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SHAKESPEARE'S TRAGEDY

OF

KING RICHARD II.

WITH

ILLUSTRATIONS, EXPLANATORY NOTES, QUESTIONS

FOR EXAMINATION, Euc.

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A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE PLAY.

RICHARD II. was the son of the Black Prince, and was therefore the grandson of Edward III. Weak in will, and a creature of impulse, he became an easy prey to flattery, and was consequently unjust and oppressive. He made friends of such as Bagot, Bushy, and Green, and, to a great extent through them, gave himself up to a life of display, self-indulgence, and vanity, to uphold which he allowed the Crown lands to be farmed out to unscrupulous and unworthy agents, and besides all this be levied forced loans upon his subjects.

This play was probably written in the year 1593, when the poet was about thirty years of age. The two chief characters, which are in perpetual contrast throughout, are those of the King and Bolingbroke. The former was like unto an overgrown boy, weak in will, and overflowing with words and poetical imaginations. The latter, on the contrary, was a stern man, with fixed purpose and end clearly in view, who indulged in as few words as possible—in fact, a man of action.

Bolingbroke was a statesman who took care to note and calculate and prepare for surely coming though distant events. The King never troubled himself beyond the wants of the present. In his sudden stoppage of the tournament one may note his indecision, and his arbitrary bearing comes strongly to the front in his banishment of Bolingbroke and Norfolk.

The play opens by a violent attack upon the character of Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, by Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, in which he charges him with embezzling the pay of the King's troops when he was Governor of Calais, and plotting the death of the Duke of Gloucester.

Norfolk denies these charges, and willingly accepts Hereford's challenge to maintain his attack by a hand-to-hand encounter. With Richard's consent, arrangements are made for the duel to take place at Coventry.

The lists are prepared, the two dukes are armed and mounted, and the trumpet is sounding for the charge, when the King suddenly commands them to withdraw.

He then consults his council by whom he is surrounded, and at once decrees that Norfolk should be banished the country for life, and Hereford for ten years—a sentence, however, which at John of Gaunt's request he decreases to six years' banishment, and then compelled the two dukes to take an oath never to meet, nor make up their quarrel, nor conspire together against him when in exile.

Hereford and Norfolk at once quit the country, and Richard takes possession of their estates. Old Gaunt dies brokenhearted at the King's treatment of his son ; upon which Richard seizes his uncle's “plate, coin, revenues, and moveables," which of right belonged to his cousin Hereford, in order to carry on a war in Ireland, for which country he sets sail to put down an insurrection.

In the King's absence the Earl of Northumberland and Lords Willoughby and Ross make common cause with Henry of Hereford, who, assisted with ships and men by the Duke of Brittany, and accompanied by leading Englishmen, landed at Ravenspur, in Yorkshire, to demand back his own and his father's estates.

Henry marched unopposed into Gloucestershire, and proving too strong for Lord Salisbury and the Duke of York, seized Bushy and Green, and put them to death. Richard rashly set

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