Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 7
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.
2. Mum, silent.
4. Lady Lucy. This was Dame Elizabeth Lucy, Lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, to
whom it was alleged the king had been betrothed before his marriage with the widow of Sir John Grey. The evidence
of this pre-contract rested on the single testimony of Robert
Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells. The story has been
generally discredited by historians.
Under the canon law, betrothal was as binding as matrimony, and could not be set aside without a dispensation.
Bulls of divorce were often procured from Rome even by the party that had done the wrong, dissolving a marriage
that had endured for years, on the ground of a pre-contract with another person. It will be remembered that it
was upon this ground that Henry VIII, before putting Anne Boloyn to death, caused his marriage with her to he
pronounced invalid by reason of a previous contract on her part with Percy, Earl of Northumberland.
5. The Earl of Warwick had been dispatched to France to bring about a marriage with Bona, the French king's sister,
but in his absence the fickle king fell in love with and hastily married Sir John Grey's widow. This public affront
put upon him, caused the proud kingmaker to abandon the Yorkist side. See Henry VI, Part III., III. iii.
12. Idea, image.
14. Richard commanded in Scotland in 1482.
24. Statuas, statues, a trisyllable. Breathing stones,
stones endowed with life, but speechless.
29. The recorder is the keeper of the rolls in a city. At this
time the recorder of London was Thomas Fitzwilliam.
44. Intend, put on, counterfeit.
45. Be not you spoken with except after great entreaty.
47. Churchmen, ecclesiastics.
48. For I shall make that circumstance the ground of a
discourse on Richard's piety. Ground here is the plainsong, or theme, the descant the variations upon it.
54. Leads, the flat roof covered with lead.
55. I dance attendance, I am kept waiting to be admitted.
61. Divinely = devoutly.
67. Importing, concerning.
75. Engross, pamper, fatten.
80. God defend = God forbid. Fr. defendre has the same
92. Beads, the little stringed balls of the rosary, so called
because used in counting the number of prayers. M.E. bede
— A.-S. bed, a prayer, biddan, to pray. The same word appears in bead-roll and beads-man.
96. Fall, a defection from virtue, sin.
111. Disgracious, unpleasing. Dis- is used for un-, in sense
115. If I be not ready to amend my faults, for what purpose
do I live in a Christian land?
124. Doth want = is without, lacks.
126. Her royal stock impregnated with base elements from
the-outside. Graft is participle of verb to graff = to make
an incision into a tree or plant, and insert in it a small
branch of another, to insert as a scion.
127. Shoulder'd, pushed violently, with a view to supplant;
or, sunk to the shoulders.
129. Re-cure, to heal again.
133. Factor, agent.
135. Empery, empire, dominion.
143. If not to answer best fitted the occasion.
147. If to reprove best fitted the occasion.
149. I check'd for I should have cheeked, a simpler and
earlier subjunctive form, identical with the indicative form
used for the subjunctive. Abbott notes, "If it be asked,
what is the difference between checked here and would
have cheeked I should say that the simple form of the subjunctive, coinciding in sound with the indicative, implied
to an Elizabethan more of inevitability (subject, of course, to a condition which is not fulfilled). The possibility is regarded as an unfulfilled fact, to speak paradoxically." See
Abbott's Shakespearean Grammar, sect. 361.
150. To speak ... to avoid ... to incur. This is
hardly the infinitive, but the gerund in e, and the to here
corresponds to the Lat. ad, with the gerund denoting a
154. Unmeritable, devoid of merit.
156. Even, plain, smooth.
157. Ripe revenue, the possession quite mature and ready
for me to occupy.
161. To brook, capable of enduring.
162-163. I had rather hide myself from greatness than seek
to be crushed under the load of a greatness forced upon me.
165. I lack many qualities necessary in helping you, were
my help needed.
167. Stealing, gliding quietly onwards.
174. Respects, reasons or motives. Nice, fanciful.
180. Substitute, deputy, proxy.
183. A many. The indefinite article was often inserted
before a numeral adjective, to show that the objects enumerated are regarded collectively as one. Thus we still say
a score, a fo(u)rt(een)night. The a in a many sons is perhaps
thus to be explained. Some, however, explain a many by
reference to the old noun many, a many men for a many
(of) men. And the word is thus used: "A many of our
bodies" (Henry V., IV. iii. 95). Nor can it be denied that in
Early English, of is often omitted in such phrases as euery
maner wyght (Chaucer, Sqirieres Tale, 329), just as in German
we have diese Art Mensch. Dr. Abbott (sect. 87) sums up the
question by stating that probably both the constructions
above mentioned are required to explain this use of a.
Thus a hundred men is for a hundred (of) men ; but in
a twelvemonth, a fortnight, twelve and fourteen are not regarded as simple nouns, but are used adjectively in the
The queen had only three children by Sir John Grey.
186. Purchase, booty. The word is used for acquisition of
any kind, and by any means.
187. Pitch, elevation, height. This was the word used to
denote the height to which a falcon soars.
18S. Declension, deterioration. Bigamy. Wright notes
that marriage with a widow was regarded as bigamy by the canon law. Shakespeare here closely follows More, as
copied by Hall. The king's mother, the Dowager Duchess of York, who was strongly opposed to her son's marriage
with Elizabeth Grey, urged this as an argument against it.
'The onely widowhed of dame Elizabeth Grey (although
she were in all other poinctes and thynges conuenient for
you) should suffice as me thynketh to refrain you from her
marriage, and it is an vnfittying thynge and a greate blemishe to the sacred maiestie of a prince, that ought as nere to approche priesthode in clennesse as he doeth in dignitie, to
be defiled with bigamy in his first marriage." (Hall's Chronicle, Edward V, p. 366).
191. Expostulate, set forth in full.
209. As = for so.
210. Remorse, pity, tenderness of heart.
212. Estates, ranks.
231. Acquittance, acquit.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard, 1886. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2014. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/richardiii_3_7.html >.