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Scene 4

London. The Tower.

(Clarence; Keeper; Brakenbury; Murderers)

Clarence tells his keeper of the terrible dream he had, in which he saw himself drown and accused after death of all the treasons he has committed. He keenly feels his guilt. The two murderers enter, showing their warrant to Brackenbury, the commander of the Tower, who does not want to know why they have come. The two murderers debate a little about going through with the deed, one of them being somewhat conscience-stricken at the idea, but remembering that they will be well-paid, they decide to go through with it. They wake Clarence, who tries to reason with them, but they throw his guilt in his face, inform him that their warrant is from the King, and when he begs them to go to Richard for help, tell him that it is Richard who sent them to kill him. They stab him and drag his body to another room to drown him in a barrel of wine. One of the murderers repents, and tells the other that he will not accept the fee for killing Clarence. (253 lines)

Enter Clarence and Keeper.


Why looks your Grace so heavily today?


O, I have pass’d a miserable night,

So full of fearful dreams, of ugly sights,

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.


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


Methoughts 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.

O Lord, methought what pain it was to drown!

What dreadful noise of waters in my ears!

What sights of ugly death within my eyes!

Methoughts I saw a thousand fearful wracks;

A thousand men that fishes gnaw’d upon;

Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,

Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,

All scatt’red in the bottom of the sea:

Some lay in dead men’s skulls, and in the 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 scatt’red by.


Had you such leisure in the time of death

To gaze upon these secrets of the deep?


Methought I had, and often did I strive

To yield the ghost; but still the envious flood

Stopp’d in my soul, and would not let it forth

To find the empty, vast, and wand’ring air,

But smother’d it within my panting bulk,

Who almost burst to belch it in the sea.


Awak’d you not in this sore agony?


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 sour 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 spake aloud, “What scourge for perjury

Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?”

And so he vanish’d. Then came wand’ring 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 (methoughts) 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.


No marvel, lord, though it affrighted you;

I am afraid (methinks) to hear you tell it.


Ah, Keeper, Keeper, 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 pray’rs cannot appease thee,

But thou wilt be aveng’d on my misdeeds,

Yet execute thy wrath in me alone!

O, spare my guiltless wife and my poor children!

Keeper, I prithee sit by me awhile.

My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.


I will, my lord. God give your Grace good rest!

Clarence sleeps.

Enter Brakenbury, the Lieutenant.


Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,

Makes the night morning and the noontide night:

Princes have but their titles for their glories,

An outward honor for an inward toil,

And for unfelt imaginations

They often feel a world of restless cares;

So that between their titles and low name

There’s nothing differs but the outward fame.

Enter two Murderers.

1. MUR.

Ho, who’s here?


What wouldst thou, fellow? And how cam’st thou hither?

1. MUR.

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


What, so brief?

2. MUR.

’Tis better, sir, than to be tedious. Let him see our commission, and talk no more.

Brakenbury reads it.


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 from 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.

1. MUR.

You may, sir, ’tis a point of wisdom. Fare you well.

Exit Brakenbury with Keeper.

2. MUR.

What, shall I stab him as he sleeps?

1. MUR.

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

2. MUR.

Why, he shall never wake until the great Judgment Day.

1. MUR.

Why, then he’ll say we stabb’d him sleeping.

2. MUR.

The urging of that word “judgment” hath bred a kind of remorse in me.

1. MUR.

What? Art thou afraid?

2. MUR.

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

1. MUR.

I thought thou hadst been resolute.

2. MUR.

So I am—to let him live.

1. MUR.

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

2. MUR.

Nay, I prithee stay a little. I hope this passionate humor of mine will change. It was wont to hold me but while one tells twenty.

1. MUR.

How dost thou feel thyself now?

2. MUR.

Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet within me.

1. MUR.

Remember our reward when the deed’s done.

2. MUR.

’Zounds, he dies! I had forgot the reward.

1. MUR.

Where’s thy conscience now?

2. MUR.

O, in the Duke of Gloucester’s purse.

1. MUR.

When he opens his purse to give us our reward, thy conscience flies out.

2. MUR.

’Tis no matter, let it go. There’s few or none will entertain it.

1. MUR.

What if it come to thee again?

2. MUR.

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 neighbor’s wife, but it detects him. ’Tis a blushing shame-fac’d spirit that mutinies in a man’s bosom. It fills a man full of obstacles. It made me once restore a purse of gold that (by chance) I found. It beggars any man that keeps it. It is turn’d out of towns and cities for a dangerous thing, and every man that means to live well endeavors to trust to himself and live without it.

1. MUR.

’Zounds, ’tis even now at my elbow, persuading me not to kill the Duke.

2. MUR.

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

1. MUR.

I am strong-fram’d, he cannot prevail with me.

2. MUR.

Spoke like a tall man that respects thy reputation. Come, shall we fall to work?

1. MUR.

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

2. MUR.

O excellent device! And make a sop of him.

1. MUR.

Soft, he wakes.

2. MUR.


1. MUR.

No, we’ll reason with him.


Where art thou, Keeper? Give me a cup of wine.

2. MUR.

You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.


In God’s name, what art thou?

1. MUR.

A man, as you are.


But not, as I am, royal.

2. MUR.

Nor you, as we are, loyal.


Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.

1. MUR.

My voice is now the King’s, my looks mine own.


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?


To, to, to—


To murder me?


Ay, ay.


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?

1. MUR.

Offended us you have not, but the King.


I shall be reconcil’d to him again.

2. MUR.

Never, my lord, therefore prepare to die.


Are you drawn forth among a world of men

To slay the innocent? What is my offense?

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.

1. MUR.

What we will do, we do upon command.

2. MUR.

And he that hath commanded is our King.


Erroneous vassals, 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 fulfill a man’s?

Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hand,

To hurl upon their heads that break his law.

2. MUR.

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.

1. MUR.

And like a traitor to the name of God

Didst break that vow, and with thy treacherous blade

Unrip’st the bowels of thy sov’reign’s son.

2. MUR.

Whom thou wast sworn to cherish and defend.

1. MUR.

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

When thou hast broke it in such dear degree?


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 pow’rful arm;

He needs no indirect or lawless course

To cut off those that have offended him.

1. MUR.

Who made thee then a bloody minister,

When gallant-springing brave Plantagenet,

That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?


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

1. MUR.

Thy brother’s love, our duty, and thy faults

Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.


O, if you 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.

2. MUR.

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


O no; he loves me and he holds me dear.

Go you to him from me.

1. MUR.

Ay, so we will.


Tell him, when that our princely father York

Blest 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 of this, and he will weep.

1. MUR.

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


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

1. MUR.

Right, as snow in harvest. Come, you deceive yourself,

’Tis he that sends us to destroy you here.


It cannot be, for he bewept my fortune,

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

That he would labor my delivery.

1. MUR.

Why, so he doth, when he delivers you

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

2. MUR.

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


Have you that holy feeling in your souls

To counsel me to make my peace with God,

And are you yet to your own souls so blind

That you will war with God by murd’ring me?

O, sirs, consider, they that set you on

To do this deed will hate you for the deed.

2. MUR.

What shall we do?


Relent, and save your souls.

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

Being pent from liberty, as I am now,

If two such murderers as yourselves came to you,

Would not entreat for life?

1. MUR.

Relent? No: ’tis cowardly and womanish.


Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.

My friend

To Second Murderer

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?

2. MUR.

Look behind you, my lord.

1. MUR.

Take that! And that!

Stabs him.

If all this will not do,

I’ll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.

Exit with the body.

2. MUR.

A bloody deed, and desperately dispatch’d!

How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands

Of this most grievous murder!

Enter First Murderer.

1. MUR.

How now? What mean’st thou, that thou help’st me not?

By heavens, the Duke shall know how slack you have been!

2. MUR.

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.


1. MUR.

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 then I must not stay.



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