Richard II

Richard II Summary and Analysis of Act 5

Act Five, Scene One

Richard's Queen meets him as he is being taken into the Tower, and Richard tells her to leave for France immediately. Northumberland arrives and changes the orders, telling Richard he will instead be sent to Pomfret. The Queen says goodbye to Richard after failing to convince Northumberland to let her go with him. She leaves for France, and Richard is taken north.

Act Five, Scene Two

The Duke of York tells his wife then when Bolingbroke rode into London he was greeted with shouts of, "God save thee, Bolingbroke," whereas Richard had dirt thrown at him. Aumerle arrives, having been stripped of his Dukedom by Bolingbroke. He has a letter in his hand, which York demands to see. Aumerle refuses to show his father what the letter says, upon which York snatches the letter out of his son's hands.

The letter is a commitment to revolt against Bolingbroke, the new king. York decries his son's action, and has his horse brought to him so that he may go show Bolingbroke the letter. The Duchess of York pleads with him to protect their son, but he refuses to listen. The Duchess orders Aumerle to ride faster than his father and beg forgiveness from Bolingbroke before York arrives.

Act Five, Scene Three

Bolingbroke, now crowned King Henry IV, asks about his son Hal, who is famous for being a spendthrift and is known to hang around brothels and taverns. Henry comments, "Yet through both / I see some sparks of better hope, which elder days / May happily bring forth" (5.3.21-22).

Aumerle arrives and throws himself to the ground in front of Henry, begging the king to be allowed to speak to him in private. Henry grants his request, and Aumerle then locks the entrance to the King's chambers. York arrives soon there after, and realizing what has happened, stands outside the door and warns Henry that his son is a traitor.

Henry opens the door and lets York in, who immediately shows him the letter signed by his son. Aumerle begs for forgiveness, and his mother, the Duchess of York, arrives and also pleads for a pardon. York then asks the king to not be lenient on his son, because he is afraid that Aumerle will merely revolt again in the future. Henry decides to pardon Aumerle, but orders York to take some soldiers and kill the other traitors.

Act Five, Scene Four

Sir Piers Exton has overheard King Henry remark, "Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?" (5.4.2), taken to mean Richard. Exton therefore decides to go to Pomfret and kill Richard.

Act Five, Scene Five

Richard is a prisoner in Pomfret castle. His former groom arrives and tells him that he was saddened by the coronation of Bolingbroke. Richard thanks the man and sends him away in order to protect him. The keeper arrives with food for Richard, but refuses to taste it first to ensure that no one has poisoned it. Richard then hits the man for refusing to check the food.

When the keeper cries out in pain, Exton and his men run in to defend the keeper and kill Richard. Richard seizes one of the swords and kills two men, but is vanquished by Exton. Exton then decides to bring Richard's body back to London with him.

Act Five, Scene Six

Henry is upset by the fact that the rebels have burned two of his cities, and wants news of what is happening to them. Northumberland arrives and indicates that he has killed several of the rebels, followed by Fitzwalter who has also killed another group of the rebels. Harry Percy then arrives with the Bishop of Carlisle as his prisoner.

Exton enters with the coffin bearing Richard. Henry comments that he would rather not have Richard dead, he knows that it will be a stain on his usurpation of the crown. He decides to prepare for a journey to the Holy Land as a way of repenting for the death of Richard.


Richard for the first time abandons language in this final act. Throughout the play he has not fought with anyone, preferring instead to defend himself with language. However, in scene five he becomes the aggressor, succeeding in killing two men before being killed himself. This change in Richard, from using language and ceremony to adopting war and violence, comes too late for him. Had he chosen to fight earlier in the play, history might have been different.

The death of Richard is a significant liability for Henry IV, because it puts him in the same position Richard was in at the beginning. Regardless of how Henry seized the throne, as long as Richard was alive he could say that Richard had ceded the power to rule over to him. However, with Richard's death this is no longer possible. Now Henry must defend against the same accusations he leveled against Mowbray, namely those of treason. Indeed, as in many of Shakespeare's plays, this one does not end completely, but rather will be followed by Henry IV, Part I, Part II and Henry V.