“Where they feared the death they have borne life away, and where they would be safe they perish.” Henry V tells an interesting truth here. Many things in life are counter-intuitive. When we feel uneasy often we have no reason to be. When we are carefree and feeling happy, sometimes trouble lurks. I think a lesson we can take from this regal anecdote is to shun both fear and invincibility and to live in a state of harmony with our soul, “wash every mote out of [our] conscience.” “In brief, sir, study [or do] what you most affect.” “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” Don’t delude yourself that “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” are in endless supply; nor let fear or anxiety paralyze you. Don’t confuse a general contentment with carnal immortality. “That we would do, we should do when we would, for this would changes.” We only get one life to make our mark, and we do not know, despite on how intuitive we think we are, when our candle will out. Embrace the best of life, “unmix’d with baser matter.”
Richard the Second makes a decision that proves to be a most disastrous mistake at the outset of his story. When Henry Hereford and the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray, are on the brink of their dueling match to settle their dispute of treason, King Richard intervenes and decides to banish both men. He claims this was in order to avoid “civil wounds ploughed up with neighbor’s sword” but I feel he feared an outcome where the victor proved dangerous to his crown. Shakespeare teaches us “striving to better, oft we mar what’s well,” and this does ring true for Richard. He banishes Norfolk indefinitely and Hereford for ten years but then changes it to six. Here he has not only been too harsh , but he has shown that he doubts his own decision by abridging Hereford’s sentence to six years, four years shorter than what was originally pronounced. He then makes the two men take an oath which even when taken doesn’t protect him. He makes them swear to “never by advised purpose MEET to plot…any ill ‘gainst…our state…or our land.” What he fails to realize is that it only takes one of them to create a faction against him, and now by mentioning his fear he has plainly shown his vulnerability. By reducing Hereford’s sentence he shows hesitancy, lack of leadership, weakness, and fear of retribution which proves a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we see in the story Hereford deposes Richard. Norfolk, the one with the permanent sentence, is never heard of again. Perhaps he should have done the same to Hereford. He has “scotch’d the snake, not killed it.” When Richard commandeers Hereford’s inheritance after the death of his father, John of Gaunt, “[Richard’s] poor malice [remain’d] in danger of [Hereford’s] former tooth.”
This was the beginning of the end for King Richard of Bordeaux.