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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene II.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second

The Coast of Wales.A Castle in view.

Flourish: drums and trumpets.Enter KING RICHARD, the BISHOP OF CARLISLE, AUMERLE, and Soldiers.

K. Rich.Barkloughly Castle call they this at hand?

Aum.Yea, my lord. How brooks your Grace the air,

After your late tossing on the breaking seas?

K. Rich.Needs must I like it well: I weep for joy

To stand upon my kingdom once again.

Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand,

Though rebels wound thee with their horses’ hoofs:

As a long-parted mother with her child

Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting,

So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth,

And do thee favour with my royal hands.

Feed not thy sovereign’s foe, my gentle earth,

Nor with thy sweets comfort his ravenous sense;

But let thy spiders, that suck up thy venom,

And heavy-gaited toads lie in their way,

Doing annoyance to the treacherous feet

Which with usurping steps do trample thee.

Yield stinging nettles to mine enemies;

And when they from thy bosom pluck a flower,

Guard it, I pray thee, with a lurking adder

Whose double tongue may with a mortal touch

Throw death upon thy sovereign’s enemies.

Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords:

This earth shall have a feeling and these stones

Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king

Shall falter under foul rebellion’s arms.

Car.Fear not, my lord: that power that made you king

Hath power to keep you king in spite of all.

The means that heaven yields must be embrac’d,

And not neglected; else, if heaven would,

And we will not, heaven’s offer we refuse,

The proffer’d means of succour and redress.

Aum.He means, my lord, that we are too remiss;

Whilst Bolingbroke, through our security,

Grows strong and great in substance and in friends.

K. Rich.Discomfortable cousin! know’st thou not

That when the searching eye of heaven is hid

Behind the globe, and lights the lower world,

Then thieves and robbers range abroad unseen,

In murders and in outrage bloody here;

But when, from under this terrestrial ball

He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines

And darts his light through every guilty hole,

Then murders, treasons, and detested sins,

The cloak of night being pluck’d from off their backs,

Stand bare and naked, trembling at themselves?

So when this thief, this traitor, Bolingbroke,

Who all this while hath revell’d in the night

Whilst we were wandering with the antipodes,

Shall see us rising in our throne, the east,

His treasons will sit blushing in his face,

Not able to endure the sight of day,

But self-affrighted tremble at his sin.

Not all the water in the rough rude sea

Can wash the balm from an anointed king;

The breath of worldly men cannot depose

The deputy elected by the Lord.

For every man that Bolingbroke hath press’d

To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,

God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay

A glorious angel: then, if angels fight,

Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right.


Welcome, my lord: how far off lies your power?

Sal.Nor near nor further off, my gracious lord,

Than this weak arm: discomfort guides my tongue

And bids me speak of nothing but despair.

One day too late, I fear me, noble lord,

Hath clouded all thy happy days on earth.

O! call back yesterday, bid time return,

And thou shalt have twelve thousand fighting men:

To-day, to-day, unhappy day too late,

O’erthrows thy joys, friends, fortune, and thy state;

For all the Welshmen, hearing thou wert dead,

Are gone to Bolingbroke, dispers’d, and fled.

Aum.Comfort, my liege! why looks your Grace so pale?

K. Rich.But now, the blood of twenty thousand men

Did triumph in my face, and they are fled;

And till so much blood thither come again

Have I not reason to look pale and dead?

All souls that will be safe, fly from my side;

For time hath set a blot upon my pride.

Aum.Comfort, my liege! remember who you are.

K. Rich.I had forgot myself. Am I not king?

Awake, thou sluggard majesty! thou sleepest.

Is not the king’s name twenty thousand names?

Arm, arm, my name! a puny subject strikes

At thy great glory. Look not to the ground,

Ye favourites of a king: are we not high?

High be our thoughts: I know my uncle York

Hath power enough to serve our turn. But who comes here?


Scroop.More health and happiness betide my liege

Than can my care-tun’d tongue deliver him!

K. Rich.Mine ear is open and my heart prepar’d:

The worst is worldly loss thou canst unfold.

Say, is my kingdom lost? why, ’twas my care;

And what loss is it to be rid of care?

Strives Bolingbroke to be as great as we?

Greater he shall not be: if he serve God

We’ll serve him too, and be his fellow so:

Revolt our subjects? that we cannot mend;

They break their faith to God as well as us:

Cry woe, destruction, ruin, loss, decay;

The worst is death, and death will have his day.

Scroop.Glad am I that your highness is so arm’d

To bear the tidings of calamity.

Like an unseasonable stormy day

Which makes the silver rivers drown their shores,

As if the world were all dissolv’d to tears,

So high above his limits swells the rage

Of Bolingbroke, covering your fearful land

With hard bright steel and hearts harder than steel.

White-beards have arm’d their thin and hairless scalps

Against thy majesty; and boys, with women’s voices,

Strive to speak big, and clap their female joints

In stiff unwieldy arms against thy crown;

Thy very beadsmen learn to bend their bows

Of double-fatal yew against thy state;

Yea, distaff-women manage rusty bills

Against thy seat: both young and old rebel,

And all goes worse than I have power to tell.

K. Rich.Too well, too well thou tell’st a tale so ill.

Where is the Earl of Wiltshire? where is Bagot?

What is become of Bushy? where is Green?

That they have let the dangerous enemy

Measure our confines with such peaceful steps?

If we prevail, their heads shall pay for it.

I warrant they have made peace with Bolingbroke.

Scroop.Peace have they made with him, indeed, my lord.

K. Rich.O villains, vipers, damn’d without redemption!

Dogs, easily won to fawn on any man!

Snakes, in my heart-blood warm’d, that sting my heart!

Three Judases, each one thrice worse than Judas!

Would they make peace? terrible hell make war

Upon their spotted souls for this offence!

Scroop.Sweet love, I see, changing his property,

Turns to the sourest and most deadly hate.

Again uncurse their souls; their peace is made

With heads and not with hands: those whom you curse

Have felt the worst of death’s destroying wound

And lie full low, grav’d in the hollow ground.

Aum.Is Bushy, Green, and the Earl of Wiltshire dead?

Scroop.Yea, all of them at Bristol lost their heads.

Aum.Where is the duke my father with his power?

K. Rich.No matter where. Of comfort no man speak:

Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;

Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes

Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth;

Let’s choose executors and talk of wills:

And yet not so—for what can we bequeath

Save our deposed bodies to the ground?

Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke’s,

And nothing can we call our own but death,

And that small model of the barren earth

Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground

And tell sad stories of the death of kings:

How some have been depos’d, some slain in war,

Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos’d,

Some poison’d by their wives, some sleeping kill’d;

All murder’d: for within the hollow crown

That rounds the mortal temples of a king

Keeps Death his court, and there the antick sits,

Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp;

Allowing him a breath, a little scene,

To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks,

Infusing him with self and vain conceit

As if this flesh which walls about our life

Were brass impregnable; and humour’d thus

Comes at the last, and with a little pin

Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood

With solemn reverence: throw away respect,

Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,

For you have but mistook me all this while:

I live with bread like you, feel want,

Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,

How can you say to me I am a king?

Car.My lord, wise men ne’er sit and wail their woes,

But presently prevent the ways to wail.

To fear the foe, since fear oppresseth strength,

Gives in your weakness strength unto your foe,

And so your follies fight against yourself.

Fear and be slain; no worse can come to fight:

And fight and die is death destroying death;

Where fearing dying pays death servile breath.

Aum.My father hath a power; inquire of him

And learn to make a body of a limb.

K. Rich.Thou chid’st me well. Proud Bolingbroke, I come

To change blows with thee for our day of doom.

This ague-fit of fear is over-blown;

An easy task it is, to win our own.—

Say, Scroop, where lies our uncle with his power?

Speak sweetly, man, although thy looks be sour.

Scroop.Men judge by the complexion of the sky

The state and inclination of the day;

So may you by my dull and heavy eye,

My tongue hath but a heavier tale to say.

I play the torturer, by small and small

To lengthen out the worst that must be spoken.

Your uncle York is join’d with Bolingbroke,

And all your northern castles yielded up,

And all your southern gentlemen in arms

Upon his party.

K. Rich.Thou hast said enough.

[To AUMERLE.]Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth

Of that sweet way I was in to despair!

What say you now? What comfort have we now?

By heaven, I’ll hate him everlastingly

That bids me be of comfort any more.

Go to Flint Castle: there I’ll pine away;

A king, woe’s slave, shall kingly woe obey.

That power I have, discharge; and let them go

To ear the land that hath some hope to grow,

For I have none: let no man speak again

To alter this, for counsel is but vain.

Aum.My liege, one word.

K. Rich.He does me double wrong,

That wounds me with the flatteries of his tongue.

Discharge my followers: let them hence away,

From Richard’s night to Bolingbroke’s fair day.[Exeunt.