Richard II


King Richard II: King of England and grandson of the late, great King Edward III
King Richard is a complicated character who progressively displays a range of temperaments, which at the play’s outset seem at once commanding, impatient, arrogantly superior, and occasionally empathetic, but in a slightly insincere way. As the action ensues around Act II, however, those aspects of his personality/character morph into an unfeeling, callous, somewhat angry and dishonest man. In time, however, the events that follow transform him once more into a mixed-bag-of-a-man, one that freely displays regret, poetic wit, snide human acceptance and, in the end, the flawed air of a dignified yet downfallen person.

Bolingbroke/King Henry IV: Duke of Hereford, King Richard’s cousin, and John of Gaunt’s son
Despite some displays of impatience and irritability, Bolingbroke is generally charming, somewhat gracious, justified but nonetheless mindful of the seriousness of his assault of Richard’s rightful place. He is politically astute and, in the end, overtly reveals the guilt-weighted cloak that he will wear throughout his reign as Henry IV

John of Gaunt: Duke of Lancaster, also a son of King Edward III and uncle to King Richard, Gaunt’s son is known as Bolingbroke (cousin to King Richard) and is the man who will force Richard’s abdication and thereby seize the crown for himself.
His name and physique ideally should match. A great but dying man, his fast diminishing health hinders his attempts to rein in and reason with his misguided monarch and nephew, King Richard, who from the start of the play patronizes Gaunt. In the end he musters one last burst of anger-induced strength to finally confront his king, which in Gaunt’s mind is a repugnant but necessary act (cathartic too).

Edmund, Duke of York: son of King Edward III, King Richard’s and Bolingbroke’s uncle, and father of the Duke of Aumerle.
A competent and loyal traditionalist who is caught up in the middle of dramatic events that are beyond his control. He is a man that ultimately is forced to reluctantly reconcile idealism and practicality for the sake of the country that he loves so well.

Thomas Mowbray: Duke of Norfolk
Caught in the whirlwind of the ensuing conflict, Thomas is a strong and confident figure, who is neither all bad or good; rather, I see him as a man that has the capacity to stand upright in the winds of attack. He is a respectful citizen (and respected) of the realm, but only to a point. The odds are wholly stacked against him in in relation to the play, but we plainly see that he is a person capable of standing his ground.

Aumerle: The Duke of Aumerle is the son of York and a cousin to both King Richard II and Bolingbroke
Overshadowed by his father’s highly respected place in society, Aumerle seems somewhat lost in the sauce of the top-tier nobility. He seeks recognition and acceptance that is not dependent solely upon his birthright. Perhaps a bit shallow and not as bright as his noble cousins, Aumerle is something of a “people pleaser,” one that is desperate to find a respected place among the crowd

Sir William Bagot: a courtier and friend of King Richard II
A foppish enabler of King Richard I, he is a character who evolves as the play moves forward into an honorable defender of his king. Early on referred to by Shakespeare as “a caterpillar of the Commonwealth,” Bagot displayed bravery and valor in proudly accepting his fate, which was execution. (The caterpillar becomes something of a butterfly).

Earl of Northumberland: a nobleman who sides with Bolingbroke
I see him as a practical person who “picks his poison” based not on any sort of noble aspiration but rather because of bet-hedging: he rightly deduces that Bolingbroke was ultimately going to prevail over Richard.

Harry Percy: son of Northumberland
Youthful, polite, and attentive to elders, this character is a far cry from the “Hotspur” he would become in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

Bishop of Carlisle: a supporter of Richard II
I see The Bishop being depicted as scholarly and sharp-minded. He should have an administrative quality about him that airs competence but in no way diminishes the validity or believability of his religious calling/office.

Richard’s Queen
The actor playing the Queen has a relatively small but important role. Her time on stage should tend initially to soften the hardness of Richard’s heart, which is negatively depicted by his somewhat snide and contentious attitude in dealing with others, especially Gaunt. Later, after her husband’s fall, her interaction with the abdicated Richard affirms her as a loving and loyal figure while at once confirming to the audience that he (Richard) is a better man than we previously might have thought.

The Keeper
A "rule follower" that also serves as a somewhat sympathetic voice.

Sir Pierce of Exton: murderer of King Richard II
A non-descript functionary, he is nonetheless capable of killing to gain profitable favor with King Henry IV

Lord Marshall
Should project authority and seem to understand the traditions related to regal affairs such as we will have seen in the opening act.