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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act V. Scene V.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second

Pomfret.The Dungeon of the Castle.


K. Rich.I have been studying how I may compare

This prison where I live unto the world:

And for because the world is populous,

And here is not a creature but myself,

I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out.

My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul;

My soul the father: and these two beget

A generation of still-breeding thoughts,

And these same thoughts people this little world

In humours like the people of this world,

For no thought is contented. The better sort,

As thoughts of things divine, are intermix’d

With scruples, and do set the word itself

Against the word:

As thus, ‘Come, little ones;’ and then again,

‘It is as hard to come as for a camel

To thread the postern of a needle’s eye.’

Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot

Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails

May tear a passage through the flinty ribs

Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls;

And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.

Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves

That they are not the first of fortune’s slaves,

Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars

Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,

That many have and others must sit there:

And in this thought they find a kind of ease,

Bearing their own misfortune on the back

Of such as have before endur’d the like.

Thus play I in one person many people,

And none contented: sometimes am I king;

Then treason makes me wish myself a beggar,

And so I am: then crushing penury

Persuades me I was better when a king;

Then am I king’d again; and by and by

Think that I am unking’d by Bolingbroke,

And straight am nothing: but whate’er I be,

Nor I nor any man that but man is

With nothing shall be pleas’d, till he be eas’d

With being nothing. Music do I hear?[Music.

Ha, ha! keep time. How sour sweet music is

When time is broke and no proportion kept!

So is it in the music of men’s lives.

And here have I the daintiness of ear

To check time broke in a disorder’d string;

But for the concord of my state and time

Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;

For now hath time made me his numbering clock:

My thoughts are minutes, and with sighs they jar

Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,

Whereto my finger, like a dial’s point,

Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.

Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is

Are clamorous groans, that strike upon my heart

Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans

Show minutes, times, and hours; but my time

Runs posting on in Bolingbroke’s proud joy,

While I stand fooling here, his Jack o’ the clock.

This music mads me: let it sound no more;

For though it have holp madmen to their wits,

In me it seems it will make wise men mad.

Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!

For ’tis a sign of love, and love to Richard

Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.

Enter Groom of the Stable.

Groom.Hail, royal prince!

K. Rich.Thanks, noble peer;

The cheapest of us is ten groats too dear.

What art thou? and how comest thou hither, man,

Where no man never comes but that sad dog

That brings me food to make misfortune live?

Groom.I was a poor groom of thy stable, king,

When thou wert king; who, travelling towards York,

With much ado at length have gotten leave

To look upon my sometimes royal master’s face.

O! how it yearn’d my heart when I beheld

In London streets, that coronation day

When Bolingbroke rode on roan Barbary,

That horse that thou so often hast bestrid,

That horse that I so carefully have dress’d.

K. Rich.Rode he on Barbary? Tell me, gentle friend,

How went he under him?

Groom.So proudly as if he disdain’d the ground.

K. Rich.So proud that Bolingbroke was on his back!

That jade hath eat bread from my royal hand;

This hand hath made him proud with clapping him.

Would he not stumble? Would he not fall down,—

Since pride must have a fall,—and break the neck

Of that proud man that did usurp his back?

Forgiveness, horse! why do I rail on thee,

Since thou, created to be aw’d by man,

Wast born to bear? I was not made a horse;

And yet I bear a burden like an ass,

Spur-gall’d and tir’d by jauncing Bolingbroke.

Enter Keeper, with a dish.

Keep.[To the Groom.]Fellow, give place; here is no longer stay.

K. Rich.If thou love me, ’tis time thou wert away.

Groom.What my tongue dares not, that my heart shall say.[Exit.

Keep.My lord, will ’t please you to fall to?

K. Rich.Taste of it first, as thou art wont to do.

Keep.My lord, I dare not: Sir Pierce of Exton, who lately came from the king, commands the contrary.

K. Rich.The devil take Henry of Lancaster, and thee!

Patience is stale, and I am weary of it.[Strikes the Keeper.

Keep.Help, help, help!

Enter EXTON and Servants, armed.

K. Rich.How now! what means death in this rude assault?

Villain, thine own hand yields thy death’s instrument.[Snatching a weapon and killing one.

Go thou and fill another room in hell.[He kills another: then EXTON strikes him down.

That hand shall burn in never-quenching fire

That staggers thus my person. Exton, thy fierce hand

Hath with the king’s blood stain’d the king’s own land.

Mount, mount, my soul! thy seat is up on high,

Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die.[Dies.

Exton.As full of valour as of royal blood:

Both have I spilt; O! would the deed were good;

For now the devil, that told me I did well,

Says that this deed is chronicled in hell.

This dead king to the living king I’ll bear.

Take hence the rest and give them burial here.[Exeunt.