School of Communication
Primary Subject Area
Shakespeare, Chivalry, Richard II
Today’s society understands chivalry in a vastly different context than how chivalry was originally understood in the 14th and 15th centuries. For this reason, it is crucial to turn to literature concerning the time period and people that were expected to uphold the code of chivalry at all times. This thesis will research, in depth, William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Second (1597), the first of the four history plays in the second tetralogy. Studying this work will enable the reader to gain a more full understanding of how seriously the noblemen of those days took this code of conduct. Chivalry originally began as a code of conduct for knights and nobility and was not simply a set of actions and characteristics to be performed, but a lifestyle of honor, courage, and selflessness.
Rather than studying a work that exemplifies chivalry in action, Richard II reveals the severity of the consequences that will affect an entire nation if chivalry is abandoned. Through a close study of the play itself and concluding remarks on the personal character of both Richard and his nemesis, Bolingbroke, it becomes obvious that violating chivalry not only affects the individual violator, but can also cause the demise of an entire nation. By studying the negative aspects of Richard and Bolingbroke’s joint disregard for chivalry, it is my hope that the reader will come to understand the importance of adhering to this code of conduct.