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Richard III

Please see the bottom of this page for full explanatory notes.

ACT IV SCENE I Before the Tower. 
[ Enter, on one side, QUEEN ELIZABETH, DUCHESS OF YORK, and DORSET; on the other, ANNE, DUCHESS OF GLOSTER, leading LADY MARGARET PLANTAGENET, CLARENCE's young daughter. ]
DUCHESS OF YORKWho meets us here? -- my niece Plantagenet
Led in the hand of her kind aunt of Gloucester?
Now, for my life, she's wandering to the Tower,
On pure heart's love to greet the tender princes.
Daughter, well met.
LADY ANNEGod give your graces both
A happy and a joyful time of day!
QUEEN ELIZABETHAs much to you, good sister! Whither away?
LADY ANNENo farther than the Tower; and, as I guess,
Upon the like devotion as yourselves,10
To gratulate the gentle princes there.
QUEEN ELIZABETHKind sister, thanks: we'll enter all together.
And, in good time, here the lieutenant comes.
Master lieutenant, pray you, by your leave,
How doth the prince, and my young son of York?
BRAKENBURYRight well, dear madam. By your patience,
I may not suffer you to visit them;
The king hath straitly charged the contrary.
QUEEN ELIZABETHThe king! why, who's that?
BRAKENBURYI cry you mercy: I mean the lord protector.
QUEEN ELIZABETHThe Lord protect him from that kingly title!
Hath he set bounds betwixt their love and me?

I am their mother; who should keep me from them?
DUCHESS OF YORKI am their fathers mother; I will see them.
LADY ANNETheir aunt I am in law, in love their mother:
Then bring me to their sights; I'll bear thy blame
And take thy office from thee, on my peril.
BRAKENBURYNo, madam, no; I may not leave it so:
I am bound by oath, and therefore pardon me.
LORD STANLEYLet me but meet you, ladies, one hour hence,
And I'll salute your grace of York as mother,
And reverend looker on, of two fair queens.30
Come, madam, you must straight to Westminster,
There to be crowned Richard's royal queen.
QUEEN ELIZABETHO, cut my lace in sunder, that my pent heart
May have some scope to beat, or else I swoon
With this dead-killing news!
LADY ANNEDespiteful tidings! O unpleasing news!
DORSETBe of good cheer: mother, how fares your grace?
QUEEN ELIZABETHO Dorset, speak not to me, get thee hence!
Death and destruction dog thee at the heels;
Thy mother's name is ominous to children.40
If thou wilt outstrip death, go cross the seas,
And live with Richmond, from the reach of hell
Go, hie thee, hie thee from this slaughter-house,
Lest thou increase the number of the dead;
And make me die the thrall of Margaret's curse,
Nor mother, wife, nor England's counted queen.
LORD STANLEYFull of wise care is this your counsel, madam.
Take all the swift advantage of the hours;
You shall have letters from me to my son
To meet you on the way, and welcome you.50
Be not ta'en tardy by unwise delay.
DUCHESS OF YORKO ill-dispersing wind of misery!
O my accursed womb, the bed of death!
A cockatrice hast thou hatch'd to the world,
Whose unavoided eye is murderous.
LORD STANLEYCome, madam, come; I in all haste was sent.
LADY ANNEAnd I in all unwillingness will go.
I would to God that the inclusive verge
Of golden metal that must round my brow
Were red-hot steel, to sear me to the brain!60
Anointed let me be with deadly venom,
And die, ere men can say, God save the queen!
QUEEN ELIZABETHGo, go, poor soul, I envy not thy glory
To feed my humour, wish thyself no harm.
LADY ANNENo! why? When he that is my husband now
Came to me, as I follow'd Henry's corse,
When scarce the blood was well wash'd from his hands
Which issued from my other angel husband
And that dead saint which then I weeping follow'd;
O, when, I say, I look'd on Richard's face,70
This was my wish: 'Be thou,' quoth I, 'accursed,
For making me, so young, so old a widow!
And, when thou wed'st, let sorrow haunt thy bed;
And be thy wife--if any be so mad--
As miserable by the life of thee
As thou hast made me by my dear lord's death!'
Lo, ere I can repeat this curse again,
Even in so short a space, my woman's heart
Grossly grew captive to his honey words
And proved the subject of my own soul's curse,80
Which ever since hath kept my eyes from rest;
For never yet one hour in his bed
Have I enjoy'd the golden dew of sleep,
But have been waked by his timorous dreams.
Besides, he hates me for my father Warwick;
And will, no doubt, shortly be rid of me.
QUEEN ELIZABETHPoor heart, adieu! I pity thy complaining.
LADY ANNENo more than from my soul I mourn for yours.
QUEEN ELIZABETHFarewell, thou woful welcomer of glory!
LADY ANNEAdieu, poor soul, that takest thy leave of it!90
Go thou to Richmond, and good fortune guide thee!
Go thou to Richard, and good angels guard thee!
Go thou to sanctuary, and good thoughts possess thee!
I to my grave, where peace and rest lie with me!
Eighty odd years of sorrow have I seen,
And each hour's joy wrecked with a week of teen.
QUEEN ELIZABETHStay, yet look back with me unto the Tower.
Pity, you ancient stones, those tender babes
Whom envy hath immured within your walls!
Rough cradle for such little pretty ones!100
Rude ragged nurse, old sullen playfellow
For tender princes, use my babies well!
So foolish sorrow bids your stones farewell.

Richard III, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1
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.


1. Niece, here — granddaughter, as nephew — grandson.

15. Patience, indulgence, leave.

24. Sights. The plural is frequently used in designating an attribute shared by more than one.

25. On my peril, on my own risk.

42. Richmond was now in Brittany.

45. Thrall, slave. This is originally a Scandinavian word, cognate with the Old High German drigil, a serf, literally runner. The same root appears in Gothic thragjan A.S. thraegian, to run, as well as in the Greek treichen, to run. The ordinary derivation of thrall from A.S. thyrlian, to drill, from the practice of boring the ear of a slave, in token of servitude (Exodus 21:6), is an impossibility.

49. My son. Lord Stanley had married Lady Margaret, and was therefore Richmond's stepfather.

51. Ta'en tardy, found lingering.

52. Ill-dispersing, causing friends to separate.

54. Cockatrice, the same as the basilisk. See note to I. ii. 145. The name is due to the belief that it sprung from a cock's egg.

58. Inclusive, encircling.

59. Round, surround.

60. Rebels or regicides were sometimes, in the middle ages, punished by having a circle of red-hot iron put upon the head. In 1514, the peasants of Hungary, led by George and Luke Dosa, rose against the nobles. George, when taken, was punished by being seated upon a red-hot iron throne, with a red-hot crown and scepter. This is alluded to by Goldsmith in his Traveller, line 436: "Luke's iron crown, and Damiens' bed of steel," though it is the wrong brother whom he makes to suffer the torment.

64. To feed my humor, do not, in order to lessen my grief, wish harm to yourself.

79. Grossly, stupidly.

95. Eighty-odd years. The Duchess was actually about seventy at this time. She survived until 1495.

96. Teen, sorrow. A.S. teona, injury.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard, 1886. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2014. < >.


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Notes on Richard III...

Shakespeare's friend and fellow actor, Richard Burbage, amazed and delighted audiences with his stirring interpretation of the outrageous villain Richard III. On March 13, 1602, a lawyer and diarist named John Manningham recorded a now-famous anecdote about Shakespeare and Richard Burbage:
"Upon a time when Burbage played Richard the Third there was a citizen grew so far in liking with him, that before she went from the play she appointed him to come that night unto her by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare, overhearing their conclusion, went before, was entertained and at his game ere Burbage came. Then, message being brought that Richard the Third was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third."

British geneticists at the University of Leicester announced this month they will soon try to sequence the genome of King Richard III. King Richard's corpse was discovered in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester. Find out more on the Wellcome Trust website.

"Richard is the very personation of confidence in self-conduct and self-control, in his absolute command of every form of dissimulation, and still more difficult, of simulation. He is arrogant no less, on the strength of his superiority to any natural stirrings of love or pity, of terror or remorse. Like lago he believes in the absolute sway of will-wielded intellect to subject and mould passion to its own determinations, while both are, unconsciously to themselves, overmastered and enslaved by a tyrannous passion that ever keeps out of their own sight as if lurking- and shifting place behind them." William Lloyd. Read on...

Shakespeare acquired substantial wealth thanks to his acting and writing abilities, and his shares in London theatres. So how much money did Shakespeare make by selling Richard III? Read on...

"Because of its rapid recurrence of exciting scenes and incidents, its turbulent action, and the centering of the interest upon one chief personage [Richard III] is the greatest favorite of all the histories for the stage, is yet the poorest and thinnest in thought, the least free and harmonious in rhythm in a word, the least Shakespearean of them all. Compare it with Richard II which was written a year or two after it, and in which Shakespeare seems to have taken his first great step toward originality in style and in the treatment of his material." Richard Grant White. Read on...

Malmsey, a rich and sweet wine brought to England from Greece in the 16th century, is now produced on the island of Madeira. Shakespeare writes about Malmsey many times, but the most famous reference to Malmsey in all of literature can be found in Richard III, when Richard orders the execution of his brother, the Duke of Clarence. Richard's hired assassins decide to drown Clarence in a large cask (butt) of the brew. When they arrive at the Tower of London to carry out the task, the unsuspecting Clarence asks for a cup of wine. The Second Murderer offers this ghastly retort: "You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon" (1.4.153). Read on...

The 1995 film adaptation of Richard III, starring Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent and Robert Downey Jr. is set in 1930s Britain. Ian McKellen won the BAFTA for his role as King Richard.