Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 4

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Act 1 Scene 4
At the court, Richard inquires of his cousin Aumerle, who has just escorted Bolingbroke to the next highway, how Bolingbroke behaved. Aumerle's reply emphasizes the hostility that he feels for Bolingbroke, who is his cousin (Richard, Bolingbroke and Aumerle are all cousins). Richard hints that Bolingbroke may never be allowed to return from exile. He recalls how Bolingbroke is popular with the common people, and he regards him as a rival.
Greene brings Richard's attention to the rebellion in Ireland. Richard says he will go in person to the war. He tells Greene he will raise money for the expedition by "farming" the realm. This means he will grant certain individuals profits from royal taxes in exchange for giving him immediate money. If that is not enough, Richard plans to issue "blank charters," which were documents that the wealthy were forced to sign, promising to pay the King a certain amount of money.
Bushy enters, and brings news that John of Gaunt is dangerously sick. Richard is pleased by the news and hopes Gaunt will die. He will then be able to seize Gaunt's riches and further finance his Irish war.
Analysis
If scenes 1 and 3 revealed the public face of Richard, this scene reveals his private face. It is not a pretty sight. He drops his show of impartiality and reveals his contempt and fear of Bolingbroke. He also shows his irresponsible financial policies, and his lack of decent feeling over Gaunt's impending death. If the audience is not sure how to react to Richard's earlier performance in public, it is left in no doubt after watching this scene. Richard is presented as being ill-suited to his great office.

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