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Richard III

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ACT II SCENE II The palace. 
 Enter the DUCHESS OF YORK, with the Son and Daughter of CLARENCE. 
Boy Tell me, good grandam, is our father dead? 
Boy Why do you wring your hands, and beat your breast, 
 And cry 'O Clarence, my unhappy son!'
Girl Why do you look on us, and shake your head,  5
 And call us wretches, orphans, castaways 
 If that our noble father be alive? 
DUCHESS OF YORK My pretty cousins, you mistake me much; 
 I do lament the sickness of the king.
 As loath to lose him, not your father's death; 
 It were lost sorrow to wail one that's lost. 
Boy Then, grandam, you conclude that he is dead. 
 The king my uncle is to blame for this: 
 God will revenge it; whom I will importune
 With earnest prayers all to that effect.  15
Girl And so will I. 
DUCHESS OF YORK Peace, children, peace! the king doth love you well: 
 Incapable and shallow innocents, 
 You cannot guess who caused your father's death.
Boy Grandam, we can; for my good uncle Gloucester 
 Told me, the king, provoked by the queen, 
 Devised impeachments to imprison him : 
 And when my uncle told me so, he wept, 
 And hugg'd me in his arm, and kindly kiss'd my cheek;
 Bade me rely on him as on my father,  25
 And he would love me dearly as his child. 
DUCHESS OF YORK Oh, that deceit should steal such gentle shapes, 
 And with a virtuous vizard hide foul guile! 
 He is my son; yea, and therein my shame;
 Yet from my dugs he drew not this deceit.  30
Boy Think you my uncle did dissemble, grandam? 
Boy I cannot think it. Hark! what noise is this? 
 Enter QUEEN ELIZABETH, with her hair about her ears; RIVERS, and DORSET after her. 
QUEEN ELIZABETH Oh, who shall hinder me to wail and weep,
 To chide my fortune, and torment myself? 

I'll join with black despair against my soul,
 And to myself become an enemy. 
DUCHESS OF YORK What means this scene of rude impatience? 
QUEEN ELIZABETH To make an act of tragic violence:
 Edward, my lord, your son, our king, is dead.  40
 Why grow the branches now the root is wither'd? 
 Why wither not the leaves the sap being gone? 
 If you will live, lament; if die, be brief, 
 That our swift-winged souls may catch the king's;
 Or, like obedient subjects, follow him 
 To his new kingdom of perpetual rest. 
DUCHESS OF YORK Ah, so much interest have I in thy sorrow 
 As I had title in thy noble husband! 
 I have bewept a worthy husband's death,
 And lived by looking on his images:  50
 But now two mirrors of his princely semblance 
 Are crack'd in pieces by malignant death, 
 And I for comfort have but one false glass, 
 Which grieves me when I see my shame in him.
 Thou art a widow; yet thou art a mother, 
 And hast the comfort of thy children left thee: 
 But death hath snatch'd my husband from mine arms, 
 And pluck'd two crutches from my feeble limbs, 
 Edward and Clarence. O, what cause have I,
 Thine being but a moiety of my moan,  60
 To overgo thy plaints and drown thy cries! 
Boy Good aunt, you wept not for our father's death; 
 How can we aid you with our kindred tears? 
Girl Our fatherless distress was left unmoan'd;
 Your widow-dolour likewise be unwept!  65
QUEEN ELIZABETH Give me no help in lamentation; 
 I am not barren to bring forth complaints 
 All springs reduce their currents to mine eyes, 
 That I, being govern'd by the watery moon,
 May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world! 
 Oh for my husband, for my dear lord Edward! 
Children Ah for our father, for our dear lord Clarence! 
DUCHESS OF YORK Alas for both, both mine, Edward and Clarence! 
QUEEN ELIZABETH What stay had I but Edward? and he's gone.
Children What stay had we but Clarence? and he's gone.  75
DUCHESS OF YORK What stays had I but they? and they are gone. 
QUEEN ELIZABETH Was never widow had so dear a loss! 
Children Were never orphans had so dear a loss! 
DUCHESS OF YORK Was never mother had so dear a loss!
 Alas, I am the mother of these griefs! 
 Their woes are parcell'd, mine are general. 
 She for an Edward weeps, and so do I; 
 I for a Clarence weep, so doth not she: 
 These babes for Clarence weep and so do I;
 I for an Edward weep, so do not they: 
 Alas, you three, on me, threefold distress'd, 
 Pour all your tears! I am your sorrow's nurse, 
 And I will pamper it with lamentations. 
DORSET Comfort, dear mother: God is much displeased
 That you take with unthankfulness, his doing:  90
 In common worldly things, 'tis call'd ungrateful, 
 With dull unwilligness to repay a debt 
 Which with a bounteous hand was kindly lent; 
 Much more to be thus opposite with heaven,
 For it requires the royal debt it lent you. 
RIVERS Madam, bethink you, like a careful mother, 
 Of the young prince your son: send straight for him 
 Let him be crown'd; in him your comfort lives: 
 Drown desperate sorrow in dead Edward's grave,
 And plant your joys in living Edward's throne.  100
GLOUCESTER Madam, have comfort: all of us have cause 
 To wail the dimming of our shining star; 
 But none can cure their harms by wailing them. 
 Madam, my mother, I do cry you mercy;
 I did not see your grace: humbly on my knee 
 I crave your blessing. 
DUCHESS OF YORK God bless thee; and put meekness in thy mind, 
 Love, charity, obedience, and true duty! 
 That is the butt-end of a mother's blessing:  110
 I marvel why her grace did leave it out. 
BUCKINGHAM You cloudy princes and heart-sorrowing peers, 
 That bear this mutual heavy load of moan, 
 Now cheer each other in each other's love 
 Though we have spent our harvest of this king,  115
 We are to reap the harvest of his son. 
 The broken rancour of your high-swoln hearts, 
 But lately splinter'd, knit, and join'd together, 
 Must gently be preserved, cherish'd, and kept: 
 Me seemeth good, that, with some little train,
 Forthwith from Ludlow the young prince be fetch'd 
 Hither to London, to be crown'd our king. 
RIVERS Why with some little train, my Lord of Buckingham? 
BUCKINGHAM Marry, my lord, lest, by a multitude, 
 The new-heal'd wound of malice should break out,  125
 Which would be so much the more dangerous 
 By how much the estate is green and yet ungovern'd: 
 Where every horse bears his commanding rein, 
 And may direct his course as please himself, 
 As well the fear of harm, as harm apparent,  130
 In my opinion, ought to be prevented. 
GLOUCESTER I hope the king made peace with all of us 
 And the compact is firm and true in me. 
RIVERS And so in me; and so, I think, in all: 
 Yet, since it is but green, it should be put
 To no apparent likelihood of breach, 
 Which haply by much company might be urged: 
 Therefore I say with noble Buckingham, 
 That it is meet so few should fetch the prince. 
HASTINGS And so say I.  140
GLOUCESTER Then be it so; and go we to determine 
 Who they shall be that straight shall post to Ludlow. 
 Madam, and you, my mother, will you go 
 To give your censures in this weighty business? 
  With all our hearts. 
 Exeunt all but BUCKINGHAM and GLOUCESTER. 
BUCKINGHAM My lord, whoever journeys to the Prince, 
 For God's sake, let not us two be behind; 
 For, by the way, I'll sort occasion,
 As index to the story we late talk'd of, 
 To part the queen's proud kindred from the king.   150
GLOUCESTER My other self, my counsel's consistory, 
 My oracle, my prophet! My dear cousin, 
 I, like a child, will go by thy direction.
 Towards Ludlow then, for we'll not stay behind. 

Richard III, Act 2, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, 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.


Clarence left two children, a boy and a girl. The boy, known as Earl of Warwick, was kept perpetually in prison, and was executed by Henry VII. in 1499. The girl became Countess of Salisbury, but perished at the block in 1541.

8. Cousins, grandchildren.

18. Incapable, not able to understand.

28. Visor, a mask. Properly, it was the front part of a helmet covering the face, perforated and movable, so as to see through.

34-35. To wail . . . weep . . . chide . . . torment, from wailing, etc.

38. Impatience, to be pronounced in four syllables.

51. Mirrors, two glasses which reflected his likeness. These refer to Edward and Clarence.

66. Lamentation. Pronounced as a word of five syllables.

68-71. Reduce, bring back, as into the ocean. In this extravagant figure the queen wishes herself a sea into which all the springs empty themselves, so that her eyes, under the influence of the tide-controlling moon, can express her grief with floods of tears sufficient to drown the whole world.

81. There is a reference here to the ancient English method of dividing the land, part of which was parceled out among individuals, and the rest was held in common by the community.

94. Opposite, on hostile terms.

110. Butt-end, the largest end.

112. Cloudy, sorrowful.

117. Broken rancor, the breaches caused by your rancor.

118. Splinter'd, bound up with splints like a broken limb.

129. Please. An instance of the subjunctive used indefinitely after a relative.

144. Censures, opinions.

148. Sort occasion, arrange an opportunity.

149. Index, introduction, the index being placed at the beginning of the book.

151. Consistory, court of assembly.

How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard, 1886. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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