Act I, Scene 1
Richard calls forth his uncle, John of Gaunt, to explain the position of Henry Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s son. As far as Gaunt can tell, Bolingbroke has evidence of some treachery from Thomas Mowbry, the Duke of Norfolk. Since the treachery seems directed at Richard, he decides to hear their case.
Bolingbroke and Norfolk enter to plead their case. Despite the fact that the King directly asks what Bolingbroke is accusing Norfolk of, Bolingbroke just says the Mowbry is a traitor and he will prove it with his sword. He throws down his gauntlet to challenge Norfolk to a duel. Norfolk says that Bolingbroke is lying and he will prove it with his sword in the duel. The King asks again what exactly Norfolk has supposedly done. Bolingbroke explains that Norfolk recruited troops on the King’s behalf and then used the soldiers for lewd purposes. He is also responsible to pretty much every traitorous plot that ever occurred during Richard’s reign. Finally, he murdered the Duke of Gloucester.
Norfolk hesitates to speak against the King’s family, but Richard assures him that he is impartial. Norfolk asserts that he used the King’s troops as directed and only used some for his own purposes because of a debt the King owed him. Norfolk denies killing Gloucester and confesses that he did plot to kill Gaunt, but confessed earlier and received a pardon. He throws down his gauntlet to prove his innocence and Bolingbroke takes it up.
The King doesn’t not want to see them fight, so he asks Gaunt to plead with his son and Richard will plead with Norfolk. Gaunt asks his son to throw down Norfolk’s gauntlet. He refuses. Richard asks the same of Norfolk. Norfolk concedes that the King can rule his body, but not his shame. He would be filled with shame if he did not defend himself. Richard pleads with Bolingbroke who also says it is a matter of honor, especially since his father is there.
Richard concedes that he cannot stop the fight and says it will take place at Coventry on Saint Lambert’s Day.
Act I, Scene 2
John of Gaunt explains to Gloucester’s wife that his kinship with his deceased brother stirs him to vengeance more than her words. She explains that they are all one family, Gaunt and his brothers. That he must protect himself in order to avenge his brother’s death. Gaunt would rather leave it all up to God. Gaunt asks the Duchess to go with him to Coventry, but she is going to see the Duke of York and be sad there.
Act I, Scene 3
Everyone arrives for the duel. The two men restate their reason for the duel. Basically, they are there to defend their honor. Bolingbroke asks to kiss the King’s hand, which is granted. He says goodbye to the King and Aumerle, should he be slain. He then asks his father to bless him and pray for his victory. Gaunt gladly wishes his son well. Norfolk hopes that, should he die, he be remembered as a loyal subject of the King.
Richard orders the duel to begin, but just before it starts, he throws his warder down and ends the fight. Richard decides to banish Bolingbroke and Norfolk. He banishes Bolingbroke for ten years and Norfolk is permanently banished. They are both sad to be banished, but agree to the King’s command. Before they leave, Richard makes them promise to not come together in their banishment and plot against him. They pretty much immediately start fighting, so that threat seems non-existent.
Richard commutes Bolingbroke’s banishment to six years. Gaunt thanks him, but worries that he will die before his son returns home. Richard assures him that he has many years to live. Gaunt wishes he had plead more for his son. Richard leaves him to say goodbye to Bolingbroke.
Now it is Gaunt’s turn to try and comfort his son. He tells his son that the time will pass quickly and he should treat it like a vacation. Henry is having none of it and sadly prepares to leave England.
Act I, Scene 4
Richard asks Aumerle how his departure with Bolingbroke went. Aumerle says no one cried and all they said was farewell. Aumerle makes it clear that he’s happy that Bolingbroke is gone. Richard isn’t too broken up about it either, now he is surrounded with his favorites. Plus, Bolingbroke is a favorite of the common people. He associates with them and talks to them, which is silly because they’re commoners.
Green quickly turns Richard’s attention to the rebellion in Ireland. Richard decides that he doesn’t have the funds for a rebellion in Ireland, so he’ll just take some money from his nobles.
Bushy informs him that John of Gaunt is dying and would like to see him. This is great news for Richard, he can seize Gaunt’s lands and riches to fund his war in Ireland.
Act II, Scene 1
John asks his brother, the Duke of York if the King is coming. York is doubtful that Richard will heed Gaunt’s counsel. Gaunt thinks he will because Gaunt is dying. However, York thinks that the King is too busy listening to his favorites, to listen to his uncles. Gaunt is at least going to say what he has to say. He thinks that England is going to fall.
Richard finally shows up and Gaunt warns him that England is falling. He admonishes Richard for killing Gloucester and destroying their family. Richard is extremely angry that Gaunt would dare to scold him or point out that he has ever done anything wrong. York tells the King to not listen to Gaunt’s words because he is old and sickly and definitely loves the King like a son.
Northumberland delivers the news that Gaunt has died. Richard proclaims that he will seize everything Gaunt owned. This is York’s breaking point and he refuses to stay silent. He can’t let Richard dishonor the memory of his father, Edward, by denying Bolingbroke his rightful inheritance. He warns the King that he has gone too far this time. Richard shrugs it off and leaves.
The remaining Lords question Richard’s actions in private. They feel bad for Bolingbroke and are concerned for their own lands and inheritances. Not only that, but Richard has overtaxed the people, and exploited the nobles to support his extravagant lifestyle. Now those funds are gone, so he steals it from a banished Duke. Northumberland hesitates to share the news that Henry Bolingbroke has gained support from nobles in France and is planning to come to England to fight for his rights. The Lords decide to join Bolingbroke’s cause.
Act II, Scene 2
Bushy tries to cheer the Queen, but she is too sad that Richard has gone to Ireland. Green comes in hoping that the King hasn’t left yet because he just found out that Bolingbroke is on his way. Not only that, but a whole bunch of other nobles have gone to join him. This news makes the Queen even more upset.
York comes in, also despairing, because there is a revolt against the King forming and his own son has joined Bolingbroke. A servant comes in and lets him know that Lady Gloucester has died. Overall, everything is looking pretty bleak for camp Richard. York reflects on all of the events leading up to this moment and then sets off to meet Bolingbroke.
Bushy, Bagot, and Green worry about their own safety as favorites of the King. They know that the people won’t help them. Bagot goes to Ireland, but the others go to Bristol castle to seek shelter.
Act II, Scene 3
Bolingbroke asks how far away he is from Berkeley. Northumberland isn’t sure, but assures Henry that more men are coming to join his cause. These men roll in one by one and pledge allegiance to Henry Bolingbroke. Turns out Henry is very close to Berkeley. In fact, it’s just over that hill.
Lord Berkeley enters to be a go-between for Henry and the Duke of York. Apparently York was too impatient and just decided to come himself. At first, York scolds his nephew for rebelling against the King and returning to England before his banishment was complete. Bolingbroke explains that he was banished as Hereford, but now he is the Duke of Lancaster. Additionally, he only returns to England to claim what is rightfully his. York acknowledges that the King has done a lot wrong, but that doesn’t excuse rebellion. Northumberland again makes clear that Henry just wants his rightful inheritance. York decides to be neutral. Henry asks him to join him at Bristol where he will deal with the King’s favorites. York decides this is a cause worth getting behind.
Act II, Scene 4
Salisbury finds out that most of the troops he recruited for the King have fled because of a rumor that Richard has died. Salisbury laments this turn of events, but still remains loyal to the King.