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History of Richard III

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Act IV, Scene 4

Before the palace.



  • Queen Margaret. So, now prosperity begins to mellow
    And drop into the rotten mouth of death.
    Here in these confines slily have I lurk'd,
    To watch the waning of mine adversaries. 2795
    A dire induction am I witness to,
    And will to France, hoping the consequence
    Will prove as bitter, black, and tragical.
    Withdraw thee, wretched Margaret: who comes here?


  • Queen Elizabeth. Ah, my young princes! ah, my tender babes!
    My unblown flowers, new-appearing sweets!
    If yet your gentle souls fly in the air
    And be not fix'd in doom perpetual,
    Hover about me with your airy wings 2805
    And hear your mother's lamentation!
  • Queen Margaret. Hover about her; say, that right for right
    Hath dimm'd your infant morn to aged night.
  • Duchess of York. So many miseries have crazed my voice,
    That my woe-wearied tongue is mute and dumb, 2810
    Edward Plantagenet, why art thou dead?
  • Queen Margaret. Plantagenet doth quit Plantagenet.
    Edward for Edward pays a dying debt.
  • Queen Elizabeth. Wilt thou, O God, fly from such gentle lambs,
    And throw them in the entrails of the wolf? 2815
    When didst thou sleep when such a deed was done?
  • Duchess of York. Blind sight, dead life, poor mortal living ghost,
    Woe's scene, world's shame, grave's due by life usurp'd,
    Brief abstract and record of tedious days, 2820
    Rest thy unrest on England's lawful earth,
    [Sitting down]
    Unlawfully made drunk with innocents' blood!
  • Queen Elizabeth. O, that thou wouldst as well afford a grave
    As thou canst yield a melancholy seat! 2825
    Then would I hide my bones, not rest them here.
    O, who hath any cause to mourn but I?

[Sitting down by her]

  • Queen Margaret. If ancient sorrow be most reverend,
    Give mine the benefit of seniory, 2830
    And let my woes frown on the upper hand.
    If sorrow can admit society,
    [Sitting down with them]
    Tell o'er your woes again by viewing mine:
    I had an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him; 2835
    I had a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him:
    Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
    Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard killed him;
  • Duchess of York. I had a Richard too, and thou didst kill him;
    I had a Rutland too, thou holp'st to kill him. 2840
  • Queen Margaret. Thou hadst a Clarence too, and Richard kill'd him.
    From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
    A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death:
    That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
    To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood, 2845
    That foul defacer of God's handiwork,
    That excellent grand tyrant of the earth,
    That reigns in galled eyes of weeping souls,
    Thy womb let loose, to chase us to our graves.
    O upright, just, and true-disposing God, 2850
    How do I thank thee, that this carnal cur
    Preys on the issue of his mother's body,
    And makes her pew-fellow with others' moan!
  • Duchess of York. O Harry's wife, triumph not in my woes!
    God witness with me, I have wept for thine. 2855
  • Queen Margaret. Bear with me; I am hungry for revenge,
    And now I cloy me with beholding it.
    Thy Edward he is dead, that stabb'd my Edward:
    Thy other Edward dead, to quit my Edward;
    Young York he is but boot, because both they 2860
    Match not the high perfection of my loss:
    Thy Clarence he is dead that kill'd my Edward;
    And the beholders of this tragic play,
    The adulterate Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, Grey,
    Untimely smother'd in their dusky graves. 2865
    Richard yet lives, hell's black intelligencer,
    Only reserved their factor, to buy souls
    And send them thither: but at hand, at hand,
    Ensues his piteous and unpitied end:
    Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray. 2870
    To have him suddenly convey'd away.
    Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I prey,
    That I may live to say, The dog is dead!
  • Queen Elizabeth. O, thou didst prophesy the time would come
    That I should wish for thee to help me curse 2875
    That bottled spider, that foul bunch-back'd toad!
  • Queen Margaret. I call'd thee then vain flourish of my fortune;
    I call'd thee then poor shadow, painted queen;
    The presentation of but what I was;
    The flattering index of a direful pageant; 2880
    One heaved a-high, to be hurl'd down below;
    A mother only mock'd with two sweet babes;
    A dream of what thou wert, a breath, a bubble,
    A sign of dignity, a garish flag,
    To be the aim of every dangerous shot, 2885
    A queen in jest, only to fill the scene.
    Where is thy husband now? where be thy brothers?
    Where are thy children? wherein dost thou, joy?
    Who sues to thee and cries 'God save the queen'?
    Where be the bending peers that flatter'd thee? 2890
    Where be the thronging troops that follow'd thee?
    Decline all this, and see what now thou art:
    For happy wife, a most distressed widow;
    For joyful mother, one that wails the name;
    For queen, a very caitiff crown'd with care; 2895
    For one being sued to, one that humbly sues;
    For one that scorn'd at me, now scorn'd of me;
    For one being fear'd of all, now fearing one;
    For one commanding all, obey'd of none.
    Thus hath the course of justice wheel'd about, 2900
    And left thee but a very prey to time;
    Having no more but thought of what thou wert,
    To torture thee the more, being what thou art.
    Thou didst usurp my place, and dost thou not
    Usurp the just proportion of my sorrow? 2905
    Now thy proud neck bears half my burthen'd yoke;
    From which even here I slip my weary neck,
    And leave the burthen of it all on thee.
    Farewell, York's wife, and queen of sad mischance:
    These English woes will make me smile in France. 2910
  • Queen Elizabeth. O thou well skill'd in curses, stay awhile,
    And teach me how to curse mine enemies!
  • Queen Margaret. Forbear to sleep the nights, and fast the days;
    Compare dead happiness with living woe;
    Think that thy babes were fairer than they were, 2915
    And he that slew them fouler than he is:
    Bettering thy loss makes the bad causer worse:
    Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.
  • Queen Margaret. Thy woes will make them sharp, and pierce like mine. 2920


  • Queen Elizabeth. Windy attorneys to their client woes,
    Airy succeeders of intestate joys,
    Poor breathing orators of miseries! 2925
    Let them have scope: though what they do impart
    Help not all, yet do they ease the heart.
  • Duchess of York. If so, then be not tongue-tied: go with me.
    And in the breath of bitter words let's smother
    My damned son, which thy two sweet sons smother'd. 2930
    I hear his drum: be copious in exclaims.

[Enter KING RICHARD III, marching, with drums and trumpets]

  • Duchess of York. O, she that might have intercepted thee,
    By strangling thee in her accursed womb 2935
    From all the slaughters, wretch, that thou hast done!
  • Queen Elizabeth. Hidest thou that forehead with a golden crown,
    Where should be graven, if that right were right,
    The slaughter of the prince that owed that crown,
    And the dire death of my two sons and brothers? 2940
    Tell me, thou villain slave, where are my children?
  • Duchess of York. Thou toad, thou toad, where is thy brother Clarence?
    And little Ned Plantagenet, his son?
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). A flourish, trumpets! strike alarum, drums! 2945
    Let not the heavens hear these tell-tale women
    Rail on the Lord's enointed: strike, I say!
    [Flourish. Alarums]
    Either be patient, and entreat me fair,
    Or with the clamorous report of war 2950
    Thus will I drown your exclamations.
  • Duchess of York. Art thou so hasty? I have stay'd for thee,
    God knows, in anguish, pain and agony.
  • Duchess of York. No, by the holy rood, thou know'st it well,
    Thou camest on earth to make the earth my hell. 2965
    A grievous burthen was thy birth to me;
    Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy;
    Thy school-days frightful, desperate, wild, and furious,
    Thy prime of manhood daring, bold, and venturous,
    Thy age confirm'd, proud, subdued, bloody, 2970
    More mild, but yet more harmful, kind in hatred:
    What comfortable hour canst thou name,
    That ever graced me in thy company?
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Faith, none, but Humphrey Hour, that call'd 2975
    your grace
    To breakfast once forth of my company.
    If I be so disgracious in your sight,
    Let me march on, and not offend your grace.
    Strike the drum. 2980
  • Duchess of York. Either thou wilt die, by God's just ordinance,
    Ere from this war thou turn a conqueror,
    Or I with grief and extreme age shall perish
    And never look upon thy face again.
    Therefore take with thee my most heavy curse; 2990
    Which, in the day of battle, tire thee more
    Than all the complete armour that thou wear'st!
    My prayers on the adverse party fight;
    And there the little souls of Edward's children
    Whisper the spirits of thine enemies 2995
    And promise them success and victory.
    Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end;
    Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend.


  • Queen Elizabeth. Though far more cause, yet much less spirit to curse 3000
    Abides in me; I say amen to all.
  • Queen Elizabeth. I have no more sons of the royal blood
    For thee to murder: for my daughters, Richard,
    They shall be praying nuns, not weeping queens; 3005
    And therefore level not to hit their lives.
  • Queen Elizabeth. And must she die for this? O, let her live,
    And I'll corrupt her manners, stain her beauty; 3010
    Slander myself as false to Edward's bed;
    Throw over her the veil of infamy:
    So she may live unscarr'd of bleeding slaughter,
    I will confess she was not Edward's daughter.
  • Queen Elizabeth. True, when avoided grace makes destiny:
    My babes were destined to a fairer death,
    If grace had bless'd thee with a fairer life.
  • Queen Elizabeth. Cousins, indeed; and by their uncle cozen'd
    Of comfort, kingdom, kindred, freedom, life.
    Whose hand soever lanced their tender hearts,
    Thy head, all indirectly, gave direction:
    No doubt the murderous knife was dull and blunt 3030
    Till it was whetted on thy stone-hard heart,
    To revel in the entrails of my lambs.
    But that still use of grief makes wild grief tame,
    My tongue should to thy ears not name my boys
    Till that my nails were anchor'd in thine eyes; 3035
    And I, in such a desperate bay of death,
    Like a poor bark, of sails and tackling reft,
    Rush all to pieces on thy rocky bosom.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Madam, so thrive I in my enterprise
    And dangerous success of bloody wars, 3040
    As I intend more good to you and yours,
    Than ever you or yours were by me wrong'd!
  • Queen Elizabeth. What good is cover'd with the face of heaven,
    To be discover'd, that can do me good?
  • Queen Elizabeth. Flatter my sorrows with report of it;
    Tell me what state, what dignity, what honour, 3050
    Canst thou demise to any child of mine?
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Even all I have; yea, and myself and all,
    Will I withal endow a child of thine;
    So in the Lethe of thy angry soul
    Thou drown the sad remembrance of those wrongs 3055
    Which thou supposest I have done to thee.
  • Queen Elizabeth. Be brief, lest that be process of thy kindness
    Last longer telling than thy kindness' date.
  • Queen Elizabeth. That thou dost love my daughter from thy soul:
    So from thy soul's love didst thou love her brothers;
    And from my heart's love I do thank thee for it.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Be not so hasty to confound my meaning: 3065
    I mean, that with my soul I love thy daughter,
    And mean to make her queen of England.
  • Queen Elizabeth. Send to her, by the man that slew her brothers,
    A pair of bleeding-hearts; thereon engrave
    Edward and York; then haply she will weep:
    Therefore present to her—as sometime Margaret 3080
    Did to thy father, steep'd in Rutland's blood,—
    A handkerchief; which, say to her, did drain
    The purple sap from her sweet brother's body
    And bid her dry her weeping eyes therewith.
    If this inducement force her not to love, 3085
    Send her a story of thy noble acts;
    Tell her thou madest away her uncle Clarence,
    Her uncle Rivers; yea, and, for her sake,
    Madest quick conveyance with her good aunt Anne.
  • Queen Elizabeth. There is no other way
    Unless thou couldst put on some other shape,
    And not be Richard that hath done all this.
  • Queen Elizabeth. Nay, then indeed she cannot choose but hate thee,
    Having bought love with such a bloody spoil.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Look, what is done cannot be now amended:
    Men shall deal unadvisedly sometimes,
    Which after hours give leisure to repent. 3100
    If I did take the kingdom from your sons,
    To make amends, Ill give it to your daughter.
    If I have kill'd the issue of your womb,
    To quicken your increase, I will beget
    Mine issue of your blood upon your daughter 3105
    A grandam's name is little less in love
    Than is the doting title of a mother;
    They are as children but one step below,
    Even of your mettle, of your very blood;
    Of an one pain, save for a night of groans 3110
    Endured of her, for whom you bid like sorrow.
    Your children were vexation to your youth,
    But mine shall be a comfort to your age.
    The loss you have is but a son being king,
    And by that loss your daughter is made queen. 3115
    I cannot make you what amends I would,
    Therefore accept such kindness as I can.
    Dorset your son, that with a fearful soul
    Leads discontented steps in foreign soil,
    This fair alliance quickly shall call home 3120
    To high promotions and great dignity:
    The king, that calls your beauteous daughter wife.
    Familiarly shall call thy Dorset brother;
    Again shall you be mother to a king,
    And all the ruins of distressful times 3125
    Repair'd with double riches of content.
    What! we have many goodly days to see:
    The liquid drops of tears that you have shed
    Shall come again, transform'd to orient pearl,
    Advantaging their loan with interest 3130
    Of ten times double gain of happiness.
    Go, then my mother, to thy daughter go
    Make bold her bashful years with your experience;
    Prepare her ears to hear a wooer's tale
    Put in her tender heart the aspiring flame 3135
    Of golden sovereignty; acquaint the princess
    With the sweet silent hours of marriage joys
    And when this arm of mine hath chastised
    The petty rebel, dull-brain'd Buckingham,
    Bound with triumphant garlands will I come 3140
    And lead thy daughter to a conqueror's bed;
    To whom I will retail my conquest won,
    And she shall be sole victress, Caesar's Caesar.
  • Queen Elizabeth. What were I best to say? her father's brother
    Would be her lord? or shall I say, her uncle? 3145
    Or, he that slew her brothers and her uncles?
    Under what title shall I woo for thee,
    That God, the law, my honour and her love,
    Can make seem pleasing to her tender years?
  • Queen Elizabeth. O no, my reasons are too deep and dead;
    Too deep and dead, poor infants, in their grave. 3170
  • Queen Elizabeth. By nothing; for this is no oath:
    The George, profaned, hath lost his holy honour;
    The garter, blemish'd, pawn'd his knightly virtue;
    The crown, usurp'd, disgraced his kingly glory.
    if something thou wilt swear to be believed, 3180
    Swear then by something that thou hast not wrong'd.
  • Queen Elizabeth. God's wrong is most of all.
    If thou hadst fear'd to break an oath by Him, 3190
    The unity the king thy brother made
    Had not been broken, nor my brother slain:
    If thou hadst fear'd to break an oath by Him,
    The imperial metal, circling now thy brow,
    Had graced the tender temples of my child, 3195
    And both the princes had been breathing here,
    Which now, two tender playfellows to dust,
    Thy broken faith hath made a prey for worms.
    What canst thou swear by now?
  • Queen Elizabeth. That thou hast wronged in the time o'erpast;
    For I myself have many tears to wash
    Hereafter time, for time past wrong'd by thee.
    The children live, whose parents thou hast
    slaughter'd, 3205
    Ungovern'd youth, to wail it in their age;
    The parents live, whose children thou hast butcher'd,
    Old wither'd plants, to wail it with their age.
    Swear not by time to come; for that thou hast
    Misused ere used, by time misused o'erpast. 3210
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). As I intend to prosper and repent,
    So thrive I in my dangerous attempt
    Of hostile arms! myself myself confound!
    Heaven and fortune bar me happy hours!
    Day, yield me not thy light; nor, night, thy rest! 3215
    Be opposite all planets of good luck
    To my proceedings, if, with pure heart's love,
    Immaculate devotion, holy thoughts,
    I tender not thy beauteous princely daughter!
    In her consists my happiness and thine; 3220
    Without her, follows to this land and me,
    To thee, herself, and many a Christian soul,
    Death, desolation, ruin and decay:
    It cannot be avoided but by this;
    It will not be avoided but by this. 3225
    Therefore, good mother,—I must can you so—
    Be the attorney of my love to her:
    Plead what I will be, not what I have been;
    Not my deserts, but what I will deserve:
    Urge the necessity and state of times, 3230
    And be not peevish-fond in great designs.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). But in your daughter's womb I bury them:
    Where in that nest of spicery they shall breed
    Selves of themselves, to your recomforture.
  • Queen Elizabeth. I go. Write to me very shortly.
    And you shall understand from me her mind.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Bear her my true love's kiss; and so, farewell.
    [Exit QUEEN ELIZABETH] 3245
    Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!
    [Enter RATCLIFF; CATESBY following]
    How now! what news?
  • Sir Richard Ratcliff. My gracious sovereign, on the western coast
    Rideth a puissant navy; to the shore 3250
    Throng many doubtful hollow-hearted friends,
    Unarm'd, and unresolved to beat them back:
    'Tis thought that Richmond is their admiral;
    And there they hull, expecting but the aid
    Of Buckingham to welcome them ashore. 3255
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Fly to the duke:
    [To RATCLIFF] 3260
    Post thou to Salisbury
    When thou comest thither—
    [To CATESBY]
    Dull, unmindful villain,
    Why stand'st thou still, and go'st not to the duke? 3265
  • Sir William Catesby. First, mighty sovereign, let me know your mind,
    What from your grace I shall deliver to him.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). O, true, good Catesby: bid him levy straight
    The greatest strength and power he can make,
    And meet me presently at Salisbury. 3270


  • Sir William Stanley. None good, my lord, to please you with the hearing; 3280
    Nor none so bad, but it may well be told.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Hoyday, a riddle! neither good nor bad!
    Why dost thou run so many mile about,
    When thou mayst tell thy tale a nearer way?
    Once more, what news? 3285
  • Sir William Stanley. Stirr'd up by Dorset, Buckingham, and Ely,
    He makes for England, there to claim the crown.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Is the chair empty? is the sword unsway'd?
    Is the king dead? the empire unpossess'd?
    What heir of York is there alive but we? 3295
    And who is England's king but great York's heir?
    Then, tell me, what doth he upon the sea?
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Unless for that he comes to be your liege,
    You cannot guess wherefore the Welshman comes. 3300
    Thou wilt revolt, and fly to him, I fear.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Where is thy power, then, to beat him back?
    Where are thy tenants and thy followers?
    Are they not now upon the western shore. 3305
    Safe-conducting the rebels from their ships!
  • Sir William Stanley. They have not been commanded, mighty sovereign: 3310
    Please it your majesty to give me leave,
    I'll muster up my friends, and meet your grace
    Where and what time your majesty shall please.
  • Sir William Stanley. Most mighty sovereign,
    You have no cause to hold my friendship doubtful:
    I never was nor never will be false.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Well,
    Go muster men; but, hear you, leave behind 3320
    Your son, George Stanley: look your faith be firm.
    Or else his head's assurance is but frail.


[Enter a Messenger]

  • Messenger. My gracious sovereign, now in Devonshire,
    As I by friends am well advertised,
    Sir Edward Courtney, and the haughty prelate
    Bishop of Exeter, his brother there,
    With many more confederates, are in arms. 3330

[Enter another Messenger]

  • Second Messenger. My liege, in Kent the Guildfords are in arms;
    And every hour more competitors
    Flock to their aid, and still their power increaseth.

[Enter another Messenger]

  • Third Messenger. The news I have to tell your majesty 3340
    Is, that by sudden floods and fall of waters,
    Buckingham's army is dispersed and scatter'd;
    And he himself wander'd away alone,
    No man knows whither.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). I cry thee mercy: 3345
    There is my purse to cure that blow of thine.
    Hath any well-advised friend proclaim'd
    Reward to him that brings the traitor in?

[Enter another Messenger]

  • Fourth Messenger. Sir Thomas Lovel and Lord Marquis Dorset,
    'Tis said, my liege, in Yorkshire are in arms.
    Yet this good comfort bring I to your grace,
    The Breton navy is dispersed by tempest:
    Richmond, in Yorkshire, sent out a boat 3355
    Unto the shore, to ask those on the banks
    If they were his assistants, yea or no;
    Who answer'd him, they came from Buckingham.
    Upon his party: he, mistrusting them,
    Hoisted sail and made away for Brittany. 3360
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). March on, march on, since we are up in arms;
    If not to fight with foreign enemies,
    Yet to beat down these rebels here at home.

[Re-enter CATESBY]

  • Sir William Catesby. My liege, the Duke of Buckingham is taken; 3365
    That is the best news: that the Earl of Richmond
    Is with a mighty power landed at Milford,
    Is colder tidings, yet they must be told.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Away towards Salisbury! while we reason here,
    A royal battle might be won and lost 3370
    Some one take order Buckingham be brought
    To Salisbury; the rest march on with me.

[Flourish. Exeunt]