«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 ...»
78 Nicholas Potter argues that Mowbray's lament is based on the loss of 'common speech' and English community life that includes oyster-wenches and draymen. As such Mowbray represents the 'civil society' notably absent from Gaunt's and Richard's visions of England. This might explain why Mowbray only speaks English but it does not account for the courtly assumptions the Duke makes about language nor for his horror at being thrust into the -common air' (1.3.150-1). See '"Like to a tenement or pelting farm": Richard II and the Idea of the Nation' in Shakespeare in the New Europe ed. by Michael Hattaway, Boika Sokolova and Derek Roper (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 130-47, 136, 139, 144.
.13 courtier and knight, language is an ornament, an instrument of pleasure and selfadvancement, and a status symbol. To be deprived of speech equates to a fall in status where language must be used for mere survival. Mowbray will be at the mercy of his social and intellectual inferiors personified by 'dull unfeeling barren ignorance'. In A Mirror for Magistrates, another Mowbray describes his disgust at the rough manners of the Germans, their 'churlysh' speech and their refusal to distinguish between a lackey and a lord.79 Ovid is no more complimentary about the Getae. He considers them scarce worthy the name of men for their savagery, their lawlessness, but above all for their ignorance of Greek and Latin. 80 Like both Mowbrays, he finds himself disdained for the attributes of 'civilisation' and for his
They hold intercourse in the tongue they share; I must make myself understood by gestures. Here it is I that am a barbarian, understood by nobody; the Getae laugh stupidly at Latin words, and in my presence they often talk maliciously about me in perfect security, perchance reproaching me with my exile. 81 Similarly, where Shakespeare's Mowbray imagines the loss of the English tongue as an end to his music-making, in Tristia exile is represented as the end of the poet's career. The linguistic
epistles is to keep Ovid's identity alive. 83 Imagining a meeting of his fellow poets in Rome, he asks 79 The Mirror for Magistrates ed. by Lily B. Campbell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938), 107, 11 170-1.
80 Tristia and Ex Ponto tr. by Arthur Leslie Wheeler (London: Heinemann, 1924), 239.
81 Tristia, 249. In The Mirror for Magistrates, Mowbray is despised as a traitor when the Germans somehow discover that he made a 'false complaynt agaynst my trusty frende'. 108,1 181.
K Tristia, 253.
83 Ovid refers a number of times to the ingress of his poems into Rome where he cannot follow, Tristia. 3, 5, 7.
See also Essex's letter dated 9 September 1600. "Haste paper to that happy presence, uhence only unhappy I am banished'. Lives and Letters, vol. 2, 120.
T, I,.1 ' K'id's preoccupation with the loss of his vocation, of his name and of his identity..
are all i'' 111, vied in Richard's trials from the moment he returns to England. Cardan reminds '.., his read'' 1.,, i hat Ovid wrote more poetry in this state than ever before in an attempt to Imnishment as a state of poetic fecundity and personal advancement.83 As antirepreseM 1.
poets, ( |v 'i,| ' uid Shakespeare's Richard II both attempt to write themselves back into societv.
I *k n III K'cnard will attempt to retain his identity through poetry, that is, through selfiitaf iiiil" 1 ^ and legitimising metaphors, and through telling stories about himself. When pj,| -. p iluit he has lost the ability to express anything but grief, that grief becomes a form k,,. ih |'or Richard also, elegy provides a role, a form of kingship.
,,1,^. were the bookes of wise men made more often then in banishmente? Ovidius.Vaso being in exile )0( iU"i De tristibus, Deponto, in [bin, Triumphus Caesaris and De piscibus. So as it seemeth that in.C1 t-sile, he performed more then in those fifty and foure. which before hee had lived in Rome',, ( ',„;,/,/•/(?, 85.
On his return from Ireland Richard speaks a different language.86 He is fantastical, sentimental, morbid and above all loquacious. Richard's greeting of the earth when he lands
in Wales resembles that of an exile after his enforced absence:
The sense that Richard has already been dispossessed before he learns of the loss of his army and before any confrontation with Bolingbroke is signalled by these possessive adjectives.
The refrain of 'my kingdom', 'my hand', 'my earth', 'my royal hands', works to blur the distinctions between Richard's body and the kingdom, to assert his incorporation of England.
The enemy, Bolingbroke, is imagined through synecdoche which stresses his identity as alien and exile, the 'treacherous feet' and 'usurping steps' (recalling York 2.3.16-7). Yet the positions of rightful king and forbidden exile are already in the process of reversal as Richard tries to deflect his own sense of alienation from the kingdom. In 3 Henry VI, the deposed and
exiled king utters a similar greeting to the earth:
s" Like Ovid who felt himself derided for his foreign tongue, Richard appeals 'Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords', 3.2.23. In the following scene, Northumberland reports to Bolingbroke that the King "speaks fondly, like a frantic man', 3.3.184.
In contrast, Richard 'greets' his earth to deny the possibility of deposition. He employs the pathetic fallacy to protect himself from Bolingbroke and to prove his legitimacy. Spiders, toads, nettles and stones will hinder the usurper's progress and even fight against him (3.2.12That Richard does not believe in his divine right is suggested by his recourse to R7 He tries to secure his kingship by association with the sun, an instrument of metaphor.
heavenly justice which reveals murders, treasons and other crimes. Bolingbroke will cower when he 'Shall see us rising in our throne, the east' (46). Next Richard turns to the symbols of kingship and tries to make certain of them through hyperbole, 'Not all the water in the rough rude sea/ Can wash the balm from an anointed king' (50-1). The breath of men cannot depose him (52-3). Here, Richard already anticipates the ceremony of decoronation, as experienced by Henry VI. Despite the King's enraptured description of the angels that will fight for him, he is quick to despair when Salisbury and then Scrope relate that he will have no men to fight with.
Much has been written on the relationship between the King's fall and the fall of language in the play. 88 Ronald R. Macdonald suggests that the language of divine right had always existed to cover up what was absent. The feudal society did not endow its king with divinity because his position was already inviolate and he superhuman, but because of the vulnerability of office and of man. In Macdonald's analogy, Richard is the Emperor whose nakedness is revealed by the young boy Bolingbroke. The usurpation permanently marks the 'essentially 87 On Richard's loss of faith in his kingship see also Michael Manheim, The Weak King Dilemma in the Shakespearean History Play (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1973), 62, and Alexander Leggatt, Shakespeare's Political Drama: The History Plays and the Roman Plays (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), 65.
88 See for example James L. Calderwood, 'Richard II: Metadrama and the Fall of Speech' in Shakespeare's History Plays: RichardII to Henry Fed. by Graham Holderness (London: Macmillan Press, 1992). 121-35 and Anne Barton, 'Shakespeare and the Limits of Language' Sh. S. 24 (1971), 19-30, 22.
secular, fabricated character of the political order'.89 I find this idea of absence hidden and disclosed particularly resonant in the play. Richard decks himself in so much divine imagery, like the props of ceremony, to atone for his absence whilst in Ireland, an absence that continues even after his return. His indulgence in metaphor is easily explained as an attempt to substantiate himself, to gorge himself with meaning. Nevertheless, Richard also creates images which express his loss of substance. At the news of the Welsh army's desertion, he turns pale. It is the blood of twenty thousand men leaving his face (3.2.72-5), leaving him "pale and dead'. Similarly, Richard's conceit of Death within the crown expresses his vacancy. In 2.1, Gaunt referred to the crown containing the realm of England (100-3). Richard
takes this microcosmic conceit and reworks it to his own diminution:
Richard has become merely the strutting player in Death's court. The line 'Infusing him with self and vain conceit' is an inspired comment on the King's situation. The conceits through which he has been celebrated and puffed up, in particular the microcosmic image, have encouraged the belief he is greater than England. Rather than trying to sustain these metaphors, Richard himself applies the pin. His body is no longer England but a grave 89 Ronald R. Macdonald, 'Uneasy Lies: Language and History in Shakespeare's Lancastrian Tetralogy', Sh. Q.
35 (1984), 22-39, 23-4. See also Calderwood on metaphor as the language of the 'unnamed' in ' Richard II:
Metadrama and the Fall of Speech', 125-6.
(3.2.145-50). 'Model' no longer suggests the epitome or miniature of greatness but a covering of earth over his bones. After the deposition, the Queen in 5.1 offers a similar perspective on
The idea of the King as a receptacle for grief is one he develops in the deposition scene. The simile of the crown as a well with two buckets, one rising and the other falling (4.1.172-9), suggests that tragedy endows Richard with substance. Bolingbroke as the bucket aloft is empty. Richard is the bucket 'unseen, and full of water', 'full of tears' (177, 178). He pursues this image of grief as substance when Bolingbroke accuses Richard of play-acting in his
shattering of the mirror (282-3). The former king thanks him for his perception:
That he will become part of a tragic narrative told by others is some comfort (5.1.40-50).91 Yet although English chronicle history offers Richard numerous examples of kings who have been deposed and murdered (3.2.151-6), whilst he lives, Richard tries to imagine a new role for himself that does not depend on the possession of a crown.
90 Clayton G. MacKenzie traces the imagery of encirclement in the play and contrasts the images of England bound in by the sea with Richard's present inconsequence, 'Richard's national body now harbors the decimation.
spiritual nadir, and grief of a lost English Eden', 'Paradise and Paradise Lost in Richard IP Sh. 0. 37 (1986), 318-39,332.
91 See Prior on the consolation of the De casibus tragedy rejected by Richard in The Drama of Power, 170, 174.
The deposed monarch vacillates between kingship and an array of other possible identities.
As the priest or clerk might, Richard leads a chorus of 'God save the king' in the decoronation scene but cannot forget that this title may still apply to him (4.1.165-6). In 3.3, he abandons himself to the life of an almsman or palmer (146-53) but where Henry VI convincingly argues for the pleasures of such a life, Richard is merely following a convention and quickly forgets his hankering for what he later calls 'crushing penury' (5.5.34). His every action leads him back to his self-definition as a king. Paradoxically, by reversing the ceremony of coronation and thus undoing his sovereignty, Richard performs a task that only the monarch could accomplish. This makes him king and un-king, king and traitor. Richard
becomes the uncreator of the medieval world:
Another possibility would be to redefine kingship as something immanent and divorced from external signification, hi John Ford's play, Perkin Warbeck (1633). the protagonist reconciles himself to the loss of his worldly crown by redefining kingship as the possession of Katherine's heart: 'Even when I fell, I stood enthroned a monarch/ Of one chaste wife's troth pure and uncorrupted' (5.3.126-7).92 Richard is separated from his Queen when she is 92 The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck ed. by Peter Ure (London: Methuen, 1968). On the relationship between Shakespeare's play and Ford's see Alexander Leggatt 'A Double Reign: Richard II and Perkin Warbeck' in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries: Essays in Comparison ed. by E. A. J. Honigmann (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), 129-39. Anne Barton also explores the relationship between kingship and interiority in 'He that plays the king: Perkin Warbeck and the Stuart History Play' in English Drama: Forms and Development; Essays in Honour of Muriel Clara Bradbrook ed. by Marie Axton and Raymond Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 69-93.
banished to France but there is in any case no suggestion that she played a significant part in his life or selfhood. In 3 Henry VI, Henry declared,
Richard also attempts to relocate his crown thus. In 5.1, he suggests to his Queen that they both dedicate themselves to the religious life, in pursuit of a "new world's crown' (5.1.24).
Once again, this solution is not taken up.
In the final scene. Richard expresses his inability to be content with any rewriting of his plight. Once again he turns to metaphor to transform reality or rather to offer the pretence of
transformation but again his efforts are self-revealing:
Stanley Wells writes:
93 This soliloquy strongly suggests the influence of Marlowe's Edward II (c. 1592) on Shakespeare's play. In Marlowe's work the soon to be deposed king reflects on his 'strange despairing thoughts,/ Which thoughts are martyred with endless torments;/ And in this torment, comfort find I none', Edward the Seconded, by Martin Wiggins and Robert Lindsey (London: A & C Black, 1997), 20.79-81. On the relationship between the two plays see Charles R. Forker s introduction to Edward the Second (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994).