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By the opening of the last act, there is a certain lowering of the dramatic tension, since the central contrast between Richard and Bolingbroke has already been fully established. The action moves forward rapidly towards its anticipated outcome. This scene presents Richard's last meeting with his queen. It marks the steady progress of his decline. Richard has always seen himself as a performer before an audience. In this scene, however, he is confronted with his own self. He is seen in his private role as a man who is bidding farewell to his wife perhaps for the last time. This situation gives the scene an intense emotional content. The degeneration of Richard's appearance is evident from the queen's first words when she sees Richard approaching. There is a vast difference between Richard's present state and that of his former self. The queen remarks that the "fair rose" (Richard) has withered. The Richard who had dazzled all who looked upon him has now become a pathetic figure. The queen calls Richard in his present state "King Richard's tomb, / And not King Richard." She compares Richard to a "beauteous-inn" whose lodger is hard- favor'd grief." Thus Richard has greatly changed from his former glorious self. She contrasts Richard with Bolingbroke, who is "common," but that same quality has won Bolingbroke popularity with the people and smoothed his path to the throne.
To Richard his former glory appears to be a happy dream" from which he has been awakened to the rude reality of his present state, "to the truth of what (he is)." He luxuriates in his grief as he instructs Isabel to tell old folks sitting by the fire on tedious winter nights the sorrowful tale of his life and send them to their beds weeping. He almost seems to be enjoying his role as a wrongly deposed king and wallows in self-pity.
These melancholy ruminations are suddenly interrupted by the entrance of Northumberland, who returns the scene to harsh reality. He has come to convey Richard to Pomfret Castle and tells Isabel to return to her native France. This infuriates Richard, who denounces Northumberland for being the means through which Bolingbroke ascended the throne. Richard's reaction is almost prophetic in tone, and he warns Northumberland that he foresees an era of discord caused by the enmity that will arise between Northumberland and Bolingbroke. Richard warns him: " . . . thou shalt think, / Though he divide the realm and give thee half, / It is too little, helping him to all; / And he shall think that thou, which know'st the way / To plant unrightful kings, wilt know again, / Being ne'er so little urged, another way / To pluck him headlong from the usurped throne."
Usurpation breeds rebellion because the forces who helped the usurper for their own selfish ends soon become dissatisfied, and disorder eventually engulfs the entire nation. Richard presents a picture of the ruthless nature of politics in the world of "beasts." This speech also anticipates the action of the Henry IV plays, where Henry is perpetually tortured by the fear of deposition. This is the first time that Richard has voiced this theme so concretely. Northumberland grimly accepts Richard's prophetic vision with a curt " My guilt be on my head, and there an end." He obviously does not wish to argue with Richard.
The final parting of Richard and Queen Isabel is depicted along conventional lines, with the king praying the queen to be brief in her wooing sorrow and then kissing her twice to delay the farewell.