Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 3 Scene 4

Act 3 Scene 4
In the Duke of Yorks garden, the queen and two ladies enter. The queen is filled with sorrow because she knows Richard is in peril. When a gardener and two servants enter, she hides in the shadows of trees and listens, because she believes they will talk of matters of state.
The gardener gives instructions to his assistant about how to trim the garden and make it orderly. He makes an analogy between an orderly garden and a well-run society. The gardeners must lop off the heads of fast-growing plants, for example, acting like an executioner who beheads those in society who have become too ambitious for power. The assistant makes the analogy even clearer when he protests about his instructions. He asks why they should keep the garden neat and tidy when the whole of England is untended, full of weeds, untrimmed hedges, unpruned trees and swarming caterpillars. This is a reference to the state of England under Richard. The gardener rebukes him, saying that he who permitted the disorder to grow has himself now fallen like a leaf. The weeds have all been plucked up. He explains that he means Wiltshire, Bushy and Greene. He adds that Bolingbroke has seized the king, and it is likely that Richard will be deposed. He regrets this, and wishes Richard had been wiser in his reign.
Overhearing this news, the queen confronts the gardener, demanding to know how he knows of these events. The gardener replies that everyone knows it. The king is in London. But Richard has no supporters at all; all the peers of the realm are on Bolingbrokes side. The queen decides to go to London to meet Richard.
The scene is a political allegory that compares the kingdom to a garden that must be tended or will fall to ruin. It is also a parable showing how badly Richard erred in not keeping his kingdom under better control, and what the consequences of his neglect have been. Richard allowed men like Bushy and Greene, who are earlier referred to as the “caterpillars of the commonwealth” (Act 2, scene 3, line 165), to unduly influence him. He also failed to rein in over-ambitious nobles.