Richard II (1595) Monday 26thNovember 2012
[DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER] Fear not that, madam. England’s not mutinous; ‘Tis peopled all with subjects, not with outlaws. Though Richard (much misled by flatterers) Neglects and throws his scepter carelessly, Yet none dares rob him of his kingly rule. Woodstock, II.iii at http://www.american-shakespeare.com/scripts
King Richard IINeeds must I like it well: I weep for joy To stand upon my kingdom once again. Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand, Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs: As a long-parted mother with her child Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting, So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth, And do thee favours with my royal hands. Feed not thy sovereign's foe, my gentle earth, Nor with thy sweets comfort his ravenous sense; But let thy spiders, that suck up thy venom, And heavy-gaited toads lie in their way, Doing annoyance to the treacherous feet Which with usurping steps do trample thee: Yield stinging nettles to mine enemies; And when they from thy bosom pluck a flower, Guard it, I pray thee, with a lurking adder Whose double tongue may with a mortal touch Throw death upon thy sovereign's enemies. Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords: This earth shall have a feeling and these stones Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king Shall falter under foul rebellion's arms. Richard II, III.ii.4-26
Edmund of Langley. Then, as I said, the duke, great Bolingbroke, Mounted upon a hot and fiery steed Which his aspiring rider seem'd to know, With slow but stately pace kept on his course, Whilst all tongues cried 'God save thee, Bolingbroke!' You would have thought the very windows spake, So many greedy looks of young and old Through casements darted their desiring eyes Upon his visage, and that all the walls With painted imagery had said at once 'Jesu preserve thee! welcome, Bolingbroke!' Whilst he, from the one side to the other turning, Bareheaded, lower than his proud steed's neck, Bespake them thus: 'I thank you, countrymen:' And thus still doing, thus he pass'd along. RII, V.ii.7-21
Servant. Why should we in the compass of a pale Keep law and form and due proportion, Showing, as in a model, our firm estate, When our sea-walled garden, the whole land, Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up, Her fruit-trees all upturned, her hedges ruin'd, Her knots disorder'd and her wholesome herbs Swarming with caterpillars? III.iv.40-47 Gardener.They are; and Bolingbroke Hath seized the wasteful king. O, what pity is it That he had not so trimm'd and dress'd his land As we this garden! We at time of year Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees, Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood, With too much riches it confound itself: Had he done so to great and growing men, They might have lived to bear and he to taste Their fruits of duty: superfluous branches We lop away, that bearing boughs may live: Had he done so, himself had borne the crown, Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down. III.iv.54-66
John of Gaunt. This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth, Renowned for their deeds as far from home, For Christian service and true chivalry, As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry, Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son, This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it, Like to a tenement or pelting farm: II.i.40-60
England, bound in with the triumphant sea Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame, With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds: That England, that was wont to conquer others, Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. II.i61-66
Thy death-bed is no lesser than thy land Wherein thou liest in reputation sick; And thou, too careless patient as thou art, Commit'st thy anointed body to the cure Of those physicians that first wounded thee: A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown, Whose compass is no bigger than thy head; And yet, incaged in so small a verge, The waste is no whit lesser than thy land. O, had thy grandsire with a prophet's eye Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons, From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame, Deposing thee before thou wertpossess'd, Which art possess'd now to depose thyself. Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world, It were a shame to let this land by lease; But for thy world enjoying but this land, Is it not more than shame to shame it so? Landlord of England art thou now, not king: Thy state of law is bondslave to the law; II.i.95-114
When the vilest of all indignities are done unto me, doth religion force me to sue? Or doth God require it? Is it impiety not to do it? What, cannot princes err? Cannot subjects receive wrong ? Is an earthly power or authority infinite? Essex to Lord Keeper Egerton in 1598 • Sir Edward Coke’s Abstract of Issues to be Put to Hayward in Interrogation on July 11th 1600 • he selecteth a story 200 yereolde, and publisheth it this last yere, intendinge the application of it to this tyme • maketh choice of that story only, a kinge is taxed for misgovernment, his council for corrupt and covetous for their private, the king censured, for conferring benefits of hateful parasites and favourites, the nobles discontented, the commons groaning under continual taxations. Hereuppon the king is deposed by an erle and in the endemurderd.
divine right of kings, doctrine in defence of monarchical absolutism, which asserted that kings derived their authority from God and could not therefore be held accountable for their actions by any earthly authority such as a parliament. Originating in Europe, the divine-right theory can be traced to the medieval conception of God’s award of temporal power to the political ruler, paralleling the award of spiritual power to the church. By the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the new national monarchs were asserting their authority in matters of both church and state.
Further Reading Glenn Burgess, ‘The Divine Right of Kings Reconsidered’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 425 (Oct., 1992), pp. 837-861. http://www.jstor.org/stable/574219 Maynard Mack, Killing the King: Three Studies in Shakespeare’s Tragic Structure (Yale University Press, 1973), pp. 1-74. David Norbrook, ‘The Emperor’s New Body? Richard II, Ernst Kantorowicz, and the Politics of Shakespeare Criticism’, Textual Practice 10 (2), 1996, 329-357.
In his classic, The King's Two Bodies (1957), medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz describes a profound transformation in the concept of political authority over the course of the Middle Ages. The change began when the concept of the body of Christ evolved into a notion of two bodies — one, the corpus naturale, the consecrated host on the altar, the other, the corpus mysticum, the social body of the church with its attendant administrative structure. This latter notion — of a collective social organization having an enduring, mystical essence — would come to be transferred to political entities, the body politic. Kantorowicz then describes the emergence, in the late Middle Ages, of the concept of the king's two bodies, vivified in Shakespeare's Richard II and applicable to the early modern body politic. Whereas the king's natural, mortal body would pass away with his death, he was also thought to have an enduring, supernatural one that could not be destroyed, even by assassination, for it represented the mystical dignity and justice of the body politic. The modern polity that emerged dominant in early modern Europe manifested the qualities of the collectivity that Kantorowicz described — a single, unified one, confined within territorial borders, possessing a single set of interests, ruled by an authority that was bundled into a single entity and held supremacy in advancing the interests of the polity. Though in early modern times, kings would hold this authority, later practitioners of it would include the people ruling through a constitution, nations, the Communist Party, dictators, juntas, and theocracies. The modern polity is known as the state, and the fundamental characteristic of authority within it, sovereignty.
Printing history of Shakespeare’s Richard II [Q1] 1597. The Tragedie of King Richard the second. As it hath been publikely acted by the right Honourable the LordeChamberlaine his Servants. [Q2] 1598. By William Shakespeare. [Q3] 1598. [Q4] 1608. With new additions of the Parliament Sceane, and the deposing of King Richard. As it hath been lately acted by the Kinges Majesties servantes, at the Globe. [The added passage is IV.i.154-318] [Q5] 1615. [F1] 1623 (Collection of most of Shakespeare’s works) [Q6] 1634. Read the excised section of the text which was restored in 1608. How seditious does this seem to you in the light of the ensuing scandal? Why would James not feel equally threatened by it in 1608?