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History of Richard II

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Act I, Scene 1

London. KING RICHARD II’s palace.


[Enter KING RICHARD II, JOHN OF GAUNT, with other] [p]Nobles and Attendants]

  • King Richard II. Old John of Gaunt, time-honour'd Lancaster,
    Hast thou, according to thy oath and band,
    Brought hither Henry Hereford thy bold son, 5
    Here to make good the boisterous late appeal,
    Which then our leisure would not let us hear,
    Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
  • King Richard II. Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him, 10
    If he appeal the duke on ancient malice;
    Or worthily, as a good subject should,
    On some known ground of treachery in him?
  • John of Gaunt. As near as I could sift him on that argument,
    On some apparent danger seen in him 15
    Aim'd at your highness, no inveterate malice.
  • King Richard II. Then call them to our presence; face to face,
    And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
    The accuser and the accused freely speak:
    High-stomach'd are they both, and full of ire, 20
    In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.


  • Henry IV. Many years of happy days befal
    My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege!
  • Thomas Mowbray. Each day still better other's happiness; 25
    Until the heavens, envying earth's good hap,
    Add an immortal title to your crown!
  • King Richard II. We thank you both: yet one but flatters us,
    As well appeareth by the cause you come;
    Namely to appeal each other of high treason. 30
    Cousin of Hereford, what dost thou object
    Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
  • Henry IV. First, heaven be the record to my speech!
    In the devotion of a subject's love,
    Tendering the precious safety of my prince, 35
    And free from other misbegotten hate,
    Come I appellant to this princely presence.
    Now, Thomas Mowbray, do I turn to thee,
    And mark my greeting well; for what I speak
    My body shall make good upon this earth, 40
    Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.
    Thou art a traitor and a miscreant,
    Too good to be so and too bad to live,
    Since the more fair and crystal is the sky,
    The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly. 45
    Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
    With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat;
    And wish, so please my sovereign, ere I move,
    What my tongue speaks my right drawn sword may prove.
  • Thomas Mowbray. Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal: 50
    'Tis not the trial of a woman's war,
    The bitter clamour of two eager tongues,
    Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain;
    The blood is hot that must be cool'd for this:
    Yet can I not of such tame patience boast 55
    As to be hush'd and nought at all to say:
    First, the fair reverence of your highness curbs me
    From giving reins and spurs to my free speech;
    Which else would post until it had return'd
    These terms of treason doubled down his throat. 60
    Setting aside his high blood's royalty,
    And let him be no kinsman to my liege,
    I do defy him, and I spit at him;
    Call him a slanderous coward and a villain:
    Which to maintain I would allow him odds, 65
    And meet him, were I tied to run afoot
    Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps,
    Or any other ground inhabitable,
    Where ever Englishman durst set his foot.
    Mean time let this defend my loyalty, 70
    By all my hopes, most falsely doth he lie.
  • Henry IV. Pale trembling coward, there I throw my gage,
    Disclaiming here the kindred of the king,
    And lay aside my high blood's royalty,
    Which fear, not reverence, makes thee to except. 75
    If guilty dread have left thee so much strength
    As to take up mine honour's pawn, then stoop:
    By that and all the rites of knighthood else,
    Will I make good against thee, arm to arm,
    What I have spoke, or thou canst worse devise. 80
  • Thomas Mowbray. I take it up; and by that sword I swear
    Which gently laid my knighthood on my shoulder,
    I'll answer thee in any fair degree,
    Or chivalrous design of knightly trial:
    And when I mount, alive may I not light, 85
    If I be traitor or unjustly fight!
  • King Richard II. What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray's charge?
    It must be great that can inherit us
    So much as of a thought of ill in him.
  • Henry IV. Look, what I speak, my life shall prove it true; 90
    That Mowbray hath received eight thousand nobles
    In name of lendings for your highness' soldiers,
    The which he hath detain'd for lewd employments,
    Like a false traitor and injurious villain.
    Besides I say and will in battle prove, 95
    Or here or elsewhere to the furthest verge
    That ever was survey'd by English eye,
    That all the treasons for these eighteen years
    Complotted and contrived in this land
    Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and spring. 100
    Further I say and further will maintain
    Upon his bad life to make all this good,
    That he did plot the Duke of Gloucester's death,
    Suggest his soon-believing adversaries,
    And consequently, like a traitor coward, 105
    Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of blood:
    Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries,
    Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth,
    To me for justice and rough chastisement;
    And, by the glorious worth of my descent, 110
    This arm shall do it, or this life be spent.
  • King Richard II. How high a pitch his resolution soars!
    Thomas of Norfolk, what say'st thou to this?
  • Thomas Mowbray. O, let my sovereign turn away his face
    And bid his ears a little while be deaf, 115
    Till I have told this slander of his blood,
    How God and good men hate so foul a liar.
  • King Richard II. Mowbray, impartial are our eyes and ears:
    Were he my brother, nay, my kingdom's heir,
    As he is but my father's brother's son, 120
    Now, by my sceptre's awe, I make a vow,
    Such neighbour nearness to our sacred blood
    Should nothing privilege him, nor partialize
    The unstooping firmness of my upright soul:
    He is our subject, Mowbray; so art thou: 125
    Free speech and fearless I to thee allow.
  • Thomas Mowbray. Then, Bolingbroke, as low as to thy heart,
    Through the false passage of thy throat, thou liest.
    Three parts of that receipt I had for Calais
    Disbursed I duly to his highness' soldiers; 130
    The other part reserved I by consent,
    For that my sovereign liege was in my debt
    Upon remainder of a dear account,
    Since last I went to France to fetch his queen:
    Now swallow down that lie. For Gloucester's death, 135
    I slew him not; but to my own disgrace
    Neglected my sworn duty in that case.
    For you, my noble Lord of Lancaster,
    The honourable father to my foe
    Once did I lay an ambush for your life, 140
    A trespass that doth vex my grieved soul
    But ere I last received the sacrament
    I did confess it, and exactly begg'd
    Your grace's pardon, and I hope I had it.
    This is my fault: as for the rest appeall'd, 145
    It issues from the rancour of a villain,
    A recreant and most degenerate traitor
    Which in myself I boldly will defend;
    And interchangeably hurl down my gage
    Upon this overweening traitor's foot, 150
    To prove myself a loyal gentleman
    Even in the best blood chamber'd in his bosom.
    In haste whereof, most heartily I pray
    Your highness to assign our trial day.
  • King Richard II. Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me; 155
    Let's purge this choler without letting blood:
    This we prescribe, though no physician;
    Deep malice makes too deep incision;
    Forget, forgive; conclude and be agreed;
    Our doctors say this is no month to bleed. 160
    Good uncle, let this end where it begun;
    We'll calm the Duke of Norfolk, you your son.
  • John of Gaunt. To be a make-peace shall become my age:
    Throw down, my son, the Duke of Norfolk's gage.
  • John of Gaunt. When, Harry, when?
    Obedience bids I should not bid again.
  • Thomas Mowbray. Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot.
    My life thou shalt command, but not my shame: 170
    The one my duty owes; but my fair name,
    Despite of death that lives upon my grave,
    To dark dishonour's use thou shalt not have.
    I am disgraced, impeach'd and baffled here,
    Pierced to the soul with slander's venom'd spear, 175
    The which no balm can cure but his heart-blood
    Which breathed this poison.
  • King Richard II. Rage must be withstood:
    Give me his gage: lions make leopards tame.
  • Thomas Mowbray. Yea, but not change his spots: take but my shame. 180
    And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
    The purest treasure mortal times afford
    Is spotless reputation: that away,
    Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
    A jewel in a ten-times-barr'd-up chest 185
    Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.
    Mine honour is my life; both grow in one:
    Take honour from me, and my life is done:
    Then, dear my liege, mine honour let me try;
    In that I live and for that will I die. 190
  • Henry IV. O, God defend my soul from such deep sin!
    Shall I seem crest-fall'n in my father's sight?
    Or with pale beggar-fear impeach my height
    Before this out-dared dastard? Ere my tongue 195
    Shall wound my honour with such feeble wrong,
    Or sound so base a parle, my teeth shall tear
    The slavish motive of recanting fear,
    And spit it bleeding in his high disgrace,
    Where shame doth harbour, even in Mowbray's face. 200


  • King Richard II. We were not born to sue, but to command;
    Which since we cannot do to make you friends,
    Be ready, as your lives shall answer it,
    At Coventry, upon Saint Lambert's day: 205
    There shall your swords and lances arbitrate
    The swelling difference of your settled hate:
    Since we can not atone you, we shall see
    Justice design the victor's chivalry.
    Lord marshal, command our officers at arms 210
    Be ready to direct these home alarms.