John of Gaunt’s patriotic assault on the unpopular Richard would appeal greatly to the Shakespearean audience’s love for their country. Gaunt represents patriotism in the play, and is therefore the recipient of large amounts of sympathy from the audience. The death of such a well-liked character is particularly stirring. Richard’s mockery of “aged Gaunt” makes his claim to have a fair and just reign unconvincing. The patriotic character of Gaunt is elucidated as he announces that he would gladly give his life “would the scandal vanish”.
However, in contrast to this, Gaunt criticises Richard for his lack of willingness to fight for his country in “Christian service”. The audience’s support for Gaunt is increased as they realise that “He that made” them “knows” that Gaunt is right. Immense feelings of patriotism are evoked in the audience as Gaunt is involved in a sticomythia with Richard. Richard threatens Gaunt with execution, however, his thunder is stolen as Gaunt replies that he will die soon anyway due to his “present sickness”. His exit, to die, is highly dramatic as it symbolises the cessation of patriotism on the stage.
Richard is presented as entirely detested, as he has taken away Gaunt’s “love and honour”. Richard’s name is brought further into disrepute as Gaunt claims that Richard puts desire first and prophesises that his reign will “burn out”. These words of Gaunt’s are made somewhat more potent by the fact that they are his dying words and are therefore held in reverence. He arouses feelings of patriotism from the audience, when he refers to “thy land”, however this becomes patriotic indignation as he accuses Richard of making England’s “reputation sick”.
Gaunt uses truisms, such as, “as the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,” to emphasise the truth in his words. This has a profound dramatic impact. He adds that if Richard’s “grandsire had… seen how his son’s son should destroy his sons”, Richard would not have been made king. Gaunt makes constant references to his brother Edward to emphasise that Richard will never come close to matching Edward’s greatness as King, moreover, Gaunt condemns Richard as a murderer using a sardonic tone. This has an enormous dramatic impact, as these are dangerous words to utter.
These final words from Gaunt are interrupted by Richard, which does little to help his cause. This is an unholy act, which provokes a shocked response from the audience. Not only does he interrupt his Uncle’s dying speech; he interrupts it by calling him “a lunatic lean-witted fool. ” This is extremely dramatic. The patriotic audience would be wholly frustrated by Richard’s dismissive attitude towards the nationalistic Gaunt and his “sad tale”. Richard cynically accuses Gaunt of not being “sick”, moreover, he reminds the audience that he is eagerly awaiting Gaunt’s death when he refers to him as “aged”.
These are Richard’s first words as he enters the room and thus it has a profound effect. Richard’s popularity in the eyes of the audience is repeatedly dealt heavy blows by the words of Gaunt. He implies that Richard doesn’t care about England and is not good enough for “this other Eden”. Gaunt places lavish praises on England, which stimulates great patriotic emotions in the audience. These emotions are experienced not only by the people watching the play, but also by the large number of people on stage. This effect of having two audiences augments the dramatic impact.
Gaunt constantly refers to England as a “demi-paradise” and a “precious stone”, which help to emphasise both the patriotism of Gaunt, and the corrupt nature of Richard for allowing such a “blessed” country to fall into disrepair. He describes England as a microcosm. Throughout the scene, Shakespeare uses the audience’s reverence for a dying man’s words to create a powerful dramatic effect. The poignant contrast between the two main characters; Richard and Gaunt would appeal overwhelmingly to the patriotism of a contemporary Shakespearean audience.