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Richard II

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This poignant monologue from Richard is a series of thoughts which he speaks aloud as he ponders on what it to become of him. Richard is a king with extremes of emotion, and so a monologue from him is always full of poetic devices and ornamentation of language, as he conveys his emotions rather than facts. In this case, his violent change of mood leaves his desperate and depressed, as he begins to convince himself that Bolingbroke has usurped his throne once and for all, and Richard prepares to resign himself to either an existence of poverty and shame, or an untimely and undignified death.

The repetition of the word “king” emphasises Richard’s pride of his title, and his bitterness in losing it. The word is used sarcastically as Richard remarks on the king doing what he “must”, when it should be the king giving orders. The line “A god’s name, let it go” could hint that Richard is relieved to no longer be king, as “let it go” could suggest dropping a burden.

However, the line is ambivalent as it could also show Richard finding it difficult to let go and move on. The word “let” in any case however, shows Richard’s acknowledgement that it is his responsibility to allow his title to be removed, and that the situation could be seen as abdication as easily as it could be called usurpation. This is questionable however, as Richard is quick to blame others for his inability to rule a country and keep order.

The anaphora used by Richard as he starts several consecutive lines with “my”, then states what each item will be exchanged for, is an effective rhetoric device because it makes his speech mnemonic, and emphasises how strongly he feels about having to give up everything which belongs to him. Richard is exaggerating his situation in a moment of self-pity, showing his pessimistic attitude. He believes he is being forced into a lower-class existence. The fact that he does not use the royal “we” also shows that he is humbled by the situation.

However, he is still obsessed by his right to call certain things his own; he is ever possessive and desperately clinging to what is rightfully his. Richard then proceeds to talk about death; “and my large kingdom for a little grave, a little, little grave, an obscure grave”. This reference shows that Richard’s view of his situation is utterly negative, and he now believes he is doomed to death as well as believing his throne has been snatched from him. This repetition shows his tendency to exaggerate situations.

Not once has his death been suggested; in fact, Bolingbroke deliberately makes it clear that his motives in confronting Richard are peaceful, that he is only there to claim that which rightfully belonged to his father, John of Gaunt. It is Richard’s view of the situation which turns this scene into an apparent potential confrontation, and it is Richard’s view which portrays Henry Bolingbroke as a violent and unfair throne usurper and destroyer of Richard’s life.

Richard’s view of this situation is entirely distorted, as he is incapable of sense and reason, letting his emotional instability block out reality and justice. This habit of blowing matter out of proportion is further revealed by Richard’s conceit, or exaggerated metaphor, of creating two graves from his tears wearing away the earth. This shows Richard’s view of the situation to be not only highly morbid, but also utterly absurd. Yet it is likely that Richard says this in jest, albeit it attention-seeking and self pitying humour.

Yet it seems that Richard’s humour is not even to his own taste, but instead for the sake of others. Richard says this to make Aumerle laugh, showing the contrast as Aumerle finds humour in Richard’s over-exaggeration, yet from what Richard has said previously, it seems that he believes his own words. Richard is also bitter and sarcastic in calling Bolingbroke “King”, showing his firm belief that there is no other possible outcome. The speech is written in blank verse except for the last two lines which form a couplet.

This adds to the memorability of the speech, and also shows Richard’s macabre humour. In lines 178-183, Richard makes a classical reference to Phaethon, showing the depth of thought with which he has considered his predicament. The repetition of “down” conveys his ever-declining outlook, as he is now convinced he has lost all power. The final couplet, “Down court, down king, For night-owls screech where mounting larks should sing” shows how wrong Richard sees the situation as. The word “shriek” is also onomatopoeic and harsh, conveying Richard’s mental torment.

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