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

Act I. Scene IV.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

The Same.The Tower.


Brak.Why looks your Grace so heavily to-day?

Clar.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.

Brak.What was your dream, my lord? I pray you, tell me.

Clar.Methought that I had broken from the Tower,

And was embark’d to cross to Burgundy;

And in my company my brother Gloucester,

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 Gloucester stumbled; and, in falling,

Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard,

Into the tumbling billows of the main.

Lord, Lord! methought what pain it was to drown:

What dreadful noise of water in mine ears!

What sights of ugly death within mine eyes!

Methought I saw a thousand fearful wracks;

A thousand men that fishes gnaw’d upon;

Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,

Inestimable stones, unvalu’d jewels,

All scatter’d in the bottom of the sea.

Some layin dead men’s skulls; and in those holes

Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept,

As ’twere in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,

That woo’d the slimy bottom of the deep,

And mock’d the dead bones that lay scatter’d by.

Brak.Had you such leisure in the time of death

To gaze upon those secrets of the deep?

Clar.Methought I had; and often did I strive

To yield the ghost; but still the envious flood

Stopt in my soul, and would not let it forth

To find the empty, vast, and wandering air;

But smother’d it within my panting bulk,

Which almost burst to belch it in the sea.

Brak.Awak’d you not with this sore agony?

Clar.No, no, my dream was lengthen’d after life;

O! then began the tempest to my soul.

I pass’d, methought, the melancholy flood,

With that grim ferryman which poets write of,

Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.

The first that there did greet my stranger soul,

Was my great father-in-law, renowned Warwick;

Who cried aloud, ‘What scourge for perjury

Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?’

And so he vanish’d: then came wandering by

A shadow like an angel, with bright hair

Dabbled in blood; and he shriek’d out aloud,

‘Clarence is come,—false, fleeting, perjur’d Clarence,

That stabb’d me in the field by Tewksbury;—

Seize on him! Furies, take him unto torment.’

With that, methought, a legion of foul fiends

Environ’d me, and howled in mine ears

Such hideous cries, that, with the very noise

I trembling wak’d, and, for a season after

Could not believe but that I was in hell,

Such terrible impression made my dream.

Brak.No marvel, lord, though it affrighted you;

I am afraid, methinks, to hear you tell it.

Clar.O Brakenbury! I have done these things

That now give evidence against my soul,

For Edward’s sake; and see how he requites me.

O God! if my deep prayers cannot appease thee,

But thou wilt be aveng’d on my misdeeds,

Yet execute thy wrath on me alone:

O! spare my guiltless wife and my poor children.

I pray thee, gentle keeper, stay by me;

My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.

Brak.I will, my lord. God give your Grace good rest![CLARENCE sleeps.

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 imaginations,

They often feel a world of restless cares:

So that, between their titles and low names,

There’s nothing differs but the outward fame.

Enter the two Murderers.

First Murd.Ho! who’s here?

Brak.What wouldst thou, fellow? and how cam’st thou hither?

First Murd.I would speak with Clarence, and I came hither on my legs.

Brak.What! so brief?

Sec. Murd.’Tis better, sir, than to be tedious.—

Let him see our commission, and talk no more.[A paper is delivered to BRAKENBURY, who reads it.

Brak.I am, in this, commanded to deliver

The noble Duke of Clarence to your hands:

I will not reason what is meant hereby,

Because I will be guiltless of the meaning.

There lies the duke asleep, and there the keys.

I’ll to the king; and signify to him

That thus I have resign’d to you my charge.

First Murd.You may, sir; ’tis a point of wisdom: fare you well.[Exit BRAKENBURY.

Sec. Murd.What! shall we stab him as he sleeps?

First Murd.No; he’ll say ’twas done cowardly, when he wakes.

Sec. Murd.When he wakes! why, fool, he shall never wake till the judgment-day.

First Murd.Why, then he’ll say we stabbed him sleeping.

Sec. Murd.The urging of that word ‘judgment’ hath bred a kind of remorse in me.

First Murd.What! art thou afraid?

Sec. Murd.Not to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be damn’d for killing him, from the which no warrant can defend me.

First Murd.I thought thou hadst been resolute.

Sec. Murd.So I am, to let him live.

First Murd.I’ll back to the Duke of Gloucester, and tell him so.

Sec. Murd.Nay, I prithee, stay a little: I hope my holy humour will change; it was wont to hold me but while one tells twenty.

First Murd.How dost thou feel thyself now?

Sec. Murd.Some certain dregs of conscience are yet within me.

First Murd.Remember our reward when the deed’s done.

Sec. Murd.’Zounds! he dies: I had forgot the reward.

First Murd.Where’s thy conscience now?

Sec. Murd.In the Duke of Gloucester’s purse.

First Murd.So when he opens his purse to give us our reward, thy conscience flies out.

Sec. Murd.’Tis no matter; let it go: there’s few or none will entertain it.

First Murd.What if it come to thee again?

Sec. Murd.I’ll not meddle with it; 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 shamefast 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, endeavours to trust to himself and live without it.

First Murd.’Zounds! it is even now at my elbow, persuading me not to kill the duke.

Sec. Murd.Take the devil in thy mind, and believe him not: he would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.

First Murd.Tut, I am strong-framed; he cannot prevail with me.

Sec. Murd.Spoke like a tall fellow that respects his reputation. Come, shall we to this gear?

First Murd.Take him over the costard with the hilts of thy sword, and then throw him into the malmsey-butt in the next room.

Sec. Murd.O, excellent device! make a sop of him.

First Murd.Soft! he wakes.

Sec. Murd.Strike!

First Murd.No, we’ll reason with him.

Clar.Where art thou, keeper? give me a cup of wine.

First Murd.You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.

Clar.In God’s name, what art thou?

First Murd.A man, as you are.

Clar.But not, as I am, royal.

First Murd.Nor you, as we are, loyal.

Clar.Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.

First Murd.My voice is now the king’s, my looks mine own.

Clar.How darkly, and how deadly dost thou speak!

Your eyes do menace me: why look you pale?

Who sent you hither? Wherefore do you come?

Both Murd.To, to, to—

Clar.To murder me?

Both Murd.Ay, ay.

Clar.You scarcely have the hearts to tell me so,

And therefore cannot have the hearts to do it.

Wherein, my friends, have I offended you?

First Murd.Offended us you have not, but the king.

Clar.I shall be reconcil’d to him again.

Sec. Murd.Never, my lord; therefore prepare to die.

Clar.Are you call’d forth from out a world of men

To slay the innocent? What is my offence?

Where is the evidence that doth accuse me?

What lawful quest have given their verdict up

Unto the frowning judge? or who pronounc’d

The bitter sentence of poor Clarence’ death?

Before I be convict by course of law,

To threaten me with death is most unlawful.

I charge you, as you hope to have redemption

By Christ’s dear blood shed for our grievous sins,

That you depart and lay no hands on me;

The deed you undertake is damnable.

First Murd.What we will do, we do upon command.

Sec. Murd.And he that hath commanded is our king.

Clar.Erroneous vassal! the great King of kings

Hath in the table of his law commanded

That thou shalt do no murder: will you, then,

Spurn at his edict and fulfil a man’s?

Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hand,

To hurl upon their heads that break his law.

Sec. Murd.And that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee,

For false forswearing and for murder too:

Thou didst receive the sacrament to fight

In quarrel of the house of Lancaster.

First Murd.And, like a traitor to the name of God,

Didst break that vow, and, with thy treacherous blade

Unripp’dst the bowels of thy sovereign’s son.

Sec. Murd.Whom thou wast sworn to cherish and defend.

First Murd.How canst thou urge God’s dreadful law to us,

When thou hast broke it in such dear degree?

Clar.Alas! for whose sake did I that ill deed?

For Edward, for my brother, for his sake:

He sends you not to murder me for this;

For in that sin he is as deep as I.

If God will be avenged for the deed,

O! know you yet, he doth it publicly:

Take not the quarrel from his powerful arm;

He needs no indirect or lawless course

To cut off those that have offended him.

First Murd.Who made thee then a bloody minister,

When gallant-springing, brave Plantagenet,

That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?

Clar.My brother’s love, the devil, and my rage.

First Murd.Thy brother’s love, our duty, and thy fault,

Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.

Clar.If you do love my brother, hate not me;

I am his brother, and I love him well.

If you are hir’d for meed, go back again,

And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,

Who shall reward you better for my life

Than Edward will for tidings of my death.

Sec. Murd.You are deceiv’d, your brother Gloucester hates you.

Clar.O, no! he loves me, and he holds me dear:

Go you to him from me.

Both Murd.Ay, so we will.

Clar.Tell him, when that our princely father York

Bless’d his three sons with his victorious arm,

And charg’d us from his soul to love each other,

He little thought of this divided friendship:

Bid Gloucester think on this, and he will weep.

First Murd.Ay, millstones; as he lesson’d us to weep.

Clar.O! do not slander him, for he is kind.

First Murd.Right;

As snow in harvest. Thou deceiv’st thyself:

’Tis he that sends us to destroy you here.

Clar.It cannot be; for he bewept my fortune,

And hugg’d me in his arms, and swore, with sobs,

That he would labour my delivery.

First Murd.Why, so he doth, when he delivers you

From this earth’s thraldom to the joys of heaven.

Sec. Murd.Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord.

Clar.Hast thou that holy feeling in thy soul,

To counsel me to make my peace with God,

And art thou yet to thy own soul so blind,

That thou wilt war with God by murdering me?

O! sirs, consider, he that set you on

To do this deed, will hate you for the deed.

Sec. Murd.What shall we do?

Clar.Relent and save your souls.

First Murd.Relent! ’tis cowardly, and womanish.

Clar.Not to relent, is beastly, savage, devilish.

Which of you, if you were a prince’s son,

Being pent from liberty, as I am now,

If two such murd’rers as yourselves came to you,

Would not entreat for life?

My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks;

O! if thine eye be not a flatterer,

Come thou on my side, and entreat for me,

As you would beg, were you in my distress:

A begging prince what beggar pities not?

Sec. Murd.Look behind you, my lord.

First Murd.[Stabs him.]Take that, and that: if all this will not do,

I’ll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.[Exit with the body.

Sec. Murd.A bloody deed, and desperately dispatch’d!

How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands

Of this most grievous murder.

Re-enter first Murderer.

First Murd.How now! what mean’st thou, that thou help’st me not?

By heaven, the duke shall know how slack you have been.

Sec. Murd.I would he knew that I had sav’d his brother!

Take thou the fee, and tell him what I say;

For I repent me that the duke is slain.[Exit.

First Murd.So do not I: go, coward as thou art.

Well, I’ll go hide the body in some hole,

Till that the duke give order for his burial:

And when I have my meed, I will away;

For this will out, and here I must not stay.[Exit.