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

Act II. Scene II.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

The Same.A Room in the Palace.

Enter the DUCHESS OF YORK, with a Son and Daughter of CLARENCE.

Boy.Good grandam, tell us, is our father dead?

Duch.No, boy.

Daugh.Why do you wring your hands, and beat your breast,

And cry—‘O Clarence, my unhappy son?’

Boy.Why do you look on us, and shake your head,

And call us orphans, wretches, castaways,

If that our noble father be alive?

Duch.My pretty cousins, you mistake me much;

I do lament the sickness of the king,

As loath to lose him, not your father’s death;

It were lost sorrow to wail one that’s lost.

Boy.Then, grandam, you conclude that he is dead.

The king mine uncle is to blame for it:

God will revenge it; whom I will importune

With earnest prayers all to that effect.

Daugh.And so will I.

Duch.Peace, children, peace! the king doth love you well:

Incapable and shallow innocents,

You cannot guess who caus’d your father’s death.

Boy.Grandam, we can; for my good uncle Gloucester

Told me, the king, provok’d to ’t by the queen,

Devis’d impeachments to imprison him:

And when my uncle told me so, he wept,

And pitied me, and kindly kiss’d my cheek;

Bade me rely on him, as on my father,

And he would love me dearly as his child.

Duch.Ah! that deceit should steal such gentle shape,

And with a virtuous vizard hide deep vice.

He is my son, ay, and therein my shame,

Yet from my dugs he drew not this deceit.

Boy.Think you my uncle did dissemble, grandam?

Duch.Ay, boy.

Boy.I cannot think it. Hark! what noise is this?

Enter QUEEN ELIZABETH, distractedly; RIVERS and DORSET following her.

Q. Eliz.Oh! who shall hinder me to wail and weep,

To chide my fortune, and torment myself?

I’ll join with black despair against my soul,

And to myself become an enemy.

Duch.What means this scene of rude impatience?

Q. Eliz.To make an act of tragic violence:

Edward, my lord, thy son, our king, is dead!

Why grow the branches now the root is wither’d?

Why wither not the leaves that want their sap?

If you will live, lament: if die, be brief,

That our swift-winged souls may catch the king’s;

Or, like obedient subjects, follow him

To his new kingdom of perpetual rest.

Duch.Ah! so much interest have I in thy sorrow

As I had title in thy noble husband.

I have bewept a worthy husband’s death,

And liv’d with looking on his images;

But now two mirrors of his princely semblance

Are crack’d in pieces by malignant death,

And I for comfort have but one false glass,

That grieves me when I see my shame in him.

Thou art a widow; yet thou art a mother,

And hast the comfort of thy children left thee:

But death hath snatch’d my husband from mine arms,

And pluck’d two crutches from my feeble limbs,

Clarence and Edward. O! what cause have I—

Thine being but a moiety of my grief—

To overgo thy plaints, and drown thy cries!

Boy.Ah, aunt, you wept not for our father’s death;

How can we aid you with our kindred tears?

Daugh.Our fatherless distress was left unmoan’d;

Your widow-dolour likewise be unwept.

Q. Eliz.Give me no help in lamentation;

I am not barren to bring forth complaints:

All springs reduce their currents to mine eyes,

That I, being govern’d by the wat’ry moon,

May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world!

Ah! for my husband, for my dear Lord Edward!

Chil.Ah! for our father, for our dear Lord Clarence!

Duch.Alas! for both, both mine, Edward and Clarence!

Q. Eliz.What stay had I but Edward? and he’s gone.

Chil.What stay had we but Clarence? and he’s gone.

Duch.What stays had I but they? and they are gone.

Q. Eliz.Was never widow had so dear a loss.

Chil.Were never orphans had so dear a loss.

Duch.Was never mother had so dear a loss.

Alas! I am the mother of these griefs:

Their woes are parcell’d, mine are general.

She for an Edward weeps, and so do I;

I for a Clarence weep, so doth not she:

These babes for Clarence weep, and so do I;

I for an Edward weep, so do not they:

Alas! you three, on me, threefold distress’d,

Pour all your tears; I am your sorrow’s nurse,

And I will pamper it with lamentation.

Dor.Comfort, dear mother: God is much displeas’d

That you take with unthankfulness his doing.

In common worldly things ’tis call’d ungrateful

With dull unwillingness to repay a debt

Which with a bounteous hand was kindly lent;

Much more to be thus opposite with heaven,

For it requires the royal debt it lent you.

Riv.Madam, bethink you, like a careful mother,

Of the young prince your son: send straight for him;

Let him be crown’d; in him your comfort lives.

Drown desperate sorrow in dead Edward’s grave,

And plant your joys in living Edward’s throne.


Glo.Sister, have comfort: all of us have cause

To wail the dimming of our shining star;

But none can cure their harms by wailing them.

Madam, my mother, I do cry you mercy;

I did not see your Grace: humbly on my knee

I crave your blessing.

Duch.God bless thee! and put meekness in thy mind,

Love, charity, obedience, and true duty.

Glo.Amen;[Aside.]and make me die a good old man!

That is the butt-end of a mother’s blessing;

I marvel that her Grace did leave it out.

BuckYou cloudy princes and heart-sorrowing peers,

That bear this heavy mutual load of moan,

Now cheer each other in each other’s love:

Though we have spent our harvest of this king,

We are to reap the harvest of his son.

The broken rancour of your high-swoln hearts,

But lately splinter’d, knit, and join’d together,

Must gently be preserv’d, cherish’d, and kept:

Me seemeth good, that, with some little train,

Forthwith from Ludlow the young prince be fetch’d

Hither to London, to be crown’d our king.

Riv.Why with some little train, my Lord of Buckingham?

Buck.Marry, my lord, lest, by a multitude,

The new-heal’d wound of malice should break out;

Which would be so much the more dangerous,

By how much the estate is green and yet ungovern’d;

Where every horse bears his commanding rein,

And may direct his course as please himself,

As well the fear of harm, as harm apparent,

In my opinion, ought to be prevented.

Glo.I hope the king made peace with all of us;

And the compact is firm and true in me.

Riv.And so in me; and so, I think, in all:

Yet, since it is but green, it should be put

To no apparent likelihood of breach,

Which haply by much company might be urg’d:

Therefore I say with noble Buckingham,

That it is meet so few should fetch the prince.

Hast.And so say I.

Glo.Then be it so; and go we to determine

Who they shall be that straight shall post to Ludlow.

Madam, and you my mother, will you go

To give your censures in this business?[Exeunt all except BUCKINGHAM and GLOUCESTER.

Buck.My lord, whoever journeys to the prince,

For God’s sake, let not us two stay at home:

For by the way I’ll sort occasion,

As index to the story we late talk’d of,

To part the queen’s proud kindred from the prince.

Glo.My other self, my counsel’s consistory,

My oracle, my prophet! My dear cousin,

I, as a child, will go by thy direction.

Towards Ludlow then, for we’ll not stay behind.[Exeunt.