Richard III (play)

Shakespearean history play

The Life and Death of King Richard III (c. 1591) is William Shakespeare's version of the short career of Richard III of England, who is depicted as a villain. The play is sometimes listed as a tragedy but more correctly belongs among the histories. It picks up the story from Henry VI, Part 3 and is the conclusion of a series that begins with Richard II.

Act I edit

  • Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of York
    And all the clouds, that lour'd upon our house,
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
    Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
    Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
    Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
    Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
    Grim-visag'd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
    And now, — instead of mounting barbed steeds,
    To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,—
    He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
    To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
    But I, — that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
    Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
    I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love’s majesty,
    To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
    I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
    Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
    Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
    Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
    And that so lamely and unfashionable,
    That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them,—
    Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
    Have no delight to pass away the time,
    Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
    And descant on mine own deformity.
    And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
    To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
    I am determined to prove a villain
    And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene i

  • Villain, thou know'st no law of God nor man;
    No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
    • Lady Anne, scene ii

  • To leave this keen encounter of our wits.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene ii

  • Look, how this ring encompasseth thy finger,
    Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;
    Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene ii

  • 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.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene ii

  • A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman, —
    Fram'd in the prodigality of nature,
    Young, valiant, wise, and, no doubt, right royal, —
    The spacious world cannot again afford.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene ii

  • I cannot tell: the world is grown so bad,
    That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch:
    Since every Jack became a gentleman,
    There's many a gentle person made a Jack.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene iii

  • Thy friends suspect for traitors while thou liv'st,
    And take deep traitors for thy dearest friends!
    No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine,
    Unless it be while some tormenting dream
    Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils!
    Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog!
    Thou that wast seal'd in thy nativity
    The slave of nature and the son of hell!
    Thou slander of thy heavy mother's womb!
    Thou loathed issue of thy father's loins!
    Thou rag of honour! thou detested—
    • Queen Margaret, scene iii

  • But then I sigh, and, with a piece of scripture,
    Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
    And thus I clothe my naked villainy
    With odd old ends, stol'n out of holy writ;
    And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene iii

  • Talkers are no good doers: be assur'd,
    We go to use our hands, and not our tongues.
    • First Murderer, scene iii

  • O, I have pass'd a miserable night,
    So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
    That, as I am a christian-faithful man,
    I would not spend another such a night,
    Though 'twere to buy a world of happy days. —
    So full of dismal terror was the time!
    • Clarence, scene iv

  • Methoughts that I had broken from the Tower,
    And was embark'd to cross to Burgundy;
    And, in my company, my brother Gloster;
    Who from my cabin tempted me to walk
    Upon the hatches: thence we look'd toward England,
    And cited up a thousand heavy times,
    During the wars of York and Lancaster,
    That had befall'n us. As we pac'd along
    Upon the giddy footing of the hatches,
    Methought that Gloster stumbled; and, in falling,
    Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard
    Into the tumbling billows of the main.
    O Lord, methought what pain it was to drown!
    What dreadful noise of waters in my ears!
    What sights of ugly death within my eyes!
    Methoughts I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
    A thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon;
    Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
    Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
    All scatt'red in the bottom of the sea:
    Some lay in dead men's skulls; and in the holes
    Where eyes did once inhabit there were crept,—
    As 'twere in scorn of eyes,—reflecting gems,
    • Clarence, scene iv

  • I pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood,
    With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
    Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
    • Clarence, scene iv

  • Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,
    That stabbed me in the field by Tewksbury;
    Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!
    • Clarence, scene iv

  • Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
    Makes the night morning, and the noon-tide night.
    Princes have but their titles for their glories,
    An outward honour for an inward toil;
    And, for unfelt imagination,
    They often feel a world of restless cares:
    So that, between their titles and low name,
    There's nothing differs but the outward fame.
    • Brackenbury, scene iv

  • First Murderer: How dost thou feel thyself now?
    Second Murderer: Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet within me.
    First Murderer: Remember our reward, when the deed's done.
    Second Murderer: Zounds, he dies; I had forgot the reward.
    First Murderer: Where is thy conscience now?
    Second Murderer: In the Duke of Gloucester's purse.
    First Murderer: So, when he opens his purse to give us our reward, thy conscience flies out.
    Second Murderer: Let it go; there's few or none will entertain it.
    First Murderer: How if it come to thee again?
    Second Murderer: I'll not meddle with it, it is a dangerous thing, it makes a man a coward; a man cannot steal, but it accuseth him; a man cannot swear, but it checks him; a man cannot lie with his neighbour's wife, but it detects him: 'tis a blushing shame-faced spirit, that mutinies in a man's bosom; it fills one full of obstacles: it made me once restore a purse of gold, that I found; it beggars any man that keeps it: it is turned out of all towns and cities for a dangerous thing; and every man that means to live well, endeavors to trust to himself, and live without it.
    First Murderer: Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me not to kill the duke.
    • Scene iv

Act II edit

  • Edward, my lord, your son, our king, is dead. —
    Why grow the branches when the root is gone?
    Why wither not the leaves that want their sap? —
    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.
    • Queen Elizabeth, scene ii

  • A parlous boy: — go to, you are too shrewd.
    • Queen Elizabeth, scene iv

Act III edit

  • So wise, so young, they say, do never live long.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene i

  • That Julius Caesar was a famous man;
    With what his valour did enrich his wit,
    His wit set down to make his valour live:
    Death makes no conquest of this conqueror;
    For now he lives in fame, though not in life.
    • Edward, Prince of Wales, scene i

  • An if I live until I be a man,
    I'll win our ancient right in France again,
    Or die a soldier, as I liv'd a king.
    • Edward, Prince of Wales, scene i

  • Off with his head!
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene iv

  • Woe, woe for England! Not a whit for me!
    • Hastings, scene iv

  • O momentary grace of mortal men,
    Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
    Who builds his hope in air of your fair looks,
    Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
    Ready, with every nod, to tumble down
    Into the fatal bowels of the deep.
    • Hastings, scene iv

  • O bloody Richard! —miserable England!
    I prophesy the fearfull'st time to thee
    That ever wretched age hath look'd upon. —
    Come, lead me to the block; bear him my head:
    They smile at me who shortly shall be dead.
    • Hastings, scene iv

  • A beauty-waning and distressed widow,
    Even in the afternoon of her best days.
    • Buckingham, scene vii

  • Alas, why would you heap this care on me?
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, scene vii

Act IV edit

  • But shall we wear these glories for a day?
    Or shall they last, and we rejoice in them?
    • King Richard, scene ii

  • O bitter consequence,
    That Edward still should live, true noble prince.
    Cousin, thou wast not wont to be so dull.
    Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead,
    And I would have it suddenly performed!
    • King Richard, scene ii

  • Say, have I thy consent that they shall die?
    • King Richard, scene ii

  • I must be married to my brother's daughter,
    Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass: —
    Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
    Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
    So far in blood, that sin will pluck on sin.
    Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye.
    • King Richard, scene ii

  • King Richard: I am not in the giving vein to-day.
    Buckingham: Why, then resolve me whe'r you will or no.
    King Richard: Tut, tut, thou troublest me; I am not in the vein.
    • Scene ii

  • Their lips like four red roses on a stalk.
    • Tyrrel, quoting Forrest, scene iii

  • The sons of Edward sleep in Abraham’s bosom,
    And Anne my wife hath bid the world good night.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • So; now prosperity begins to mellow,
    And drop into the rotten mouth of death.
    Here in these confines slily have I lurk’d,
    To watch the waning of mine enemies.
    A dire induction am I witness to,
    And will to France; hoping the consequence
    Will prove as bitter, black, and tragical.
    • Queen Margaret, scene iv

  • Forbear to sleep the night, and fast the day;
    Compare dead happiness with living woe;
    Think that thy babes were sweeter than they were,
    And he that slew them fouler than he is;
    Bettering thy loss makes the bad-causer worse;
    Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.
    • Queen Margaret, scene iv
  • Let not the heavens hear these tell-tale women
    Rail on the Lord’s anointed.
    • King Richard, scene iv

  • Bloody you are.
    Bloody will be thy end.
    Shame sets your life,
    And will your death attend.
    • Duchess of York, scene iv

  • Look, what is done cannot be now amended:
    Men shall deal unadvisedly sometimes,
    Which after-hours give leisure to repent.
    If I did take the kingdom from your sons,
    To make amends, I'll give it to your daughter.
    If I have kill'd the issue of your womb,
    To quicken your increase, I will beget
    Mine issue of your blood upon your daughter.
    • King Richard, scene iv

  • An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.
    • Queen Elizabeth, scene iv

  • Is the chair empty? is the sword unsway'd?
    Is the king dead? the empire unpossess'd?
    • King Richard, scene iv

Act V edit

  • Fellows in arms, and my most loving friends,
    Bruis'd underneath the yoke of tyranny,
    Thus far into the bowels of the land
    Have we march'd on without impediment.
    • Henry, Earl of Richmond, scene ii

  • True hope is swift, and flies with swallows' wings;
    Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.
    • Henry, Earl of Richmond, scene ii

  • The king's name is a tower of strength,
    Which they upon the adverse faction want.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • Despair and die!
    • The Ghosts of Edward of Wales; Henry VI; Clarence; Grey; Rivers; Vaughan; Hastings; The Princes; Anne and Buckingham, scene iii

  • Give me another horse,—bind up my wounds,—
    Have mercy, Jesu!—Soft! I did but dream.—
    O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!—
    The lights burn blue.—It is now dead midnight.
    Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
    What, do I fear myself? there's none else by:
    Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
    Is there a murderer here? No;—yes, I am:
    Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why,—
    Lest I revenge. What,—myself upon myself!
    Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
    That I myself have done unto myself?
    O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
    For hateful deeds committed by myself!
    I am a villain: yet I lie, I am not.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
    And every tongue brings in a several tale,
    And every tale condemns me for a villain.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
    And if I die, no soul shall pity me.
    Nay, wherefore should they? since that I myself
    Find in myself no pity to myself.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • The early village cock
    Hath twice done salutation to the morn.
    • Ratcliff, scene iii

  • By the apostle Paul, shadows to-night
    Have struck more terror to the soul of Richard,
    Than can the substance of ten thousand soldiers,
    Armed in proof, and led by shallow Richmond!
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me,
    More than to Richmond? for the selfsame heaven
    That frowns on me, looks sadly upon him.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • A thing devised by the enemy.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
    Devis'd at first to keep the strong in awe;
    Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.
    • King Richard, scene iii

  • Rescue, my lord of Norfolk, rescue, rescue!
    The king enacts more wonders than a man,
    Daring an opposite to every danger;
    His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights,
    Seeking for Richmond in the throat of death:
    Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!
    • Catesby, scene iv

  • I have set my life upon a cast,
    And I will stand the hazard of the die!
    I think there be six Richmonds in the field;
    Five have I slain to-day instead of him.
    • King Richard, scene iv

  • A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
    • King Richard, scene iv

  • God and your arms be prais'd, victorious friends;
    The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead.
    • Henry, Earl of Richmond, scene v

  • Inter their bodies as becomes their births.
    Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled,
    That in submission will return to us;
    And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament,
    We will unite the white rose and the red: —
    Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
    That long have frown'd upon their emnity!
    • Henry, Earl of Richmond, scene v

Quotes about Richard III edit

  • In his 1916 essay "The Exceptions", Sigmund Freud interprets Richard's opening soliloquy saying "we all demand reparation for early wounds to our narcissism, our self-love."
  • In Iran one cannot stage... Richard III... because no Iranian should see the death of a prince or a king on the stage. He might jump to conclusions, as if contemporary Iranian history itself is devoid of attempts at regicide.
    • Reza Baraheni (1977) The Crowned Cannibals: Writings on Repression in Iran, p. 11
  • The thing that is always so surprising about plays written in another century is how remarkably elastic they are. When you listen to the way in which Shakespeare attacks relationships, for example, even though the words may start off sounding foreign, in actuality they are so accessible, the motivations so clear, the resonances so contemporary. When you put it in a modern context - we could well be in a place with someone like Gaddafi or Mubarak - it becomes apparent how Richard III resonates with that type of personality, with media and manipulation, alliances and petty jealousies.

External links edit

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