London. The Tower.
(Henry the Sixth; Richard of Gloucester; Lieutenant of the Tower)
Richard and Henry meet at the Tower. Henry has no doubt that Richard is there to kill him. When Richard tells him he killed Henry’s son, the deposed King prophecies that Richard will bring great darkness to England. Refusing to hear him out, Richard stabs him. Standing over the corpse, and stabbing it again, he considers that he does not know what love is. He ruminates on his plan to kill off all who stand in his way to the throne, including his brothers. (93 lines)
Enter Henry the Sixth and Richard of Gloucester with the Lieutenant, on the walls.
Good day, my lord. What, at your book so hard?
Ay, my good lord—my lord, I should say rather.
’Tis sin to flatter, “good” was little better:
‘Good Gloucester’ and “good devil” were alike,
And both preposterous; therefore, not “good lord.”
Sirrah, leave us to ourselves, we must confer.
So flies the reakless shepherd from the wolf;
So first the harmless sheep doth yield his fleece,
And next his throat unto the butcher’s knife.
What scene of death hath Roscius now to act?
Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind;
The thief doth fear each bush an officer.
The bird that hath been limed in a bush,
With trembling wings misdoubteth every bush;
And I, the hapless male to one sweet bird,
Have now the fatal object in my eye
Where my poor young was lim’d, was caught, and kill’d.
Why, what a peevish fool was that of Crete
That taught his son the office of a fowl!
And yet, for all his wings, the fool was drown’d.
I, Daedalus; my poor boy, Icarus;
Thy father, Minos, that denied our course;
The sun that sear’d the wings of my sweet boy,
Thy brother Edward; and thyself, the sea
Whose envious gulf did swallow up his life.
Ah, kill me with thy weapon, not with words!
My breast can better brook thy dagger’s point
Than can my ears that tragic history.
But wherefore dost thou come? Is’t for my life?
Think’st thou I am an executioner?
A persecutor I am sure thou art.
If murdering innocents be executing,
Why then thou art an executioner.
Thy son I kill’d for his presumption.
Hadst thou been kill’d when first thou didst presume,
Thou hadst not liv’d to kill a son of mine.
And thus I prophesy, that many a thousand
Which now mistrust no parcel of my fear,
And many an old man’s sigh and many a widow’s,
And many an orphan’s water-standing eye—
Men for their sons, wives for their husbands,
Orphans for their parents’ timeless death—
Shall rue the hour that ever thou wast born.
The owl shriek’d at thy birth, an evil sign;
The night-crow cried, aboding luckless time;
Dogs howl’d, and hideous tempest shook down trees;
The raven rook’d her on the chimney’s top,
And chatt’ring pies in dismal discords sung;
Thy mother felt more than a mother’s pain,
And yet brought forth less than a mother’s hope,
To wit, an indigested and deformed lump,
Not like the fruit of such a goodly tree.
Teeth hadst thou in thy head when thou wast born,
To signify thou cam’st to bite the world;
And if the rest be true which I have heard,
I’ll hear no more; die, prophet, in thy speech:
For this, amongst the rest, was I ordain’d.
Ay, and for much more slaughter after this.
O God forgive my sins, and pardon thee!
What? Will the aspiring blood of Lancaster
Sink in the ground? I thought it would have mounted.
See how my sword weeps for the poor king’s death!
O may such purple tears be alway shed
From those that wish the downfall of our house!
If any spark of life be yet remaining,
Down, down to hell, and say I sent thee thither—
Stabs him again.
I, that have neither pity, love, nor fear.
Indeed ’tis true that Henry told me of;
For I have often heard my mother say
I came into the world with my legs forward.
Had I not reason, think ye, to make haste,
And seek their ruin that usurp’d our right?
The midwife wonder’d and the women cried,
“O, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!”
And so I was, which plainly signified
That I should snarl, and bite, and play the dog.
Then since the heavens have shap’d my body so,
Let hell make crook’d my mind to answer it.
I have no brother, I am like no brother;
And this word “love,” which greybeards call divine,
Be resident in men like one another,
And not in me: I am myself alone.
Clarence, beware! Thou keep’st me from the light,
But I will sort a pitchy day for thee;
For I will buzz abroad such prophecies
That Edward shall be fearful of his life,
And then to purge his fear, I’ll be thy death.
King Henry and the Prince his son are gone;
Clarence, thy turn is next, and then the rest,
Counting myself but bad till I be best.
I’ll throw thy body in another room,
And triumph, Henry, in thy day of doom.
Exit with the body.