To Be Or Not To Be is the title. This

Essay by saraspanksterUniversity, Bachelor'sA, November 2003

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The concept of absolute monarchy comes into existence

during the early seventeenth century. During this time,

most countries were ruled by a single family. The head of

that family, a count, duke, king or queen, was in control.

The English Monarchs at this time included the Plantagenet

and Lancaster dynasty. From these two dynasties came

Richard II and Henry IV, two of England's finest kings.

Shakespeare, inspired by the ruling of these kings,

constructed two distinct plays, Richard II and Henry IV.

Throughout these plays it is evident that Shakespeare does

not agree with the idea of having an absolute monarchy, and

especially does not agree with the way these kings rule.

There are several obvious clues in Richard II that

suggests Shakespeare disapproved of the way Richard ruled

his country. During the feud between Bolingbroke and

Mowbray, Richard makes a split second decision to bring the

duel to a halt and suggests banishing the two from England

instead. Richard thoroughly contemplated his decision only

to make himself look more appealing to the people of

England. If he halts and condemns the duel, he is

promoting peace, which is supported by all. His sentence

for Mowbray was to be banished from England forever but

Bolingbrokes sentence was only banishment for seven years.

Richard knows that he must not anger the supporters of

Bolingbroke, in fear that Bolingbroke is next in line as

King. Richard flaunts a fake and phony King in this

scene. Richard has no cares for his people, just for his

own popularity.

In Act II Scene I, Richard goes to visit John of

Gaunt on his deathbed. Gaunt attempts to give Richard some

wise advice, but Richard rebuts with anger. Gaunt tells

Richard that "this blessed plot, this earth, this realm,

this England," will go to ruins if Richard does not take

his advice. Gaunt continues by telling Richard that he is

wasting money, raising taxes too high and overcome by

flattery. Richard, furious with anger, remains still as

Gaunt turns his back on him to retire to his bed. The Earl

of Northumberland, soon after, reports that Gaunt has

passed. The first thing on Richards to-do list is to seize

all of Gaunt's property.

Richard tends to abuse the fact that he has the

most power. He refuses to accept anyone's opinion and

constantly feels that his method is the right method.

Richard bases all of his actions on how much popularity it

will bring to him. He does not care about the people of

London. His only concern is himself.

The next king to take the throne is Henry IV, whom

overthrew Richard II. While Richard was more concerned

about his popularity with the people of London, Henry was

more concerned about his relationship with the people of

London. Although courteous, Henry has a bad temper and

tends to boast about himself. Henry, as king, has a right

to all noble prisoners captured in battle, yet Hotspur

refuses to yield to the kings demands and keeps his

prisoners hostage. Henry meets with Hotspur in hopes of

negotiation, but Hotspur still declines. With this, Henry

has had enough and speaks to Hotspur in a very threatening

manner. Henry then tells Hotspur that if he doesn't

eventually let the prisoners go he will face severe

retribution. Although fierce in his words, Henry is worn

down and exhausted from war. He is tired and aging.

Henry then continues to boast about himself when

speaking to his son, Harry, about his foolish behavior.

Henry tells his son that he didn't slum around London and

was always courteous and regal, unlike Harry. He then

compares Harry with Richard II, which poses some irony

because Henry is not exactly a greater king than Richard.

Henry then goes on to compare Harry with Hotspur as well.

Henry's plan is to get Harry riled up in hopes that he will

take revenge on Hotspur, which is successful.

Shakespeare obviously did not believe in the idea

of an absolute monarchy, otherwise he would not present the

kings in the fashion that he did. He characterized the

kings as brutal bastards. Not once, were the kings praised

for the good deeds they had performed. Many of the acts

centered around a conflicting problem dealing with the king

at the time. Shakespeare depicted these kings the way they

really were. He had no shame poking fun of them and did it

rather well.