ABSTRACT

Near the end of the first act of Shakespeare’s Richard II, King Richard has just banished Mowbray and Bolingbroke, consigning what will become the greatest threat to his rule outside his realm and therefore beyond his control. Now his flatterer Green announces what is evidently old business to the king but new business to the audience:

Now for the rebels which stand out in Ireland. Expedient manage must be made, my liege, Ere further leisure yield them further means For their advantage and your highness’ loss. (1.4.37-40)1

The situation calls for timely action because, as the word “further” indicates, the Irish have already enjoyed both the leisure and the means to imperil English control. Green makes clear the stakes of the situation-and of Richard’s “expedient manage”: the territory could well be lost. But Green’s ambiguous phrase “your Highness’ loss” also warns of a more personal loss incurring to the king-a loss closer to home, perhaps of the very quality of “Highness” that distinguishes the king. Green’s announcement thus carries a warning that the management of affairs abroad has direct bearing on the king’s status at home, publicly and privately.