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 killed.
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 Lord Berkeley appears only once, demanding to know of Bolingbroke why he has returned to England, with armed men.
Lord Ross Lord Ross is one of the first noblemen to join up with Bolingbroke when Bolingbroke returns to England to claim his rights.
Lord Willoughby Lord Willoughby, along with Ross, is a nobleman who is quick to join Bolingbroke when Bolingbroke first returns to England.
Lord Fitzwater 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 IV.
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 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.