John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, is Richard’s uncle, Bullingbrook’s father, and probably the most respected man in the kingdom.
An old man, he is one of the sons of Edward III. He is deeply loyal, both to the King and to his country, and is broken-hearted that the one is betraying the other. He is also immensely rich, a fact his nephew is well-aware of. He loves his son Bullingbrook dearly, though he expects obedience from the young man. He finds his loyalties divided between love for his son and respect for his sovereign, but he allows the latter to overcome the former, agreeing to Bullingbrook’s exile despite his wish that his son could stay, and refusing to look too far into the matter of his brother Gloucester’s murder. He is keenly aware of his age, and frightened at what Richard will do once he is no longer present to offer his counsel – not that he thinks Richard listens to him much in the first place. When he knows himself dying, he is willing to tell his nephew just what he thinks of his rule, in one last forlorn hope of reforming him.