King Richard II
King Richard II is the king of England. He rules unwisely, overtaxing the country
and ignoring the advice of more experienced men. Richard lays the seeds of his
downfall when he confiscates John of Gaunt's lands in order to help pay for the
war in Ireland. This injustice results in Bolingbroke, whom Richard has banished,
to return to England. Richard's unpopularity results in the rapid erosion of his
support. When he returns from Ireland and lands in Wales, it is clear that he is
going to be forced to abdicate in favor of Bolingbroke. Richard's flaw is his
arrogance and his belief that no one would dare to overthrow him because he is
the king appointed by God. This miscalculation seals his fate. After his overthrow,
he becomes at times a more sympathetic figure, as he shows a reflective,
philosophical and poetic side to his nature. Richard is imprisoned in Pomfret
Castle where he is later murdered on the orders of Henry IV.
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
John of Gaunt is the uncle of King Richard, and the father of Bolingbroke. He
knows that Richard is implicated in the murder of Gloucester (Gaunt's brother),
but he resists Gloucester's widow, who calls for him to avenge his brother's
death. On his deathbed, Gaunt protests against Richard's mismanagement of the
country. When Gaunt dies, Richard confiscates his land.
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, is put in charge of the kingdom when Richard
goes to war in Ireland. But he is a weak man and is no match for Bolingbroke. He
reluctantly accepts Bolingbroke's authority, but when Bolingbroke is crowned
king, York becomes his firm supporter. He even denounces his own son to the
new king for treason.
Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford
Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, accuses Mowbray of treason for having a
role in the murder of the Duke of Gloucester, Bolingbroke's uncle. Before the
matter can be settled in a trial by combat, Richard exiles both Mowbray and
Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke is not to set foot in England for six years. But he returns
when he hears that Richard has disinherited him following the death of his father
John of Gaunt. Bolingbroke quickly wins support from many powerful nobles. He
insists that he comes only to claim his rightful title as Duke of Gloucester.
However, he is also a practical politician who sees that given Richard's
unpopularity, it will not be difficult for him, Bolingbroke, to seize the crown. This
he does, without ever having overtly stated that he wished to be king. As the
new Henry IV, he executes his enemies, and has Richard II imprisoned and then
Duke of Aumerle
The Duke of Aumerle is a supporter of King Richard. He accompanies the king
back from Ireland. He is later accused of having a role in the murder of the Duke
of Gloucester, although his guilt is never proved. Aumerle is one of the
conspirators who plan to assassinate the new king Henry IV at Oxford. But when
his father discovers the plot, Aumerle rushes to the king and begs for a pardon,
which he receives.
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, is accused of treason by Henry Bolingbroke.
The accusation is that Mowbray, among other crimes, was responsible for the
murder of the Duke of Gloucester. Mowbray denies the charge. Before the matter
can be settled in a trial by combat, Richard exiles Mowbray from England for life.
Mowbray fights in the crusades and later dies in Venice.
Duke of Surrey
The Duke of Surrey is a supporter of Richard II who defends Aumerle against a
charge of treason, challenging Aumerle's accuser, Fitzwater. Surrey joins the plot
against Henry IV and is executed (he is named as Kent in Act 5, scene 6).
Earl of Salisbury
The Earl of Salisbury is a supporter of Richard II. He tries unsuccessfully to
persuade the Welsh forces to stay together until Richard returns from Ireland.
Salisbury joins the rebellion against Henry IV and is executed.
Lord Berkeley appears only once, demanding to know of Bolingbroke why he has
returned to England, with armed men.
Lord Ross is one of the first noblemen to join up with Bolingbroke when
Bolingbroke returns to England to claim his rights.
Lord Willoughby, along with Ross, is a nobleman who is quick to join Bolingbroke
when Bolingbroke first returns to England.
Lord Fitzwater is a supporter of the new Henry IV. He accuses Aumerle of taking
part in the murder of Gloucester.
Bishop of Carlisle
The Bishop of Carlisle protests at the overthrow of Richard. He warns that it will
lead to civil war. Carlisle is arrested for treason, but Henry IV pardons him.
Abbot of Westminster
The Abbot of Westminster is one of the principal conspirators against Henry IV.
He is captured and executed.
Sir Stephen Scroope
Sir Stephen Scroope is a supporter of Richard. When Richard lands in Wales,
Scroop breaks the news to him of the extent of the rebellion. He also report that
Bushy and Greene have been executed.
Sir Piers Exton
Sir Piers Exton is Richard's assassin. He believes he acts on the wishes of Henry
Isabel, Queen to King Richard
Isabel learns of Richard's overthrow when she overhears York's gardener speak
of it. She bids a sad farewell to Richard when they meet in London for the last
time. Bolingbroke orders her to be sent to France.
Duchess of Gloucester
The Duchess of Gloucester is the widow of the murdered Duke of Gloucester.
She begs her brother-in-law Gaunt to avenge his death.
Duchess of York
The Duchess of York is the Duke of York's wife. She pleads with Henry IV to
pardon her son Aumerle for his part in the plot against the new king.
Sir John Bushy
Sir John Bushy is a supporter of Richard II. When he sees the tide turning
against Richard he goes to Bristol, where he is arrested and executed.
Sir John Bagot
Sir John Bagot is a supporter of Richard who is imprisoned by Bolingbroke. In the
deposition scene (Act 4, scene 1), Bagot supplies evidence that implicates
Aumerle in the murder of the Duke of Gloucester.
Sir Henry Greene
Sir Henry Greene is an associate of Bushy and a strong supporter of Richard II.
When Bolingbroke returns to England, he and Bushy fear for their lives and flee
to Bristol, where they are both captured and executed.
Earl of Northumberland
The Earl of Northumberland is one of the earliest, and the most powerful, of the
nobles to support Bolingbroke. He is a scheming, ruthless politician, and his
support enables Bolingbroke to quickly overthrow Richard.
Harry Percy, also known as Hotspur, is Northumberland's young son who meets
Bolingbroke in Gloucestershire for the first time. Later, in Henry IV, Part I,
Hotspur becomes an enemy of the king and leads a rebellion against him.