Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 2

Act 1 Scene 2
John of Gaunt tells the widow of the Duke of Gloucester that he plans to leave vengeance for his brothers death to the will of heaven. The Duchess of Gloucester rebukes him, reminding him that both he and Gloucester were sons of Edward III; they are connected by the same blood. Warning him that he may be the next victim, she calls on him to avenge Gloucesters death. Gaunt knows full well that Richard is to blame for Gloucesters murder, but he still insists that he will not take up arms against the king, who is appointed by God. Disappointed and angry, the Duchess looks forward to the coming combat, hoping that Bolingbroke will kill Mowbray, whom she knows is guilty. But she will not go there herself. Instead, she will go to Plashy, in the county of Essex, Gloucesters country house, where she will continue to grieve for her dead husband.
This private scene, between two people “in the know,” makes it clear what was not apparent in the public scene that preceded it-that Richard and Mowbray are indeed guilty of Gloucesters death. Gaunts refusal to take any action because of his unshakeable belief in the divine right of kings is important. In medieval society, it was universally believed that the king was appointed by God, so to oppose him was a kind of sacrilege. This idea will become increasingly important as the play unfolds.