Richard II : Act 1
Our play opens with King Richard II holding a court in order to sort out a very knotty disagreement between two of his most prominent noblemen. Disagreements between prominent noblemen are a recurring theme in the history plays.
- Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, was Captain of Calais when the Duke of Gloucester was imprisoned, and subsequently murdered, there. This is somewhat suspicious.
- Henry of Bolingbroke, a.k.a. the Duke of Hereford, is referred to variously as "Henry", "Bolingbroke" and "Hereford". It's up to you to keep that all straight.
- People really liked throwing their gloves on the ground back then.
- Everybody seems to know that Richard was responsible for ordering the Duke of Gloucester's murder, but nobody dares do anything about it openly. Because, you know, he's king.
- The Duchess of Gloucester is really upset. Really really upset. Possibly because this is her only scene in the entire play.
- Richard attempts to diffuse a really awkward situation by banishing everybody involved so he doesn't have to deal with it anymore. I don't want to give too much away, but this backfires spectacularly.
- Richard really likes being the center of attention, so he waits until just before the fight is about to begin before calling it off. Spoilsport.
- Richard loves flaunting his divine authority. He wiggles his fingers and *poof*, four years are gone from Bolingbroke's banishment. It's like magic!
- John of Gaunt really wants to give his big speech.
- This scene introduces Richard's councillors, Bushy, Bagot and Green. Crucially, none of them are really noblemen. They're lowly politicians who ingratiated themselves with Richard, and are considered responsible for encouraging many of Richard's land-grabbing policies. Perhaps not coincidentally, the nobility of England hates their collective guts.
- The fourth member of Richrad's coterie of hangers-on is Edward, the Duke of Aumerle, son of the Duke of York. Like Bolingbroke, Aumerle is Richard's cousin. Unlike Bolingbroke, Aumerle very clearly supports Richard.
- Many productions depict a rather effeminate Richard as having slightly more intimate than usual relations with Bushy, Bagot, Green, and even his cousin Aumerle. There doesn't appear to be historical evidence to back this interpretation up, and by all accounts Richard was devoted to his first wife, Anne of Bohemia. However, he didn't have any kids and he invented the handkerchief, so who knows?
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