Act 1, Scene 1 Setting: A stateroom at Windsor Castle

The play begins with a conference between King Richard and his uncle, John of Gaunt. They are preparing to receive Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and John of Gaunt's son, to settle a heated dispute between the two men. When Mowbray and Bolingbroke arrive they immediately have harsh words to say about each other, and Bolingbroke throws down his gage. Richard demands to know what the quarrel is between the two. Bolingbroke claims that Mowbray misused a group of soldiers he was given command of, and more importantly, played a part in the murder of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester and uncle to the king and Bolingbroke. Mowbray defends himself by saying he had the king's permission to use the troops as he saw fit and that he did not murder Gloucester, though he admits he neglected his duty in some way. He then admits he did attempt to murder John of Gaunt at one point, but duly confessed his sins, before throwing down his gage. Richard attempts to make peace between the two men, but both say their honor is on the line. In the end, the king is forced to set a date for the two to compete in a duel.

Act 1, Scene 2 Setting: John of Gaunt's house

John of Gaunt speaks with the Duchess of Gloucester (the widow of Thomas of Woodstock) about her husband's murder. Gaunt tells the duchess that God must settle the wrong that was done to her husband. The duchess reprimands Gaunt for his part in the plot and says he now must avenge his fallen brother. John continues to reply that his hands are tied and that she should leave the situation in the hands of God. The duchess seems content with this and wishes Gaunt's son a victory against Mowbray. As Gaunt departs, the duchess asks him to commend her to his brother Edmund, Duke of York.

Act 1, Scene 3 Setting: The lists at Coventry

The scene begins with the entrance of the king and his train, followed shortly after by Mowbray and Bolingbroke, the two combatants. The two men introduce themselves, state their causes at length and prepare to duel to the death. At the last second, the king throws down his warder in order to stop the duel. Instead of having the men fight to the death, Richard decides it would be better to banish them. Bolingbroke is banished for a period of ten years, Mowbray for life. Although saddened, both men accept their respective fates. Bolingbroke gives Mowbray one final chance to confess his sins before departing, which he refuses. After Mowbray's departure, Richard, feeling sympathy for his aged uncle, reduces Bolingbroke's exile to six years. John of Gaunt is thankful for the reduction but says he will still most likely be dead by the time his son returns. Richard claims it was his idea to exile the men, and Gaunt says he wishes he would have asked him as a father, not a politician. The king bids his cousin farewell and departs. Bolingbroke delivers only sad laments as goodbyes to his friends, and his father makes an attempt to cheer him up by telling him that his exile will be over in no time. Finally, Bolingbroke sadly bids farewell to England.

Act 1, Scene 4 Setting: King Richard's court

The king and his cousin, the Duke of Aumerle, discuss Bolingbroke's departure from England and how popular he had become with the common people. Green then announces that the rebellions in Ireland must be given attention. Richard says he will go in person to help put down the rebellion but does not know exactly where the money to fund the journey will come from. The solution comes when Bushy enters and announces that John of Gaunt is sick and wishes to see the king. Richard is immediately excited at hearing this news because he now knows where the money for the Irish expedition will come from: John of Gaunt's coffers.

Act 2, Scene 1 Setting: Ely House

A sickly John of Gaunt speaks with his brother, the Duke of York, about Richard's rash and irresponsible way of governing the country and wonders if he will finally take his advice while he is on his deathbed. York claims that Richard is led by a combination of his youth and the flatterers that constantly surround him, and therefore, will take no heed to any wise counsel. The king and his train arrive and are greeted strangely by a seemingly delirious John of Gaunt. When asked why he was summoned, John harshly reprimands Richard for his poor governing of England, accusing him of being led by flatterers and for the death of Gloucester, among other accusations. Richard is, of course, enraged by his uncle's comments, and Gaunt is led away by his attendants. Shortly after, the Earl of Northumberland enters and brings news that John of Gaunt has died. Richard immediately brushes off the news and announces he will seize all of his uncle's assets in order to fund the war in Ireland. York is beside himself when he hears this announcement and tells Richard his father would never have approved of an action such as this and that, if he proceeds to take away Bolingbroke's rightful inheritance, he will lose the love of many people. Richard more or less ignores his uncle's advice and announces he shall indeed seize Gaunt's lands and depart for Ireland the following day, leaving York in control of governing England. After the king's departure, Northumberland, Willoughby and Ross discuss all the horrible things Richard has done as king of England, particularly his poor treatment of Bolingbroke. At the scene's end Northumberland reveals that Bolingbroke and a group of his allies are planning to return to England after the king departs for Ireland and welcomes the other lords to join him, which they do.

Act 2, Scene 2 Setting: Windsor Castle

Bushy and Queen Isabella speak about the queen's melancholy behavior as a result of Richard being away in Ireland when Green enters with news that Bolingbroke has landed at Ravenspurgh and that many of the lords, including Northumberland and his son, have joined forces with him. The bad news continues when Green tells how the Earl of Worcester (Northumberland's brother) has broken his staff of office, resigned his stewardship and joined forces with the rebels. A frantic York enters and does not know how he will be able to, especially at his age, handle the civil war that has just erupted. He asks a serving man to go to the Duchess of Gloucester to borrow a thousand pounds, just to be told that the Duchess had recently passed away. This upsets York even more, and he frantically gives orders to muster an army to defend against the rebels before departing. Bushy, Bagot and Green remain to lament their declining fortunes. They are concerned they may be persecuted by the commons for their loyalty to Richard. Bagot says he will go to Ireland to warn the king of the danger he will soon face, while Bushy and Green go into hiding.

Act 2, Scene 3 Setting: An open place in Gloucestershire

Bolingbroke and Northumberland exchange kind words, as Northumberland's son Harry Percy arrives and informs them of Worcester breaking his staff. Percy and Bolingbroke, who had never met before, exchange kind words, and Bolingbroke says he will not forget his friends. Young Percy then informs the men that they are right before Berkeley Castle, before being joined by Lord Berkeley himself, who would like to know, on behalf of York, why these men join in arms and disrupt the peace. York arrives in person and chastises Bolingbroke for returning from exile unlawfully. Bolingbroke than claims, and the other lords support him, that he only wishes to retrieve what is rightfully his: the dukedom of Lancaster and the rest of the inheritance from his father. York  says he attempted to convince Richard not to confiscate Gaunt's lands but to no avail. It does not, however, justify rebellion on their parts. Finally, York admits that he and his forces are no match for the rebels, and therefore, he will remain neutral in the situation, though he makes it clear he would punish them all if he was able to. He then offers Bolingbroke and the others shelter in the castle. Bolingbroke says they must first go to Bristol Castle where Bushy, Bagot and the others are so they may be justly punished.

Act 2, Scene 4 Setting: A military camp in Wales

The Earl of Salisbury attempts to convince a Welsh captain (very possibly Owen Glendower) to hold his troops for several more days until the king returns. The Welshman replies that he heard rumors of Richard's death, and they have yet to hear a reply from him. He continues by saying that certain supernatural signs have proven the king's death; therefore, he will dismiss his troops.

Act 3, Scene 1 Setting: Before Bristol Castle

Bolingbroke has Bushy and Green as prisoners and gives them several reasons that they are about to be executed: They have misled the king and created a rift between him and his queen; They caused the king to think badly on him; and they desecrated the lands that are rightfully his after his exile. The two men are then led to their deaths. Bolingroke then asks York to commend him to the queen, who is staying at York's house. York says he has already done so, and Bolingbroke ends the scene by saying they must now do battle with Glendower and the Welsh.

Act 3, Scene 2 Setting: In front of Barkloughly Castle on the coast of Wales

The Duke of Aumerle, the Bishop of Carlisle and others greet Richard, who is happy to be home despite the rebellions that are occurring. The king laments sadly on his current state, while the others attempt to comfort him. Salisbury arrives with news that the Welshmen, thinking Richard dead, have joined forces with Bolingbroke, which saddens Richard even more. Lord Scroop arrives, and the king immediately tells him that he will yield power to Bolingbroke if necessary. Scroop then informs him that Bushy, Green and many of his other followers have been executed and that his uncle York has joined forces with Bolingbroke. All throughout, Richard continues to sadly lament his increasingly perilous situation while the others try and comfort him. The group then departs for Flint Castle.

Act 3, Scene 3 Setting: In front of Flint Castle in Wales

Bolingbroke, Northumberland and York are discussing certain subjects involving Richard when Percy arrives and informs the men that the king is inside the very castle they stand before. Bolingbroke asks Northumberland to deliver a message to the king, informing him that he only wishes to retrieve his father's lands and titles and to have his exile repealed. If the king agrees to grant him these requests, he will swear allegiance to him. If not, he will declare war on him. Richard and his followers then appear upon the castle walls. The king chastises Bolingbroke for his traitorous behavior, while Northumberland simply delivers the message that Bolingbroke asked him to. Richard is then advised by Aumerle to treat Northumberland kindly until he is better advantaged. When Northumberland returns, Richard sadly laments on how he will most likely be forced to submit the crown and wonders if Bolingbroke will allow him to live. Northumberland merely says that Bolingbroke would like to speak with him, and the king descends. Bolingbroke greets Richard with great respect and still insists he has only come for what is rightfully his. Richard, though obviously upset, agrees to resign power to Bolingbroke.

Act 3, Scene 4 Setting: The Duke of York's garden

Queen Isabella talks sadly with one of her ladies on the subject of her husband. The gardener and his men enter, and the women step aside to listen to them speak. The gardener talks of the executions of Bushy and Green and how the king is now in the captivity of Bolingbroke and shall soon be deposed. Isabella is upset to hear these words and reprimands the gardener, who defends himself by saying he is unhappy to deliver the news but that it remains true. The queen, unhappy that she is the last to know of these events sets off to London to be with her husband, while the gardener laments for her.

Act 4, Scene 1 Setting: Westminster Hall

The scene begins with Bolingbroke questioning the prisoner Bagot on the death of his uncle Gloucester. Bagot accuses Aumerle of the murder and also says he wished Bolingbroke dead. An enraged Aumerle throws down his gage at Bagot, but Bolingbroke orders him not to pick it up. After hearing the accusations against him, Fitzwater, Percy and others throw down their gages at Aumerle, who welcomes all challenges. The Earl of Surrey then accuses Fitzwater of lying about what he knows of Gloucester's death. Fitzwater, in turn, informs all that Aumerle sent two men to kill the banished Duke of Norfolk. Bolingbroke says they will recall Norfolk from banishment, and he will explain the accusations against Aumerle. The Bishop of Carlisle then announces that Norfolk has died in Venice. Bolingbroke is saddened by the death of his former foe.

York enters and announces that Richard has resigned all regal power and named Bolingbroke his heir. Bolingbroke accepts the throne but is rebuked by Carlisle who delivers a scathing prophesy, claiming that many Englishmen will ultimately die if Henry proceeds with this coup. Northumberland then orders Carlisle to be arrested for treason. York goes to fetch Richard so he may publicly resign, and Bolingbroke tells those who have been accused to prepare for their future trials. Richard enters sadly and asks why he was summoned. York informs him that he must publicly resign. Richard is still somewhat reluctant to give up the crown but ultimately, though not without much lamenting, gives it to Bolingbroke. He is then pestered by Northumberland to read over a list of accusations from the common people against him. Richard continuously puts off the list and asks for a mirror. Bolingbroke orders the mirror to be brought and tells Northumberland to stop his attempts to force Richard to read the document. The mirror is brought, and Richard, after yet another sad lament, smashes it. He then asks Bolingbroke for leave to go on his way, but Bolingbroke, who originally said he would grant Richard's request, orders him to be brought to the Tower of London. The new king then sets his coronation date for the following Wednesday and departs. The Abbot of Westminster, Carlisle and Aumerle remain behind and discuss a plan of action, and the abbot says he will lay down a plot to solve the issue at hand.

Act 5, Scene 1 Setting: A London street leading to the tower

Queen Isabella awaits the passing of her husband on the streets of London. When Richard passes the two share an intimate scene, and Richard orders Isabella to go back home to France. Northumberland enters and says Richard is to be transferred to Pomfret, Isabella to France. Richard prophesizes that Northumberland's deceitful nature shall soon turn on Bolingbroke, the man he helped to power. Northumberland dismisses the claim and forces the two to part. Richard and Isabella sadly say their goodbyes and part from one another forever.

Act 5, Scene 2 Setting: Duke of York's house

York and his wife are discussing the processions of Richard and the new King Henry IV through the streets of London and how Henry was treated so kindly, Richard so poorly, when Aumerle arrives and is immediately treated badly by his father because of his allegiance to Richard. York then sees a paper hung around his son's neck and demands to see it. Aumerle attempts to resist, but York reads the letter and immediately declares his son a traitor and begins to set off towards the king. The duchess demands to know why her husband is making such a rash decision, and York tells her that he and several others were plotting to kill the king at Oxford. Despite the duchess's continued pleading, York sets out to reveal this plot to the king. The duchess then tells her son to get to the king before York does and confess and ask for mercy. She says she will join him shortly.

Act 5, Scene 3 Setting: Windsor Castle

The scene begins with a conversation between King Henry and Percy about Henry's son Hal. Percy informs the king that Hal is patronizing the local taverns, much to Henry's chagrin. Yet, the king still has confidence in his rebellious son. At this point, Aumerle storms in and asks the king to pardon him even before he has confessed his crime, which Henry grants him. York arrives and shows Henry the letter Aumerle was hiding, to which Henry angrily reacts. After more harsh words are exchanged between York and Aumerle, the duchess arrives to plead for her son's life. After several attempts to attain the king's mercy, Henry finally agrees to the duchess's pleas and pardons Aumerle. However, the others involved in the conspiracy will be punished severely.

Act 5, Scene 4 Setting: Windsor Castle

Sir Pierce Exton speaks with one of his servants about a comment made by the king. Supposedly, the king asked the question: "Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?" Exton feels the king was looking at him when he said these words and assumes the meaning behind them is to murder Richard. Therefore, he will set out to do so.

Act 5, Scene 5 Setting: A prison at Pomfret Castle

Richard delivers a lengthy soliloquy, when a former groom from his stable arrives. The groom tells of how Bolingbroke has been riding on Barbary, a favorite horse of Richard's. This news seems to be the last straw for Richard. At this point, the keeper enters, dismisses the groom and serves Richard his meal. After Richard asks the keeper to taste the food for him, he refuses and claims Exton, under orders from the king, ordered him not to do so. Richard snaps and beats the keeper, who then cries for help. Exton and his servants rush in and attack Richard. Richard manages to kill two of his attackers before being fatally struck by Exton. The former king delivers a departing speech and dies. Exton is immediately remorseful for his crime but says he will inform the king anyway.

Act 5, Scene 6 Setting: Windsor Castle

King Henry announces that the rebels have burned the town of Cirencester. Northumberland and Fitzwater enter separately and announce the sending of certain heads of the rebels to London and Oxford respectively. Percy then enters and tells of the death of the Abbot of Westminster and hands over Carlisle to the king. The king, in turn, pardons Carlisle and forces him to live a quiet life. Finally, Exton enters and presents the body of Richard to the king. Henry is unhappy with the results of his words (and the fact that he wished Richard dead) and vows to take a voyage to the Holy Land in order to purge himself of his sins.

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