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"Richard Ii And Henry Vi Were Weak But Well Intentioned Monarchs Who Had The Misfortune Immediately To Inherit The Crown From Illustrious Predecessors"

3946 words - 16 pages

"Richard II and Henry VI were weak but well intentioned monarchs who had the misfortune immediately to inherit the crown from illustrious predecessors" How does Shakespeare's portrayal of these two kings support this observationIn order to assess this notion that Richard II and Henry IV were weak but well-intentioned monarchs who had the misfortune immediately to inherit the crown from illustrious predecessor it is, of course necessary to examine these predecessors.In Richard's case, he was created Prince of Wales and succeeded his grandfather, Edward III, to the throne. During his minority, his uncle John of Gaunt was the most influential single noble. John of Gaunt was the son of Edward III. Edward's first son, Richard II father, the battle-famous "Black Prince," died before he was able to succeed his father, hence it was the Richard, who became King Richard II. Richard was only 10 years old and as such he was obviously he not capable of ruling.Whilst Richard had a number of uncles, chief among advisers was his uncle John of Gaunt, the powerful Duke of Lancaster. For a short time John of Gaunt in effect ruled England. However the struggle for power among several rival lords perpetuated the faction-ridden government inherited by Richard from his predecessor.It is perhaps not then unsurprising that when Richard asserted his independence from his uncles and chose his own advisors, including John Bushy, William Bagot, and Henry Green, to help him govern that he was going to find it difficult to follow the example of the wiser, more mature John of Gaunt.Richard cannot for example, compete with the experiences that John of Gaunt has encountered. John of Gaunt is one of the few nobles to see what the common people of England have seen,"That England that was wont to conquer othersHath made a shameful conquest of itself." (Richard, II, 2.1.65-66.)John of Gaunt scorns King Richard with some authority rooted in his old age. He has seen the system of monarchy begin to collapse over his many years,"For sleeping England long time have I watched;Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt." (Richard, II, 2.1.77-78.)John of Gaunt's wisdom and grasp of monarchy is revealed in his monologue (2.1.31-68) that examines the perilous nature of unfettered autocracy. Gaunt proclaims that Richard should relinquish the crown because he has figuratively raped 'mother' England by exploiting the loyalty of his own subjects and debasing the grandeur of 'this blessed plot' (2.1.50) for his own personal ends.In Act II, scene I, Richard is also reminded of the example set by his own father and of how he is not living up to his name, The Earl of Northumberland (Henry Percy) arrives to inform Richard that Gaunt has died. Richard makes immediate plans to seize property, and Bolingbroke's inheritance. Richard's uncle York cannot bear to be silent and speaks out against what he considers to be an outrage. He reminds Richard how his father Edward the Black Prince warred against...

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