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

Act IV. Scene I.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

London.Before the Tower.


Duch.Who meets us here? my niece Plantagenet,

Led in the hand of her kind aunt of Gloucester?

Now, for my life, she’s wand’ring to the Tower,

On pure heart’s love, to greet the tender princes.

Daughter, well met.

Anne.God give your Graces both

A happy and a joyful time of day!

Q. Eliz.As much to you, good sister! whither away!

Anne.No further than the Tower; and, as I guess,

Upon the like devotion as yourselves,

To gratulate the gentle princes there.

Q. Eliz.Kind 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?

Brak.Right well, dear madam. By your patience,

I may not suffer you to visit them:

The king hath strictly charg’d the contrary.

Q. Eliz.The king! who’s that?

Brak.I mean the Lord Protector.

Q. Eliz.The Lord protect him from that kingly title!

Hath he set bounds between their love and me?

I am their mother; who shall bar me from them?

Duch.I am their father’s mother; I will see them.

Anne.Their 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.

Brak.No, madam, no, I may not leave it so:

I am bound by oath, and therefore pardon me.[Exit.


Stan.Let 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.

[To the DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER.]Come, madam, you must straight to Westminster,

There to be crowned Richard’s royal queen.

Q. Eliz.Ah! cut my lace asunder,

That my pent heart may have some scope to beat,

Or else I swoon with this dead-killing news.

Anne.Despiteful tidings! O! unpleasing news!

Dor.Be of good cheer: mother, how fares your Grace?

Q. Eliz.O, Dorset! speak not to me, get thee gone;

Death and destruction dog thee at the heels:

Thy mother’s name is ominous to children.

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.

Stan.Full of wise care is this your counsel, madam.

[To DORSET.]Take all the swift advantage of the hours;

You shall have letters from me to my son

In your behalf, to meet you on the way:

Be not ta’en tardy by unwise delay.

Duch.O 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!

Stan.Come, madam, come; I in all haste was sent.

Anne.And I with all unwillingness will go.

O! 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.

Anointed let me be with deadly venom;

And die, ere men can say ‘God save the queen!’

Q. Eliz.Go, go, poor soul, I envy not thy glory;

To feed my humour, wish thyself no harm.

Anne.No! 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 issu’d 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,

This was my wish, ‘Be thou,’ quoth I, ‘accurs’d,

For making me so young, so old a widow!

And, when thou wedd’st, let sorrow haunt thy bed;

And be thy wife—if any be so mad—

More miserable by the life of thee

Than thou hast made me by my dear lord’s death!’

Lo! ere I can repeat this curse again,

Within so small a time, my woman’s heart

Grossly grew captive to his honey words,

And prov’d the subject of mine own soul’s curse:

Which hitherto hath held mine eyes from rest;

For never yet one hour in his bed

Did I enjoy the golden dew of sleep,

But with his timorous dreams was still awak’d.

Besides, he hates me for my father Warwick,

And will, no doubt, shortly be rid of me.

Q. Eliz.Poor heart, adieu! I pity thy complaining.

Anne.No more than with my soul I mourn for yours.

Q. Eliz.Farewell! thou woeful welcomer of glory!

Anne.Adieu, poor soul, that tak’st thy leave of it!

Duch.[To DORSET.]Go thou to Richmond, and good fortune guide thee!

[To ANNE.]Go thou to Richard, and good angels tend thee!

[To Q. ELIZABETH.]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 wrack’d with a week of teen.

Q. Eliz.Stay yet, look back with me unto the Tower.

Pity, you ancient stones, those tender babes

Whom envy hath immur’d within your walls,

Rough cradle for such little pretty ones!

Rude ragged nurse, old sullen playfellow

For tender princes, use my babies well.

So foolish sorrow bids your stones farewell.[Exeunt.