" (IV.i.270, 254). Northumberland also rushes Richard through his final meeting with his queen before sending him to his new prison in Pomfret castle. Calling him the "ladder wherewithal / The mounting Bolingbroke ascends my throne" (V.i.55-56), the former king predicts that soon Northumberland and King Henry IV will become enemies, and that...
(The entire section is 246 words.)
King Richard II of England (Character Analysis)
He is the ruler of England and the title character. Early in the play, it becomes clear that Richard's view of himself and his office differs markedly from the view held by his subjects. Richard governs according to the divine right of kings—a precept which argues that God determines who should rule.
In keeping with this doctrine, a monarch is sprinkled or "anointed" with consecrated oil on the day of his coronation as a symbol of his election by God. In the play, Richard's government runs into trouble because he passionately believes that his decrees are sacred and that, as he explains it,
Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord.
Thus King Richard rewards his favorites and levies harsh taxes to pay for his expenses, secure in his conviction that he has a divine right to do so.
His subjects, on the other hand, believe that a divinely appointed king is meant to govern fairly and well. Thus Richard's allies remind him of his responsibility to follow good rather than bad advice and to work conscientiously to succeed as king, while the populace, hoping to see in him a model for their own behavior, lament to find instead a "wasteful King" (III.iv.55). Meanwhile, Richard's enemies complain that he has become a "most degenerate...
(The entire section is 1269 words.)
York (Character Analysis)
Also: Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
He is uncle to King Richard and Henry Bolingbroke, brother of John of Gaunt, and father of the duke of Aumerle. During much of the play, York is torn between his sense of what is dutiful and what is just as he struggles to maintain fairness and order within his large royal family.
York's first appearance in the play is at the deathbed of his brother John of Gaunt, and his first remarks—which have to do with the king—are not complimentary. He warns Gaunt not to waste his dying breath by giving advice to Richard, "For all in vain comes counsel to his ear" (II.i.4). When Richard confiscates from Gaunt's estate the inheritance that should have gone to Gaunt's banished son, Bolingbroke, York cries out in dismay at such an injustice: "How long shall I be patient? Ah, how long / Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong? (II.i.163-64).
Nevertheless, while York condemns Richard for poor government and even for theft, he insists that as king, Richard is entitled to loyalty and respect from all of his subjects. Thus when Bolingbroke defies Richard and returns to England, York—who has been assigned as regent or "lord governor" in Richard's absence—calls him a traitor to his "anointed king" (II.iii.88-96) and declares that he would arrest Bolingbroke if his own forces were not outnumbered by his rebellious nephew's.
After Richard is deposed, York's sense of duty shifts to the newly crowned...
(The entire section is 325 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Abbot of Westminster
In this play about kings, noblemen, and battle, there are numerous lords, officers, soldiers, servants, and other unnamed attendants—many without speaking parts—who fill out the scenes and contribute to the play's royal and martial atmosphere.
Bagot (Sir John Bagot)
Like Bushy and Green, Sir John Bagot is another of the king's hangers-on, but unlike them, he is not executed by Bolingbroke but is instead taken before parliament where he accuses Lord Aumerle of conspiring to kill Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester. Bolingbroke describes Bagot and the other favorites as destructive "caterpillars of the commonwealth" (II.iii.166).
Berkeley (Lord Berkeley)
He is sent by the duke of York (who is acting as regent while Richard is away in Ireland) to ask Bolingbroke why he has defied banishment and returned to England. Berkeley angers Bolingbroke by calling him by his old title, the duke of Herford, rather than referring to him as the duke of Lancaster— the title Bolingbroke rightfully inherited with the death of his father, John of Gaunt (II.iii.69-80)
Bishop of Carlisle
Bushy (Sir John Bushy)
Along with Sir Henry Green and Sir John Bagot, Bushy is an advisor and favorite of King Richard, and during the play's...
(The entire section is 2677 words.)