John of Gaunt
Bolingbroke's father serves as a kind of spiritual touchstone for the play. Near death, he is impatient with the prevarications of the king and his courtiers; he accuses them of undermining the solid state of England. His rousing patriotic speeches put the political theme of the play directly before the audience. When Richard insults old Gaunt, it is tantamount to sacrilege and treason. When Richard, in effect, steals Gaunt's wealth after his death, it gives Henry Bolingbroke more than enough personal reason for rebelling against the king.