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Richard III


ACT II SCENE IIILondon. A street.
Enter two Citizens meeting.
First CitizenNeighbour, well met: whither away so fast?
Second CitizenI promise you, I scarcely know myself:
Hear you the news abroad?
First CitizenAy, that the king is dead.
Second CitizenBad news, by’r lady; seldom comes the better: 5
I fear, I fear ’twill prove a troublous world.
Enter another Citizen.
Third CitizenNeighbours, God speed!
First CitizenGive you good morrow, sir.
Third CitizenDoth this news hold of good King Edward’s death?
Second CitizenAy, sir, it is too true; God help the while! 10
Third CitizenThen, masters, look to see a troublous world.
First CitizenNo, no; by God’s good grace his son shall reign.
Third CitizenWoe to the land that’s govern’d by a child!
Second CitizenIn him there is a hope of government,
That in his nonage council under him, 15
And in his full and ripen’d years himself,
No doubt, shall then and till then govern well.
First CitizenSo stood the state when Henry the Sixth
Was crown’d in Paris but at nine months old.
Third CitizenStood the state so? No, no, good friends, God wot;
For then this land was famously enrich’d
With politic grave counsel; then the king
Had virtuous uncles to protect his grace. 23
First CitizenWhy, so hath this, both by the father and mother.
Third CitizenBetter it were they all came by the father,
Or by the father there were none at all;
For emulation now, who shall be nearest,
Will touch us all too near, if God prevent not.
O, full of danger is the Duke of Gloucester!
And the queen’s sons and brothers haught and proud:
And were they to be ruled, and not to rule,
This sickly land might solace as before. 32
First CitizenCome, come, we fear the worst; all shall be well.
Third CitizenWhen clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?
Untimely storms make men expect a dearth.
All may be well; but, if God sort it so,
‘Tis more than we deserve, or I expect.
Second CitizenTruly, the souls of men are full of dread:
Ye cannot reason almost with a man 41
That looks not heavily and full of fear.
Third CitizenBefore the times of change, still is it so:
By a divine instinct men’s minds mistrust
Ensuing dangers; as by proof, we see
The waters swell before a boisterous storm.
But leave it all to God. whither away?
Second CitizenMarry, we were sent for to the justices.
Third CitizenAnd so was I: I’ll bear you company.

Richard III, Act 2, Scene 4


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 3

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.


2. Promise, assure.

5. By ‘r lady, that is, by the Holy Virgin. Seldom comes the better, a proverb meaning good news is scarce. The here is the ablative of the demonstrative, and signifies with comparatives the measure of excess or defect. The sooner the better = by how much the sooner by so much the better, Lat. quo citius, eo melius.

11. See Ecclesiastes 10 : 16.

15. Nonage, minority.

18. God wot, God knows. Wot is the third person singular present indicative of the verb. M. E. infinitive witen; present tense (1) Iwot, (2) thou wost (later wottest, (3) he wot (later wotteth), plural witen; past tense, I wiste; past participle, wist. The A.-S. infinitive iswitan; present (1) Ic wat, (2) thu wast, (3) he wat, plural witen; past, wiste (also wisse), plural wiston; past participle, wist. Gerund, to witanne (modern English, to wit).

23. Virtuous uncles, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester.

32. Solace, enjoy comfort.

41. Cannot . . . almost = can hardly. Almost frequently follows the word which it qualifies.


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