London. The temple garden.
(Richard Plantagenet; Earl Warwick; Duke of Somerset; Earl of Suffolk; Vernon; Lawyer)
In the gardens of the Temple law school, Richard Plantagenet and the Duke of Somerset continue to debate a difference of opinion they began over lunch, which soon grows to a quarrel. When their companions refuse to announce whose side they are on, Plantagenet picks a white rose and tells those who support him to do the same, while Somerset chooses a red rose. Somerset refuses to accept the verdict when more pick white roses than red, and the quarrel grows more abusive, until Somerset accuses Plantagenet of being a commoner and the son of a traitor. Plantagenet is needled by this, and both sides swear violence against each other. Warwick expresses his certainty that the blot of Plantagenet’s father’s treason will be wiped out in the coming parliament, and that Richard will be named Duke of York. Richard’s supporters pledge to keep wearing their roses, though they realize this is likely to lead to bloodshed. (135 lines)
Enter Richard Plantagenet, Warwick, Somerset, Pole the Earl of Suffolk, and others; Vernon and a Lawyer.
Great lords and gentlemen, what means this silence?
Dare no man answer in a case of truth?
Within the Temple Hall we were too loud,
The garden here is more convenient.
Then say at once if I maintain’d the truth;
Or else was wrangling Somerset in th’ error?
Faith, I have been a truant in the law,
And never yet could frame my will to it,
And therefore frame the law unto my will.
Judge you, my Lord of Warwick, then between us.
Between two hawks, which flies the higher pitch,
Between two dogs, which hath the deeper mouth,
Between two blades, which bears the better temper,
Between two horses, which doth bear him best,
Between two girls, which hath the merriest eye—
I have perhaps some shallow spirit of judgment;
But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.
Tut, tut, here is a mannerly forbearance.
The truth appears so naked on my side
That any purblind eye may find it out.
And on my side it is so well apparell’d,
So clear, so shining, and so evident,
That it will glimmer through a blindman’s eye.
Since you are tongue-tied and so loath to speak,
In dumb significants proclaim your thoughts:
Let him that is a true-born gentleman
And stands upon the honor of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me.
Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.
I love no colors; and without all color
Of base insinuating flattery,
I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet.
I pluck this red rose with young Somerset,
And say withal, I think he held the right.
Stay, lords and gentlemen, and pluck no more,
Till you conclude that he upon whose side
The fewest roses are cropp’d from the tree
Shall yield the other in the right opinion.
Good Master Vernon, it is well objected;
If I have fewest, I subscribe in silence.
Then for the truth and plainness of the case,
I pluck this pale and maiden blossom here,
Giving my verdict on the white rose side.
Prick not your finger as you pluck it off,
Lest, bleeding, you do paint the white rose red,
And fall on my side so against your will.
If I, my lord, for my opinion bleed,
Opinion shall be surgeon to my hurt,
And keep me on the side where still I am.
Well, well, come on, who else?
Unless my study and my books be false,
The argument you held was wrong in you;
In sign whereof I pluck a white rose too.
Now, Somerset, where is your argument?
Here in my scabbard, meditating that
Shall dye your white rose in a bloody red.
Mean time your cheeks do counterfeit our roses;
For pale they look with fear, as witnessing
The truth on our side.
’Tis not for fear, but anger, that thy cheeks
Blush for pure shame to counterfeit our roses,
And yet thy tongue will not confess thy error.
Hath not thy rose a canker, Somerset?
Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?
Ay, sharp and piercing, to maintain his truth,
Whiles thy consuming canker eats his falsehood.
Well, I’ll find friends to wear my bleeding roses,
That shall maintain what I have said is true,
Where false Plantagenet dare not be seen.
Now, by this maiden blossom in my hand,
I scorn thee and thy fashion, peevish boy.
Turn not thy scorns this way, Plantagenet.
Proud Pole, I will, and scorn both him and thee.
I’ll turn my part thereof into thy throat.
Away, away, good William de la Pole!
We grace the yeoman by conversing with him.
Now, by God’s will, thou wrong’st him, Somerset;
His grandfather was Lionel Duke of Clarence,
Third son to the third Edward, King of England.
Spring crestless yeomen from so deep a root?
He bears him on the place’s privilege,
Or durst not for his craven heart say thus.
By Him that made me, I’ll maintain my words
On any plot of ground in Christendom.
Was not thy father, Richard Earl of Cambridge,
For treason executed in our late king’s days?
And by his treason, stand’st not thou attainted,
Corrupted, and exempt from ancient gentry?
His trespass yet lives guilty in thy blood,
And till thou be restor’d, thou art a yeoman.
My father was attached, not attainted,
Condemn’d to die for treason, but no traitor;
And that I’ll prove on better men than Somerset,
Were growing time once ripened to my will.
For your partaker Pole, and you yourself,
I’ll note you in my book of memory,
To scourge you for this apprehension.
Look to it well, and say you are well warn’d.
Ah, thou shalt find us ready for thee still;
And know us by these colors for thy foes,
For these my friends in spite of thee shall wear.
And, by my soul, this pale and angry rose,
As cognizance of my blood-drinking hate,
Will I forever and my faction wear,
Until it wither with me to my grave,
Or flourish to the height of my degree.
Go forward, and be chok’d with thy ambition!
And so farewell until I meet thee next.
Have with thee, Pole. Farewell, ambitious Richard.
How I am brav’d, and must perforce endure it!
This blot that they object against your house
Shall be wip’d out in the next parliament,
Call’d for the truce of Winchester and Gloucester;
And if thou be not then created York,
I will not live to be accounted Warwick.
Mean time, in signal of my love to thee,
Against proud Somerset and William Pole,
Will I upon thy party wear this rose.
And here I prophesy: this brawl today,
Grown to this faction in the Temple Garden,
Shall send between the Red Rose and the White
A thousand souls to death and deadly night.
Good Master Vernon, I am bound to you
That you on my behalf would pluck a flower.
In your behalf still will I wear the same.
And so will I.
Come, let us four to dinner. I dare say
This quarrel will drink blood another day.