Richard II | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Richard II | Act 5, Scene 1 | Summary



The queen waits near the Tower of London to see Richard as he is taken to be imprisoned. When he appears, she criticizes him for not being angry: "The lion dying thrusteth forth his paw, / And wounds the earth, if nothing else, with rage." However, he tells her she should accept what has happened: "Think I am dead and that even here thou takest, / As from my deathbed, thy last living leave." Northumberland enters and tells them Bolingbroke has decided Richard is to be imprisoned at Pomfret Castle, not the Tower of London, and the queen will be sent to France. Richard predicts Northumberland and Bolingbroke will soon be in conflict, telling Northumberland, "He shall think that thou, which knowest the way / To plant unrightful kings, wilt know again, / Being ne'er so little urged another way, / To pluck him headlong from the usurped throne." The queen begs to be allowed to go with Richard, but Northumberland denies her request. Richard and his queen say their farewells.


Richard's lack of emotion shows being king was central to his sense of self. With that defining role gone, he has very little will to live. He tells his queen, who begs him to show some emotion—some anger—to consider him as a dead or dying man, and say goodbye.

Richard predicts Northumberland and Bolingbroke will soon be at odds; Bolingbroke eventually must consider that Northumberland may be eager to unseat another king. Northumberland knows how to "plant unrightful kings" now, and that knowledge cannot be taken back. This idea is similar to the warning York gave Richard in Act 2: once the rights of inheritance are questioned for your benefit, it is a slippery slope to having this same tactic turned on you. Perhaps the norms of English hierarchy are being dismantled for present gains without thought for the long-term consequences. Richard's words also foreshadow events to come in the Henriad; conflict between Northumberland and Henry IV is a major driver of the plot of Henry IV, Part 1.

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