King Richard II
The King of England when the play begins. Stately and poetic, though immature, King Richard enjoys the trappings of kingship and has an extraordinary flair for poetic language. He is overthrown by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, and eventually assassinated in the remote castle of Pomfret.
King Richard’s cousin and the son of Richard’s uncle, John of Gaunt. He is less poetic but far more pragmatic and capable than his cousin. He returns from his banishment abroad and stages a revolution against Richard II. He is eventually crowned King Henry IV.
John of Gaunt
An important nobleman and Richard’s uncle. John of Gaunt is referred to as either “Gaunt” or “Lancaster.” He dies of old age after his son, Henry’s banishment, but not before delivering a withering curse on Richard.
Duke of York
Richard’s uncle and a brother of John of Gaunt and of the late Thomas of Gloucester. King Richard makes York Lord Governor of England, but Bolingbroke convinces him to defect and join his rebel army. A traditionalist who is loyally devoted to the crown, he is deeply upset by any kind of treason against the crown.
Duke of Aumerle
The son of Edmund, Duke of York. He remains loyal to his cousin Richard throughout the war and, after Richard’s deposition, is involved in a failed scheme against the life of the newly crowned King Henry IV. Also called “Rutland” late in the play, since he is the Earl of Rutland.
A nobleman whom Henry Bolingbroke accuses, early in the play, of treason against the state and of complicity in the earlier death of Richard’s uncle Thomas, Duke of Gloucester. Mowbray is banished at the same time as Bolingbroke and dies in exile. Also called “Norfolk,” as he is the Duke of Norfolk.
Bushy, Bagot, and Green
Richard’s friends and loyal backers in the court. Bushy and Green are trapped by Bolingbroke and executed. Bagot, also captured, becomes an informer, and apparently survives the play.
Northumberland, Lord Ross, and Lord Willoughby
Noblemen who join Bolingbroke’s rebel army early to fight against King Richard. Northumberland (occasionally called “Percy”) is the father of young Henry Percy (also called “Percy”).
Northumberlan’s son. He joins Bolingbroke’s rebels along with his father.
Duchess of York
The wife of the Duke of York and mother of the Duke of Aumerle. She goes before King Henry to plead for her son’s life.
Duchess of Gloucester
The aged widow of the late Thomas of Gloucester, and the sister-in-law of John of Gaunt and the Duke of York. She resides in a house at Plashy, and dies offstage during the play.
King Richard’s wife. She was born into the French royal family and flees to France when Richard is deposed.
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
The lord steward of the king’s household. Thomas Percy is also the brother of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and thus the uncle of young Henry Percy. When Northumberland is declared a traitor, Worcester defects to Bolingbroke, taking the servants of the king’s house with him. He does not appear in the play but other characters refer to him often.
The ruler of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where York’s army meets Bolingbroke’s army. Berkeley is loyal to King Richard.
A lord loyal to King Richard. He is eventually beheaded for his part in the conspiracy against the life of the newly crowned King Henry IV.
Bishop of Carlisle
A clergyman loyal to Richard. He is arrested for speaking out against Bolingbroke’s usurpation of the throne. He is later indicted in the conspiracy against King Henry’s life, but the king pardons him and sends him away from the court.
Sir Stephen Scroop
A nobleman loyal to Richard. He brings Richard the bad news of Bolingbroke’s invasion when Richard returns from Ireland.
Abbot of Westminster
A clergyman loyal to Richard. He is beheaded for his participation in the conspiracy against King Henry’s life.
A nobleman who assassinates the former King Richard in Pomfret Castle, believing himself to be acting under King Henry’s orders
A minor lord.