Richard II | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Richard II | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

At home the Duke and Duchess of York discuss Bolingbroke's coronation. The duke says people cheered for Bolingbroke but disdained Richard. Both the duke and duchess feel terrible for Richard, but they too have sworn loyalty to Henry IV: "To Bolingbroke are we sworn subjects now, / Whose state and honor I for aye allow."

Their son enters. No longer Duke of Aumerle, he is now Earl of Rutland, having lost some of his lands in the transition of power. York sees a paper sticking out of his son's clothes, grabs it, and starts to read; it reveals his son and others are plotting to murder Henry IV. York, appalled, says he will go at once to tell the king, even though his son is involved. The duchess begs him not to, crying "Wilt thou not hide the trespass of thine own? / Have we more sons? Or are we like to have?" But York is insistent. The duchess tells her son to try to reach the king first, reveal the plot, and ask for pardon. She will follow to plead on her son's behalf.

Analysis

The theme of family ties again takes prominence in this scene. The Duke and Duchess of York share a private moment discussing Richard's tragic fate, but at the same time they reiterate their new commitment to be "the sworn subjects" of Henry IV. This commitment is quickly tested as they learn their son is plotting to kill Henry. Just as John of Gaunt was torn between family obligation and duty to the crown, now York is put in a similar conflict. York does not hesitate; he immediately decides his loyalty to Henry far outweighs his duty to his son.

The Duchess of York argues on the side of family ties, just as the Duchess of Gloucester argued with John of Gaunt. She desperately begs the duke to "hide the trespass" of his son because they do not have any other sons and she cannot have more children. York's mind is made up, however, and he does not budge. Unlike the Duchess of Gloucester, who seemed to take Gaunt's refusal as an absolute, the Duchess of York will not accept York's decision. This may be because the Duchess of Gloucester's loss was in the past, but the Duchess of York's loss may still be prevented.

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