Thomas of Woodstock
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
THOMAS OF WOODSTOCK
Richard flatters the flatterers, who now include Bushy and Scroop. Tresilian declares the King’s “enemy” uncles traitors. Richard orders them arrested and condemned and Greene wants them beheaded, but Tresilian calls all this too rash (II.i.43): “It must be done with greater policy / For fear the people rise in mutiny” (II.i.45-46). Richard agrees.
Bushy has been scanning English Chronicles and reports that Richard’s grandfather Edward III condemned the Protector Mortimer to death. He also reads the account of Richard’s father, the Black Prince, prevailing over the French army at Poitiers, though outnumbered 7,750 to 68,000. Bushy then reads that Richard was born 3 April 1365. (He was actually born 6 January 1367.) Richard claims his birthday has been hidden from him and, it now being 1387, he rages: “By that account the third of April next / Our age is numbered two-and-twenty years. / O treacherous men that have deluded us!” (II.i.112-114). When a messenger brings a note from York, requesting an audience with the king, Richard agrees to see him: “Woodstock and Gaunt are stern and troublesome / But York is gentle, mild and generous” (II.i.126-127).
Richard tells York that the uncles ought to be haunted by the ghosts of their father the late king and their late brother the Black Prince for having so “wronged King Richard” (II.i.136). York protests the uncles’ good intentions and invites Richard to attend the parliament assembled at Westminster. Richard plans to dismiss this parliament until he chooses to summon and direct one.
York tells Woodstock that Richard will be along in a moment. Anne pleads that the uncles forgive Richard’s youth and await his maturer years. York assures her that they just want his sycophants removed. Richard arrives and goads Woodstock about his return to plain clothes. Woodstock responds, “Ay, ay, good coz, I’m now in my t’other hose, / I’m now myself, Plain Thomas” (II.ii.34-35). Woodstock holds forth about the unrest among the commons, but Richard sets him up with a quick parable concerning a birthright. Richard announces his minority expired. Woodstock yields the Protectorship and Richard claims his inheritance by being crowned again by the uncles. He says that because of their advanced ages, they are dismissed from the council table, and he replaces Arundel with Scroop, York with Greene, and Lancaster with Bushy. Woodstock rails, curses the reign, and breaks his staff before departing for his home in Essex.
The flatterers sneer at the elderly in general. Bagot wants Woodstock hanged; Richard wants an enormous feast; Scroop says they all must have new clothes: “The fashions that we wear are gross and stale” (II.ii.207) — that’s the first order of government business. Richard has them dismiss the parliament.
Queen Anne is distressed by Richard’s treatment of his uncles. The Duchess of Gloucester (Woodstock’s wife) confirms the events of the previous scene. The Duchess of Ireland interjects:
My husband Ireland, that unloving lord
— God pardon his amiss, he now is dead —
King Richard was the cause he left my bed.
This refers to Robert Vere, Duke of Ireland, an early favorite of Richard’s who died accidentally during a boar hunt in 1392 after being exiled by Woodstock’s faction. Anne expresses her concern for the people throughout the kingdom and says, “My jewels and plate are turned to coin / And shared amongst them” (II.iii.22-23); “I fear they grudge against their sovereign” (II.iii.37). Cheney witnesses the removal of a trunk of clothes and praises the Queen’s charity.
Woodstock has summoned his wife but she’s reluctant to leave Anne at the moment. Cheney reports on Richard and the sycophants:
They sit in council to devise strange fashions,
And suit themselves in wild and antic habits
Such as this kingdom never yet beheld:
French hose, Italian cloaks and Spanish hats,
Polonian shoes with peaks a handful long,
Tied to their knees with chains of pearl and gold.
Their plumèd tops fly waving in the air
A cubit high above their wanton heads.
Tresilian is proposing more taxes to raise money for elaborate reconstruction projects and other extravagances. Queen Anne laments this “certain ruin of this famous kingdom!” (II.iii.101). Richard is coming, so the Duchess of Gloucester takes her leave, promising to return within a few days. The Duchess of Ireland will go to Langley and lament her wretched state. Anne “For Richard’s follies must sigh and groan” (III.ii.112).