Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 5 Scene 5

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Act 5 Scene 5
At Pomfret Castle, the imprisoned Richard reflects. He tries to compare his prison with the wider world, but this is difficult because in prison he is alone, whereas in the world are many people. He decides that his many thoughts will serve as the people in this analogy between prison and world. Just like people in the world, thoughts come in very different forms. Some are holy thoughts, but these are conflicted because the scriptures sometimes seem to contradict themselves. Other thoughts are ambitious, still others are intended to make a person content with his lot. Thus with all his conflicting thoughts Richard plays many people, but none of them are content. He hears some music playing, which prompts him to more melancholy thoughts. But he thanks whoever is playing it for him, since it shows there is still some love for Richard in a world that now hates him.
A groom enters. He tells Richard that he was a royal groom in the days when Richard was king. He has managed to get some leave to come and see his former master. He comments on how it grieved him on the day of Henry IV's coronation to see the king riding on Barbary, which was Richard's horse. Richard wishes the horse had stumbled and broken the neck of the proud man who rode him.
A keeper enters, bringing meat for Richard, and the groom leaves. Richard asks the keeper to taste the meat first, as he usually does (in case it is poisoned), but the keeper says Exton, who just came from the king, told him not to. Exasperated, Richard strikes the keeper, who calls for help.
The murderers rush in. Richard kills one of them before Exton kills him. Exton regrets his deed the instant he does it.
Analysis
Shakespeare follows his sources, the English historians Hall and Holinshed, in his presentation of the murder of Richard. According to Holinshed, there were eight murderers, and Richard managed to kill four of them before he was killed. However, modern historians believe that Richard was not murdered in this way. The consensus is that he may have starved to death, or perhaps been smothered.

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