Description of Political Corruption in Shakespeare’s Richard II

Category: Literature
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In Richard II, William Shakespeare describes the political corruption in England during Richards rule. Act III takes place in a garden, in which the Queen, a couple of ladies, the Gardener, and a man are discussing the misrule of Richard and make metaphorical references to nature. This suggests a strong understanding of horticulture for the time period the play was written in. The lines 31-38 say, ”Go, bind thou up you dangling apricocks, which, like unruly children, make their sire. Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight; Give some supportance to the bending twigs. Go thou, and like an executioner, cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays, that look too lofty in our commonwealth: All must be even in our government.” This is one of the metaphors. This can be seen with young trees when they are tied back in order to grow straight. This is due to weakness of the roots and trunks so they are too weak to completely support their own weight, especially during winds or storms.

The Gardener felt the country needed support to hold up its own weight of oppression and corruption. The time period had a name for the plant and cultivated it for the apricot fruit itself. The lines saying, “give some supportance to the bending twigs, Go thou, and like an executioner, cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays” suggest reference to fan pruning. This technique is used in England and areas with cooler climates. In order to grow apricots, the tree has to be attached to the wall to allow the lateral branches fan out so the plant can absorb heat and light from the wall. It is also mentions taking the fruits which are growing too quickly, because they are too big and weigh down the branches of the tree. This could end up breaking the branches making the tree useless.

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The men ask why they should keep the garden well maintained while the world around them is full of weeds and infested with insects. This alludes to the politicians and corrupted leaders who are self-seeking. The metaphor also suggests knowledge of invasive species and knowledge that weeds and insects will attack and destroy the garden. Shakespeare also describes pruning and that it improves the health of the plants, and increases the production. The garden is kept up with the seasons while Bolingbroke, Richard’s cousin, lets his land wither away and over grow. He suggests that Bolingbroke shows no care for the structure and order of his country or government after he took rule from Richard. A gardener needs to be maintained all year to keep a garden beautiful and full. This means the leader of a country must always be attentive to his people. Queen Isabel became aware of Richard’s capture and was disappointed at the gardener for not telling her the news. She places a curse on his plant grafts. The gardener promises he will plant her a bed of rue, the herb of sorrow.

In the last part of the play, Shakespeare gives reference to grafting, and that herbs were known about. Grafting is the process of encouraging (or forcing) the tissues of one plant to grow with a different tissue from another plant. A root system that is better for that specific region or root system that supports better plant growth is chosen to be used with the grafting. The stems, leaves, and fruits of a certain plant are selected so that the gardener can achieve the results, fruits, or beauty that is desired. Shakespeare’s reference to herbs suggest using them to take away pain and sorrow. Today, herbs are still thought of as being useful for healing or sicknesses.

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Description Of Political Corruption In Shakespeare's Richard II. (2022, Feb 08). Retrieved from