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Richard III


ACT I SCENE IVLondon. The Tower.
BRAKENBURYWhy looks your grace so heavily today?
CLARENCEO, I have pass’d a miserable night,
So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
I would not spend another such a night, 5
Though ’twere to buy a world of happy days,
So full of dismal terror was the time!
BRAKENBURYWhat was your dream? I long to hear you tell it.
CLARENCEMethoughts that I had broken from the Tower,
And was embark’d to cross to Burgundy; 10
And, in my company, my brother Gloucester;
Who from my cabin tempted me to walk
Upon the hatches: thence we looked toward England,
And cited up a thousand fearful times,
During the wars of York and Lancaster 15
That had befall’n us. As we paced along
Upon the giddy footing of the hatches,
Methought that Gloucester stumbled; and, in falling,
Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard,
Into the tumbling billows of the main. 20
Lord, Lord! methought, what pain it was to drown!
What dreadful noise of waters in mine ears!
What ugly sights of death within mine eyes!
Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw’d upon; 25
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scatter’d in the bottom of the sea:
Some lay in dead men’s skulls; and, in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept, 30
As ’twere in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
Which woo’d the slimy bottom of the deep,
And mock’d the dead bones that lay scatter’d by.
BRAKENBURYHad you such leisure in the time of death
To gaze upon the secrets of the deep? 35
CLARENCEMethought I had; and often did I strive
To yield the ghost: but still the envious flood
Kept in my soul, and would not let it forth
To seek the empty, vast and wandering air;
But smother’d it within my panting bulk, 40
Which almost burst to belch it in the sea.
BRAKENBURYAwaked you not with this sore agony?
CLARENCEO, no, my dream was lengthen’d after life;
O, then began the tempest to my soul,
Who pass’d, methought, the melancholy flood, 45
With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
The first that there did greet my stranger soul,
Was my great father-in-law, renowned Warwick;
Who cried aloud, ‘What scourge for perjury 50
Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?’
And so he vanish’d: then came wandering by

A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
Dabbled in blood; and he squeak’d out aloud,
‘Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence, 55
That stabb’d me in the field by Tewksbury;
Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!’
With that, methoughts, a legion of foul fiends
Environ’d me about, and howled in mine ears
Such hideous cries, that with the very noise 60
I trembling waked, and for a season after
Could not believe but that I was in hell,
Such terrible impression made the dream.
BRAKENBURYNo marvel, my lord, though it affrighted you;
I promise, I am afraid to hear you tell it. 65
CLARENCEO Brakenbury, I have done those things,
Which now bear evidence against my soul,
For Edward’s sake; and see how he requites me!
O God! if my deep prayers cannot appease thee,
But thou wilt be avenged on my misdeeds, 70
Yet execute thy wrath in me alone,
O, spare my guiltless wife and my poor children!
I pray thee, gentle keeper, stay by me;
My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.
BRAKENBURYI will, my lord: God give your grace good rest! 75
CLARENCE sleeps.
Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
Makes the night morning, and the noon-tide night.
Princes have but their tides for their glories,
An outward honour for an inward toil;
And, for unfelt imagination, 80
They often feel a world of restless cares:
So that, betwixt their tides and low names,
There’s nothing differs but the outward fame.
Enter the two Murderers.
First MurdererHo! who’s here?
BRAKENBURYIn God’s name what are you, and how came you hither? 85
First MurdererI would speak with Clarence, and I came hither on my legs.
BRAKENBURYYea, are you so brief?
Second MurdererO sir, it is better to be brief than tedious. Show
him our commission; talk no more. 90
A paper is delivered to BRAKENBURY who reads it.
BRAKENBURYI am, in this, commanded to deliver
The noble Duke of Clarence to your hands:
I will not reason what is meant hereby,
Because I will be guiltless of the meaning. 95
Here are the keys, there sits the duke asleep:
I’ll to the king; and signify to him
That thus I have resign’d my charge to you.
First MurdererYou may, it is a point of wisdom: fare you well. 100
Second MurdererWhat, shall we stab him as he sleeps?
First MurdererNo; then he will say ’twas done cowardly, when he wakes.
Second MurdererWhen he wakes! why, fool, he shall never wake till
the judgment-day. 105
First MurdererWhy, then he will say we stabbed him sleeping.
Second MurdererThe urging of that word ‘judgment’ hath bred a kind
of remorse in me.
First MurdererWhat, art thou afraid?
Second MurdererNot to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be
damned for killing him, from which no warrant can defend us.
First MurdererI thought thou hadst been resolute.
Second MurdererSo I am, to let him live.
First MurdererBack to the Duke of Gloucester, tell him so.
Second MurdererNay, I pray thee, stay a little: I hope my holy humour 120
will change; ’twas wont to hold me but while one
would tell twenty.
First MurdererHow dost thou feel thyself now?
Second Murderer‘Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet
within me.
First MurdererRemember our reward, when the deed is done.
Second Murderer‘Zounds, he dies: I had forgot the reward.
First MurdererWhere is thy conscience now? 130
Second MurdererIn the Duke of Gloucester’s purse.
First MurdererSo when he opens his purse to give us our reward,
thy conscience flies out.
Second MurdererLet it go; there’s few or none will entertain it.
First MurdererHow if it come to thee again?
Second MurdererI’ll not meddle with it: it is a dangerous thing: it
makes a man a coward: a man cannot steal, but it
accuseth him; he cannot swear, but it cheques him; 140
he cannot lie with his neighbour’s wife, but it
detects him: ’tis a blushing shamefast spirit that
mutinies in a man’s bosom; it fills one full of
obstacles: it made me once restore a purse of gold
that I found; it beggars any man that keeps it: it
is turned out of all towns and cities for a
dangerous thing; and every man that means to live
well endeavours to trust to himself and to live
without it.
First Murderer‘Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me
not to kill the duke.
Second MurdererTake the devil in thy mind, and relieve him not: he 150
would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.
First MurdererTut, I am strong-framed, he cannot prevail with me,
I warrant thee.
Second MurdererSpoke like a tail fellow that respects his
reputation. Come, shall we to this gear?
First MurdererTake him over the costard with the hilts of thy
sword, and then we will chop him in the malmsey-butt
in the next room. 160
Second MurdererO excellent devise! make a sop of him.
First MurdererHark! he stirs: shall I strike?
Second MurdererNo, first let’s reason with him.
CLARENCEWhere art thou, keeper? give me a cup of wine.
Second murdererYou shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.
CLARENCEIn God’s name, what art thou? 170
Second MurdererA man, as you are.
CLARENCEBut not, as I am, royal.
Second MurdererNor you, as we are, loyal.
CLARENCEThy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.
Second MurdererMy voice is now the king’s, my looks mine own.
CLARENCEHow darkly and how deadly dost thou speak!
Your eyes do menace me: why look you pale?
Who sent you hither? Wherefore do you come?
BothTo, to, to– 180
CLARENCETo murder me?
BothAy, ay.
CLARENCEYou scarcely have the hearts to tell me so,
And therefore cannot have the hearts to do it.
Wherein, my friends, have I offended you?
First MurdererOffended us you have not, but the king.
CLARENCEI shall be reconciled to him again.
Second MurdererNever, my lord; therefore prepare to die. 190
CLARENCEAre you call’d forth from out a world of men
To slay the innocent? What is my offence?
Where are the evidence that do accuse me?
What lawful quest have given their verdict up
Unto the frowning judge? or who pronounced
The bitter sentence of poor Clarence’ death?
Before I be convict by course of law,
To threaten me with death is most unlawful.
I charge you, as you hope to have redemption
By Christ’s dear blood shed for our grievous sins, 200
That you depart and lay no hands on me
The deed you undertake is damnable.
First MurdererWhat we will do, we do upon command.
Second MurdererAnd he that hath commanded is the king.
CLARENCEErroneous vassal! the great King of kings
Hath in the tables of his law commanded
That thou shalt do no murder: and wilt thou, then,
Spurn at his edict and fulfil a man’s? 210
Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hands,
To hurl upon their heads that break his law.
Second MurdererAnd that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee,
For false forswearing and for murder too:
Thou didst receive the holy sacrament,
To fight in quarrel of the house of Lancaster.
First MurdererAnd, like a traitor to the name of God,
Didst break that vow; and with thy treacherous blade
Unrip’dst the bowels of thy sovereign’s son. 220
Second MurdererWhom thou wert sworn to cherish and defend.
First MurdererHow canst thou urge God’s dreadful law to us,
When thou hast broke it in so dear degree?
CLARENCEAlas! for whose sake did I that ill deed?
For Edward, for my brother, for his sake: Why, sirs,
He sends ye not to murder me for this
For in this sin he is as deep as I.
If God will be revenged for this deed.
O, know you yet, he doth it publicly,
Take not the quarrel from his powerful arm; 230
He needs no indirect nor lawless course
To cut off those that have offended him.
First MurdererWho made thee, then, a bloody minister,
When gallant-springing brave Plantagenet,
That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?
CLARENCEMy brother’s love, the devil, and my rage.
First MurdererThy brother’s love, our duty, and thy fault,
Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.
CLARENCEOh, if you love my brother, hate not me;
I am his brother, and I love him well. 240
If you be hired for meed, go back again,
And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,
Who shall reward you better for my life
Than Edward will for tidings of my death.
Second MurdererYou are deceived, your brother Gloucester hates you.
CLARENCEO, no, he loves me, and he holds me dear:
Go you to him from me.
BothAy, so we will.
CLARENCETell him, when that our princely father York
Bless’d his three sons with his victorious arm,
And charged us from his soul to love each other, 250
He little thought of this divided friendship:
Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
First MurdererAy, millstones; as be lesson’d us to weep.
CLARENCEO, do not slander him, for he is kind.
First MurdererRight,
As snow in harvest. Thou deceivest thyself:
‘Tis he that sent us hither now to slaughter thee.
CLARENCEIt cannot be; for when I parted with him,
He hugg’d me in his arms, and swore, with sobs,
That he would labour my delivery.
Second MurdererWhy, so he doth, now he delivers you 260
From this world’s thraldom to the joys of heaven.
First MurdererMake peace with God, for you must die, my lord.
CLARENCEHast thou that holy feeling in thy soul,
To counsel me to make my peace with God,
And art thou yet to thy own soul so blind,
That thou wilt war with God by murdering me?
Ah, sirs, consider, he that set you on
To do this deed will hate you for the deed.
Second MurdererWhat shall we do?
CLARENCERelent, and save your souls.
First MurdererRelent! ’tis cowardly and womanish. 270
CLARENCENot to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.
Which of you, if you were a prince’s son,
Being pent from liberty, as I am now,
if two such murderers as yourselves came to you,
Would not entreat for life?
My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks:
O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
Come thou on my side, and entreat for me,
As you would beg, were you in my distress
A begging prince what beggar pities not? 280
Second MurdererLook behind you, my lord.
First MurdererTake that, and that: if all this will not do,
Stabs him.
I’ll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.
Exit, with the body.
Second MurdererA bloody deed, and desperately dispatch’d!
How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands
Of this most grievous guilty murder done!
Re-enter First Murderer.
First MurdererHow now! what mean’st thou, that thou help’st me not?
By heavens, the duke shall know how slack thou art!
Second MurdererI would he knew that I had saved his brother!
Take thou the fee, and tell him what I say; 290
For I repent me that the duke is slain.
First MurdererSo do not I: go, coward as thou art.
Now must I hide his body in some hole,
Until the duke take order for his burial:
And when I have my meed, I must away;
For this will out, and here I must not stay.

Richard III, Act 2, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 4

From King Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard.

Abbreviations. — A.-S. = Anglo-Saxon: M.E. = Middle English (from the 13th to the 15th century) ; Fr. = French ; Ger. = German ; Gr. = Greek ; Cf. = compare (Lat. confer) ; Abbott refers to the excellent Shakespearean Grammar of Dr. Abbott; Schmidt, to Dr. Schmidt’s invaluable Shakespeare Lexicon.

1. Heavily, sadly.

4. Faithful, as opposed to infidel or faithless.

5. Such a night. The a is inserted pleonastically here.

9. Methought. The reading of the folios is methoughts, the s having been incorrectly added to assimilate the termination to that of methinks.

27. Unvalued, invaluable.

37. To yield the ghost, to die. Envious, malignant, spiteful.

40. Bulk, body.

45. The melancholy flood is the river Styx, which flows seven times round the infernal regions.

46. Ferryman. Charon, whose task it is to convey in his boat the shades of the dead across the rivers of the lower world.

55. Fleeting, inconstant.

71. In me, on me. –

80. Instead of the dreams they form but never realize.

94. Guiltless, innocent of, ignorant of.

119. Tell, count. A.-S. tellan, to number, talu, a number, narrative. Allied words are Dutch taal, speech; Icelandic tal, speech; German zahl, number.

141. Shamefast, modest. The word is now spelt shame- faced by a singular confusion with face, due to the fact that shame is commonly indicated by the face.

151. Insinuate, to meddle with.

155. Tall, stout, spirited.

158. Take him = strike him. Costard, a slang expression for the head.

160. According to Holinshed (Edward IV., p. 346, 1808 ed.), “finallie the duke was cast into the Tower, and therewith adiudged for a traitor, and priuilie drowned in a butt of malmesie.”

166-176. The uses of thou and you may be seen very clearly in this passage. Thou is the customary address from superiors to inferiors, and is expressive, besides, of any excitement or sensibility, of familiar tenderness as well as of anger; of reverence as well as of contempt. Thus the constant address of Venus to Adonis in Shakespeare’s poem is thou; of Adonis to Venus, you.

193. Evidence = the witnesses.

194. Quest, inquest or jury.

197. Convict, convicted.

215. Forswearing, perjury.

220. Unrip means simply to cut open.

220. Dear, used often as a kind of emphatic adjective, the sense being, in so great a degree.

229. For you the quartos read yeYe was originally the nominative form; you, the accusative. This distinction, though observed in our version of the Bible, was disregarded in the usage of Elizabethan writers.

234. Gallant-springing, putting forth the promise of beauty like buds opening in the Spring.

235. Novice, one new to anything, just entering on life.

236. This is love lor my brother.

238. Provoke, impel.

253. MillstonesTo weep millstones was a common proverb = not to weep at all, to remain hard and unfeeling as a stone. Lesson’d, taught. Any noun or adjective, can be converted into a verb by the Elizabethan writers, generally in an active signification.

255. The reference is to Proverbs, 26:1 : “As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honor is not seemly for a fool.” The first murderer understands kind in the sense of natural or foolish.

259. Labor, bring about.

263. Turning as he speaks to the second murderer.


How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard, 1886.

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