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 uncle of the king. Eager to do right and imbued with patriotism and loyalty, he is torn and troubled by the behavior of Richard as king and Bolingbroke as rebel. As protector of the realm in Richard’s absence, he is helpless before Bolingbroke’s power and yields to him. He bestows his loyalty on Bolingbroke when he becomes King Henry IV.
Queen to King Richard
Queen to King Richard, a gentle, loving wife. Grief-stricken, she angrily wishes that her gardener, from whom she hears the news of Richard’s downfall, may henceforth labor in vain. She shares with the king a tender and sorrowful parting.
The gardener, a truly Shakespearean creation, unlike any character in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (1594), the source of much in Shakespeare’s play. A homely philosopher, he comments on the king’s faults and his downfall and is overheard by the queen. Tenderly sympathetic, he wishes the queen’s curse on his green thumb might be carried out if it could give her any comfort; however, confident that it will not be, he memorializes her sorrow by planting flowers where her tears fell.
The duke of Aumerle
The duke of Aumerle (oh-MEERL), the son of the duke of York. One of Richard’s favorites and scornful of Bolingbroke, he is accused of complicity in the murder of the duke of Gloucester. His father discovers a document linking him to a plot to assassinate King Henry IV. Aumerle outrides his father to King Henry and gains a promise of pardon, which is confirmed after the duchess pleads for her son.
The duchess of York
The duchess of York, the indulgent mother of Aumerle. She is frantic at her husband’s determination to report their son’s treason, and she pleads to King Henry on her knees.
Thomas Mowbray, the duke of Norfolk, an enemy of Bolingbroke. Accused of plotting the duke of Gloucester’s death, he and Bolingbroke are prepared for combat when Richard breaks off the combat and banishes both. Mowbray dies in exile.
The duchess of Gloucester
The duchess of Gloucester, the widow of the murdered duke. She pleads with John of Gaunt to avenge his dead brother and prays that Bolingbroke may destroy Mowbray as part of the revenge. York receives news of her death.
Green, unpopular favorites of King Richard. They are captured and executed by Bolingbroke’s followers.
Bagot (BAG-eht), another of the king’s unpopular favorites. At his trial before Bolingbroke, he declares Aumerle guilty of having Gloucester murdered.
The earl of Northumberland
The earl of Northumberland, a strong supporter of Bolingbroke. He aids in the overthrow of Richard.
Henry Percy (Hotspur), the son of Northumberland. At Bagot’s trial, he challenges Aumerle to combat, but nothing comes of it.
The Lord Marshall
The Lord Marshall, who officiates at the abortive duel of Mowbray and Bolingbroke.
The bishop of Carlisle
The bishop of Carlisle, a supporter of King Richard. Objecting to Bolingbroke’s seizure of the crown, he is accused of treason and banished.
The abbot of Westminster
The abbot of Westminster, a conspirator against King Henry IV. He dies before he can be tried.
Sir Stephen Scroop
Sir Stephen Scroop, a loyal follower of King Richard. He brings to the king unwelcome tidings of Bolingbroke’s success.
A keeper, King Richard’s jailer, who angers the king and is beaten by him.
A groom, a devoted servant of King Richard who visits the deposed monarch in prison.
The earl of Salisbury
The earl of Salisbury, a follower of Richard executed by Northumberland.
The duke of Surrey
The duke of Surrey, a Yorkist and a friend of Aumerle.
Lord Berkeley, a follower of the duke of York.
Lord Ross, and
Lord Willoughby, supporters of Bolingbroke.
Sir Pierce of Exton
Sir Pierce of Exton, a savage and ambitious knight. He kills King Richard in the hope of a splendid career under King Henry IV but is disappointed, cast off, and banished by the king.