Here is a brief plot summary of Richard II:

Henry Bolingbroke, son of the great John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, challenges Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, accusing him of being involved in the recent death of the King’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. The challenge is to be answered by a tournament at King Richar’s court in Coventry, but the wayward and uncertain Richard stops the contest as it is about to begin. He banishes Mowbray for life and, responding to Lancaster’s pleas, he commutes Bolingbroke’s exile to six years.

Richard enjoys the companionship of his cousin Aumerle, son of the Duke of York, and of Bushy, Bagot and Green, who are seen as hangers on, misleading him into the misgovernment of England. Gaunt dies, finally broken by his son’s banishment, and by the state in which he sees the kingdom under Richard’s rule. Richard ignores Gaunt’s advice and, to the horror of his last surviving uncle, the Duke of York, claim’s Gaunt’s estates, using the money to fund an expedition against the Irish. He leaves York as regent in England. Bolingbroke, angered that his inheritance has been confiscated, returns with an invading army and is welcomed by the English who are led by the powerful Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy.

Richard, arrives back to find his Welsh allies have dispersed and that York, who has been unable to prevent Bolingbroke’s triumphant return, has joined the invader. Otherfriends have abandoned the king, and Bushy and Green have been executed on Bolingbroke’s orders. After taking refuge at Flint castle, Richard agrees to go to Londonwhere the case is considered in Parliament.

King Richard is persuaded to abdicate in favour of Henry Bolingbroke, who becomes Henry 1V. Aumerle joins with the Bishop of Carlisle and the Abbot of Westminster in a plot against Henry but is discovered by his father, York. Loyal to the new regime, York tells Bolingbroke of his son’s treachery and Aurmerle is saved only by his mother’s pleas to King Henry.

Richard is imprisoned in Pontefract castle and his Queen is sent home to France. Pierce of Exton, misinterpreting King Henry’s wishes, murders Richard and brings the body toLondon. The play ends with King Henry swearing to make reparation for his cousin’s death by going one day on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.


See summaries of Shakespeare’s other plays >>

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