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History of Richard II

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Act II, Scene 1

Ely House.


[Enter JOHN OF GAUNT sick, with the DUKE OF YORK,] [p]&c]

  • John of Gaunt. Will the king come, that I may breathe my last
    In wholesome counsel to his unstaid youth?
  • Edmund of Langley. Vex not yourself, nor strive not with your breath; 685
    For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.
  • John of Gaunt. O, but they say the tongues of dying men
    Enforce attention like deep harmony:
    Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,
    For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain. 690
    He that no more must say is listen'd more
    Than they whom youth and ease have taught to glose;
    More are men's ends mark'd than their lives before:
    The setting sun, and music at the close,
    As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last, 695
    Writ in remembrance more than things long past:
    Though Richard my life's counsel would not hear,
    My death's sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.
  • Edmund of Langley. No; it is stopp'd with other flattering sounds,
    As praises, of whose taste the wise are fond, 700
    Lascivious metres, to whose venom sound
    The open ear of youth doth always listen;
    Report of fashions in proud Italy,
    Whose manners still our tardy apish nation
    Limps after in base imitation. 705
    Where doth the world thrust forth a vanity—
    So it be new, there's no respect how vile—
    That is not quickly buzzed into his ears?
    Then all too late comes counsel to be heard,
    Where will doth mutiny with wit's regard. 710
    Direct not him whose way himself will choose:
    'Tis breath thou lack'st, and that breath wilt thou lose.
  • John of Gaunt. Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
    And thus expiring do foretell of him:
    His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, 715
    For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
    Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
    He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
    With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
    Light vanity, insatiate cormorant, 720
    Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
    This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demi-paradise,
    This fortress built by Nature for herself 725
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    Or as a moat defensive to a house, 730
    Against the envy of less happier lands,
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
    This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
    Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
    Renowned for their deeds as far from home, 735
    For Christian service and true chivalry,
    As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
    Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
    This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
    Dear for her reputation through the world, 740
    Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
    Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
    England, bound in with the triumphant sea
    Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
    Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame, 745
    With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
    That England, that was wont to conquer others,
    Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
    Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
    How happy then were my ensuing death! 750
  • Edmund of Langley. The king is come: deal mildly with his youth;
    For young hot colts being raged do rage the more.
  • Queen. How fares our noble uncle, Lancaster? 755
  • John of Gaunt. O how that name befits my composition!
    Old Gaunt indeed, and gaunt in being old:
    Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast;
    And who abstains from meat that is not gaunt? 760
    For sleeping England long time have I watch'd;
    Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt:
    The pleasure that some fathers feed upon,
    Is my strict fast; I mean, my children's looks;
    And therein fasting, hast thou made me gaunt: 765
    Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave,
    Whose hollow womb inherits nought but bones.
  • John of Gaunt. No, misery makes sport to mock itself:
    Since thou dost seek to kill my name in me, 770
    I mock my name, great king, to flatter thee.
  • John of Gaunt. Now He that made me knows I see thee ill;
    Ill in myself to see, and in thee seeing ill.
    Thy death-bed is no lesser than thy land
    Wherein thou liest in reputation sick; 780
    And thou, too careless patient as thou art,
    Commit'st thy anointed body to the cure
    Of those physicians that first wounded thee:
    A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown,
    Whose compass is no bigger than thy head; 785
    And yet, incaged in so small a verge,
    The waste is no whit lesser than thy land.
    O, had thy grandsire with a prophet's eye
    Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons,
    From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame, 790
    Deposing thee before thou wert possess'd,
    Which art possess'd now to depose thyself.
    Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
    It were a shame to let this land by lease;
    But for thy world enjoying but this land, 795
    Is it not more than shame to shame it so?
    Landlord of England art thou now, not king:
    Thy state of law is bondslave to the law; And thou—
  • King Richard II. A lunatic lean-witted fool,
    Presuming on an ague's privilege, 800
    Darest with thy frozen admonition
    Make pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood
    With fury from his native residence.
    Now, by my seat's right royal majesty,
    Wert thou not brother to great Edward's son, 805
    This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head
    Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders.
  • John of Gaunt. O, spare me not, my brother Edward's son,
    For that I was his father Edward's son;
    That blood already, like the pelican, 810
    Hast thou tapp'd out and drunkenly caroused:
    My brother Gloucester, plain well-meaning soul,
    Whom fair befal in heaven 'mongst happy souls!
    May be a precedent and witness good
    That thou respect'st not spilling Edward's blood: 815
    Join with the present sickness that I have;
    And thy unkindness be like crooked age,
    To crop at once a too long wither'd flower.
    Live in thy shame, but die not shame with thee!
    These words hereafter thy tormentors be! 820
    Convey me to my bed, then to my grave:
    Love they to live that love and honour have.

[Exit, borne off by his Attendants]

  • King Richard II. And let them die that age and sullens have;
    For both hast thou, and both become the grave. 825
  • Edmund of Langley. I do beseech your majesty, impute his words
    To wayward sickliness and age in him:
    He loves you, on my life, and holds you dear
    As Harry Duke of Hereford, were he here.
  • King Richard II. Right, you say true: as Hereford's love, so his; 830
    As theirs, so mine; and all be as it is.


  • Earl of Northumberland. Nay, nothing; all is said 835
    His tongue is now a stringless instrument;
    Words, life and all, old Lancaster hath spent.
  • Edmund of Langley. Be York the next that must be bankrupt so!
    Though death be poor, it ends a mortal woe.
  • King Richard II. The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he; 840
    His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be.
    So much for that. Now for our Irish wars:
    We must supplant those rough rug-headed kerns,
    Which live like venom where no venom else
    But only they have privilege to live. 845
    And for these great affairs do ask some charge,
    Towards our assistance we do seize to us
    The plate, corn, revenues and moveables,
    Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possess'd.
  • Edmund of Langley. How long shall I be patient? ah, how long 850
    Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong?
    Not Gloucester's death, nor Hereford's banishment
    Not Gaunt's rebukes, nor England's private wrongs,
    Nor the prevention of poor Bolingbroke
    About his marriage, nor my own disgrace, 855
    Have ever made me sour my patient cheek,
    Or bend one wrinkle on my sovereign's face.
    I am the last of noble Edward's sons,
    Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first:
    In war was never lion raged more fierce, 860
    In peace was never gentle lamb more mild,
    Than was that young and princely gentleman.
    His face thou hast, for even so look'd he,
    Accomplish'd with the number of thy hours;
    But when he frown'd, it was against the French 865
    And not against his friends; his noble hand
    Did will what he did spend and spent not that
    Which his triumphant father's hand had won;
    His hands were guilty of no kindred blood,
    But bloody with the enemies of his kin. 870
    O Richard! York is too far gone with grief,
    Or else he never would compare between.
  • Edmund of Langley. O my liege,
    Pardon me, if you please; if not, I, pleased 875
    Not to be pardon'd, am content withal.
    Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
    The royalties and rights of banish'd Hereford?
    Is not Gaunt dead, and doth not Hereford live?
    Was not Gaunt just, and is not Harry true? 880
    Did not the one deserve to have an heir?
    Is not his heir a well-deserving son?
    Take Hereford's rights away, and take from Time
    His charters and his customary rights;
    Let not to-morrow then ensue to-day; 885
    Be not thyself; for how art thou a king
    But by fair sequence and succession?
    Now, afore God—God forbid I say true!—
    If you do wrongfully seize Hereford's rights,
    Call in the letters patent that he hath 890
    By his attorneys-general to sue
    His livery, and deny his offer'd homage,
    You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
    You lose a thousand well-disposed hearts
    And prick my tender patience, to those thoughts 895
    Which honour and allegiance cannot think.
  • King Richard II. Think what you will, we seize into our hands
    His plate, his goods, his money and his lands.
  • Edmund of Langley. I'll not be by the while: my liege, farewell:
    What will ensue hereof, there's none can tell; 900
    But by bad courses may be understood
    That their events can never fall out good.


  • King Richard II. Go, Bushy, to the Earl of Wiltshire straight:
    Bid him repair to us to Ely House 905
    To see this business. To-morrow next
    We will for Ireland; and 'tis time, I trow:
    And we create, in absence of ourself,
    Our uncle York lord governor of England;
    For he is just and always loved us well. 910
    Come on, our queen: to-morrow must we part;
    Be merry, for our time of stay is short
    [Flourish. Exeunt KING RICHARD II, QUEEN, DUKE OF]
  • Lord Ross. And living too; for now his son is duke.
  • Lord Ross. My heart is great; but it must break with silence,
    Ere't be disburden'd with a liberal tongue. 920
  • Earl of Northumberland. Nay, speak thy mind; and let him ne'er speak more
    That speaks thy words again to do thee harm!
  • Lord Willoughby. Tends that thou wouldst speak to the Duke of Hereford?
    If it be so, out with it boldly, man;
    Quick is mine ear to hear of good towards him. 925
  • Lord Ross. No good at all that I can do for him;
    Unless you call it good to pity him,
    Bereft and gelded of his patrimony.
  • Earl of Northumberland. Now, afore God, 'tis shame such wrongs are borne
    In him, a royal prince, and many moe 930
    Of noble blood in this declining land.
    The king is not himself, but basely led
    By flatterers; and what they will inform,
    Merely in hate, 'gainst any of us all,
    That will the king severely prosecute 935
    'Gainst us, our lives, our children, and our heirs.
  • Lord Ross. The commons hath he pill'd with grievous taxes,
    And quite lost their hearts: the nobles hath he fined
    For ancient quarrels, and quite lost their hearts.
  • Lord Willoughby. And daily new exactions are devised, 940
    As blanks, benevolences, and I wot not what:
    But what, o' God's name, doth become of this?
  • Earl of Northumberland. Wars have not wasted it, for warr'd he hath not,
    But basely yielded upon compromise
    That which his noble ancestors achieved with blows: 945
    More hath he spent in peace than they in wars.
  • Lord Ross. The Earl of Wiltshire hath the realm in farm.
  • Lord Ross. He hath not money for these Irish wars, 950
    His burthenous taxations notwithstanding,
    But by the robbing of the banish'd duke.
  • Earl of Northumberland. His noble kinsman: most degenerate king!
    But, lords, we hear this fearful tempest sing,
    Yet see no shelter to avoid the storm; 955
    We see the wind sit sore upon our sails,
    And yet we strike not, but securely perish.
  • Lord Ross. We see the very wreck that we must suffer;
    And unavoided is the danger now,
    For suffering so the causes of our wreck. 960
  • Earl of Northumberland. Not so; even through the hollow eyes of death
    I spy life peering; but I dare not say
    How near the tidings of our comfort is.
  • Lord Ross. Be confident to speak, Northumberland: 965
    We three are but thyself; and, speaking so,
    Thy words are but as thoughts; therefore, be bold.
  • Earl of Northumberland. Then thus: I have from Port le Blanc, a bay
    In Brittany, received intelligence
    That Harry Duke of Hereford, Rainold Lord Cobham, 970
    That late broke from the Duke of Exeter,
    His brother, Archbishop late of Canterbury,
    Sir Thomas Erpingham, Sir John Ramston,
    Sir John Norbery, Sir Robert Waterton and Francis Quoint, 975
    All these well furnish'd by the Duke of Bretagne
    With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
    Are making hither with all due expedience
    And shortly mean to touch our northern shore:
    Perhaps they had ere this, but that they stay 980
    The first departing of the king for Ireland.
    If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,
    Imp out our drooping country's broken wing,
    Redeem from broking pawn the blemish'd crown,
    Wipe off the dust that hides our sceptre's gilt 985
    And make high majesty look like itself,
    Away with me in post to Ravenspurgh;
    But if you faint, as fearing to do so,
    Stay and be secret, and myself will go.
  • Lord Ross. To horse, to horse! urge doubts to them that fear. 990