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

Act I. Scene III.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

London.A Room in the Palace.


Riv.Have patience, madam: there’s no doubt his majesty

Will soon recover his accustom’d health.

Grey.In that you brook it ill, it makes him worse:

Therefore, for God’s sake, entertain good comfort,

And cheer his Grace with quick and merry words.

Q. Eliz.If he were dead, what would betide on me?

Grey.No other harm but loss of such a lord.

Q. Eliz.The loss of such a lord includes all harms.

Grey.The heavens have bless’d you with a goodly son,

To be your comforter when he is gone.

Q. Eliz.Ah! he is young; and his minority

Is put into the trust of Richard Gloucester,

A man that loves not me, nor none of you.

Riv.Is it concluded he shall be protector?

Q. Eliz.It is determin’d, not concluded yet:

But so it must be if the king miscarry.


Grey.Here come the Lords of Buckingham and Stanley.

Buck.Good time of day unto your royal Grace!

Stan.God make your majesty joyful as you have been!

Q. Eliz.The Countess Richmond, good my Lord of Stanley,

To your good prayer will scarcely say amen.

Yet, Stanley, notwithstanding she’s your wife,

And loves not me, be you, good lord, assur’d

I hate not you for her proud arrogance.

Stan.I do beseech you, either not believe

The envious slanders of her false accusers;

Or, if she be accus’d on true report,

Bear with her weakness, which, I think, proceeds

From way ward sickness, and no grounded malice.

Q. Eliz.Saw you the king to-day, my Lord of Stanley?

Stan.But now the Duke of Buckingham and I,

Are come from visiting his majesty.

Q. Eliz.What likelihood of his amendment, lords?

Buck.Madam, good hope; his Grace speaks cheerfully.

Q. Eliz.God grant him health! did you confer with him?

Buck.Ay, madam: he desires to make atonement

Between the Duke of Gloucester and your brothers,

And between them and my lord chamberlain;

And sent to warn them to his royal presence.

Q. Eliz.Would all were well! But that will never be.

I fear our happiness is at the highest.


Glo.They do me wrong, and I will not endure it:

Who are they that complain unto the king,

That I, forsooth, am stern and love them not?

By holy Paul, they love his Grace but lightly

That fill his ears with such dissentious rumours.

Because I cannot flatter and speak fair,

Smile in men’s faces, smooth, deceive, and cog,

Duck with French nods and apish courtesy,

I must be held a rancorous enemy.

Cannot a plain man live and think no harm,

But thus his simple truth must be abus’d

By silken, sly, insinuating Jacks?

Grey.To whom in all this presence speaks your Grace?

Glo.To thee, that hast nor honesty nor grace.

When have I injur’d thee? when done thee wrong?

Or thee? or thee? or any of your faction?

A plague upon you all! His royal person,—

Whom God preserve better than you would wish!—

Cannot be quiet scarce a breathing-while,

But you must trouble him with lewd complaints.

Q. Eliz.Brother of Gloucester, you mistake the matter.

The king, on his own royal disposition,

And not provok’d by any suitor else,

Aiming, belike, at your interior hatred,

That in your outward action shows itself

Against my children, brothers, and myself,

Makes him to send; that thereby he may gather

The ground of your ill-will, and so remove it.

Glo.I cannot tell; the world is grown so bad

That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch:

Since every Jack became a gentleman

There’s many a gentle person made a Jack.

Q. Eliz.Come, come, we know your meaning, brother Gloucester;

You envy my advancement and my friends’.

God grant we never may have need of you!

Glo.Meantime, God grants that we have need of you:

Our brother is imprison’d by your means,

Myself disgrac’d, and the nobility

Held in contempt; while great promotions

Are daily given to ennoble those

That scarce, some two days since, were worth a noble.

Q. Eliz.By him that rais’d me to this careful height

From that contented hap which I enjoy’d,

I never did incense his majesty

Against the Duke of Clarence, but have been

An earnest advocate to plead for him.

My lord, you do me shameful injury,

Falsely to draw me in these vile suspects.

Glo.You may deny that you were not the mean

Of my Lord Hastings’ late imprisonment.

Riv.She may, my lord; for—

Glo.She may, Lord Rivers! why, who knows not so?

She may do more, sir, than denying that:

She may help you to many fair preferments,

And then deny her aiding hand therein,

And lay those honours on your high deserts.

What may she not? She may,—ay, marry, may she,—

Riv.What, marry, may she?

Glo.What, marry, may she! marry with a king,

A bachelor, a handsome stripling too.

I wis your grandam had a worser match.

Q. Eliz.My Lord of Gloucester, I have too long borne

Your blunt upbraidings and your bitter scoffs;

By heaven, I will acquaint his majesty

Of those gross taunts that oft I have endur’d.

I had rather be a country servantmaid

Than a great queen, with this condition,

To be so baited, scorn’d, and stormed at:

Small joy have I in being England’s queen.

Enter QUEEN MARGARET, behind.

Q. Mar.[Apart.]And lessen’d be that small, God, I beseech him!

Thy honour, state, and seat is due to me.

Glo.What! threat you me with telling of the king?

Tell him, and spare not: look, what I have said

I will avouch in presence of the king:

I dare adventure to be sent to the Tower.

’Tis time to speak; my pains are quite forgot.

Q. Mar.[Apart.]Out, devil! I remember them too well:

Thou kill’dst my husband Henry in the Tower,

And Edward, my poor son, at Tewksbury.

Glo.Ere you were queen, ay, or your husband king,

I was a pack-horse in his great affairs,

A weeder-out of his proud adversaries,

A liberal rewarder of his friends;

To royalize his blood I spilt mine own.

Q. Mar.Ay, and much better blood than his, or thine.

Glo.In all which time you and your husband Grey

Were factious for the house of Lancaster;

And, Rivers, so were you. Was not your husband

In Margaret’s battle at Saint Alban’s slain?

Let me put in your minds, if you forget,

What you have been ere now, and what you are;

Withal, what I have been, and what I am.

Q. Mar.A murderous villain, and so still thou art.

Glo.Poor Clarence did forsake his father, Warwick,

Ay, and forswore himself,—which Jesu pardon!—

Q. Mar.Which God revenge!

Glo.To fight on Edward’s party for the crown;

And for his meed, poor lord, he is mew’d up.

I would to God my heart were flint, like Edward’s;

Or Edward’s soft and pitiful, like mine:

I am too childish-foolish for this world.

Q. Mar.Hie thee to hell for shame, and leave this world,

Thou cacodemon! there thy kingdom is.

Riv.My Lord of Gloucester, in those busy days

Which here you urge to prove us enemies,

We follow’d then our lord, our lawful king;

So should we you, if you should be our king.

GloIf I should be! I had rather be a pedlar.

Far be it from my heart the thought thereof!

Q. Eliz.As little joy, my lord, as you suppose

You should enjoy, were you this country’s king,

As little joy you may suppose in me

That I enjoy, being the queen thereof.

Q. Mar.As little joy enjoys the queen thereof;

For I am she, and altogether joyless.

I can no longer hold me patient.[Advancing.

Hear me, you wrangling pirates, that fall out

In sharing that which you have pill’d from me!

Which of you trembles not that looks on me?

If not, that, I being queen, you bow like subjects,

Yet that, by you depos’d, you quake like rebels?

Ah! gentle villain, do not turn away.

Glo.Foul wrinkled witch, what mak’st thou in my sight?

Q. Mar.But repetition of what thou hast marr’d;

That will I make before I let thee go.

Glo.Wert thou not banished on pain of death?

Q. Mar.I was; but I do find more pain in banishment

Than death can yield me here by my abode.

A husband and a son thou ow’st to me;

And thou, a kingdom; all of you, allegiance:

This sorrow that I have by right is yours,

And all the pleasures you usurp are mine.

Glo.The curse my noble father laid on thee,

When thou didst crown his war-like brows with paper,

And with thy scorns drew’st rivers from his eyes;

And then, to dry them, gav’st the duke a clout

Steep’d in the faultless blood of pretty Rutland;

His curses, then from bitterness of soul

Denounc’d against thee, are all fall’n upon thee;

And God, not we, hath plagu’d thy bloody deed.

Q. Eliz.So just is God, to right the innocent.

Hast.O! ’twas the foulest deed to slay that babe,

And the most merciless, that e’er was heard of.

Riv.Tyrants themselves wept when it was reported.

Dors.No man but prophesied revenge for it.

Buck.Northumberland, then present, wept to see it.

Q. Mar.What! were you snarling all before I came,

Ready to catch each other by the throat,

And turn you all your hatred now on me?

Did York’s dread curse prevail so much with heaven

That Henry’s death, my lovely Edward’s death,

Their kingdom’s loss, my woeful banishment,

Should all but answer for that peevish brat?

Can curses pierce the clouds and enter heaven?

Why then, give way, dull clouds, to my quick curses!

Though not by war, by surfeit die your king,

As ours by murder, to make him a king!

Edward, thy son, that now is Prince of Wales,

For Edward, my son, which was Prince of Wales,

Die in his youth by like untimely violence!

Thyself a queen, for me that was a queen,

Outlive thy glory, like my wretched self!

Long mayst thou live to wail thy children’s loss,

And see another, as I see thee now,

Deck’d in thy rights, as thou art stall’d in mine!

Long die thy happy days before thy death;

And, after many lengthen’d hours of grief,

Die neither mother, wife, nor England’s queen!

Rivers, and Dorset, you were standers by,—

And so wast thou, Lord Hastings,—when my son

Was stabb’d with bloody daggers: God, I pray him,

That none of you may live your natural age,

But by some unlook’d accident cut off.

Glo.Have done thy charm, thou hateful wither’d hag!

Q. Mar.And leave out thee? stay, dog, for thou shalt hear me.

If heaven have any grievous plague in store

Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee,

O! let them keep it till thy sins be ripe,

And then hurl down their indignation

On thee, the troubler of the poor world’s peace.

The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul!

Thy friends suspect for traitors while thou liv’st

And take deep traitors for thy dearest friends!

No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine,

Unless it be while some tormenting dream

Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils!

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!

Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity

The slave of nature and the son of hell!

Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb!

Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins!

Thou rag of honour! thou detested—


Q. Mar.Richard!


Q. Mar.I call thee not.

Glo.I cry thee mercy then, for I did think

That thou hadst call’d me all these bitter names.

Q. Mar.Why, so I did; but look’d for no reply.

O! let me make the period to my curse.

Glo.’Tis done by me, and ends in ‘Margaret.’

Q. Eliz.Thus have you breath’d your curse against yourself.

Q. Mar.Poor painted queen, vain flourish of my fortune!

Why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider,

Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?

Fool, fool! thou whet’st a knife to kill thyself.

The day will come that thou shalt wish for me

To help thee curse this pois’nous bunch-back’d toad.

Hast.False-boding woman, end thy frantic curse,

Lest to thy harm thou move our patience.

Q. Mar.Foul shame upon you! you have all mov’d mine.

Riv.Were you well serv’d, you would be taught your duty.

Q. Mar.To serve me well, you all should do me duty,

Teach me to be your queen, and you my subjects:

O! serve me well, and teach yourselves that duty.

Dor.Dispute not with her, she is lunatic.

Q. Mar.Peace! Master marquess, you are malapert:

Your fire-new stamp of honour is scarce current.

O! that your young nobility could judge

What ’twere to lose it, and be miserable!

They that stand high have many blasts to shake them,

And if they fall, they dash themselves to pieces.

Glo.Good counsel, marry: learn it, learn it, marquess.

Dor.It touches you, my lord, as much as me.

Glo.Ay, and much more; but I was born so high,

Our aery buildeth in the cedar’s top,

And dallies with the wind, and scorns the sun.

Q. Mar.And turns the sun to shade; alas! alas!

Witness my son, now in the shade of death;

Whose bright out-shining beams thy cloudy wrath

Hath in eternal darkness folded up.

Your aery buildeth in our aery’s nest:

O God! that seest it, do not suffer it;

As it was won with blood, lost be it so!

Buck.Peace, peace! for shame, if not for charity.

Q. Mar.Urge neither charity nor shame to me:

Uncharitably with me have you dealt,

And shamefully my hopes by you are butcher’d.

My charity is outrage, life my shame;

And in that shame still live my sorrow’s rage!

Buck.Have done, have done.

Q. Mar.O princely Buckingham! I’ll kiss thy hand,

In sign of league and amity with thee:

Now fair befall thee and thy noble house!

Thy garments are not spotted with our blood,

Nor thou within the compass of my curse.

Buck.Nor no one here; for curses never pass

The lips of those that breathe them in the air.

Q. Mar.I will not think but they ascend the sky,

And there awake God’s gentle-sleeping peace.

O Buckingham! take heed of yonder dog:

Look, when he fawns, he bites; and when he bites

His venom tooth will rankle to the death:

Have not to do with him, beware of him;

Sin, death and hell have set their marks on him,

And all their ministers attend on him.

Glo.What doth she say, my Lord of Buckingham?

Buck.Nothing that I respect, my gracious lord.

Q. Mar.What! dost thou scorn me for my gentle counsel,

And soothe the devil that I warn thee from?

O! but remember this another day,

When he shall split thy very heart with sorrow,

And say poor Margaret was a prophetess.

Live each of you the subject to his hate,

And he to yours, and all of you to God’s![Exit.

Hast.My hair doth stand on end to hear her curses.

Riv.And so doth mine. I muse why she’s at liberty.

Glo.I cannot blame her: by God’s holy mother,

She hath had too much wrong, and I repent

My part thereof that I have done to her.

Q. Eliz.I never did her any, to my knowledge.

Glo.Yet you have all the vantage of her wrong.

I was too hot to do somebody good,

That is too cold in thinking of it now.

Marry, as for Clarence, he is well repaid;

He is frank’d up to fatting for his pains:

God pardon them that are the cause thereof!

Riv.A virtuous and a Christian-like conclusion,

To pray for them that have done scath to us.

Glo.So do I ever[Aside], being well-advis’d;

For had I curs’d now, I had curs’d myself.


Cates.Madam, his majesty doth call for you;

And for your Grace; and you, my noble lords.

Q. Eliz.Catesby, I come. Lords, will you go with me?

Riv.We wait upon your Grace.[Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER.

Glo.I do the wrong, and first begin to brawl.

The secret mischiefs that I set abroach

I lay unto the grievous charge of others.

Clarence, whom I, indeed, have cast in darkness,

I do beweep to many simple gulls;

Namely, to Stanley, Hastings, Buckingham;

And tell them ’tis the queen and her allies

That stir the king against the duke my brother.

Now they believe it; and withal whet me

To be reveng’d on Rivers, Vaughan, Grey;

But then I sigh, and, with a piece of scripture,

Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:

And thus I clothe my naked villany

With odd old ends stol’n forth of holy writ,

And seem a saint when most I play the devil.

Enter two Murderers.

But soft! here come my executioners.

How now, my hardy, stout resolved mates!

Are you now going to dispatch this thing?

First Murd.We are, my lord; and come to have the warrant,

That we may be admitted where he is.

Glo.Well thought upon; I have it here about me:[Gives the warrant.

When you have done, repair to Crosby-place.

But, sirs, be sudden in the execution,

Withal obdurate, do not hear him plead;

For Clarence is well-spoken, and perhaps

May move your hearts to pity, if you mark him.

First Murd.Tut, tut, my lord, we will not stand to prate;

Talkers are no good doers: be assur’d

We go to use our hands and not our tongues.

Glo.Your eyes drop millstones, when fools’ eyes fall tears:

I like you, lads; about your business straight;

Go, go, dispatch.

First Murd.We will, my noble lord.[Exeunt.