Richard II


In Richard the Second, two noblemen accuse each other of high treason against the King. After exchanging a repartee of insults the King decides that their, “swords and lances[shall] arbitrate” in a challenge. The day of the challenge comes and both competitors are ready to fight; the dispute was on the cusp of being fought and resolved, but the King decides to intervene and stops the fight in its tracks. Right when everything was to be settled, Richard’s cowardice gets the best of him as he couldn’t stand the thought of one of the men having truly treasonous intentions and living on to take him down, so he decides to banish both of the men. This brings me to the theme of this post which I take from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power: “Do not go past the mark you aimed for; In victory, learn when to stop.” Everything was going to be settled in this challenge with no harsh feelings for anyone involved—the loser would be dead and defeated and the victor would be a proud favorite of the king, but Richard’s fears destroy all that. By banishing both of them he creates resentment and bitter disdain in Bolingbroke. Now Bolingbroke wants to overthrow Richard regardless of what he thought before. Richard goes on to break another rule of Greene’s: “Know who you’re dealing with —do not offend the wrong person.” Not only does he banish Bolingbroke, but when his father dies he seizes all of his goods without giving any to the rightful heir Bolingbroke. Because Richard banished Bolingbroke he feels invincible, but he didn’t consider the magnitude of Bolingbroke’s resolve after being double wronged. Just because someone is banished doesn’t mean they can’t return on their own. In conclusion I want to leave you with one last of Greene’s laws and that is to, “Crush your enemy totally.” If you are in Richard’s shoes, and you truly believe someone dangerous to your throne, you must extinguish them completely. Bottom line. End of story.


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