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Richard III

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ACT I SCENE II The same. Another street.

 Enter the corpse of KING HENRY THE SIXTH, borne in an open coffin, Gentlemen with halberds to guard it; LADY ANNE being the mourner. 
LADY ANNE Set down, set down your honourable load, 
 If honour may be shrouded in a hearse, 
 Whilst I awhile obsequiously lament 
 The untimely fall of virtuous Lancaster.
 Poor key-cold figure of a holy king! 
 Pale ashes of the house of Lancaster! 
 Thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood! 
 Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost, 
 To hear the lamentations of Poor Anne,
 Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughter'd son,  10
 Stabb'd by the selfsame hand that made these wounds! 
 Lo, in these windows that let forth thy life, 
 I pour the helpless balm of my poor eyes. 
 Cursed be the hand that made these fatal holes!
 Cursed be the heart that had the heart to do it! 
 Cursed the blood that let this blood from hence!

 More direful hap betide that hated wretch, 
 That makes us wretched by the death of thee, 
 Than I can wish to adders, spiders, toads,
 Or any creeping venom'd thing that lives!  20
 If ever he have child, abortive be it, 
 Prodigious, and untimely brought to light, 
 Whose ugly and unnatural aspect 
 May fright the hopeful mother at the view;
 And that be heir to his unhappiness! 
 If ever he have wife, let her he made 
 A miserable by the death of him 
 As I am made by my poor lord and thee!
 Come, now towards Chertsey with your holy load,
 Taken from Paul's to be interred there;  30
 And still, as you are weary of the weight, 
 Rest you, whiles I lament King Henry's corse. 
 [ The bearers take up the sorpse and advance. 
GLOUCESTER Stay, you that bear the corse, and set it down. 
LADY ANNE What black magician conjures up this fiend,
 To stop devoted charitable deeds? 
GLOUCESTER Villains, set down the corse; or, by Saint Paul, 
 I'll make a corse of him that disobeys. 
Gentleman My lord, stand back, and let the coffin pass. 
GLOUCESTER Unmanner'd dog! stand thou, when I command:
 Advance thy halberd higher than my breast,  40
 Or, by Saint Paul, I'll strike thee to my foot, 
 And spurn upon thee, beggar, for thy boldness. 
 [ The bearers set down the coffin. 
LADY ANNE What, do you tremble? are you all afraid? 
 Alas, I blame you not; for you are mortal,
 And mortal eyes cannot endure the devil. 
 Avaunt, thou dreadful minister of hell! 
 Thou hadst but power over his mortal body, 
 His soul thou canst not have; therefore be gone. 
GLOUCESTER Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curst.
LADY ANNE Foul devil, for God's sake, hence, and trouble us not;  50
 For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell, 
 Fill'd it with cursing cries and deep exclaims. 
 If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds, 
 Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.
 O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds 
 Open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh! 
 Blush, Blush, thou lump of foul deformity; 
 For 'tis thy presence that exhales this blood 
 From cold and empty veins, where no blood dwells;
 Thy deed, inhuman and unnatural,  60
 Provokes this deluge most unnatural. 
 O God, which this blood madest, revenge his death! 
 O earth, which this blood drink'st revenge his death! 
 Either heaven with lightning strike the
 murderer dead, 
 Or earth, gape open wide and eat him quick, 
 As thou dost swallow up this good king's blood 
 Which his hell-govern'd arm hath butchered! 
GLOUCESTER Lady, you know no rules of charity,
 Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses. 
LADY ANNE Villain, thou know'st no law of God nor man:  70
 No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. 
GLOUCESTER But I know none, and therefore am no beast. 
LADY ANNE O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!
GLOUCESTER More wonderful, when angels are so angry. 
 Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman, 
 Of these supposed-evils, to give me leave, 
 By circumstance, but to acquit myself. 
LADY ANNE Vouchsafe, defus'd infection of a man,
 For these known evils, but to give me leave, 
 By circumstance, to curse thy cursed self. 
GLOUCESTER Fairer than tongue can name thee, let me have 
 Some patient leisure to excuse myself. 
LADY ANNE Fouler than heart can think thee, thou canst make
 No excuse current, but to hang thyself. 
GLOUCESTER By such despair, I should accuse myself. 
LADY ANNE And, by despairing, shouldst thou stand excused; 
 For doing worthy vengeance on thyself, 
 Which didst unworthy slaughter upon others.
GLOUCESTER Say that I slew them not? 
LADY ANNE Why, then they are not dead:  90
 But dead they are, and devilish slave, by thee. 
GLOUCESTER I did not kill your husband. 
LADY ANNE Why, then he is alive.
GLOUCESTER Nay, he is dead; and slain by Edward's hand. 
LADY ANNE In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw 
 Thy murderous falchion smoking in his blood; 
 The which thou once didst bend against her breast, 
 But that thy brothers beat aside the point.
GLOUCESTER I was provoked by her slanderous tongue, 
 which laid their guilt upon my guiltless shoulders. 
LADY ANNE Thou wast provoked by thy bloody mind.  100
 Which never dreamt on aught but butcheries: 
 Didst thou not kill this king? 
GLOUCESTER I grant ye. 
LADY ANNE Dost grant me, hedgehog? then, God grant me too 
 Thou mayst be damned for that wicked deed! 
 O, he was gentle, mild, and virtuous! 
GLOUCESTER The fitter for the King of heaven, that hath him.
LADY ANNE He is in heaven, where thou shalt never come. 
GLOUCESTER Let him thank me, that holp to send him thither; 
 For he was fitter for that place than earth. 
LADY ANNE And thou unfit for any place but hell. 
GLOUCESTER Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.
LADY ANNE Some dungeon. 
GLOUCESTER Your bed-chamber. 
LADY ANNE I'll rest betide the chamber where thou liest! 
GLOUCESTER So will it, madam till I lie with you. 
LADY ANNE I hope so.
GLOUCESTER I know so. But, gentle Lady Anne, 
 To leave this keen encounter of our wits, 
 And fall somewhat into a slower method, 
 Is not the causer of the timeless deaths 
 Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,
 As blameful as the executioner? 
LADY ANNE Thou art the cause, and most accursed effect. 
GLOUCESTER Your beauty was the cause of that effect; 
 Your beauty: which did haunt me in my sleep 
 To undertake the death of all the world,
 So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom. 
LADY ANNE If I thought that, I tell thee, homicide, 
 These nails should rend that beauty from my cheeks.  120
GLOUCESTER These eyes could never endure sweet beauty's wreck; 
 You should not blemish it, if I stood by:
 As all the world is cheered by the sun, 
 So I by that; it is my day, my life. 
LADY ANNE Black night o'ershade thy day, and death thy life! 
GLOUCESTER Curse not thyself, fair creature thou art both. 
LADY ANNE I would I were, to be revenged on thee.
GLOUCESTER It is a quarrel most unnatural, 
 To be revenged on him that loveth you. 
LADY ANNE It is a quarrel just and reasonable, 
 To be revenged on him that slew my husband. 
GLOUCESTER He that bereft thee, lady, of thy husband,
 Did it to help thee to a better husband. 
LADY ANNE His better doth not breathe upon the earth. 
GLOUCESTER He lives that loves thee better than he could. 
LADY ANNE Name him. 
GLOUCESTER Plantagenet.
LADY ANNE Why, that was he. 
GLOUCESTER The selfsame name, but one of better nature. 
LADY ANNE Where is he? 
 She spitteth at him 
 Why dost thou spit at me?
LADY ANNE Would it were mortal poison, for thy sake!  140
GLOUCESTER Never came poison from so sweet a place. 
LADY ANNE Never hung poison on a fouler toad. 
 Out of my sight! thou dost infect my eyes. 
GLOUCESTER Thine eyes, sweet lady, have infected mine.
LADY ANNE Would they were basilisks, to strike thee dead! 
GLOUCESTER I would they were, that I might die at once; 
 For now they kill me with a living death. 
 Those eyes of thine from mine have drawn salt tears, 
 Shamed their aspect with store of childish drops:
 These eyes that never shed remorseful tear, 
 No, when my father York and Edward wept, 
 To hear the piteous moan that Rutland made  152
 When black-faced Clifford shook his sword at him; 
 Nor when thy warlike father, like a child,
 Told the sad story of my father's death, 
 And twenty times made pause to sob and weep, 
 That all the standers-by had wet their cheeks 
 Like trees bedash'd with rain: in that sad time 
 My manly eyes did scorn an humble tear;
 And what these sorrows could not thence exhale, 
 Thy beauty hath, and made them blind with weeping. 
 I never sued to friend nor enemy; 
 My tongue could never learn sweet smoothing word; 
 But now thy beauty is proposed my fee,  164
 My proud heart sues, and prompts my tongue to speak. 
 She looks scornfully at him 
 Teach not thy lips such scorn, for they were made 
 For kissing, lady, not for such contempt. 
 If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive, 
 Lo, here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword;
 Which if thou please to hide in this true breast.  170
 And let the soul forth that adoreth thee, 
 I lay it naked to the deadly stroke, 
 And humbly beg the death upon my knee. 
 [ He lays his breast open: she offers at it with his sword. 
 Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry,
 But 'twas thy beauty that provoked me. 
 Nay, now dispatch; 'twas I that stabb'd young Edward, 
 But 'twas thy heavenly face that set me on. 
 [ Here she lets fall the sword.   180
 Take up the sword again, or take up me. 
LADY ANNE Arise, dissembler: though I wish thy death,
 I will not be the executioner. 
GLOUCESTER Then bid me kill myself, and I will do it. 
LADY ANNE I have already. 
GLOUCESTER Tush, that was in thy rage: 
 Speak it again, and, even with the word,
 That hand, which, for thy love, did kill thy love, 
 Shall, for thy love, kill a far truer love; 
 To both their deaths thou shalt be accessary.  190
LADY ANNE I would I knew thy heart. 
GLOUCESTER 'Tis figured in my tongue.
LADY ANNE I fear me both are false. 
GLOUCESTER Then never man was true. 
LADY ANNE Well, well, put up your sword. 
GLOUCESTER Say, then, my peace is made. 
LADY ANNE That shall you know hereafter.
GLOUCESTER But shall I live in hope? 
LADY ANNE All men, I hope, live so. 
GLOUCESTER Vouchsafe to wear this ring. 
LADY ANNE To take is not to give. 
GLOUCESTER Look, how this ring encompasseth finger.
 Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart; 
 Wear both of them, for both of them are thine. 
 And if thy poor devoted suppliant may 
 But beg one favour at thy gracious hand, 
 Thou dost confirm his happiness for ever.
LADY ANNE What is it? 
GLOUCESTER That it would please thee leave these sad designs 
 To him that hath more cause to be a mourner, 
 And presently repair to Crosby Place;  207
 Where, after I have solemnly interr'd
 At Chertsey monastery this noble king, 
 And wet his grave with my repentant tears, 
 I will with all expedient duty see you: 
 For divers unknown reasons. I beseech you, 
 Grant me this boon.
LADY ANNE With all my heart; and much it joys me too, 
 To see you are become so penitent. 
 Tressel and Berkeley, go along with me. 
GLOUCESTER Bid me farewell. 
LADY ANNE 'Tis more than you deserve;
 But since you teach me how to flatter you, 
 Imagine I have said farewell already. 
GLOUCESTER Sirs, take up the corse.  220
GENTLEMEN Towards Chertsey, noble lord? 
GLOUCESTER No, to White-Friars; there attend my coming.
 Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER. 
 Was ever woman in this humour woo'd? 
 Was ever woman in this humour won? 
 I'll have her; but I will not keep her long. 
 What! I, that kill'd her husband and his father, 
 To take her in her heart's extremest hate,
 With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes, 
 The bleeding witness of her hatred by; 
 Having God, her conscience, and these bars 
 against me, 
 And I nothing to back my suit at all,  230
 But the plain devil and dissembling looks, 
 And yet to win her, all the world to nothing! 
 Hath she forgot already that brave prince, 
 Edward, her lord, whom I, some three months since,
 Stabb'd in my angry mood at Tewksbury? 
 A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman, 
 Framed in the prodigality of nature, 
 Young, valiant, wise, and, no doubt, right royal, 
 The spacious world cannot again afford  240
 And will she yet debase her eyes on me, 
 That cropp'd the golden prime of this sweet prince, 
 And made her widow to a woful bed? 
 On me, whose all not equals Edward's moiety? 
 On me, that halt and am unshapen thus?
 My dukedom to a beggarly denier, 
 I do mistake my person all this while: 
 Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot, 
 Myself to be a marvellous proper man. 
 I'll be at charges for a looking-glass,  250
 And entertain some score or two of tailors,
 To study fashions to adorn my body: 
 Since I am crept in favour with myself, 
 Will maintain it with some little cost. 
 But first I'll turn yon fellow in his grave;
 And then return lamenting to my love. 
 Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass, 
 That I may see my shadow as I pass. 

Richard III, Act 1, Scene 3


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, manage, etc.

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. cwic.

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 diadem.

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.

236. Fought May 4, 1471.

238. Prodigality, profusion, excessive liberality.

244. Moiety, half.

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. < >.

How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 22 Dec. 2011. < >.


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Notes on Shakespeare...

Richard III was published in eight quarto editions, beginning with Q1 in 1597. It is generally assumed that Q1 was produced from the recollections of actors who had performed the play, and although it contains valuable stage directions, it is not the authoritative copy. Neither are any of the subsequent quarto editions, all based on Q1. The version on which most of our modern editions are based is found in the First Folio (1623). The text of Richard III in the First Folio seems to have been derived from a unique source, likely Shakespeare's own copy of the play.

We know very little about Shakespeare's life during two major spans of time, commonly referred to as the "lost years": 1578-82 and 1585-92. The first period covers the time after Shakespeare left grammar school, until his marriage to Anne Hathaway in November of 1582. The second period covers the seven years of Shakespeare's life in which he must have been perfecting his dramatic skills and collecting sources for the plots of his plays.

The Theatre was the first London playhouse, built in 1576 by the English actor and entrepreneur James Burbage, father of the great actor and friend of Shakespeare, Richard Burbage. It was located in a northern suburb of London (north of London Wall which bounded the city proper); on the edge of Finsbury Fields, just past Bishopsgate Street, where Shakespeare called home up to 1597. Read on...

William Kempe was one of the most beloved clowns in the Elizabethan theatre. Records tell us that Kempe was an actor with Leicester's Men on a tour of the Netherlands and Denmark in 1585-86. By 1593 Kempe was a member of Strange's Men, and theatre-goers and fellow actors were beginning to recognize his comedic talent. Read on...