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Richard II

In Richard II research papers we have the entry play into the saga that will become the Wars of the Roses. In Richard II we are given a portrait of a man who is “not up to the job” of being King of England. The term papers note that one is tempted to use the modern jargon of psychology and term him as being “passive-aggressive” to the point of dysfunctionality. He plays favorites—Bushy, Bagot, etc.—and these are the wrong favorites. He shows no financial acumen and his “farming of the realm” to augment his coffers which “with too great a court/ And liberal largesse, are grown somewhat light” (I:I;43-5), is an example of his ad hoc mode of dealing with difficulties. Richard IISo also had been his solution to the problem posed by his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. Richard handled this relative, according to Holinshed, by having Mowbray murder Gloucester, but he was too flighty to retain Mowbray’s loyalty. Moreover, his “solution” to the problem of Bolingbroke’s denunciation of Mowbray for the murder of Gloucester (I:I;100)—by the banishment of both parties, Mowbray for ten years, Bolingbroke for life (I:iii;142-4,150-3)--is satisfactory to no one and sets up the festering situation which will result in Bolingbroke’s return and assumption of the crown as Henry IV. Thomas of Woodstock is a kind of archetypal “evil uncle”. A great Richard II term paper will note that he was, without ever appearing in the play, a major influence on the action of the play.

Richard II is one of Shakespeare's tragedies and the wars that follow has a certain Greek quality of fatalism to it. As we shall see in this term paper, Richard II can be compared to Henry IV, who will have his own familial problems and not only with his son—there will also be the problem of Mortimer. Bolingbroke’s claim on the crown will be contestable—and contested. War over the crown will thus be inevitable and this is foreseen clearly by Carlisle in Richard II who says, “if you crown him [Bolingbroke], let me prophesy,/ The blood of England shall manure the ground,/ And future ages groan for this foul act” (IV:1;136-7). One is reminded in a broad way of the trials of the House of Atreus in Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, where a succession of crimes, each an act of vengeance for one that came before, drives the action.

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