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Richard II | Quotes


Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me. / Let's purge this choler without letting blood.

Richard II, Act 1, Scene 1

Richard shows his preference for talk rather than violence. While not in itself a fault, his unwillingness to act and his tendency to wax long and metaphorically make him seem weak next to Bolingbroke, who is bolder and more decisive.


We were not born to sue, but to command, / Which, since we cannot do, to make you friends, / Be ready, as your lives shall answer it.

Richard II, Act 1, Scene 1

Richard asserts his kingly privilege, saying he is not going to plead with the quarreling Bolingbroke and Mowbray, but he will command them. He gives them permission to meet for a trial by combat; however, when the opponents meet, Richard banishes them before they have a chance to fight.


Edward's seven sons, whereof thyself art one, /Were as seven vials of his sacred blood

Duchess of Gloucester, Act 1, Scene 2

The Duchess of Gloucester appeals to John of Gaunt, citing his family connection to Edward III, to move him to avenge the murder of the Duke of Gloucester, another of the "seven vials." Her point seems to be if anyone has the right to oppose the king, he does, since he is a closer descendant of Edward III than Richard II is.


How long a time lies in one little word! / Four lagging winters and four wanton springs / End in a word; such is the breath of kings.

Henry Bolingbroke, Act 1, Scene 3

As Richard II banishes both Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray in a quick and rash decision, Bolingbroke laments the power of a simple word when spoken by a king. The hastily spoken words of Richard—his breath—impose a 10-year banishment, then on a whim shorten it by four years.


This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, / This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, / This other Eden, demi-paradise.

John of Gaunt, Act 2, Scene 1

John of Gaunt beautifully articulates his devotion not to the king himself, not to the people, not to family, but to the land of England, characterizing it as akin to the garden of Eden, or paradise. This love prompts him to speak plainly as he chastises Richard for mismanaging the country.


That power that made you king / Hath power to keep you king in spite of all.

Bishop of Carlisle, Act 3, Scene 2

The Bishop of Carlisle speaks of his complete confidence that God appointed Richard king of England and will keep him on the throne. To his mind, Bolingbroke cannot possibly become king because God has not chosen him for the position.


I had forgot myself. Am I not king? / Awake, thou coward majesty, thou sleepest!

Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

Richard desperately tries to bolster his confidence and courage as reports roll in about Bolingbroke's successes and his increasing support among nobles. Sir Stephen Scroop responds to Richard's confident statements by saying, "Glad am I that your Highness is so armed / To bear the tidings of calamity" before he launches in to the tidings of Bolingbroke's fearsome forces.


For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings— / How some have been deposed.

Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

Richard II finally realizes he is not going to be able to defeat Henry Bolingbroke, and he begins to despair. He considers his story may join those other stories of kings who died, were deposed, and were poisoned.


For within the hollow crown / That rounds the mortal temples of a king / Keeps Death his court.

Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

Richard invokes the symbol of the crown, the symbol of the kingship of England, but he calls it a "hollow crown," which can be passed from one to another as Death intervenes in a king's life. The crown cares nothing for the head within it, but it confers power where it rests.


Show us the hand of God / That hath dismissed us from our stewardship.

Richard II, Act 3, Scene 3

Richard, confronted with Henry Bolingbroke's demand that he give up power, is amazed anyone would have the nerve to question his right to be king. He feels only God can dismiss him from his position.


Must he be deposed? / The King shall be contented. Must he lose / The name of king? I' God's name, let it go.

Richard II, Act 3, Scene 3

Richard II equates losing his kingship with losing his name. The kingship is an essential part of who he is, and he has difficulty finding a sense of self without it.


Bolingbroke / Hath seized the wasteful king. O, what pity is it / That he had not so trimmed and dressed his land / As we this garden!

Gardener, Act 3, Scene 4

A gardener expresses his gratitude for Bolingbroke's removal of the "wasteful" king. He characterizes Richard as a gardener who did not tend his own garden.


Who sits here that is not Richard's subject?

Bishop of Carlisle, Act 4, Scene 1

The Bishop of Carlisle cannot believe Bolingbroke would be so bold as to declare himself king; he reminds everyone they are all technically Richard's subjects. Bolingbroke does not heed his opinion.


How soon my sorrow hath destroyed my face.

Richard II, Act 4, Scene 1

Richard makes this comment after looking into a mirror and then smashing it to pieces. It is a typically theatrical gesture for the king, and Bolingbroke gives a typically levelheaded reply: "The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed / The shadow of your face."


I'll make a voyage to the Holy Land / To wash this blood off from my guilty hand.

Henry Bolingbroke, Act 5, Scene 6

At the end of the play, Henry Bolingbroke, now King Henry IV, pledges to visit the Holy Land to purge some of the guilt he feels for Richard's death. Although the death was not directly his fault, he feels responsible because one of his avid followers murdered Richard in the prison to which Henry sent him.

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