Act 2 Scene 3
This scene takes place in Gloucestershire, in the south-west of England. Bolingbroke and his followers have made their way from Ravenspurgh in the north-east and are nearing Berkeley Castle.
Northumberland makes a flattering speech to Bolingbroke, hoping to get in Bolingbroke's good graces, since he expects him soon to be King. Northumberland's young son Percy enters. He gives the news that Worcester has renounced his office as steward of the royal court because Northumberland was declared to be a traitor. Worcester has gone to Ravenspurgh to offer his services to Bolingbroke (here referred to as Duke of Herford). Worcester then sent Percy to Berkeley to see what the strength of York's army was. After that, Worcester's instructions were that Percy should join Northumberland and Bolingbroke at Ravenspurgh. Percy has never met Bolingbroke and does not realize that the wronged Duke is the very man who is now accompanying his father. When Northumberland introduces Bolingbroke to Percy, the two exchange courteous words.
Percy tells them they are close to Berkeley Castle, which is manned with a force of three hundred. Ross and Willoughby enter, having made efforts to catch up with Bolingbroke. Then on the other side enters Lord Berkeley, who carries a message from the Duke of York, demanding that Bolingbroke explain why he has returned and is marching across the country in arms. At that point York himself enters and asks Bolingbroke this question himself. York says that were he a younger man, he would soon chastise Bolingbroke and correct his faults. Bolingbroke, pretending innocence, asks what fault he may have committed. After York has pointed out that rebelling against the king is treason, especially for a man who has been banished, Bolingbroke makes his case. He claims that he has only come to seek his rightful title of Duke of Gloucester, which he inherited on the death of his father. He appeals to York's own feelings as a father. Had York died, and Aumerle, his son, been denied his inheritance, then (Bolingbroke argues) Gaunt, Bolingbroke's father, would have been intervened on Aumerle's behalf. Bolingbroke uses this argument to claim that York should now support him, not oppose him.
York acknowledges that Bolingbroke has been wronged, and says he did what he could to correct the situation. But Bolingbroke is wrong, York says, to take up arms to prosecute his cause. Northumberland insists that all Bolingbroke wants is what he is entitled to, and that is why he, Northumberland, and the others, have taken up his cause. Knowing that he does not have the forces necessary to defeat Bolingbroke, York backs down, saying he will remain neutral. He invites Bolingbroke and his company to stay the night in the castle. Bolingbroke accepts, and says that next they must go to Bristol to arrest Bushy and Greene.
What is noticeable in this scene is that Bolingbroke makes no claim to the throne. He insists that he returns only to claim his legal rights. Northumberland confirms that this is why Bolingbroke has gained so many followers. Northumberland, however, is a shrewd politician. He knows full well that power is rapidly shifting to Bolingbroke, and his words at the close of Act 2, scene 1 show clearly that he wants and expects Bolingbroke to overthrow Richard. Bolingbroke is already showing himself to be an efficient man of action who knows how to marshal powerful forces, in contrast to Richard, whose support is quickly evaporating. Richard has shown a fatal misjudgment in believing that he can illegally strip Bolingbroke of his rights, and then go off to war in Ireland, without there being adverse consequences for him at home. He believes that it is enough simply to be King, and that no one will dare challenge him. From now on, Bolingbroke will continue to reveal himself to be far more astute in wielding power than the posturing, blundering King.
Richard II: Novel Summary: Act 2 Scene 3
Act 2 Scene 3