As much as I have enjoyed reading and performing Shakespeare’s plays in the past, I have to say that this is the most confusing play I have read so far.  There are many characters to keep track of, and a most of them are related to each other.  It’s hard to remember whose son is whose cousin and whose uncle and so forth.  In addition to having to keep up with the many characters mentioned in the play, some of the scenes don’t make sense.

Act I, scene iii made no sense to me because, after taking so much time to formally set up the duel, King Richard II stops it before either combatant can make a single move.  “Sound, trumpets; and set forward, combatants. / A charge sounded / Stay, the king hath thrown his warder down.”  The king then announces his decision to banish both Mowbray and Bolingbroke.  If he was going to banish them both in the first place, why didn’t he do so earlier?  Why didn’t he let the duel go on so he could at least pretend to make a conclusion from the duel?  The king later decides to reduce Bolingbroke’s banishment period by four years so that he is now banished for six years instead.  He says it’s because exiling Bolingbroke saddens his uncle, but this shorter sentence means nothing if his uncle will die before Bolingbroke returns.

In Act I, scene iii, the king reveals that he doesn’t expect Bolingbroke to return even after his time in exile expires.  “He is our cousin, cousin; but ’tis doubt, / When time shall call him home from banishment, / Whether our kinsman come to see his friends.”  He then goes on to explain how Bolingbroke is a threat to the king because all the commoners love him and he acts as if he’s next in line to be king.  If this is true, why not banish Bolingbroke for eternity.  Mowbray was banished for eternity.  Why not have let the duel go on so that perhaps Bolingbroke would be slain?  That would have been one way to prevent Bolingbroke from staging his coup.

1 thought on “Confusion

  1. I agree, the names and relations between characters did get confusing and hard to understand. I feel Shakespeare does a mediocre job to get the understanding of the family dynamics across properly. I also didn’t agree with Act I scene iii, due to the fact that Richard II seems to act on impulses and is easily persuaded by his advisers, which implies he is a weak King. I didn’t see Bolingbroke as a threat to the King, but that is a very valid point that I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

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