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King Richard II Characters

Richard II is King of England, John of Gaunt’s nephew and Bullingbrook’s cousin. Authoritarian, unwilling to listen to good advice, friendly with persons not of noble birth, he is not the sort of king likely to earn his noblemen’s love. 

He over-taxes the country, finding many new ways of raising revenue, most of which appears to be wasted. Richard most likely had some part in his uncle the Duke of Gloucester’s death, and is worried that this will come to light. A great talker, Richard is given to flights of fancy rhetoric, something quite beyond his cousin Bullingbrook. He believes strongly in the divine right of Kings, and when misfortune comes upon him often compares himself to Jesus. He is nevertheless insecure enough that when faced with utter rebellion, he gives up his throne to his cousin without ever being directly asked to do so. He is keenly aware of the dangers attendant on kingship, especially those who are rebelled against, and just how few die a natural death. He is not very sensible, and refuses to listen to the good advice of old people, preferring to listen to his flattering friends. He respects John of Gaunt highly until the latter reproaches him on his conduct, at which point he quite overreacts at the old man. Needing money to fight a war in Ireland, he is foolish enough to confiscate the wealth of the recently-deceased Gaunt, not heeding his uncle York’s warnings that this will undermine his own right to the throne. Absent from England for a day too long, he is left bereft of friends and quite unable to fight off Bullingbrook’s rebellion. He is aware that all is over for him apparently even before Bullingbrook has concluded this, and follows orders docilely once he realizes that there is nothing to be done. With no option but to give up the crown, he still manages to completely upstage his cousin while officially relinquishing the state to him. He grows contemplative in prison. Though he has shown no great signs of bravery in the rest of his life, this son of the Black Prince is energetic enough in his own defense when his murderers come upon him, managing to steal a weapon from one and kill two of them before being struck down. By all appearances, he is very fond of his wife.


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