Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 3 Scene 2

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Act 3 Scene 2
Richard, Aumerle and the Bishop of Carlisle return from Ireland and land on the Welsh coast. Richard is delighted to be back in his own kingdom, even though he knows there is a rebellion. He is supremely confident that the rebels will be defeated. Aumerle points out that the royal party is being over-confident, and Bolingbroke has amassed strong forces against them. Richard takes no notice of Aumerle's misgivings. He thinks that as soon as he, the king, appears, the rebel forces will crumble. He is the king anointed by God, and this can never be altered. Even the angels will fight on his side.
Salisbury enters and brings the bad news of the dispersal of the Welsh army that would have fought on Richard's side, had he arrived back from Ireland a day earlier. This news shakes the King's confidence, but he quickly recovers. He convinces himself that his uncle, the Duke of York, has sufficient power at his disposal to ensure a triumph. But then Scroope enters, bringing even more bad news. He tells Richard how strong Bolingbroke has become, and how the common people are rallying to Bolingbroke's side. Richard demands to know where Bushy, Greene and the Earl of Wiltshire are. He fears they have made peace with Bolingbroke. When Scroope informs him that they have all been executed, Richard suddenly abandons hope. He makes a self-pitying speech about death. Carlisle responds by telling the king not to give in to weakness, which only makes the enemy stronger. Aumerle points out that his father, the Duke of York, has an army, and they should inquire about where he is. This gives Richard momentary courage, which is shattered again when Scroope informs him that York has joined with Bolingbroke. The king again falls into despair. Abandoning all hope, he tells Aumerle to disperse his followers. He himself will head for Flint Castle.
Analysis The focus in this scene is on Richard and how he deals with the rapid erosion of his power. When Richard returns from Ireland, he reveals a side of his personality that has not been seen before. He speaks in highly poetic language that reveals a depth and sensitivity of feeling that could hardly have been expected of him from the way he has been portrayed up to this point. At first, his companions appear to have little patience with his poeticizing ("Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords," says Richard) and urge him to be more practical. But words, it soon becomes clear, are all Richard has. He has to use language to summon up the full power of his majesty, since all else has deserted him. And he believes with all his might in what is often called the divine right of kings. He declares that "The breath of worldly men cannot depose / The deputy elected by the Lord." Richard's faith is in his divinely appointed office. He uses the sun/king metaphor, common in medieval and Renaissance thought, to express this faith. Just as the sun is the lord of the planets, so the king is lord of his kingdom. The king's relationship to his subjects forms part of the cosmic order which can never be disrupted.
When Richard expresses this sense of his role as God's appointed ruler, he acquires a power that he otherwise would lack. But he is not able to sustain it. He goes through rapid changes of mood, and is highly emotional. This tends to win him some sympathy from the audience. When Richard was exercising his royal power, in the early part of the play, he was an unattractive figure, but now his political power is on the wane he emerges as a more sympathetic character. In his reflections on life and his meditations on death, he reveals a depth of character hitherto unsuspected.

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