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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard II is an intensely political play. The overriding theme is one that dominated English history throughout the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: the conflict between king and nobles. Specifically, it shows the dangers to a kingdom's security and stability of having a weak monarch in such a conflict. Richard is just such a monarch. He's warned by John of Gaunt that's he paying too much attention to flatterers and sycophants. But Richard ignores his wise words and continues to show himself as a weak, vacillating ruler whose very weakness antagonizes the nobility and encourages them to make plans to depose their king.

An ancillary political theme in the play is the dual nature of a monarch. In the play, Richard is not just a man, a human being with all the faults and foibles that entails, he's also God's representative on earth, a living embodiment of the divine right of kings. Yet try as he might, Richard proves himself chronically incapable of reconciling these two aspects of his character. Whether one sees an absolute monarch as God's anointed or as simply the product of a chance of birth, there's no doubt that the institution of kingship imposes an onerous responsibility on those who occupy the throne. Richard cannot handle that responsibility. He isn't up to the job, and the consequences for himself and his kingdom are tragic indeed.

markchambers1966 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The simple answer is 'yes' because it shows a king who begins to lose touch with the events surrounding him, and consequently end up being murdered. The historical Richard II was a most interesting king who moved for a High Court Culture and a more peaceful existance rather than the war zone that came both before and after him. He also seems to have had an acute sense of Majesty and of his own position that Shakespeare captures. Unusually for a Shakespearean history the play does keep much of the 'history' intact, albeit compressed into the last years of the reign. It shadows his deposition and allows Richard some very moving speeches as he contemplates the 'death of kings.' It was certainly seen as Political in the time of Shakespeare and when it was put on during the 'Essex Rebellion' Elizabeth 1st is alledged to have said "I am Richard II" and sent out for a portrait of the king. The play questions Bolingbroke's right to hold the throne and this is explored further in Henry IV part one which follows on from Richard II. Indeed the whole 'Wars of the Roses' cycle of plays can be seen as stemming from the 'illegal' depositiion of Richard causing a schism in the natural order of power.

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Richard II

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