Richard II Synopsis

Richard II Synopsis

Written by Pamela Murray, Producer Richard II

The play begins as King Richard II attempts to resolve a bitter dispute between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray. Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of being a traitor and for arranging the murder of the king’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Mowbray retaliates accusing Bolingbroke of slander and cowardice. The row escalates, resulting in both men challenging each other to a trial by combat. Richard appeals for peace but soon realises they will only resolve their issues with a duel and sets a date for the battle.

Some time later the court waits for the battle to commence, but as Bolingbroke and Mowbray are about to begin Richard halts proceedings. He exclaims that no blood should be spilt in settling this score and places a charge of banishment upon both men; Bolingbroke for ten years and Mowbray for life. Bolingbroke’s father John of Gaunt appeals to the king, his nephew, to reduce the sentence for fear that he will die before his son can return. The king reduces the sentence to six years. As ordered, Mowbray and Bolingbroke leave the country.

As Richard is entertained by flatterers in his castle, news arrives that John of Gaunt is seriously ill and has called for the king to visit him. Richard consents to visit but has little patience for the advice that his uncle offers him from his deathbed.

Shortly after the death of Gaunt, Richard takes control of his uncle’s land and revenue to fund his wars in Ireland. Richard’s other uncle, The Duke of York, pleads with his nephew to leave Gaunt’s wealth for his banished son Bolingbroke. However the king refuses and leaves for Ireland.

After witnessing what had happened at the castle, Lord Northumberland speaks with Lord Ross about the king’s behaviour and his heinous treatment of the public. Northumberland tells of news that Bolingbroke and other noblemen are gathering an army in France. They had intended on returning as soon as Richard had left for Ireland. Northumberland and Ross agree to join Bolingbroke and the other noblemen.

When Bolingbroke and his army return from exile in France, the rebel forces prepare to confront Richard II on his homecoming from Ireland. When Richard returns from Ireland, the rebel noblemen force the king to abdicate, with Bolingbroke being crowned as the new king, Henry IV.

Richard is imprisoned in Pomfret Castle, where he faces his death alone. Sir Pierce of Exton executes the deposed king without any orders from King Henry IV. As a result, he is banished.

In the last scene King Henry IV vows to mourn for Richard and plans a penitential voyage to the Holy Land.

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