Richard the Second is one of William Shakespeare’s history plays. It is the first play of a tetralogy that is followed by Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V. This fascinating play isn’t shy on rich, florid text, and is one of the more profound history plays. I have listed below some links to learn more about the play, as well as a character list, and some of the best monologues from the play. We have listed Richard II has number 11 on our list of best Shakespeare plays, and I consider it a personal favourite.
Character List – Main Characters
King Richard II
John of Gaunt – Uncle to Richard
Henry Bolingbroke – Duke of Hereford, later King Henry IV
Duke of Aumerle – York’s son
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Sir Henry Greene
Sir John Bushy
Sir John Bagot
The Earl of Salisbury
Duchess of York – York’s wife
Duke of York – Uncle to Richard
Duchess of Gloucester
Harry Percy – Hotspur
Richard II Monologues
Here is our list of all the major Richard II monologues and soliloquies. This list includes all the monologues from the titular role, as well as pieces from other major characters. Richard II offers some wonderful monologues for actors to work on, many which are included in our list of best male Shakespeare monologues. In particular, the monologues from Richard are fascinating to explore. Near the end of the play, Richard becomes increasingly philosophical. His words are piercing and ripe with pathos. For any actor interested in exploring rich imagery, Richard is as good as it gets.
Look what I speak, my life shall prove it true:
That Mowbray hath received eight thousand nobles
In name of lendings for your highness’ soldiers,
The which he hath detained for lewd employments,
Like a false traitor and injurious villain.
Besides I say, and will in battle prove,
Or here or elsewhere to the furthest verge
That ever was surveyed by English eye,
That all the treasons for these eighteen years
Complotted and contrived in this land
Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and spring.
Further I say, and further will maintain
Upon his bad life to make all this good,
That he did plot the Duke of Gloucester’s death,
Suggest his soon-believing adversaries,
And consequently, like a traitor coward,
Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of blood –
Which blood, like sacrificing Abel’s, cries
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth
To me for justice and rough chastisement.
And by the glorious worth of my descent,
This arm shall do it, or this life be spent!
Hath love in thy old blood no living fire?
Edward’s seven sons, whereof thyself art one,
Were as seven vials of his sacred blood,
Or seven fair branches springing from one root.
Some of those seven are dried by nature’s course,
Some of those branches by the Destinies cut;
But Thomas, my dear lord, my life, my Gloucester,
One vial full of Edward’s sacred blood,
One flourishing branch of his most royal root,
Is crack’d, and all the precious liquor spilt,
Is hack’d down, and his summer leaves all faded,
By envy’s hand and murder’s bloody axe.
Ah, Gaunt, his blood was thine! that bed, that womb,
That metal, that self-mould, that fashion’d thee
Made him a man; and though thou livest and breathest,
Yet art thou slain in him: thou dost consent
In some large measure to thy father’s death,
In that thou seest thy wretched brother die,
Who was the model of thy father’s life.
Call it not patience, Gaunt; it is despair:
In suffering thus thy brother to be slaught’red,
Thou showest the naked pathway to thy life,
Teaching stern murder how to butcher thee:
That which in mean men we intitle patience
Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts.
What shall I say? to safeguard thine own life,
The best way is to venge my Gloucester’s death.
John of Gaunt is talking to his son Bolingbroke, who has just been banished. These are the final words from father to son.
All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
Teach thy necessity to reason thus:
There is no virtue like necessity.
Think not the King did banish thee,
But thou the King . Woe doth the heavier sit
Where it perceives it is but faintly borne.
Go, say I sent thee forth to purchase honour,
And not the King exiled thee; or suppose
Devouring pestilence hangs in our air,
And thou art flying to a fresher clime.
Look what thy soul holds dear, imagine it
To lie that way thou goest, not whence thou com’st.
Suppose the singing birds musicians,
The grass whereon thou tread’st the presence strewed ,
The flowers fair ladies, and thy steps no more
Than a delightful measure or a dance;
For gnarling Sorrow hath less power to bite
The man that mocks at it and sets it light.
Now He that made me knows I see thee ill –
Ill in myself to see, and in thee seeing ill.
Thy death-bed is no lesser than thy land,
Wherein thou liest in reputation sick;
And thou, too careless patient as thou art,
Committ’st thy anointed body to the cure
Of those physicians that first wounded thee.
A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown,
Whose compass is no bigger than thy head;
And yet, encaged in so small a verge,
The waste is no whit lesser than thy land.
O, had thy grandsire with a prophet’s eye
Seen how his son’s son should destroy his sons,
From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame,
Deposing thee before thou wert possessed ,
Which art possessed now to depose thyself.
Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
It were a shame to let this land by lease;
But for thy world enjoying but this land,
Is it not more than shame to shame it so?
Landlord of England art thou now, not king.
Watch a master perform this piece:
As I was banish’d, I was banish’d Hereford;
But as I come, I come for Lancaster.
And, noble uncle, I beseech your grace
Look on my wrongs with an indifferent eye:
You are my father, for methinks in you
I see old Gaunt alive; O, then, my father,
Will you permit that I shall stand condemn’d
A wandering vagabond; my rights and royalties
Pluck’d from my arms perforce and given away
To upstart unthrifts? Wherefore was I born?
If that my cousin king be King of England,
It must be granted I am Duke of Lancaster.
You have a son, Aumerle, my noble cousin;
Had you first died, and he been thus trod down,
He should have found his uncle Gaunt a father,
To rouse his wrongs and chase them to the bay.
I am denied to sue my livery here,
And yet my letters-patents give me leave:
My father’s goods are all distrain’d and sold,
And these and all are all amiss employ’d.
What would you have me do? I am a subject,
And I challenge law: attorneys are denied me;
And therefore, personally I lay my claim
To my inheritance of free descent.
Before Bristol Castle. Bolingbroke has caught Bushy and Green and is sentencing them to death.
Bring forth these men. [ Bushy and Green stand forth.]
Bushy and Green, I will not vex your souls –
Since presently your souls must part your bodies –
With too much urging your pernicious lives,
For ’twere no charity; yet to wash your blood
From off my hands, here in the view of men
I will unfold some causes of your deaths:
You have misled a prince, a royal king,
A happy gentleman in blood and lineaments,
By you unhappied and disfigured clean.
You have in manner with your sinful hours
Made a divorce betwixt his queen and him,
Broke the possession of a royal bed
And stained the beauty of a fair queen’s cheeks
With tears drawn from her eyes by your foul wrongs.
Myself, a prince by fortune of my birth,
Near to the King in blood, and near in love
Till you did make him misinterpret me,
Have stooped my neck under your injuries
And sighed my English breath in foreign clouds,
Eating the bitter bread of banishment,
Whilst you have fed upon my signories,
Disparked my parks and felled my forest woods,
From my own windows torn my household coat,
Rased out my imprese , leaving me no sign
Save men’s opinions and my living blood
To show the world I am a gentleman.
This and much more, much more than twice all this,
Condemns you to the death. See them delivered over
To execution and the hand of death
Needs must I like it well. I weep for joy
To stand upon my kingdom once again.
Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand,
Though rebels wound thee with their horses’ hoofs.
As a long-parted mother with her child
Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting,
So weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth,
And do thee favours with my royal hands.
Feed not thy sovereign’s foe, my gentle earth,
Nor with thy sweets comfort his ravenous sense,
But let thy spiders that suck up thy venom
And heavy-gaited toads lie in their way,
Doing annoyance to the treacherous feet
Which with usurping steps do trample thee.
Yield stinging nettles to mine enemies;
And when they from thy bosom pluck a flower,
Guard it I pray thee with a lurking adder
Whose double tongue may with a mortal touch
Throw death upon thy sovereign’s enemies.
Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords.
This earth shall have a feeling, and these stones
Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king
Shall falter under foul rebellion’s arms.
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills.
And yet not so – for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death;
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been depos’d, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping kill’d,
All murdered – for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and, humour’d thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence; throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty;
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends – subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?
Want to know more about Richard II 3.2 Monologue?
To watch the fearful bending of thy knee
Because we thought ourself thy lawful king.
And if we be, how dare thy joints forget
To pay their awful duty to our presence ?
If we be not, show us the hand of God
That hath dismissed us from our stewardship;
For well we know no hand of blood and bone
Can gripe the sacred handle of our sceptre,
Unless he do profane, steal or usurp.
And though you think that all, as you have done,
Have torn their souls by turning them from us,
And we are barren and bereft of friends,
Yet know: my Master, God omnipotent,
Is mustering in His clouds on our behalf
Armies of pestilence, and they shall strike
Your children, yet unborn and unbegot,
That lift your vassal hands against my head
And threat the glory of my precious crown.
Tell Bolingbroke – for yon methinks he stands –
That every stride he makes upon my land
Is dangerous treason. He is come to open
The purple testament of bleeding war;
But ere the crown he looks for live in peace,
Ten thousand bloody crowns of mothers’ sons
Shall ill become the flower of England’s face,
Change the complexion of her maid-pale peace
To scarlet indignation, and bedew
Her pastor’s grass with faithful English blood.
Ay, no. No, ay; for I must nothing be.
Therefore, no ‘no’, for I resign to thee.
Now mark me how I will undo myself :
I give this heavy weight from off my head,
And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand,[Takes up sceptre and gives it to Bolingbroke.]
The pride of kingly sway from out my heart;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duteous oaths.
All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
My manors, rents, revenues I forgo;
My acts, decrees and statutes I deny.
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me;
God keep all vows unbroke are made to thee.
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased that hast all achieved.
Long mayst thou live in Richard’s seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthy pit!
‘God save King Henry’, unkinged Richard says,
‘And send him many years of sunshine days!’ –
What more remains?
This prison where I live unto the world;
And, for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it. Yet I’ll hammer it out.
My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father, and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world;
For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix’d
With scruples, and do set the word itself against the word,
As thus: ‘Come, little ones’; and then again,
‘It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.’
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders: how these vain weak nails
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls;
And for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune’s slaves,
Nor shall not be the last — like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there;
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king’d again, and by and by
Think that I am unking’d by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate’er I be,
Nor I, nor any man that but man is,
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eas’d
With being nothing.
For more on Richard II Act 5 Scene 5