Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 5 Scene 3

Act 5 Scene 3
At Windsor Castle, the king is worried about his son, Prince Hal, whom he has not seen for three months. The prince has a habit of hanging around taverns with disreputable companions. Percy tells him that he saw the prince only two days before, ready to take part in a tournament that was part of the royal show being put on at Oxford. King Henry hopes that some good may yet emerge from his son.
Aumerle enters, distraught. He demands a private audience with the king, at which he kneels and begs for pardon. The king asks whether he merely intended to commit a crime or has already committed it. If the former, no matter how serious, he is ready to pardon Aumerle. Aumerle is about to tell his story when York pounds on the door, shouting that there is a traitor in the kings presence. He enters and shows the letter to the king. Aumerle asks the king to remember his promise (of a pardon), while York still condemns his own son as a traitor. King Henry pardons the son because of the goodness of the father in exposing the conspiracy. Then Aumerles mother arrives and begs to be admitted. She kneels at the kings feet and asks pardon for her son. Then the duke and Aumerle also kneel; the duke asking the king not to pardon Aumerle. The duchess pleads with the king not to listen to her husband. The king twice tells her to stand up, but she refuses to do so until he grants her son pardon. Finally, the king does pardon Aumerle. However, he orders that the other conspirators be arrested and put to death.
This scene introduces a theme that will be prominent in Henry IV, Parts I and II. The theme is the development of the wild Prince Hal from an irresponsible man who consorts with thieves and drunkards in London taverns, to a prince who is worthy to inherit the throne.
The scene, with its comically divided York family, shows King Henry very much at ease in the exercise of his power. He shows he can be magnanimous when such a quality is called for, but also shows he possesses the ruthlessness he needs if he is to remain for long as king.