a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A "ghost character." One of the offices the rebels seek to assume.


Apparently, the same character as the church official identified originally as the Lord Archbishop.


The assumed and comic title of Tom Miller, the Clown.


A "ghost character." One of the offices the rebels seek to assume.


The County (or Earl) of "Salsburie" assures the Queen Mother that King Richard II's age will not deter him from meeting the rebellion effectively.


His mispronunciation of bread and cheese is grounds for his execution in a brief scene that illustrates the quality of justice that the commoners administer.


Declares to the Queen Mother that the peers will help King Richard II to defeat any foe or to quell any rebellion. He announces the arrival and purpose of the Messenger. He identifies the meaning of Tom Miller's behavior and establishes that King Richard II has given the rebels a general pardon.


Hob Carter joins the commoners leading a company of men from Essex after the group has successfully challenged the nobility. He is concerned about safety, and urges commoners group to eliminate anyone who opposes Jacke Strawe. He accepts King Richard II's pardon and promises to lead the Essex men home.


Referred to as "the Tyler" by the Tax Collector, Strawe kills King Richard II's Tax Collector for lewdly examining Strawe's daughter and for demanding more money. He joins with the other aggrieved commoners to petition King Richard II for redress of their grievances. This intention quickly escalates into an attempt to replace the nobility and the major church officials with commoners. He expresses irritation that King Richard II does not keep a promise to meet with the group personally. Later, after King Richard II has met with the commoners, Strawe rejects the general pardon because he wants loot. In a second meeting with King Richard II, Strawe demands both a dagger and a sword from Sir John Newton. Newton contends that the sword belongs to the King and he cannot surrender it. In the ensuing scuffle, Newton kills Strawe.


John Ball is the given name of Parson Ball.


Morton is noble, specifically a knight. He brings the news to King Richard II that the commoners of Kent are in rebellion. The commoners hold his wife and children as hostages. Morton urges the king to meet with the rebels to learn their intentions. He expresses support for the king but is able to speak with the commoners, whom he urges to talk with the king. He labels the commoners as unnatural because they are in rebellion and thus involved in incest against their country. Morton worries that the commoners' experience with blood will end badly for the country. He speaks the judgment that even though the commoners deserve hanging for rebelling against the king, that King Richard II is going to pardon all of them except Wat Tyler and Parson Ball.


Sir John Newton reports to Spencer that King Richard II did not keep his first promise to talk with the rebels because the commoners made so much noise that the king was afraid that they were involved in a plot against him. Later, Newton tells the rebels that they need to select a spokesperson so that the king can hear their grievances. After some of the rebels have ignored the king's instructions to go home, Newton asks the group to speak with the King. When Jacke Strawe demands Newton's sword, the nobleman refuses. In the ensuing fight, Newton kills Strawe, which leaves the mob leaderless. King Richard II quickly appoints himself leader. Newton acknowledges the benefits of mercy, but he suggests that the king is pardoning too many people, too quickly and has special reservations about allowing Tyler and Ball to go free.


The Lord Archbishop observes that the commoners should be happy to pay taxes since the government uses the money to benefit society. He urges the councilors to advise the King that the people of Kent are in revolt and should be met before the rebellion grows. When the councilors appear before the King, the text identifies the person accompanying the Lord Treasorer as the Bishop. The church official wonders who the leaders are and observes that should they be noble, they should deserve pity. After learning that the rebellion consists of commoners, the Bishop tells King Richard II that he must be resolute in defeating the rebellion in order to maintain his authority. The Archbishop is named in the King's retinue in a later scene but has no further lines. Historically, one of King's supporters beheaded during the revolt but no direct mention is made of this event though King Richard II and others allude to the loss of followers.


The "Lord Maior" recites the evils that the rebels have committed including frightening the Queen Mother, killing noblemen, and burning records. He believes that the greatest harm is to England for challenging the king at all, thereby treating the king as if he were a person. He promises to protect King Richard II with a guard while he is in Smithfield. Later, he reports that the rebels from Essex have gone home, leaving only the worst of the group, i.e. those from Kent. The Lord Mayor kills Jacke Strawe because of Strawe's disrespect for the King and his nobles. He urges the soldiers to remain loyal to the king. After the rebels are defeated, the Lord Mayor explains that he helped defeat the commoners out of his sense of duty and loyalty. King Richard II expresses appreciation and knights him for his service as Sir William Walworth, which prompts the Lord Mayor to vow perpetual loyalty to the king.


He establishes that King Richard II needs tax money to conduct war against France. He offers to hold the King's Manor House at Greenwich against any attack. Historically, the Lord Treasorer is one of King's supporters beheaded during the revolt, but no direct mention is made of this event though King Richard II and others allude to the loss of followers.


A messenger brings news that the commoners have begun their rebellion in Kent both to the Lord Treasorer, Lord Archbishop, the Secretary, and to King Richard II and the Queen.


Nobs dismisses the consequences of rebellion and urges the commoners to avenge the violation of Strawe's daughter by the tax collector. He identifies himself as a boy who may escape the gallows by being unnoticed. In soliloquy, he speaks about the importance of the rebellion even though it is doomed to failure. Nobs offers information about the location and strength of the King's supporters. In a comic interlude, he cuts off and steals the body of the goose Tom Miller plans to eat. Later, he warns commoners that the King's pardon will protect them from being hanged. Finally, he reports that supporters of the rebellion have gone home.


Refers to himself as John Ball. He argues that England is weaker because of social ranks, which God does not. Further, he contends that equal division of resources will eliminate the social ills of land ownership, illness, hunger, and the like. Agrees with Nobs' skepticism that the King's pardon will protect the commoners. Tom Miller predicts that following Ball's advice will result in being hanged, and Ball is one of two rebels actually sentenced to be hanged (Tyler being the other).


She bemoans the impact of the rebellion on King Richard II. The Queen Mother wonders why Sir John Morton is with the rebels because he is worthy and, therefore, should not be with them. After Sir John Morton agrees to act as a go-between to learn what the commoners want, the Queen wishes him well. She encounters Tom Miller as he is trying to determine his fate by throwing his staff and verbalizes the action of most of the commoners who have gone home after the first general pardon. Agrees to speak to King Richard II for Tom Miller's safety.


King Richard II expresses surprise that anyone could possibly want to rebel against his rule, but assures the Queen Mother that he will keep her safe regardless of the cost to himself. He assumes that coercion is the only reason a gentleman would be involved with the commoners. He sends Sir John Morton to tell the commoners that he will hear their grievances on the Thames. Immediately after making the promise, he sends his mother to the Tower of London and leaves for Kent. Later, he expresses irritation that the commoners cannot speak or behave in an orderly manner. In act three, he talks about suffering great injury from his own people who have taken away his honor and his supporters, but he resolves to calm the rebellion with a personal meeting. He rejects the offer of troops from the Lord Mayor. After hearing from the commoners briefly, he promises a general pardon and sends them home as a condition, saying that the pardons will follow. After the leaders stay and continue the rebellion, he takes their actions as ingratitude and sends Sir John Newton to discover what else they want. Jacke Strawe wants both Newton's dagger and his sword. The King says Strawe may have the sword (dagger apparently). When Newton refuses to part with the sword, the King appeals to the Lord Mayor for assistance. After the Mayor kills Strawe, the King promises him appreciation and tells the rest of the commoners that he (the King) will be their leader and withdraws to safety. When the mayhem which is not directly represented on the stage subsides, King Richard II restates his offer of a general pardon. However, he plans to punish the two remaining leaders, although others see it as being unduly generous to pardon the rest. He expresses appreciation to the Lord Mayor of London by knighting him as Sir William Walworth and adds symbols to London's coat of arms in permanent recognition of its loyalty.


The "Secretarie" speaks very cautiously to the Lord Archbishop and Lord Treasorer about the benefit of listening to the opinions of the people. After hearing that the commoners are in revolt against King Richard II, the Secretary observes that the danger must and will be overcome but at some cost to the country. He compares the King to the sun that may be eclipsed with clouds but cannot be outshone by lesser lights, i.e. stars. Like others of the nobles who appear early in the play, this character, too, is named but has no lines later and disappears without direct explanation when the scene shifts to London.


After the rebels are defeated, King Richard II knights the Lord Mayor as Sir William Walworth, for his loyalty and bravery.


They urge the gatekeepers to open the gates to avoid worse damage.


Spencer wonders why King Richard II has returned and agrees that the commoners are fearful because of their number.


Strawe confronts the tax collector for exceeding his office. As part of his duties, the tax collector has tried to confirm the age of Jacke Strawe's daughter by searching her to see whether she has developed pubic hair. Strawe kills him both for this outrage and for collecting the taxes.


Also identified as the "Clowne" and calls himself Captain Thomas Miller. Speaks many of the comic lines in the play. One of the commoners who plan to confront the aristocracy. He shows little respect for clergy, and vows to fight aristocracy even if doing so will mean all the commoners are hanged. He identifies himself as small enough to hide in a quart pot, and later brings a goose on stage that he plans to eat while the group is camped at Blacke Heath. While he is talking about the future positions of the commoners and is oblivious to what is happening, Nobs cuts away the goose's body, leaving Miller to observe that the goose has flown. Miller continues to refer to the goose in later scenes. He burns official debt records. In a soliloquy, Miller observes that people should accept their fates cheerfully because being sorry is foolish. Immediately afterwards he begs the Queen to intercede on his behalf to avoid being hanged. He asserts that he should live in order to keep the alehouses in business. He is swayed by the group to continue with the revolt but warns that they will all hang. Miller is one of the rebels pardoned.


Tyler joins the group of commoners who plan to confront the aristocracy and take over their powers. He advocates immediate action while they have momentum, and prods Strawe to confront King Richard II in London. Tyler tells King Richard II that commoners are as worthy as nobility to receive the king's favors and, perhaps because of his outspokenness, is one of two members of the group to be hanged (Ball being the other). Before his death, he reminds Morton that Tyler saved Morton from some unspecified difficulty at Rochester Castell. He maintains his sense of humor throughout.