"Caterpillars Of The Commonwealth"

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Last Updated on July 28, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199

Context: Henry Bolingbroke, banished from England on charge of treason, hears that King Richard II has confiscated his inheritance upon the death of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his father and uncle of the king. While the king is in Ireland to oversee his wars, and the affairs of state are left in the hands of another uncle, the Duke of York, Bolingbroke returns and finds that York will not stand in the way of his claim to his title and inheritance. When the Duke of York proposes that Bolingbroke spend the night at Bristol Castle, Bolingbroke quickly accepts, confessing that he has sworn to rid the castle of the low companions of the king:

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An offer uncle, that we will accept,
But we must win your Grace to go with us
To Bristol Castle, which they say is held
By Bushy, Bagot, and their complices,
The caterpillars of the commonwealth,
Which I have sworn to weed and pluck away.
It may be I will go with you–but yet I'll pause,
For I am loth to break our country's laws.
Nor friends, nor foes, to me welcome you are.
Things past redress are now with me past care.

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