«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 ...»
Whether Richard's prison soliloquy raises him to the status of a tragic hero is open to debate. At least, I suggest, it shows a progression in him from lamentation to a more constructive form of thought; if we were to put it in poetic terms, we might say that he has developed from a lyrical to a metaphysical poet.94 I find this suggestion particularly valuable in allowing us to perceive how Richard's poeticising falls short throughout the play. The idea of the king as poet has come under considerable fire in recent criticism.93 Yet the distinction Wells makes between Richard as lyrical and metaphysical poet hints at the persuasive, at times political, and constructive intention that lies behind so much of Richard's poetry. According to Helen Gardner's definition, Argument and persuasion, and the use of the conceit as their instrument, are the elements or body of a metaphysical poem. Its quintessence or soul is the vivid imagining of a moment of experience or of a situation out of which the need to argue, or persuade, or define arises.96 Gardner has cited Richard's soliloquy as a 'metaphysical' failure because it is merely indulgence. Richard does not persuade. 97 Yet the effort is there in the verbs 'study' and 'hammer' and in the grim determination to force parallels. Richard turns to 'metaphysical' poetry in his despair. He needs to fashion a new existence for himself and then persuade himself into it but to do this he first needs to come to terms with his tragedy.
94 Wells, 'The Lamentable Tale of Richard IF, 22.
95 Mark Van Doren offers perhaps the most extreme identification of Richard as poet in Shakespeare (London:
George Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1941), 91. Leonard Tennenhouse rejects this 'nineteenth-century' creation for a sixteenth-century monarch who destroyed the sign of his own legitimacy' He suggests that Bolingbroke is the superior artist, Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare's Genres (London and New York: Methuen.
96 Helen Gardner. The Metaphysical Poets (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), xxvi.
97 Ibid., xxv.
Richard's peopling of his prison cell is an attempt at consolation. His thoughts parade as various citizens: religious sophists, ambitious courtiers, Stoic beggars, each of whom has a perspective on his deposition/exile (5.5.11-30). The divine thoughts apply themselves to his fate, suggesting that it is easier for him to get into heaven now that he has been stripped of all worldly impediments. Yet the divines are typically divided amongst themselves and Richard cannot believe them. The ambitious thoughts do not accept that imprisonment will continue.
Like Suffolk in 2 Henry VI, they are too proud to accept such debasement and deflect Richard from resignation whilst giving him no reason to hope. Finally, the Stoic thoughts in the stocks, reflecting on their fate with equanimity, perhaps in anticipation of Kent, proffer Richard the most powerful form of panacea. Yet Richard finds no consolation in their advice.
The image of the prison peopled becomes a reflection of Richard's own multiplicity but again he vacillates between these possibilities and kingship. So strong is his identification with the role that all other shapes seem insubstantial. Like his fantasy, Richard's selfhood tends to nothing.
In Lear's speech on prison, the King and his daughter take pleasure in their detachment from fate. Prison offers a view on a world that cares nothing for them and that they too have rejected in favour of their own society. Yet Richard's alienation from the world is endless and, it seems, endlessly lamentable. He can find no creative way of looking at it. 98 This sterility can be seen in the image of Richard's still-breeding thoughts. - ever-and-neverbreeding at once, always bearing and yet still born". 99 Paradoxically, Richard has partly 98 For further comparison of Richard and Lear's prison speeches see The Dramatist and the Received Idea, \ 83.
and 'Richard II and the Idea of the Nation', 146.
99 'Richard II: Metadrama and the Fall of Speech', 124.
created this situation through his disastrous acts of banishment. Not only do they fail to resolve tensions in the kingdom but the banishments of Bolingbroke and Mowbray lead to his own exile from kingship.
It may be argued, however, that the deposition of Richard has been ritually redressive for England. Indeed, the rebels consider it as the redemption of kingship and of England. In particular, Bolingbroke will reforge the union between body natural and body politic, king and commonwealth, destroyed by Richard. 100 Yet Henry's action is also presented as a kind of schism or national self-loss. Most obviously, the Bishop of Carlisle prophesies the civil wars that will be known as the Wars of the Roses resulting from Richard's deposition. In this confusion, England will depart even further from the kingdom Gaunt eulogised on his deathbed. The crusading greatness of that England will become undiscriminating and
Moreover, Bolingbroke may be seen to have fatally destabilised kingship. Richard prophesies that Northumberland will be tempted to depose the usurper and to place another king on the throne now that the mystery of succession has been destroyed, now that men make kings (5.1.55-8). In Nobody and Somebody (1605), King Elidure is banished from the throne twice 100 Leggatt argues that the succession is effectively broken by Richard's own violation of his kingship and his subsequent status as king and no king in Shakespeare 's Political Drama, 69.
and crowned three times. England is imprisoned in a cycle where kings will continually depose one another because they can. 101 David Bergeron applies the Bakhtinian idea of Carnival to Richard II with its cycle of Carnival and Lenten representatives driven from the town and then reinstated. In his analysis, Bolingbroke has deposed a mockery king to replace him with a more legitimate Lenten version. 102 Yet the end of the play suggests that Bolingbroke too is a mock king and that he may not be able to control the repercussions of his actions through ritual, just as Richard could not.
At the beginning of Richard II, the King tried to cover up his involvement in a murder by banishing the instrument of it, Thomas Mowbray. This action is repeated at the end of the play with different players. Here, it is Richard who has been the victim with Exton as the murderer. Henry refers to the slander brought upon his kingship and the realm by this act and
banishes Exton for it:
Moreover, this pronouncement directly echoes the earlier scene in which Mowbray was likened to Cain (1.1.104). The terms of Exton's banishment, his wandering through 'the shades of night', also echo those of Mowbray, condemned 'To dwell in solemn shades of endless night' (1.3.171). Henry's professed desire to redeem kingship is violently contradicted. Not only does he set a dangerous precedent in killing the king but he repeats 101 See Nobody and Somebody: An Introduction and Critical Edition ed. by David L. Hay (New York and London: Garland Pub., 1980). Hay discusses the play's approach to the theme of political disorder in his introduction, 1-49.
102 David M. Bergeron. ' RichardII and Carnival Polities', Sh. Q. 42 (1991), 33-43.
actions associated with Richard. Exton is only a knight and we should not perhaps expect vengeance from him to alienate Henry from his throne. Nevertheless, this final banishment remembers Richard's disastrous policy of alienation and its implications for the King himself.
Naomi Conn Liebler summarises the difficulty of distinguishing between the two kings:
For Richard's deposition and Henry's accession to have those redressive features, the ambiguity of Richard's alternately conservative and destructive behaviour would have to be resolved as preeminently negative, and the matching ambiguity of Henry's restructuring of the monarchy would have to appear as positive. But the play does not allow such an easy and comfortable resolution. 103 Rather, there are indications at the end of the play that Henry too could suffer deposition, banishment and murder.
103 Naomi Conn Liebler, Shakespeare's Festive Tragedy: The Ritual Foundations of Genre (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 85.
THE BANISHMENT OF FALSTAFF IN HENRYIV PARTS ONE AND TWO 1In the previous chapter, we were concerned with banishment as an act of self-definition, reforming both subject and object. In Henry IV, Parts One and Two, this creative use of banishment is more deliberate and more solipsistic with the emphasis upon the banisher.
Falstaff becomes an essential part of Hal's reformation spectacle: his banishment is an expression of the Prince's transformation into Henry V. Hal gives no thought to Falstaff s alteration through exile and Shakespeare does not dramatise the knight's altered state, though the contingency of Hal's success upon Falstaff s 'fall' is reiterated in Henry V: as the King grows in stature Falstaff literally dwindles and dies. But why should Henry's success depend upon the exclusion of this particular knight? There are various historical and literary paradigms by which we may interpret Falstaff s banishment. Indeed, those that I present here are all invoked by the play itself. Yet Falstaff s identification with the Vice of the morality play, the heretic Oldcastle, the political rebel, and the poet exiled from The Republic, all serve to obfuscate the policy behind this particular banishment and to depersonalise the knight, even as they deepen our understanding of exile's contemporary associations. This obfuscation seems deliberate on Shakespeare's part, perhaps designed to create an uneasy sense that we do not know enough about Hal's actions and that we may too easily accept his authorised version of history. Falstaff s expulsion is an expression of the 'dangerous intimacy' that exists between himself and a King intent on controlling the ways in which he is known.
Critics often emphasise the symbolic function of Falstaff s exile. As he embodies corrupt 1 All quotations are taken from the Oxford Complete Works so that in Part One the name Oldcastle is used.
Outside quotations I have referred to the knight as Falstaff for the sake of simplicity.
kingship, the nation's moral sins, rebelliousness or false report, the old knight must be ritually cast off. 2 Whilst there is a recognised need for such general purgation, 3 Falstaff is not banished from England or even from London but is commanded 'Not to come near our person by ten mile' (22.214.171.124).
Exclusion from the monarch's presence would have had various connotations for the Elizabethan and Jacobean courtier. In Francis Bacon's essay 'The Charge Touching Duels' (1614), he argues that such absence strips a man of honour and condemns him to a Cain-like
The fountain of honour is the King, and his aspect and the access to his person continueth honour in life, and to be banished from his presence is one of the greatest eclipses of honour that can be [...] I think there is no man that hath any good blood in him will commit an act that shall cast him into that darkness, that he may not behold his Sovereign's face. 4 On a more practical level, banishment from the sovereign's presence, and from the court was damaging to one's reputation and future ambitions, and also to one's finances. In contrast, the sovereign's attributes may appear more rare and wonderful as they are gazed upon by the exile from afar. The wretchedness displayed by the banished courtier must also have been highly gratifying to the monarch. The power of the royal presence was thus confirmed.
2 On the ritual sacrifice of Falstaff as a king-substitute see C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, 206-7,
and J. I. M. Stewart, Character and Motive in Shakespeare: Some Recent Appraisals Examined (London:
Longmans, Green & Co., 1949), 138-9. On Falstaff as moral scapegoat see Franklin B. Newman who suggests that the banishment purges Hal, the Elizabethan and modem audiences of their 'inclination toward selfindulgence and surfeit', 'The Rejection of Falstaff and the Rigorous Charity of the King', Sh. St. 2 (1966), 153and John Dover Wilson who argues that 'what is at stake in this morality play is the salvation of England itself, The Fortunes of Falstaff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1943), 80. Richard Abrams' study 'Rumor's Reign in 2 Henry IV: The Scope of a Personification', ELR 16 (1986), 467-95, considers the implications of the banishment of Rumour signifying both rebelliousness and false history.
3 In Part Two, Henry IV and the Archbishop refer to England as diseased and requiring purgation, 3.1.37-9, 4.1.54-7.
4 See Francis Bacon, 304-13, 307. Vickers describes two opposing notions of honour behind this text, one individualistic and 'ego-based', the other a newer code according to which the sovereign and state held a monopoly over honour and violence, 681.
Nevertheless, one might also perceive an alteration, even a diminution, in the monarch as a result of this act of banishment. In July 1592, whilst Raleigh and Elizabeth Throckmorton were imprisoned in the Tower as punishment for their secret marriage. Raleigh wrote a letter
to Sir Robert Cecil:
My heart was never broken till this day, that I hear the Queen goes away so far of [sic], - whom I have followed so many years with so great love and desire, in so many journeys, and am now left behind her, in a dark prison all alone [...] I that was wont to behold her riding like Alexander, hunting like Diana, walking like Venus, the gentle wind blowing her fair hair about her pure cheeks, like a nymph; sometime siting [sic] in the shade like a Goddess;
sometime singing like an angell; sometime playing like Orpheus. 5 Raleigh probably assumed that Cecil would read this passage to the Queen. His compliments are finely worded not only in their classical allusions but in the suggestion that the knight constructs these identities for the Queen. Raleigh appeals to the Queen's vanity as well as to her pity for his recall from banishment. Moreover, he cunningly reverses the traditional positions of banisher and banished. In the knight's presence, the Queen became Alexander or Diana through his perception of her. Removed from Raleigh's gaze. Elizabeth becomes less superlative, less mythically great.
Where Raleigh could only hint at a change, Shakespeare's Henry V suggests publicly that