Open Source Shakespeare

History of Henry VI, Part I

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Act II, Scene 5

The Tower of London.


[Enter MORTIMER, brought in a chair, and Gaolers]

  • Edmund Mortimer. Kind keepers of my weak decaying age,
    Let dying Mortimer here rest himself.
    Even like a man new haled from the rack,
    So fare my limbs with long imprisonment.
    And these grey locks, the pursuivants of death, 1080
    Nestor-like aged in an age of care,
    Argue the end of Edmund Mortimer.
    These eyes, like lamps whose wasting oil is spent,
    Wax dim, as drawing to their exigent;
    Weak shoulders, overborne with burthening grief, 1085
    And pithless arms, like to a wither'd vine
    That droops his sapless branches to the ground;
    Yet are these feet, whose strengthless stay is numb,
    Unable to support this lump of clay,
    Swift-winged with desire to get a grave, 1090
    As witting I no other comfort have.
    But tell me, keeper, will my nephew come?
  • First Gaoler. Richard Plantagenet, my lord, will come:
    We sent unto the Temple, unto his chamber;
    And answer was return'd that he will come. 1095
  • Edmund Mortimer. Enough: my soul shall then be satisfied.
    Poor gentleman! his wrong doth equal mine.
    Since Henry Monmouth first began to reign,
    Before whose glory I was great in arms,
    This loathsome sequestration have I had: 1100
    And even since then hath Richard been obscured,
    Deprived of honour and inheritance.
    But now the arbitrator of despairs,
    Just death, kind umpire of men's miseries,
    With sweet enlargement doth dismiss me hence: 1105
    I would his troubles likewise were expired,
    That so he might recover what was lost.


  • First Gaoler. My lord, your loving nephew now is come.
  • Edmund Mortimer. Richard Plantagenet, my friend, is he come? 1110
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Ay, noble uncle, thus ignobly used,
    Your nephew, late despised Richard, comes.
  • Edmund Mortimer. Direct mine arms I may embrace his neck,
    And in his bosom spend my latter gasp: 1115
    O, tell me when my lips do touch his cheeks,
    That I may kindly give one fainting kiss.
    And now declare, sweet stem from York's great stock,
    Why didst thou say, of late thou wert despised?
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). First, lean thine aged back against mine arm;
    And, in that ease, I'll tell thee my disease.
    This day, in argument upon a case,
    Some words there grew 'twixt Somerset and me;
    Among which terms he used his lavish tongue 1125
    And did upbraid me with my father's death:
    Which obloquy set bars before my tongue,
    Else with the like I had requited him.
    Therefore, good uncle, for my father's sake,
    In honour of a true Plantagenet 1130
    And for alliance sake, declare the cause
    My father, Earl of Cambridge, lost his head.
  • Edmund Mortimer. That cause, fair nephew, that imprison'd me
    And hath detain'd me all my flowering youth
    Within a loathsome dungeon, there to pine, 1135
    Was cursed instrument of his decease.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Discover more at large what cause that was,
    For I am ignorant and cannot guess.
  • Edmund Mortimer. I will, if that my fading breath permit 1140
    And death approach not ere my tale be done.
    Henry the Fourth, grandfather to this king,
    Deposed his nephew Richard, Edward's son,
    The first-begotten and the lawful heir,
    Of Edward king, the third of that descent: 1145
    During whose reign the Percies of the north,
    Finding his usurpation most unjust,
    Endeavor'd my advancement to the throne:
    The reason moved these warlike lords to this
    Was, for that—young King Richard thus removed, 1150
    Leaving no heir begotten of his body—
    I was the next by birth and parentage;
    For by my mother I derived am
    From Lionel Duke of Clarence, the third son
    To King Edward the Third; whereas he 1155
    From John of Gaunt doth bring his pedigree,
    Being but fourth of that heroic line.
    But mark: as in this haughty attempt
    They laboured to plant the rightful heir,
    I lost my liberty and they their lives. 1160
    Long after this, when Henry the Fifth,
    Succeeding his father Bolingbroke, did reign,
    Thy father, Earl of Cambridge, then derived
    From famous Edmund Langley, Duke of York,
    Marrying my sister that thy mother was, 1165
    Again in pity of my hard distress
    Levied an army, weening to redeem
    And have install'd me in the diadem:
    But, as the rest, so fell that noble earl
    And was beheaded. Thus the Mortimers, 1170
    In whom the tide rested, were suppress'd.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Of which, my lord, your honour is the last.
  • Edmund Mortimer. True; and thou seest that I no issue have
    And that my fainting words do warrant death; 1175
    Thou art my heir; the rest I wish thee gather:
    But yet be wary in thy studious care.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Thy grave admonishments prevail with me:
    But yet, methinks, my father's execution 1180
    Was nothing less than bloody tyranny.
  • Edmund Mortimer. With silence, nephew, be thou politic:
    Strong-fixed is the house of Lancaster,
    And like a mountain, not to be removed.
    But now thy uncle is removing hence: 1185
    As princes do their courts, when they are cloy'd
    With long continuance in a settled place.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). O, uncle, would some part of my young years
    Might but redeem the passage of your age! 1190
  • Edmund Mortimer. Thou dost then wrong me, as that slaughterer doth
    Which giveth many wounds when one will kill.
    Mourn not, except thou sorrow for my good;
    Only give order for my funeral:
    And so farewell, and fair be all thy hopes 1195
    And prosperous be thy life in peace and war!


  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). And peace, no war, befall thy parting soul!
    In prison hast thou spent a pilgrimage 1200
    And like a hermit overpass'd thy days.
    Well, I will lock his counsel in my breast;
    And what I do imagine let that rest.
    Keepers, convey him hence, and I myself
    Will see his burial better than his life. 1205
    [Exeunt Gaolers, bearing out the body of MORTIMER]
    Here dies the dusky torch of Mortimer,
    Choked with ambition of the meaner sort:
    And for those wrongs, those bitter injuries,
    Which Somerset hath offer'd to my house: 1210
    I doubt not but with honour to redress;
    And therefore haste I to the parliament,
    Either to be restored to my blood,
    Or make my ill the advantage of my good.