Legitimating In The Bolingbroke Tetralogy

2665 Words11 Pages
Legitimising power over people is a central issue within the Bolingbroke tetralogy. The following will identify the different methods in which protagonists assume legitimacy of state and examine the moral implications of such justification. The essay will conclude to suggest that Shakespeare highlights these problems to imply that absolutist governments can never acquire legitimacy and that the relationship between legitimate kingship and moral legitimacy is an incongruous one. Richard does not acquire legitimacy within The Tragedy of King Richard the Second it is something that he already has, as the title might suggest, the play is not cantered around something gained but something lost. “A monarchy [...] is [strictly] a state ruled by a single absolute hereditary ruler.” (Bogdanor1), and since Richard inherited the throne from his father Edward III he seems to fit the bill. This divine right theory is enough, in Richards eyes his legitimacy as king is irrevocable. “Not all the water in the rough rude sea/ can wash the balm from an anointed king/ the breath of worldly men cannot depose/ the deputy elected by the Lord” (R.II.3.2-50-3). So much does Richard believe this theory that he leaves himself defenceless against Bolingbroke’s assault upon him. He believes that the earth itself will “prove armed solder’s, ere her native king” (R.II.3.2-25). Richard appears convinced that his name is enough to protect him “arm, arm my name” (R.II.3.2-82). However, this is false; and perhaps god abandoned his duty to Richard because Richard abandoned his duty as king. A notion had emerged by the time of Richards rule, “constitutional monarchy [...] a sovereign who rules according to the constitution” (Bagdanor1) and this notion was documented via “The magna Carta 1215” (Bagdanor3). Significantly the Magna Carta advocated that a sovereign must rule in accordance with the law and
Open Document