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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1314  Monday, 30 June 2003

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Jun 2003 09:36:28 -0400
        Subj:   Richard and Bolingbroke

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Jun 2003 09:28:25 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1280 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

[3]     From:   Michael Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Jun 2003 04:40:44 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1306 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

[4]     From:   Lea Luecking Frost <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Jun 2003 18:23:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1306 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

[5]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jun 2003 20:44:48 -0500
        Subj:   Bolingbroke's Motivation


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Jun 2003 09:36:28 -0400
Subject:        Richard and Bolingbroke

Keith Hopkins argues in effect that Bolingbroke is a Machiavellian with
clear designs on Richard's throne from the start. Maybe. Keith writes:

"All along I believe, both men have been aware of the deadly game that
has been played out right from the start when Bolingbroke first accused
Mowbray."

Is Richard aware at first? If so, why does he ask Gaunt what his son is
up to? And why does he allow Bolingboke center stage to make his
charges?  Isn't it more likely that Richard hasn't a clue at first about
the nature of the charges Bolingbroke is going to make?

Keith also writes:

"Basically the idea is that the quarrel between Mowbray and Bolongbroke
was pretty much manufactured by Bolingbroke when he accuses Mowbray of
being in effect a traitor,"

I agree with this point. Bolingbroke is indirectly accusing the king of
having ordered Gloucester's death. But that doesn't mean that
Bolingbroke already has designs on the crown. Actually, as 1.2 makes
clear, Bolingbroke's motivation is more likely to be that he is
championing the claims of the Duchess, Gloucester's widow, whose cause
has received no support from Gaunt. This is the crucial difference
between father and son.

Finally, a point about Mowbary, who dies in the crusades. Perhaps this
is a tribute to Mowbray, but isn't it also an indication of his guilt?
One major reason people go on crusades is to atone for past sins.

Ed Taft
Marshall University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Jun 2003 09:28:25 -0500
Subject: 14.1280 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1280 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

L. Swilley writing in response of Todd Pettigrew:

>And so it should seem to you - and to anyone - inasmuch as the soul of
>this play is the opposing characters of these two men: one a weak
>show-off, wallowing in the theatrical aspects of his plight, the other a
>commanding realist ready to take advantage of any opportunity for
>control.  To lose this is to lose the play entirely.

Yes, I generally agree, but it does lead into a certain
intuitive/emotional response common among people who think about
literature and drama a lot, a response that makes them antagonistic
toward realistic and opportunistic individuals of a dominating
personality type. Many of them can be found on this list.

At the risk of poaching in Mr. Small's game preserve, you could view it
as another definitive example of the Bard's genius. He has got the two
characters so perfectly developed that we respond to them as we would to
real people of the same sort -- admiring one, hating the other. Reason
doesn't enter in much, but he wasn't after rationality.

The elections in democratic countries are much the same, and candidates
and their spin doctors try their best to make the candidate in question
generate this visceral response -- positively for themselves, negatively
toward their opponent.

Criticism also operates this way, and if you care, you can often find
out more about the critic (ourselves) than about the work or the author
under discussion.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Jun 2003 04:40:44 -1000
Subject: 14.1306 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1306 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

Brian Willis says:

'Perhaps Richard intends to cover-up the Woodstock matter. Regardless,
the audience had recently seen a play dealing with the matter and were
familiar with the back story.'

I take this to be a reference to the anonymous and untitled MS play
known variously as 'Richard II, Part One' and 'Thomas of Woodstock.'
There is no available Elizabethan stage history for this play, probably
written 1592-3, and absolutely no evidence that it had been performed
'recently.'

I also query the assumption that there was a single London audience with
a collective memory on which any author could or would rely. As Robert
Ornstein says of Shakespeare's historical tetralogies: "Few members of
his audiences would have recognized and objected to inconsistencies of
characterization from play to play, just as few would have been able to
appreciate the continuities, parallelisms, and symmetries which a critic
can discern.' (A Kingdom for a Stage, p. 221).

--Michael Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lea Luecking Frost <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Jun 2003 18:23:58 -0500
Subject: 14.1306 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1306 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

Brian Willis wrote:

>At the same time, the Woodstock affair - and Richard's
>guiltiness in it
>- are a factor in Bolingbroke's challenge. Perhaps he
>knows that Mowbray
>had a direct hand in it. Perhaps he even suspects Richard
>gave the word
>and is trying to flush out an evil sycophant, as he does
>with Bushy and
>Green.

Something I've wondered about the opening scene, actually -- I have the
impression from 2.1 in particular (as well as a little from 1.2 and
early on in 4.1, though by then the situation's changed considerably)
that it's something of an open secret who's behind the death of
Gloucester. This would probably be a question more germane to a
performance context, but is it fair to say that the only character in
that first scene who *doesn't* know the full story -- although he might,
as you suggest, suspect -- is Bolingbroke?

>It
>became treasonous
>if hands were raised against the person of the king with
>intent to maim
>or depose. Richard assumes this is so, but surprisingly
>acquiesces to
>Bolingbroke from the moment he returns from Ireland.

I'm not sure it's all that surprising, though. As I see it, Richard
recognizes that the game is up: he doesn't have either the nerve or the
manpower (the latter is more pertinent, I suppose) to fight back, and he
can't restore Bolingbroke's inheritance as it would mean, essentially,
that he would rule only at Bolingbroke's pleasure. Richard, for all his
talk of divine wrath and purple testaments of bleeding war, is aware of
this, and I tend to think that at least on some level Bolingbroke is
too. The whole scene at Flint Castle, to me anyway, gives the impression
that everyone onstage knows it's a complete charade, despite the efforts
of all to cling desperately to form.

>In Richard II, I think it
>is more of a
>matter of Richard deposing himself - the consummate drama
>queen and
>martyr. The beauty is that the play is ambiguous enough to
>support
>strong performances of either motivation in Bolingbroke.

This is true, I suppose -- at least in the sense that Richard's actions
(and inactions) are the ones that move the play along, and that he
basically pulls the whole thing down on himself. That said, I still tend
to see Bolingbroke as aware, once he comes back to England, that it's
quite likely that this will end with him wearing the crown. The text
*could* go either way, but that's how I lean. (Though this what makes B
a more interesting character than he's sometimes given credit for -- he
operates in the blank spaces of the play...)

>Eternally fascinated by this play,
>Brian Willis

You too, huh? ;)

Regards,
Lea

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Saturday, 28 Jun 2003 20:44:48 -0500
Subject:        Bolingbroke's Motivation

Re: SHK 14 1306

I once set an hour-exam for a class of honors students on this topic:

"Does Henry Bolingbroke merely move into a vacuum that Richard creates
for him, or does Bolingbroke in some Machiavellian sense create his own
opportunities for power?"

There were two A+ responses, one on each side of the question.  A+ is a
grade I almost never gave at that time in my career.

Cheers for ambiguity,
John Velz

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