Open Source Shakespeare

History of Richard III

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Act I, Scene 4

London. The Tower.



  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. Why looks your grace so heavily today?
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, I have pass'd a miserable night, 835
    So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
    That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
    I would not spend another such a night,
    Though 'twere to buy a world of happy days,
    So full of dismal terror was the time! 840
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. What was your dream? I long to hear you tell it.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Methoughts that I had broken from the Tower,
    And was embark'd to cross to Burgundy;
    And, in my company, my brother Gloucester;
    Who from my cabin tempted me to walk 845
    Upon the hatches: thence we looked toward England,
    And cited up a thousand fearful times,
    During the wars of York and Lancaster
    That had befall'n us. As we paced along
    Upon the giddy footing of the hatches, 850
    Methought that Gloucester stumbled; and, in falling,
    Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard,
    Into the tumbling billows of the main.
    Lord, Lord! methought, what pain it was to drown!
    What dreadful noise of waters in mine ears! 855
    What ugly sights of death within mine eyes!
    Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
    Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon;
    Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
    Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels, 860
    All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea:
    Some lay in dead men's skulls; and, in those holes
    Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept,
    As 'twere in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
    Which woo'd the slimy bottom of the deep, 865
    And mock'd the dead bones that lay scatter'd by.
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. Had you such leisure in the time of death
    To gaze upon the secrets of the deep?
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Methought I had; and often did I strive
    To yield the ghost: but still the envious flood 870
    Kept in my soul, and would not let it forth
    To seek the empty, vast and wandering air;
    But smother'd it within my panting bulk,
    Which almost burst to belch it in the sea.
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. Awaked you not with this sore agony? 875
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, no, my dream was lengthen'd after life;
    O, then began the tempest to my soul,
    Who pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood,
    With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
    Unto the kingdom of perpetual night. 880
    The first that there did greet my stranger soul,
    Was my great father-in-law, renowned Warwick;
    Who cried aloud, 'What scourge for perjury
    Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?'
    And so he vanish'd: then came wandering by 885
    A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
    Dabbled in blood; and he squeak'd out aloud,
    'Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,
    That stabb'd me in the field by Tewksbury;
    Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!' 890
    With that, methoughts, a legion of foul fiends
    Environ'd me about, and howled in mine ears
    Such hideous cries, that with the very noise
    I trembling waked, and for a season after
    Could not believe but that I was in hell, 895
    Such terrible impression made the dream.
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. No marvel, my lord, though it affrighted you;
    I promise, I am afraid to hear you tell it.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O Brakenbury, I have done those things,
    Which now bear evidence against my soul, 900
    For Edward's sake; and see how he requites me!
    O God! if my deep prayers cannot appease thee,
    But thou wilt be avenged on my misdeeds,
    Yet execute thy wrath in me alone,
    O, spare my guiltless wife and my poor children! 905
    I pray thee, gentle keeper, stay by me;
    My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. I will, my lord: God give your grace good rest!
    [CLARENCE sleeps]
    Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours, 910
    Makes the night morning, and the noon-tide night.
    Princes have but their tides for their glories,
    An outward honour for an inward toil;
    And, for unfelt imagination,
    They often feel a world of restless cares: 915
    So that, betwixt their tides and low names,
    There's nothing differs but the outward fame.

[Enter the two Murderers]

  • First Murderer. Ho! who's here?
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. In God's name what are you, and how came you hither? 920
  • First Murderer. I would speak with Clarence, and I came hither on my legs.
  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. Yea, are you so brief?
  • Second Murderer. O sir, it is better to be brief than tedious. Show
    him our commission; talk no more.

[BRAKENBURY reads it]

  • Sir Robert Brakenbury. I am, in this, commanded to deliver
    The noble Duke of Clarence to your hands:
    I will not reason what is meant hereby,
    Because I will be guiltless of the meaning.
    Here are the keys, there sits the duke asleep: 930
    I'll to the king; and signify to him
    That thus I have resign'd my charge to you.
  • First Murderer. Do so, it is a point of wisdom: fare you well.


  • Second Murderer. What, shall we stab him as he sleeps? 935
  • First Murderer. No; then he will say 'twas done cowardly, when he wakes.
  • Second Murderer. When he wakes! why, fool, he shall never wake till
    the judgment-day.
  • First Murderer. Why, then he will say we stabbed him sleeping.
  • Second Murderer. The urging of that word 'judgment' hath bred a kind 940
    of remorse in me.
  • First Murderer. What, art thou afraid?
  • Second Murderer. Not to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be
    damned for killing him, from which no warrant can defend us.
  • First Murderer. I thought thou hadst been resolute. 945
  • Second Murderer. So I am, to let him live.
  • First Murderer. Back to the Duke of Gloucester, tell him so.
  • Second Murderer. I pray thee, stay a while: I hope my holy humour
    will change; 'twas wont to hold me but while one
    would tell twenty. 950
  • First Murderer. How dost thou feel thyself now?
  • Second Murderer. 'Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet
    within me.
  • First Murderer. Remember our reward, when the deed is done.
  • Second Murderer. 'Zounds, he dies: I had forgot the reward. 955
  • First Murderer. Where is thy conscience now?
  • Second Murderer. In the Duke of Gloucester's purse.
  • First Murderer. So when he opens his purse to give us our reward,
    thy conscience flies out.
  • Second Murderer. Let it go; there's few or none will entertain it. 960
  • First Murderer. How if it come to thee again?
  • Second Murderer. I'll not meddle with it: it is a dangerous thing: it
    makes a man a coward: a man cannot steal, but it
    accuseth him; he cannot swear, but it cheques him;
    he cannot lie with his neighbour's wife, but it 965
    detects him: 'tis a blushing shamefast spirit that
    mutinies in a man's bosom; it fills one full of
    obstacles: it made me once restore a purse of gold
    that I found; it beggars any man that keeps it: it
    is turned out of all towns and cities for a 970
    dangerous thing; and every man that means to live
    well endeavours to trust to himself and to live
    without it.
  • First Murderer. 'Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me
    not to kill the duke. 975
  • Second Murderer. Take the devil in thy mind, and relieve him not: he
    would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.
  • First Murderer. Tut, I am strong-framed, he cannot prevail with me,
    I warrant thee.
  • Second Murderer. Spoke like a tail fellow that respects his 980
    reputation. Come, shall we to this gear?
  • First Murderer. Take him over the costard with the hilts of thy
    sword, and then we will chop him in the malmsey-butt
    in the next room.
  • Second Murderer. O excellent devise! make a sop of him. 985
  • First Murderer. Hark! he stirs: shall I strike?
  • Second Murderer. No, first let's reason with him.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Where art thou, keeper? give me a cup of wine.
  • Second Murderer. You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). In God's name, what art thou? 990
  • Second Murderer. A man, as you are.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). But not, as I am, royal.
  • Second Murderer. Nor you, as we are, loyal.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.
  • Second Murderer. My voice is now the king's, my looks mine own. 995
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). How darkly and how deadly dost thou speak!
    Your eyes do menace me: why look you pale?
    Who sent you hither? Wherefore do you come?
  • Both. To, to, to—
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). To murder me? 1000
  • Both. Ay, ay.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). You scarcely have the hearts to tell me so,
    And therefore cannot have the hearts to do it.
    Wherein, my friends, have I offended you?
  • First Murderer. Offended us you have not, but the king. 1005
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). I shall be reconciled to him again.
  • Second Murderer. Never, my lord; therefore prepare to die.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Are you call'd forth from out a world of men
    To slay the innocent? What is my offence?
    Where are the evidence that do accuse me? 1010
    What lawful quest have given their verdict up
    Unto the frowning judge? or who pronounced
    The bitter sentence of poor Clarence' death?
    Before I be convict by course of law,
    To threaten me with death is most unlawful. 1015
    I charge you, as you hope to have redemption
    By Christ's dear blood shed for our grievous sins,
    That you depart and lay no hands on me
    The deed you undertake is damnable.
  • First Murderer. What we will do, we do upon command. 1020
  • Second Murderer. And he that hath commanded is the king.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Erroneous vassal! the great King of kings
    Hath in the tables of his law commanded
    That thou shalt do no murder: and wilt thou, then,
    Spurn at his edict and fulfil a man's? 1025
    Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hands,
    To hurl upon their heads that break his law.
  • Second Murderer. And that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee,
    For false forswearing and for murder too:
    Thou didst receive the holy sacrament, 1030
    To fight in quarrel of the house of Lancaster.
  • First Murderer. And, like a traitor to the name of God,
    Didst break that vow; and with thy treacherous blade
    Unrip'dst the bowels of thy sovereign's son.
  • Second Murderer. Whom thou wert sworn to cherish and defend. 1035
  • First Murderer. How canst thou urge God's dreadful law to us,
    When thou hast broke it in so dear degree?
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Alas! for whose sake did I that ill deed?
    For Edward, for my brother, for his sake: Why, sirs,
    He sends ye not to murder me for this 1040
    For in this sin he is as deep as I.
    If God will be revenged for this deed.
    O, know you yet, he doth it publicly,
    Take not the quarrel from his powerful arm;
    He needs no indirect nor lawless course 1045
    To cut off those that have offended him.
  • First Murderer. Who made thee, then, a bloody minister,
    When gallant-springing brave Plantagenet,
    That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). My brother's love, the devil, and my rage. 1050
  • First Murderer. Thy brother's love, our duty, and thy fault,
    Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Oh, if you love my brother, hate not me;
    I am his brother, and I love him well.
    If you be hired for meed, go back again, 1055
    And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,
    Who shall reward you better for my life
    Than Edward will for tidings of my death.
  • Second Murderer. You are deceived, your brother Gloucester hates you.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, no, he loves me, and he holds me dear: 1060
    Go you to him from me.
  • Both. Ay, so we will.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Tell him, when that our princely father York
    Bless'd his three sons with his victorious arm,
    And charged us from his soul to love each other, 1065
    He little thought of this divided friendship:
    Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
  • First Murderer. Ay, millstones; as be lesson'd us to weep.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, do not slander him, for he is kind.
  • First Murderer. Right, 1070
    As snow in harvest. Thou deceivest thyself:
    'Tis he that sent us hither now to slaughter thee.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). It cannot be; for when I parted with him,
    He hugg'd me in his arms, and swore, with sobs,
    That he would labour my delivery. 1075
  • Second Murderer. Why, so he doth, now he delivers thee
    From this world's thraldom to the joys of heaven.
  • First Murderer. Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Hast thou that holy feeling in thy soul,
    To counsel me to make my peace with God, 1080
    And art thou yet to thy own soul so blind,
    That thou wilt war with God by murdering me?
    Ah, sirs, consider, he that set you on
    To do this deed will hate you for the deed.
  • Second Murderer. What shall we do? 1085
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Relent, and save your souls.
  • First Murderer. Relent! 'tis cowardly and womanish.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.
    Which of you, if you were a prince's son,
    Being pent from liberty, as I am now, 1090
    if two such murderers as yourselves came to you,
    Would not entreat for life?
    My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks:
    O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
    Come thou on my side, and entreat for me, 1095
    As you would beg, were you in my distress
    A begging prince what beggar pities not?
  • Second Murderer. Look behind you, my lord.
  • First Murderer. Take that, and that: if all this will not do,
    [Stabs him] 1100
    I'll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.

[Exit, with the body]

  • Second Murderer. A bloody deed, and desperately dispatch'd!
    How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands
    Of this most grievous guilty murder done! 1105

[Re-enter First Murderer]

  • First Murderer. How now! what mean'st thou, that thou help'st me not?
    By heavens, the duke shall know how slack thou art!
  • Second Murderer. I would he knew that I had saved his brother!
    Take thou the fee, and tell him what I say; 1110
    For I repent me that the duke is slain.


  • First Murderer. So do not I: go, coward as thou art.
    Now must I hide his body in some hole,
    Until the duke take order for his burial: 1115
    And when I have my meed, I must away;
    For this will out, and here I must not stay.