London. A street.
(Richard Duke of Gloucester; Clarence; Brakenbury; Lord Hastings)
Richard Duke of Gloucester reflects on how little peacetime suits him, since his physical aspects prevents him from the pursuits of love. To occupy his time, he has therefore convinced his brother King Edward that their brother Clarence is dangerous. Clarence is brought in, being led to the Tower. Richard hypocritically blames the Queen and promises to give Clarence all the help he can. Clarence is taken away. Hasting, just released from jail, reports that the King is dangerously ill. Richard hopes his brother will die, but not before Clarence is done away with. He also plans to marry the Lady Anne, whose husband and father-in-law he both killed. (165 lines)
Enter Richard Duke of Gloucester solus.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums chang’d to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag’d War hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, in stead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shap’d for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them—
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
In deadly hate the one against the other;
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false, and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up
About a prophecy, which says that G
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul, here Clarence comes!
Enter Clarence, guarded, and Brakenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower.
Brother, good day. What means this armed guard
That waits upon your Grace?
Tend’ring my person’s safety, hath appointed
This conduct to convey me to the Tower.
Upon what cause?
Because my name is George.
Alack, my lord, that fault is none of yours;
He should for that commit your godfathers.
O, belike his Majesty hath some intent
That you should be new christ’ned in the Tower.
But what’s the matter, Clarence, may I know?
Yea, Richard, when I know; but I protest
As yet I do not. But, as I can learn,
He hearkens after prophecies and dreams,
And from the cross-row plucks the letter G,
And says a wizard told him that by G
His issue disinherited should be;
And for my name of George begins with G,
It follows in his thought that I am he.
These (as I learn) and such-like toys as these
Hath mov’d his Highness to commit me now.
Why, this it is, when men are rul’d by women:
’Tis not the King that sends you to the Tower;
My Lady Grey his wife, Clarence, ’tis she
That tempers him to this extremity.
Was it not she, and that good man of worship,
Anthony Woodvile, her brother there,
That made him send Lord Hastings to the Tower,
From whence this present day he is delivered?
We are not safe, Clarence, we are not safe.
By heaven, I think there is no man is secure
But the Queen’s kindred, and night-walking heralds
That trudge betwixt the King and Mistress Shore.
Heard you not what an humble suppliant
Lord Hastings was to her for his delivery?
Humbly complaining to her deity
Got my Lord Chamberlain his liberty.
I’ll tell you what, I think it is our way,
If we will keep in favor with the King,
To be her men and wear her livery.
The jealous o’erworn widow and herself,
Since that our brother dubb’d them gentlewomen,
Are mighty gossips in our monarchy.
I beseech your Graces both to pardon me:
His Majesty hath straitly given in charge
That no man shall have private conference
(Of what degree soever) with your brother.
Even so? And please your worship, Brakenbury,
You may partake of any thing we say:
We speak no treason, man. We say the King
Is wise and virtuous, and his noble queen
Well strook in years, fair, and not jealous;
We say that Shore’s wife hath a pretty foot,
A cherry lip, a bonny eye, a passing pleasing tongue;
And that the Queen’s kindred are made gentlefolks.
How say you, sir? Can you deny all this?
With this, my lord, myself have nought to do.
Naught to do with Mistress Shore? I tell thee, fellow,
He that doth naught with her (excepting one)
Were best to do it secretly alone.
What one, my lord?
Her husband, knave. Wouldst thou betray me?
I do beseech your Grace to pardon me, and withal
Forbear your conference with the noble Duke.
We know thy charge, Brakenbury, and will obey.
We are the Queen’s abjects, and must obey.
Brother, farewell, I will unto the King,
And whatsoe’er you will employ me in,
Were it to call King Edward’s widow sister,
I will perform it to enfranchise you.
Mean time, this deep disgrace in brotherhood
Touches me deeper than you can imagine.
I know it pleaseth neither of us well.
Well, your imprisonment shall not be long,
I will deliver you, or else lie for you.
Mean time, have patience.
I must perforce. Farewell.
Exit Clarence with Brakenbury and Guard.
Go tread the path that thou shalt ne’er return:
Simple plain Clarence, I do love thee so
That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,
If heaven will take the present at our hands.
But who comes here? The new-delivered Hastings?
Enter Lord Hastings.
Good time of day unto my gracious lord!
As much unto my good Lord Chamberlain!
Well are you welcome to the open air.
How hath your lordship brook’d imprisonment?
With patience, noble lord, as prisoners must;
But I shall live, my lord, to give them thanks
That were the cause of my imprisonment.
No doubt, no doubt, and so shall Clarence too,
For they that were your enemies are his,
And have prevail’d as much on him as you.
More pity that the eagles should be mew’d,
Whiles kites and buzzards prey at liberty.
What news abroad?
No news so bad abroad as this at home:
The King is sickly, weak, and melancholy,
And his physicians fear him mightily.
Now by Saint John, that news is bad indeed!
O, he hath kept an evil diet long,
And overmuch consum’d his royal person:
’Tis very grievous to be thought upon.
Where is he? In his bed?
Go you before, and I will follow you.
He cannot live, I hope, and must not die
Till George be pack’d with post-horse up to heaven.
I’ll in, to urge his hatred more to Clarence
With lies well steel’d with weighty arguments,
And if I fail not in my deep intent,
Clarence hath not another day to live:
Which done, God take King Edward to his mercy,
And leave the world for me to bustle in!
For then I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter.
What though I kill’d her husband and her father?
The readiest way to make the wench amends
Is to become her husband and her father:
The which will I, not all so much for love
As for another secret close intent
By marrying her which I must reach unto.
But yet I run before my horse to market:
Clarence still breathes, Edward still lives and reigns;
When they are gone, then must I count my gains.