The King As Man
Although the mighty king persona is almost always on display in the characters of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, the audience is at times presented with the inner workings found within the deep recesses of each monarch’s mind. The reader and ticket-payer is at once astounded with Henry Bolingbroke’s warrior-like audacity, but is then privy to his more “feminine,” calculating methods as a manipulative individual. Oppositely does the audience perceive Richard II who proudly claims to be the divinely sanctioned emperor, but when alone and deposed, he becomes despondent and pities his status as King. In line with his two predecessors, Henry V also appears to be two different people depending upon the situation; at once Harry is the consummate warrior-aristocrat, but when alone, he wishes only for the simple life of a commoner. In the plays Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, the notion of “monarchical reflexivity” plays an integral part in the way in which each king is viewed by his subjects and, extra-textually, by his audience. It would be easy for one to declare Richard II a weak fool, too wrapped up in his own despair to actually facilitate an escape or defense, and write him off as an aberration of English Kingship; in...
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