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There are three styles featured in the versification of the play. These include rhyme, mainly in the form of couplets, and two kinds of blank verse: that which is used in the deposition scene and that which is used earlier. The early blank verse is diverse in texture and consists of flat sentences, as in the following example, spoken by Bolingbroke: "Can no one tell me of my unthrifty son?" (V, 6). The couplets also show variation in quality, although it is not immediately apparent. The play is written in the Elizabethan High-Renaissance manner. The language of the queen in the following passage is representative of this style:
Bushy: 'Tis nothing but conceit, my gracious lady. Queen: 'Tis nothing less: conceit is still deriv'd From some forefather grief; mine is not so, For nothing hath begot my something grief, Or something hath the nothing that I grieve;
'Tis in reversion that I do possess But what it is that is not yet known what, I cannot name; 'tis nameless woe, I wot. (II, 2)
RICHARD II AS A HISTORY PLAY
Richard II forms a part of Shakespeare's second series of four plays on English history which includes Henry IV (Parts I & II) and Henry V. There was a widespread belief in the Elizabethan Age that political order on earth was a reflection of cosmic order. To understand the enormity of Bolingbroke's and Richard's sin, one has to understand the position of the king in the highly schematic hierarchy of the Renaissance world. In the Renaissance world view, the state was a middle link between the cosmic universe and the individual man. All the three levels or planes of creation were in close harmony with each other. Any violation of order or degree made its reverberations felt in all levels of creation. It resulted in the corruption of the entire scale of creation.
Richard's unconditional surrender to Bolingbroke and his abdication disrupts the harmonious order of nature. It amounts to a violation of the king's responsibility to God, and its only possible consequences are death and disorder on every level of creation. Bolingbroke's deposition of Richard is a sacrilegious act, which disrupts the steady succession of kings anointed by God. This theme of degree or order was one common enough in Renaissance literature. Ulysses outlines this theme in his speech in Troilus and Cressida:
Bolingbroke's deposition removed from the seat of power a monarch who had ruled the country by a hereditary right, which had been unbroken since the twelfth century. The consequences of this act were long and terrible. The throne had been left vacant to be fought over by rival parties in the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars, which only ended with the reign of Henry VII, almost eighty years after Richard's death. The consequences of the usurpation are seen in scenes of dramatic reportage in Act V. Shakespeare is posing issues which were relevant to his own times. In the 1590s Queen Elizabeth I was without an heir. The Earl of Essex had staged a futile attempt to overthrow the Queen in 1601. The Earl had ordered the performance of this play, possibly to show the legitimacy of deposing a monarch. Shakespeare barely escaped punishment. Another interesting fact is that although the play was published in 1597, the deposition scene was omitted as being dangerous. The complete version was printed only in 1608, after James I was secure on the throne.