David Tennant on stage in white royal gown and crown.

Richard II

William Shakespeare

The first of Shakespeare's History plays. A story of power and plotting.


A story of power and plotting, Richard II is the first of Shakespeare's four plays about the House of Lancaster.

In the presence of King Richard, Henry Bolingbroke (who would eventually be Henry IV) accuses Thomas Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk) of embezzling crown funds and of plotting the death of his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. They will not be reconciled and are about to fight, but Richard stops the combat before it can begin.


Bolingbroke is exiled for ten years (later reduced to six); Mowbray is exiled for life.

John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster, uncle to the king and Bolingbroke's father) dies after accusing Richard of improper government. Richard orders the seizure of Gaunt's property, denying Bolingbroke his inheritance. He then departs for Ireland, appointing his other uncle York to govern in his absence.


The Duke of Northumberland reveals that Bolingbroke has returned to England with an army. Bolingbroke persuades his uncle York that he has returned for his rightful inheritance, not to start a rebellion against the crown. Richard returns from Ireland to discover that his Welsh troops have deserted him, that York has allied himself with Bolingbroke, and the common people are rising against him.

Richard agrees to Bolingbroke's demands

Bolingbroke and his supporters meet with Richard. Bolingbroke promises to surrender his arms if his banishment is repealed and his inheritance restored. Richard agrees to his demands. Richard's cousin, the Duke of Aumerle, is accused of murdering the Duke of Gloucester. Bolingbroke arrests everyone involved in the allegations. Richard agrees to abdicate. Bolingbroke announces his coronation.


A plot is hatched to restore Richard to the throne. York discovers that his son Aumerle is involved in a plot to kill Bolingbroke. Aumerle confesses to Bolingbroke, and is pardoned. Richard is killed whilst imprisoned in Pomfret Castle. Bolingbroke receives news of his supporters' efforts to defeat his detractors. Exton presents Richard's body to Bolingbroke, only to be rewarded with banishment. Bolingbroke promises to undertake a pilgrimage to expiate his sins.