Within Shakespeares play Richard II there are many questionable and untrusting characters. Truth and duty are only illusions within the play. Lust for power and control override the order of England and its ordained king.
Its believed that it is by the will of God that Richard is king. No mortal man can come between what God has set before them as rule. The final decision is Gods and the only way that Gods choice can be changed is by God himself, and no one else. God takes the Garden of Eden from Adam, and like Adam, England is taken from Richard.
It is questionable if Bolingbroke acts against Gods will or through Gods will. Richard is king, and though a sad choice, he has been ordained by God as king and ruler of England. It is not for his followers to decide if he is to be replaced by someone that they feel would be a better caretaker of the “garden”. In Richard II , by overtaking the crown and replacing Richard with Bolingbroke, society is going against its own belief that Richard is ordained by God.
From an Englishmans point of view it could be argued that God is somewhat responsible for the state that England is in, because they believe Richard was chosen by God. Within Richard II , God is believed to be forsaken so that England can become a great kingdom again, and this is done in hope that Richards wrongs can be made right by Bolingbroke. Richards opposition – York, Bolingbroke, and Northumberland – believe that what they are doing is done to regenerate the badly tended “garden”. They want to replant it with Bolingbroke as king, and this they believe will restore England to order.
By judging and replacing Richard they are going against what their society believes is Gods will. This is the worst mistake of all, because as the saying goes “two wrongs dont make a right”. They are playing against a power far greater than anything they could imagine Richard being able to do. Their worries should not be of what Richard will do to them if they do not succeed, but what God will do to them at any given time.
Northumberland tells of how the kingship will be restored and the garden revived. “If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,/ Imp out our drooping countrys broken wing,/ Redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown,/ Wipe off the dust that hides our scepters gilt,/ And make high majesty look like itself,” (Richard II II. i. 302-306) He makes this statement as if he has a choice in the matter and as if God plays no role in what will happen.
He ends up acting on his words by supporting Bolingbroke to overthrow Richard as king. York is handed the kingdom to maintain in the absence of Richard. He allows the kingdom to fall into the hands of Bolingbroke by siding with him. “Because my power is weak and all ill-left.
But if I could, by Him that gave me life, I would attach you all and make you stoop/Unto the sovereign mercy of the King./But since I cannot, be it known unto you well- /I do remain as neuter. (Richard II II. iii.
159-163). He believes that what he is doing is not only going against Richard, but also and most importantly, against God. He should stand up to Bolingbroke and go against his rebellion. He should die rather than giving in so easily.
It is not Richard that they fear, but Gods wrath. Richard would not have lasted as king for so long if he did not have the anointment of God to put fear in his fellow Englishman. The most important social belief that Richard has is that of being chosen by God, not by mortal man. Richard believes that his presence is enough to restore order and put an end to the rebellion.
The belief that God ordained of Richard as king does not work when the fear of God is no longer present. There is little worry about the rebellion as Richard immediately returns from Ireland. “Fear not, my lord. That power that made you king/ Hath power to keep you king in spite of all (Richard II III.
ii. 28-29). Richard believes that his presence and the belief that he is chosen by God will unspark the rebellion. “But self-afrighted, tremble at his sin.
/Not all the wather in the rough rude sea /Can wash the balm off from an anointed king. /The breath of worldly men cannot depose/ The deputy elected by the Lord.” ( Richard II III. ii.
54-57)His ignorance and belief that he is above mortal man leads to his own downfall. He relates himself to God as being of God and from God. It can be thought that he considers himself Gods own son, a new Jesus with a golden crown instead of one made of thorns. His own flatteries, blinded by gold, take him farther away from his true duties as king, and in turn take him further from God.
God can also be considered at fault for the state that England is in because it is believed that God ordained Richard to rule the throne. This statement is never directly stated in the play, but can be examined to some degree. Since Richard is believed to be the “choice” of God as ruler of all England it should go without saying that Richards mistakes are also Gods mistakes. Bolingbroke and others would never use this as reasoning for overtaking Richard, because it would be a death sentence for themselves.
The thought of Gods reasposibility of chosing Richard as being a bad one would never be seen as even closely justifiable. The truth, although not accepted, is that if God truly does ordain rulers than their actions should also be judged as the actions of God himself. If this does hold, than all that precede against Richard in any form also will be going against God. God takes the Garden of Eden from Adam and has the power of taking England away from Richard.
Adam was not a good keeper of the Garden of Eden, as Richard is not a good keeper of England. God giveth, and God taketh away. Adam lets the Garden go by not looking out for weeds (Satan/sin) that needed to be plucked out. England needs to kill Richard in order to save the rest of the garden.
Richard ignores weeds that threaten his own throne, such as Bolingbroke and Northumberland. He should get rid of Bolingbroke permanently before he becomes too large in popularity to kill. It can also be seen that God uses Bolingbroke and Northumberland as pawns in order to rid England of a corrupt king. Bolingbroke fears that the events that have given him power are not by the grace of God.
“I pardon him, as God shall pardon me” (Richard II V. iii. 138). He fears that he is going against Gods will and in the end will be no better off than Richard, or possibly worse.
Choices sometimes have to be made within a community that go against tradition and the traditional role of God within society. Change occurs by force. Without change and risk one will never know what is truly right and what is truly wrong. Society can place their own rules often using God as the final power.
This style of ruling is very intelligent. It gives the ruling party more than an army to impose authority, but also it uses an unseen threat that holds societies beliefs sacred and untouchable. This is how Richard depends upon rule within England. Without this threat Richard is easily discarded.
Overthrowing Richard is a risk that Bolingbroke takes, and he can only hope that God will see that Richard has taken advantage of his people and God himself. It is a risk that must be taken in order to restore the “garden”.