Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 3

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At Coventry, Mowbray and Bolingbroke appear for their trial by combat. It is a ceremonial occasion, and each combatant follows the rules in declaring who they are and affirming the justness of their cause. Gaunt gives Bolingbroke his encouragement. But just as the combat is about to begin, Richard halts it. He gives several reasons. He does not want blood to be shed; he believes mutual ambition and rivalry stirred the two combatants to arms; and their conflict might stir up a wider conflict in English society. He banishes Bolingbroke from England for ten years, and Mowbray for life. They must agree never to meet or communicate with each other, or plot against the king or England. Both men reluctantly swear that they accept these conditions. Bolingbroke demands that Mowbray confess his treason before he departs, but Mowbray refuses.
After Mowbray departs, Richard, on seeing the grief of Gaunt for his son, reduces Bolingbroke's exile to six years. Gaunt says that is of little use to him, since he is old and will not live six years. Richard claims that his actions are just and points out that Gaunt was a party to the verdict. Gaunt replies that at Richard's urging he acted like a judge rather than a father, and he wanted to avoid being accused of bias. He was secretly hoping that others at the meeting would tell him he was being too strict, but they did not. Therefore he found himself appearing to support something he did not really want.
After the king exits, Gaunt tries to cheer up his downcast son, but without much success.
Analysis
Richard manages to engineer what he thinks is a satisfactory solution. In banishing both men, he has succeeded in preventing any more disputes linked to his crime against Gloucester, whilst at the same time appearing to act in an impartial manner.
When Mowbray and Bolingbroke declare the justice of their cause, they are in a sense both correct. When Mowbray claims that he is true to the king, he secretly alludes to the fact that when he supervised the killing of Gloucester, he was acting on Richard's orders. It appears that Bolingbroke, although convinced of Mowbray's guilt, does not know that Richard is also implicated in the murder, even though his father, John of Gaunt, appears to be aware of it.

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