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

Act I. Scene II.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

London.Another Street.

Enter the corpse of KING HENRY THE SIXTH, borne in an open coffin; Gentlemen bearing halberds to guard it; and LADY ANNE, as mourner.

Anne.Set down, set down your honourable load,

If honour may be shrouded in a hearse,

Whilst I a while obsequiously lament

The untimely fall of virtuous Lancaster.

Poor key-cold figure of a holy king!

Pale ashes of the house of Lancaster!

Thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood!

Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost,

To hear the lamentations of poor Anne,

Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughter’d son,

Stabb’d by the self-same hand that made these wounds!

Lo, in these windows that let forth thy life,

I pour the helpless balm of my poor eyes.

O! cursed be the hand that made these holes;

Cursed the heart that had the heart to do it!

Cursed the blood that let this blood from hence!

More direful hap betide that hated wretch,

That makes us wretched by the death of thee,

Than I can wish to adders, spiders, toads,

Or any creeping venom’d thing that lives!

If ever he have child, abortive be it,

Prodigious, and untimely brought to light,

Whose ugly and unnatural aspect

May fright the hopeful mother at the view;

And that be heir to his unhappiness!

If ever he have wife, let her be made

More miserable by the death of him

Than I am made by my young lord and thee!

Come, now toward Chertsey with your holy load,

Taken from Paul’s to be interred there;

And still, as you are weary of the weight,

Rest you, whiles I lament King Henry’s corse.[The Bearers take up the corpse and advance.


Glo.Stay, you that bear the corse, and set it down.

Anne.What black magician conjures up this fiend,

To stop devoted charitable deeds?

Glo.Villains! set down the corse; or, by Saint Paul,

I’ll make a corse of him that disobeys.

First Gent.My lord, stand back, and let the coffin pass.

Glo.Unmanner’d dog! stand thou when I command:

Advance thy halberd higher than my breast,

Or, by Saint Paul, I’ll strike thee to my foot,

And spurn upon thee, beggar, for thy boldness.[The Bearers set down the coffin.

Anne.What! do you tremble? are you all afraid?

Alas! I blame you not; for you are mortal,

And mortal eyes cannot endure the devil.

Avaunt! thou dreadful minister of hell,

Thou hadst but power over his mortal body,

His soul thou canst not have: therefore, be gone.

Glo.Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curst.

Anne.Foul devil, for God’s sake hence, and trouble us not;

For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell,

Fill’d it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.

If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,

Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.

O! gentlemen; see, see! dead Henry’s wounds

Open their congeal’d mouths and bleed afresh.

Blush, blush, thou lump of foul deformity,

For ’tis thy presence that exhales this blood

From cold and empty veins, where no blood dwells:

Thy deed, inhuman and unnatural,

Provokes this deluge most unnatural.

O God! which this blood mad’st, revenge his death;

O earth! which this blood drink’st, revenge his death;

Either heaven with lightning strike the murderer dead,

Or earth, gape open wide, and eat him quick,

As thou dost swallow up this good king’s blood,

Which his hell-govern’d arm hath butchered!

Glo.Lady, you know no rules of charity,

Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.

Anne.Villain, thou know’st no law of God nor man:

No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.

Glo.But I know none, and therefore am no beast.

Anne.O! wonderful, when devils tell the truth.

Glo.More wonderful when angels are so angry.

Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman,

Of these supposed evils, to give me leave,

By circumstance, but to acquit myself.

Anne.Vouchsafe, diffus’d infection of a man,

For these known evils, but to give me leave,

By circumstance, to curse thy cursed self.

Glo.Fairer than tongue can name thee, let me have

Some patient leisure to excuse myself.

Anne.Fouler than heart can think thee, thou canst make

No excuse current, but to hang thyself.

Glo.By such despair I should accuse myself.

Anne.And by despairing shouldst thou stand excus’d

For doing worthy vengeance on thyself,

Which didst unworthy slaughter upon others.

Glo.Say that I slew them not.

Anne.Then say they were not slain:

But dead they are, and, devilish slave, by thee.

Glo.I did not kill your husband.

Anne.Why, then he is alive.

Glo.Nay, he is dead; and slain by Edward’s hand.

Anne.In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw

Thy murderous falchion smoking in his blood;

The which thou once didst bend against her breast,

But that thy brothers beat aside the point.

Glo.I was provoked by her sland’rous tongue,

That laid their guilt upon my guiltless shoulders.

Anne.Thou wast provoked by thy bloody mind,

That never dreamt on aught but butcheries.

Didst thou not kill this king?

Glo.I grant ye.

Anne.Dost grant me, hedge-hog? Then, God grant me too

Thou mayst be damned for that wicked deed!

O! he was gentle, mild, and virtuous.

Glo.The fitter for the King of heaven, that hath him.

Anne.He is in heaven, where thou shalt never come.

Glo.Let him thank me, that help’d to send him thither;

For he was fitter for that place than earth.

Anne.And thou unfit for any place but hell.

Glo.Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.

Anne.Some dungeon.

Glo.Your bed-chamber.

Anne.Ill rest betide the chamber where thou liest!

Glo.So will it, madam, till I lie with you.

Anne.I hope so.

Glo.I know so, But, gentle Lady Anne,

To leave this keen encounter of our wits,

And fall somewhat into a slower method,

Is not the causer of the timeless deaths

Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,

As blameful as the executioner?

Anne.Thou wast the cause, and most accurs’d effect.

Glo.Your beauty was the cause of that effect;

Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleep

To undertake the death of all the world,

So might I live one hour in your sweet bosom.

Anne.If I thought that, I tell thee, homicide,

These nails should rend that beauty from my cheeks.

Glo.These eyes could not endure that beauty’s wrack;

You should not blemish it if I stood by:

As all the world is cheered by the sun,

So I by that; it is my day, my life.

Anne.Black night o’ershade thy day, and death thy life!

Glo.Curse not thyself, fair creature; thou art both.

Anne.I would I were, to be reveng’d on thee.

Glo.It is a quarrel most unnatural,

To be reveng’d on him that loveth thee.

Anne.It is a quarrel just and reasonable,

To be reveng’d on him that kill’d my husband.

Glo.He that bereft thee, lady, of thy husband,

Did it to help thee to a better husband.

Anne.His better doth not breathe upon the earth.

Glo.He lives that loves thee better than he could.

Anne.Name him.


Anne.Why, that was he.

Glo.The self-same name, but one of better nature.

Anne.Where is he?

Glo.Here.[She spitteth at him.]Why dost thou spit at me?

Anne.Would it were mortal poison, for thy sake!

Glo.Never came poison from so sweet a place.

Anne.Never hung poison on a fouler toad.

Out of my sight! thou dost infect mine eyes.

Glo.Thine eyes, sweet lady, have infected mine.

Anne.Would they were basilisks, to strike thee dead!

Glo.I would they were, that I might die at once;

For now they kill me with a living death.

Those eyes of thine from mine have drawn salt tears,

Sham’d their aspects with store of childish drops;

These eyes, which never shed remorseful tear;

No, when my father York and Edward wept

To hear the piteous moan that Rutland made

When black-fac’d Clifford shook his sword at him;

Nor when thy war-like father like a child,

Told the sad story of my father’s death,

And twenty times made pause to sob and weep,

That all the standers-by had wet their cheeks,

Like trees bedash’d with rain: in that sad time,

My manly eyes did scorn an humble tear;

And what these sorrows could not thence exhale,

Thy beauty hath, and made them blind with weeping.

I never su’d to friend, nor enemy;

My tongue could never learn sweet smoothing words;

But, now thy beauty is propos’d my fee,

My proud heart sues, and prompts my tongue to speak.[She looks scornfully at him.

Teach not thy lip such scorn, for it was made

For kissing, lady, not for such contempt.

If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive,

Lo! here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword;

Which if thou please to hide in this true breast,

And let the soul forth that adoreth thee,

I lay it open to the deadly stroke,

And humbly beg the death upon my knee.[He lays his breast open: she offers at it with his sword.

Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry;

But ’twas thy beauty that provoked me.

Nay, now dispatch; ’twas I that stabb’d young Edward;[She again offers at his breast.

But ’twas thy heavenly face that set me on.[She lets fall the sword.

Take up the sword again, or take up me.

Anne.Arise, dissembler: though I wish thy death,

I will not be thy executioner.

Glo.Then bid me kill myself, and I will do it.

Anne.I have already.

Glo.That was in thy rage:

Speak it again, and, even with the word,

This hand, which for thy love did kill thy love,

Shall, for thy love, kill a far truer love:

To both their deaths shalt thou be accessary.

Anne.I would I knew thy heart.

Glo.’Tis figur’d in my tongue.

Anne.I fear me both are false.

Glo.Then never man was true.

Anne.Well, well, put up your sword.

Glo.Say, then, my peace is made.

Anne.That shalt thou know hereafter.

Glo.But shall I live in hope?

Anne.All men, I hope, live so.

Glo.Vouchsafe to wear this ring.

Anne.To take is not to give.[She puts on the ring.

Glo.Look, how my ring encompasseth thy finger,

Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;

Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.

And if thy poor devoted servant may

But beg one favour at thy gracious hand,

Thou dost confirm his happiness for ever.

Anne.What is it?

Glo.That it may please you leave these sad designs

To him that hath most cause to be a mourner,

And presently repair to Crosby-place;

Where, after I have solemnly interr’d

At Chertsey monastery this noble king,

And wet his grave with my repentant tears,

I will with all expedient duty see you:

For divers unknown reasons, I beseech you,

Grant me this boon.

Anne.With all my heart; and much it joys me too

To see you are become so penitent.

Tressel and Berkeley, go along with me.

Glo.Bid me farewell.

Anne.’Tis more than you deserve;

But since you teach me how to flatter you,

Imagine I have said farewell already.[Exeunt LADY ANNE, TRESSEL, and BERKELEY.

Glo.Sirs, take up the corse.

Gent.Toward Chertsey, noble lord?

Glo.No, to White-Friars; there attend my coming.[Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER.

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?

Was ever woman in this humour won?

I’ll have her; but I will not keep her long.

What! I, that kill’d her husband, and his father,

To take her in her heart’s extremest hate;

With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,

The bleeding witness of her hatred by;

Having God, her conscience, and these bars against me,

And nothing I to back my suit withal

But the plain devil and dissembling looks,

And yet to win her, all the world to nothing!


Hath she forgot already that brave prince,

Edward, her lord, whom I, some three months since,

Stabb’d in my angry mood at Tewksbury?

A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman,

Fram’d in the prodigality of nature,

Young, valiant, wise, and, no doubt, right royal,

The spacious world cannot again afford:

And will she yet abase her eyes on me,

That cropp’d the golden prime of this sweet prince,

And made her widow to a woeful bed?

On me, whose all not equals Edward’s moiety?

On me, that halt and am misshapen thus?

My dukedom to a beggarly denier

I do mistake my person all this while:

Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot,

Myself to be a marvellous proper man.

I’ll be at charges for a looking-glass,

And entertain a score or two of tailors,

To study fashions to adorn my body:

Since I am crept in favour with myself,

I will maintain it with some little cost.

But first I’ll turn you fellow in his grave,

And then return lamenting to my love.

Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass,

That I may see my shadow as I pass.[Exit.