Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From King Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard.
Abbreviations. — A.-S. = Anglo-Saxon: M.E. = Middle
English (from the 13th to the 15th century) ; Fr. = French ;
Ger. = German ; Gr. = Greek ; Cf. = compare (Lat. confer) ;
Abbott refers to the excellent Shakespearean Grammar of Dr.
Abbott; Schmidt, to Dr. Schmidt's invaluable Shakespeare Lexicon.
The interview between Lady Anne and Richard in this
scene over the dead body of Henry VI is wholly imaginary.
2. May = can. May (A.-S. mugari) originally meant to be able, and a trace of this meaning exists in the noun might, which means ability. Hearse, M.E. herse, through Old Fr. herce (modern herse), a harrow, a frame, from Lat. hirpex, a
harrow. The original sense was a triangular harrow, then a triangular frame for supporting lights at a church service,
especially at a funeral, then a funeral-pageant, a bier, a carriage for a dead body.
3. Obsequiously, in the character of a mourner.
5. Key-cold, as cold as a key, vised of dead bodies. The coldness of a key is proverbial, and a popular schoolboy
remedy for bleeding at the nose still is to put a key down the back, the coldness being supposed to check the flowing
of the blood.
8. Invocate = invoke.
12. Windows, the wounds in his body.
13. Helpless, affording no help, unavailing.
16. The blood = the passion or angry disposition.
17. Hap, chance.
22. Prodigious, portentous.
25. Unhappiness, power of rendering unhappy.
28. Thee refers to the body of King Henry.
31. Still, constantly.
32. Whiles, an obsolete form of while.
40. Halberd, a battle-axe fixed to a long pole. Old Fr. halebarde, from Old Ger. helmbarte, later helenbarte (Modern Ger. hellebarte), made up of Old Ger. halm, a handle, or helve, and
parta (Ger. barte), an axe.
42. Spurn upon thee, kick thee. Usually with against or at.
49. Curst, shrewish.
52. Exclaims, exclamations. Other words used similarly
as nouns by Shakespeare without the suffixes, are solicit,
consult, expect, depart, dispose, repine, retire, impose, appear,
56. It was formerly a universal belief that the wounds of a murdered person began to bleed afresh in the presence of
the murderer; and it was actually urged, so late as 1688, in the High Court of Judiciary at Edinburgh, in a case of patricide, as an evidence of guilt. Brand quotes from King James's Daemonology the following pertinent passage: "In a
secret murther, if the dead carkasse be at any time there-after handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of blood, as if
the blood were crying to heaven for the revenge of the murtherer."
Shakespeare has closely followed Holinshed's account of the funeral of Henry VI. "The dead corps on the Ascension
euen was conueied with hills and glaues pompouslie (if you will call that a funerall ponipe) from the Tower to the
church of Saint Paule, and there laid on a heire or coffen bare faced, the same in presence of the beholders did bleed;
where it rested the space of one whole daie. From thense he was carried to the Black-friers, and bled there likewise;
and on the next daie after it was conueied in a boat, without priest or clerk, torch or taper, singing or saieng, unto the
monasterie of Chertseie, distant from London fifteene miles, and there was it first buried: but after, it was removed to
Windesor, and there in a new vawt, newlie intoomed."
58. Exhales, draws forth.
54. Either is a monosyllable here; similarly further, hither,
neither, whether, etc.
65. Quick, alive. Numbers 16:30. M.E. quik, from A.-S.
70. Thou here implies anger and contempt. Thou in Shakespeare's time was very much like du now among the
Germans, the pronoun of (1) affection towards friends, (2) good-humored superiority to servants, and (3) contempt or
anger to strangers.
71. But, immediately preceded by a subject, often expels
the subject from the succeeding relative clause.
76. The v is dropped in evil, and the word thus made monosyllabic.
78. Defus'd infection = shapeless plague. The phrase is
coined as a kind of parody upon divine perfection.
92. In Henry VI, Part III, V. 5, the three brothers, Edward, Richard, and Clarence all stab the young prince, but
Edward is the first to strike.
96. Bend = point against.
102. Shakespeare follows Sir Thomas More, in making
Richard the actual slayer of Henry VI.
108. Holp = helped. A.-S. helpan, healp, holpen.
117. Effect, explained by Schmidt as efficient cause, the
abstract being put for the concrete. Wright notes that it is difficult, in such a quibbling dialogue, to attach very strict
meanings to the words employed. He adds, that cause and effect would seem to be used as a comprehensive phrase to
denote the whole of any action from beginning to end, and Anne perhaps means to imply that the murder of Henry
and his son was altogether the work of Richard, who was both prompter and executioner.
126. Both, both day and life.
145. Basilisk's. Basilisk (Gr. basileus, king), a name given
to the serpent - the sight of which was supposed to be fatal to man — because of a white spot on its head resembling a
152. Edmund, Earl of Rutland, "pretty Rutland," the boy-brother of Edward and Richard, was brutally killed by
Lord Clifford after the battle of Wakefield.
155. Richard, Duke of York, was killed by Clifford at the
close of the battle of Wakefield, and his head crowned in
mockery with a paper crown, and fixed on the gates of York.
157. That, so that.
163. Smoothing, flattering.
164. Fee, reward.
207. Presently, instantly. Crosby Place, or Crosby House,
the residence of Gloucester in London.
232. One could have wagered the whole world against
nothing; that I would not be successful in winning her.
246. My dukedom bet against a beggar's denier. This was
the smallest possible coin — the one-twelfth part of a sou.
249. Proper, handsome.
250. At charges for, at the expense of.
251. Entertain, engage.
253. In = into.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard, 1886. Shakespeare Online. 22 Dec. 2011. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/richardiii_1_2.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 22 Dec. 2011. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/richardiii_1_2.html >.
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