Richard II Discussion Questions: To Get You Started

If you are just beginning to read Richard II, you may find yourself asking a lot of questions. It is important to ask them. The more questions you are able to ask, the more ideas you will create. Out of those ideas, an understanding of Shakespeare will evolve.

Following are some questions and ideas to help with the reading of Shakespeare’s, Richard II

Why does King Richard abruptly stop the duel between Mowbray and Bolingbroke?

Why does King Richard banish Mowbray for life and not Bolingbroke?

“For that dear blood which it hath fostered, /and for our eyes do hate the dire aspect/Of civil wounds ploughed up with neighbours’ swords…/ Therefore we banish you our territories” (I.iii.) This passage seems to imply that by letting Bolingbroke and Mowbray stay in England; it could possibly start a civil war. The common people were angry with the two men because they believed that the two were responsible for Thomas of Gloucester’s death.

Why would Richard arrange the dual and then stop it?

Why was Bolingbroke’s banishment only a few years. Was this because of his popularity amongst the commoners?

What if Mowbray won? What if he exposed Richard? Richard seemed to have thought of all of the possible outcomes as the scene progressed. He realized that at least one of the men should be gone for life, to be safe, so since Mowbray equated to a blackmail threat, he was banished.

Why does the Duke of York want Aumerle executed?

Is it because of York’s allegiance to the King? He believes the King is appointed by God, so is this an attempt to “make up” for going against King Richard? By turning Aumerle in as a traitor he is maintaining his loyalty to the King, even though the King is now Henry.

When using the questions as a guide, it is helpful to remember that the rhymed couplets mark moments of emotional upheaval.

Also, note that men are the focus of Shakespeare’s history plays. Women are rarely portrayed unless it is when a man needs “saved.” An example of this is when the Duchess of York pleads to Bolingbroke for Aumerlie’s life.

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