Shakespeare's examination of kingship in Richard II focuses mainly on the conflict between the legal and divine right to rule, and the effectiveness of the ruler. Many critics agree that in Richard II King Richard is legally the rightful king; that he is commonly recognized by other characters in the play as having the divine right to rule; and that despite these rights, King Richard does not show himself to be an effective ruler. It is this opposition between Richard's right to rule and his failure to do so effectively that is the subject of much critical debate. In addition to examining this conflict within the play, some critics conjecture that the way in which Shakespeare presents these issues reflects his thoughts on the rule of the monarch who served during Shakespeare's lifetime: Queen Elizabeth. It has been noted that Bolingbroke and Richard both represent aspects of kingship which can be related to Queen Elizabeth: Bolingbroke acts like a ruler and has the popular support of the people, whereas Richard holds the right to rule. Additionally, the historical Richard II was often compared to Queen Elizabeth in the later years of her reign as she, like Richard, had no heirs, and the problem of succession was on the minds of the people. Due to the similarities between both Bolingbroke and Richard to Queen Elizabeth, some feel that Shakespeare felt compelled to render both Bolingbroke and Richard in a sympathetic manner. The...
(The entire section is 1194 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Richard II Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!