«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
80). l9 Gaunt may also be suggesting the need for political ruthlessness here, as echoed again
by the Gardener who attributes the King's downfall to the lack of such a policy:
Gloucester may have been one of those trees 'over-proud in sap and blood'. Whilst the depiction of the Duke in Thomas ofWoodstock (1592)20 is that of a flawed martyr, there were other accounts of his rebellion against the King which might have justified his death.
Holinshed refers to Gloucester as one 'hastie, wilfull and given more to war than peace'. 21 Nevertheless, shortly after his conversation with the Duchess, Gaunt delivers a blistering attack on Richard, condemning him for the murder of Gloucester, the King's own uncle, and for the spilling of Edward's blood (2.1.127-8, 132). This is not the only borrowing from the Duchess that Gaunt will make. He also appropriates her metaphors of generation and containment and her use of the figure 'ploce' to express anxiety about the continuance of
England. The Duchess's identification of Edward as:
19 Allan Bloom describes the obfuscatory powers of myth and divine right in the play. The assumption that subjects should not question Richard's state 'makes political science impossible and renders the attempt to establish it a sin, the sin of disobeying the ruler and of attempting to replace him', 'Richard II' in Shakespeare as Political Thinker ed. John Alvis and Thomas G. West (Durham, N. Carolina: Carolina Academic Press. 1981.).
:o A. P. Rossiter suggests a date c. 1591-4, Woodstock: A Moral History (London: Chatto and Windus. 1946), 71-2.
2 See Holinshed on Gaunt in Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (London 1577), The First and Second Volumes of Chronicles (1587), 3 vols. in 4, vol. 3. 489.
Yet, just as Edward is a 'model' in the past tense, so Gaunt recognises that his ideal country no longer exists: That England that was wont to conquer others/ Hath made a shameful conquest of itself (65-6). This idea of self-destruction was also a feature of the Duchess' lament.
Gaunt's eulogy of England reveals certain aristocratic prejudices." The Duke is primarily concerned with England as a martial nation, bound in by the sea like a fortress, producing knights who fight for their own honour. Aristocratic title and privilege are seen to depend on English soil, hence Gaunt's fury that Richard should sell the land off to social upstarts.
Nevertheless, his England is also prized for its kings (40-2). In Echvard I (1591), Elinor welcomes the crusading king back to England and describes the realm in these same
22 See Douglas M. Friedman's interpretation of this speech in 'John of Gaunt and the Rhetoric of Frustration', ££//43 (1976), 279-99, 288-91.
^ Edward I by George Peele ed. by Frank S. Hook in The Dramatic Works of George Peele Gen. ed. Charles Tvler Prouty (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1961), 3 vols., vol. 2.
In Richard II, England's crusading and expansionist days seem far behind it. The King, who should be the model of England's greatness, admits no such obligation. In contrast with Gaunt's Englishmen 'whose individual identity is submerged in a collective purpose, a kind of perpetual knightly order',24 Richard stands isolated and ruthlessly solipsistic. He works to dispossess himself of England, thus to divide body natural from body politic.
Most obviously Richard dispossesses the Crown of land, dividing England among his favourites. In Woodstock, Richard anticipates Lear by calling for a map on which to sketch
the new boundaries (4.1.220-1). Unlike Lear, he recognises the shame he will incur:
This is also the imagery Gaunt will use to describe the king and kingdom in Richard II.25 Related to this spoiling of land is the King's rash expenditure of England's fiscal wealth, not only the royal purse but the funds of his nobles and the commons. Woodstock dramatises the instigation of the blank charters and the succeeding rebellion but Richard II remembers these scenes. Of the lords' private complaints against Richard before their defection, the fanning of
the realm is central:
Most important perhaps is Richard's alienation of the nobles. He not only forces some into bankruptcy but violates the laws of inheritance by depriving others of their patrimony. 26 Richard drives a wedge between the nobles and kingship by denying them a voice in policymaking and rejecting their claims to protect the realm. In The Union of Two Noble Famelies ofLancastre and Yorke (1548), Edward Hall relates the substance of Hereford's complaint against the King, of how he, litle estemed and lesse regarded the nobles and Princes of his realme, and as muche as laie in hym soughte occasions, invented causes and practised prively howe to destroye the more parte of theim: to some thretenyng death, to other manacyng exile and banishment, forgettyng and not remembryng what blotte it was to his honor, and what detrimente and damage it was to the publike wealthe... 2? (italics mine) In Shakespeare's play, such persecution is exemplified by the murder of Gloucester but in particular by the exiles of Mowbray and Bolingbroke. Froissart's Chronicles (1523-5) go into greater detail concerning Richard's crimes. Whilst the banished Bolingbroke is in France, he is approached by another exile, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundell.
Arundell uses the following arguments to persuade Bolingbroke to return and depose the
He has filled up the measure of his crimes by the murder of the duke of Glocester. the beheading of the earl of Arundel without cause, the exile of the earl of Warwick, and your banishment; clearly shewing his intentions to deprive England of its nobles and the support she might have from them, for 26 See Hoiinshed's Chronicle on the disinheriting of Tightfull heires', Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol. 3, ~* O ~* 0 JO 1-6.
r Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol. 3, 383.
he has lately banished the earl of Northumberland and his son because they talked too freely of him and his ministers. 28 As both Hall and Froissart have related, the alienation of the King from his nobles, literally through the latter's banishment, leaves England relatively unsupported and vulnerable.
Richard's crimes against the commonwealth justified rebellion according to the criteria of certain sixteenth- and seventeenth-century polemicists. Ponet describes the expulsion (and not
the murder) of two English kings thus:
they deprived King Edward the II. because without law he killed his subjects, spoiled them of their goods, & wasted the treasure of the Realm. And upon what just causes Richard the II. was thrust out, and Henry the IV put in his place, I refer it to their own judgement. 29 Robert Parsons offers a more teleological reading, suggesting that God's endorsement of the new, perhaps usurping monarch, proves deposition justified. Richard II, he argues, allowed himself to be "abused and misled by evel counsellors, to the great hurte & disquietnes of the
realme' and hence he was deposed. Further justification for this act follows:
and in this marines place by free election was chosen for king the noble knight Henry Duke of Lancaster who proved afterwards so notable a king as the world knoweth, and was father to king Henry the fifth surnamed commonly the Alexander of Ingland.
Critics such as Ponet and Parsons suggested that political vengeance by the nobility, the church or the people was not only justifiable but inevitable. To this structure of 28 Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of England, France, Spain and the Adjoining Countries tr. by Thomas Johnes 3 rd ed. 12 vols., vol. 12 (London: Longman, 1808), 117. Shakespeare does not refer to the banishments of Northumberland and Percy at all, perhaps because those of Bolingbroke and Mowbray loom so large.
29 A Shorte Treatise ofPoliticke Power, 47.
30,4 Conference about the next Succession, 59-60.
predestination, Shakespeare has added a kind of poetic inevitability. If the King contains the body politic within himself, then any action he might take to the detriment of that body is a self-inflicted blow. Richard's actions systematically recoil upon him. This is not to deny the political impetus of the play but to see in Richard II something of the peripeteia that we might expect in a tragedy. York blames Richard for seizing Bolingbroke's inheritance and thus undermining the principle of succession on which his own kingship depends (2.1.199-200).
This is both a political danger, setting a precedent for Richard's enemies, and an evocation of the play's poetic subtext the body warring against itself, the body alienating itself. Perhaps Richard's most disastrous political move is his banishment of Bolingbroke and Mowbray.
Again this action reveals a tragic peripeteia at work for in banishing these men Richard brings about his own alienation from England.
The play opens with the appeals of Bolingbroke and Mowbray against one another. The former accuses Mowbray of appropriating royal funds, of playing a part in every conspiracy for the past eighteen years and of the murder of Gloucester (1.1.88-103). In return, Mowbray charges the Duke with slander and treason (143-5). Neither will be satisfied with any justice but that achieved through trial-by-combat. In 1.3, words are about to become blows when the King interrupts and after a brief consultation with his council banishes Bolingbroke for ten years (later commuted to six) and condemns Mowbray to an endless exile. The reasoning behind this interruption is obscure in Hall and Holinshed. Both historians allude to the consideration of some weighty cause. 31 In A Mirror for Magistrates (1559). Mowbray describes Richard as desirous 'to avoyde the sheddyny of our bloode, / with shame and 31 See Hall's Union and Holinshed's Chronicles in Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol. 3. 386 and 393 respectively.
death'. This hint is expanded upon by Froissart whose Chronicles emphasise the dangers of civil war accruing from any such armed encounter between the two men.33 Shakespeare's play
is perhaps closest to this source. His Richard justifies banishment:
Richard proceeds to use the exiles as a foil to his own Englishness. Both Bolingbroke and Mowbray have defined the combat as an expression of national identity. Mowbray asserts that he would meet Bolingbroke 'were I tied to run afoot/ Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps,/ Or any other ground inhabitable,/ Wherever Englishman durst set his foot' (1.1.63-6).
Bolingbroke repeats the formula, declaring that he will fight 'Or here or elsewhere, to the furthest verge/ That ever was surveyed by English eye' (93-4). 34 When Richard stops the combat, he prevents them from these displays of nationalism, and through banishment recasts both men as hostile and alien to England. For the first time, he attempts publicly to conceive of his kingdom and his duty towards it, though his image of a passive and effeminate realm is anathema to Gaunt's crusading nation.
j2 Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol. 3, 418, II 141-2.
33 Froissart's Chronicles, ibid., 424-5. In this account, the King's counsellors also warn him that he is suspected of having orchestrated the conflict by persuading his favourite Mowbray to challenge the Earl of Derby. They warn of the contempt in which Mowbray is held and the implications for Richard if he wins.
34 There is perhaps a suggestion here that England can no longer be represented by this chivalric myth or its rituals. Bolingbroke's remark 'Lo, as at English feasts, so I regreet/ The daintiest last, to make the end most sweet' (1.3.67-8) may remind us of the allusion mAs You Like It to 'the old Robin Hood of England' (1.1.111).
The distance implied between the speaker and his imagined England serves in the comedy to remind us that Arden is really Ardennes in France. In Richard II, such nostalgia may hint at the ending of an era as Gaunt will at 2.1.
35 In the 1597 Quarto but not the Folio Richard describes peace 'which in our cradle, Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle sleep", reprinted in the Oxford Complete Works in Additional Passage A (4-5) at the end of the play.
Perhaps the most important reason for the King's interruption of the combat is revealed by the recurrent imagery of tongues being silenced. Bolingbroke's chief grievance against Mowbray
is his part in Gloucester's murder:
But in the next scene it will be suggested that Richard himself instigated the crime. Thus, Mowbray becomes the repository of secrets, not only about his part in the murder but concerning the King's blood-guilt. Mowbray's death in the trial-by-combat would be an efficient means of silencing him and might serve to expiate Richard's own crime. But if the combat would eliminate the threat posed by Norfolk at the expense of advancing the ambitious Bolingbroke,36 banishment may be the ideal means to disarm both accuser and accused. The image of the tongue as a weapon, in particular a sword, is a conventional representation of slander but it is invoked with particular violence in the first few scenes. 37
Bolingbroke refuses to parley:
Richard employs the same figure when he threatens to make Gaunt's treasonous tongue not merely the cause but the means of his decapitation (2.1.123-4). Banishment prevents either 36 In The Firste Foure Bookes of the Civile Wars, Samuel Daniel suggests that Richard interrupted the tournament to banish both men for fear of Bolingbroke's victory. In this account Mowbray is innocent but is sacrificed for the sake of the realm, Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol. 3, 438.
}1 See David Norbrook. '"A Liberal Tongue": Language and Rebellion in Richard IF in Shakespeare's Universe: Renaissance Ideas and Conventions ed. by John M. Mucciolo (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996). 37-51.
Bolingbroke or Mowbray from breathing slander against the King in English air. Indeed.