Richard became king at the age of ten, taking over for his father, Edward theBlack Prince, Edward III’s oldest son, who predeceased his father. Thiselevation gave the boy authority over all nobles, including his uncles. Oncecrowned, Richard’s right to rule and to have his commands obeyed was supportedby the order of God, since it was believed that the king’s power was issueddirectly from God. The king served as the representative of God on Earth, and toresist the will of the king was to onset oneself against the order of theuniverse and the will of God. Therefore, the king ruled by divine right, and itwas this belief that served as Richard’s primary weapon.Order now
Richard is a king andnot simply a man and this play is about the claim of a king. Most of Richard’sactions have to do with the act of kingly power or the failure to act. Richardis not just; the matter of Gloucester’s death proves just that. As long asRichard is king he is just the landlord of England. Richard is unjust towardsGaunt and replies with rage and threat “A lunatic lean-witted fool.
” Hiscoldness at the passing of a great man is shocking but with his next lines hemoves from the insensitive to the illegal. When he seizes Gaunt’s possessionshe breaks the law and deprives Bolingbroke of his inheritance he strikes at thefoundations of his own power but still believes that he is right in everythingthat he does. If Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and the son of the Duke ofLancaster, does not inherit his father’s lands and titles, Richard ischallenging the same rule that gave him the right to govern England, byinheritance from his father the Black Prince and his grandfather Edward III. When King Richard lands on the coast of Wales, he is aware of the existence ofthe rebellion but convinced that the nature of the kingship will protect him.
Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the balm from an anointedking. . . For every man that Bolingbroke hath pressed To lift shrewd steel againstour golden crown, God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay A glorious angel.
. . Richard’s elaborate comparison here of the king to the sun, leads into hisbelief of divine right. Many qualities of this quotation reflect the characterof Richard; he sees himself as the glorious fire, which is parallel to thetraditional image of the King as the sun. When Richard actually removes thecrown, he does so with a poetic flair that intimates that he, a divinelyordained king, will always possess a majesty that Bolingbroke, forever ausurper, can only dream of: With mine own tears I wash away my balm, With mineown hands I give away my crown.
. . The implication is that only a lawful king canfollow this ceremony, and Bolingbroke will never have such status, he willforever be smaller then Richard, who concludes his performance with a line offorgiveness. Though I did wish him dead, I hate the murderer. .
. Henry banishesthe knight from his presence and decides on a voyage to the Holy Land tocompensate his guilt. For he has killed a king, the Lord’s ordained, and it isa crime that will cast a dark shadow over England for a long time to come. Ibelieve that Shakespeare was writing this play with the belief in divine right.
Shakespeare is writing this play for the Queen’s pleasure and his views cannotbe so drastic or he could be beheaded. There are many references to God inrelation to Richard and divine right. When Richard gives up his crown he alsoloses his identity, we should hate Richard for being a weak ruler and loveBolingbroke for being strong and able to take a stand on the many issues Richardcould not, but the reverse happens at the end of this play.