DISCUSSION ON THE GARDEN CONCEPT
The Garden Scene as depicted by John of Gaunt in Richard the Second is a pivotal moment in the play aimed at creating a variety of dramatic and textual requirements for the reader and audience. The scene has covered widely on several different levels creating the plot update, allegory and exposition in the play. The scene has been used to create character contrasts through the use of imagery where the garden has been used as a representation of England, a country which Gaunt is worried about on his deathbed. He believes the King has brought shame on England and has converted it from a fortress to a prison.
The scene acts as a ‘bridge, between the end of the previous act and the current one. In the scene, Gaunt is on his deathbed worried about the current condition in England with no easy consolation words. He is worried that King Richard is beyond listening and only pays more attention on continental fashions than restructuring politics in England. In his speech, Gaunt laments that the beautiful and divinely favored country of England has been given out. “This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden demi-paradise, this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war……../this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…../is now leased out, I die pronouncing it, like to a tenement or pelting farm” (2:1:40-60)(Shakespeare, King Richard the Second).
Gaunt compares England with the Biblical Garden of Eden which is believed to have bean beautifully green with all fruits of the earth. He uses the garden as a symbolic element representing England, a land endowed with beautiful natural landscape. He terms the land as a blessed plot which other less happy lands envy. However, he isdevastated by the way this beautiful garden has been rented out by the King.
The garden concept has been applied in Act 3, scene IV which describes an aged gardener and his assistant entering into the garden to tend to some plants. At the queen’s suggestion, the ladies hide themselves behind the shadows and silently listen to what the gardener and his assistant will discuss. The queen had noticed that the common people had been discussing the imminent change expected to take place in the government.Unlike the first scene where Gaunt and Bolingbroke acted as the gardeners, the second scene has a different set of gardeners who discuss the fall of the King. The main distinguishing feature between the two sets of gardeners is their approach towards the issue. Gaunt confronts the King directly from his deathbed while the other set of gardeners discuss the occurrences amid fear of reprisals from the king and queen.
The garden concept has also been used metaphorically to depict King Richard as a poor gardener. His aids, Greene and Bushy are referred to as ‘caterpillars’ in Act III scene iii. Bolingbroke refers to them as “caterpillars of the commonwealth” (2.3.11)(Shakespeare, King Richard the Second).The metaphor has been used to depict Richard and his aides as a bunch of parasitic elements out to devour the garden. In Act 2: scene I, Gaunt blames King Richard for the fall of England. He claims that the king mismanaged the garden and failed to prove it. However, conflicting opinions arise after King Richard’s death when Hotspurdescribes King Richard II as a rose uprooted and replaced by this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke (1.3.7)(Shakespeare). Hotspur believes England is a garden ruined by Bolingbroke and not Richard.
William Shakespeare uses symbolism and imagery throughout the play with the use of earth as a representation of England itself. To bring out the real situation on the ground, he uses the garden to bring out King Richard the Second’s main character thereby building the plot of the play in a more inclusive way.The use of symbolism and imagery in the play explicitly shows the disordered spring in England that thereafter reaps the consequences when the ‘leaf’ falls. Shakespeare uses it to show the natural order that takes place for leaders who misuse their power such as Richard. They are swept away and replaced just as it is the nature of gardens.
Shakespear, W. (n.d.). King Richard the Second. Champaign: Project Gutenberg.
Shakespeare, W. (n.d.). The First Part of Henry the Fourth. Champaign: Project Gutenberg.