Richard II minimized

Richard II was England’s king in 1399.  He was thirty-two.  He had succeeded his grandfather, Edward III, Edward Plantagenet, the trunk of this fifteenth century family of kings in 1379. The other key principal in this play is Henry Bolingbroke, also thirty-two. He was the son of John of Gaunt, Edward III’s fourth son, and a first cousin to the young king. 

1. Henry Bolingbroke and a Thomas Mowbray are called before the king to defend themselves of complicity in the death of Gloucester.  Gloucester was Bolingbroke and the king’s uncle. The king banishes Mowbray from England.  Bolingbroke is exiled to France for six years.

2. John of Gaunt turns ill and dies.  He is comforted by his brother, the duke of York, Edward III’s fifth son. The king plans to invade Ireland, in part using Gaunt’s and Bolingbroke’s assets to finance the effort.  Bolingbroke leaves France in 1400 to reclaim his title and assets, perhaps to usurp the king.  He lands in the north of England and moves south. 

3. Allies of the king abandon him when he returns from Ireland. The king takes refuge in Flint Castle. Following a bloodless confrontation, the king concedes his crown to Bolingbroke.

4. Reluctantly, the duke of York shifts his support from the king to Bolingbroke.  In time he anoints Bolingbroke Henry IV. Richard II, now Richard, does not have an easy time adapting to not being king.  Henry IV sends him to prison.

5. As the lone prisoner in Pomfret Castle, Shakespeare has Richard share a nice philosophy of life issues, such as what was and what might have been. Richard is murdered by a misguided supporter of Henry IV, a murder that causes problems for England’s kings for decades to come.