The Tower of London.
(Buckingham; Stanley; Hastings; Bishop of Ely; Norfolk; Ratcliffe; Lovel; Gloucester; Bishop of Ely)
The Lords meet in council to decide on a date for their new King’s coronation. Hastings presumes to speak for Richard, who is late. Richard arrives, and sends the Bishop of Ely to fetch him some strawberries. He asks the council what sentence should be passed on anyone caught conspiring against him, and Hastings suggests that death would be appropriate. Richard immediately accuses him of conspiring, claiming that Hastings has withered his arm through witchcraft, and condemns him to immediate execution. Hastings reflects on his own foolish sense of security and on Margaret’s curses. Ratcliffe and Lovel lead him to his death. (107 lines)
Enter Buckingham, Stanley, Earl of Derby, Hastings, Bishop of Ely, Norfolk, Ratcliffe, Lovel, with others, at a table.
Now, noble peers, the cause why we are met
Is to determine of the coronation.
In God’s name speak, when is the royal day?
Is all things ready for the royal time?
It is, and wants but nomination.
Tomorrow then I judge a happy day.
Who knows the Lord Protector’s mind herein?
Who is most inward with the noble Duke?
Your Grace, we think, should soonest know his mind.
We know each other’s faces; for our hearts,
He knows no more of mine than I of yours,
Or I of his, my lord, than you of mine.
Lord Hastings, you and he are near in love.
I thank his Grace, I know he loves me well;
But for his purpose in the coronation,
I have not sounded him, nor he deliver’d
His gracious pleasure any way therein.
But you, my honorable lords, may name the time,
And in the Duke’s behalf I’ll give my voice,
Which I presume he’ll take in gentle part.
In happy time, here comes the Duke himself.
My noble lords and cousins all, good morrow.
I have been long a sleeper; but I trust
My absence doth neglect no great design,
Which by my presence might have been concluded.
Had you not come upon your cue, my lord,
William Lord Hastings had pronounc’d your part,
I mean your voice for crowning of the King.
Than my Lord Hastings no man might be bolder,
His lordship knows me well and loves me well.
My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there.
I do beseech you send for some of them.
Marry, and will, my lord, with all my heart.
Cousin of Buckingham, a word with you.
Drawing him aside.
Catesby hath sounded Hastings in our business,
And finds the testy gentleman so hot
That he will lose his head ere give consent
His master’s child, as worshipfully he terms it,
Shall lose the royalty of England’s throne.
Withdraw yourself a while, I’ll go with you.
Exeunt Gloucester and Buckingham.
We have not yet set down this day of triumph.
Tomorrow, in my judgment, is too sudden,
For I myself am not so well provided
As else I would be, were the day prolong’d.
Enter the Bishop of Ely.
Where is my lord the Duke of Gloucester?
I have sent for these strawberries.
His Grace looks cheerfully and smooth this morning;
There’s some conceit or other likes him well,
When that he bids good morrow with such spirit.
I think there’s never a man in Christendom
Can lesser hide his love or hate than he,
For by his face straight shall you know his heart.
What of his heart perceive you in his face
By any livelihood he show’d today?
Marry, that with no man here he is offended;
For were he, he had shown it in his looks.
I pray God he be not, I say.
Enter Richard of Gloucester and Buckingham
I pray you all, tell me what they deserve
That do conspire my death with devilish plots
Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevail’d
Upon my body with their hellish charms?
The tender love I bear your Grace, my lord,
Makes me most forward in this princely presence
To doom th’ offenders, whosoe’er they be:
I say, my lord, they have deserved death.
Then be your eyes the witness of their evil.
Look how I am bewitch’d; behold, mine arm
Is like a blasted sapling, wither’d up;
And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch,
Consorted with that harlot, strumpet Shore,
That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.
If they have done this deed, my noble lord—
If? Thou protector of this damned strumpet,
Talk’st thou to me of “ifs”? Thou art a traitor.
Off with his head! Now by Saint Paul I swear
I will not dine until I see the same.
Lovel and Ratcliffe, look that it be done:
The rest that love me, rise, and follow me.
Exeunt. Manent Lovel and Ratcliffe with the Lord Hastings.
Woe, woe for England, not a whit for me!
For I, too fond, might have prevented this.
Stanley did dream the boar did rase our helms,
And I did scorn it and disdain to fly.
Three times today my foot-cloth horse did scumble,
And started when he look’d upon the Tower,
As loath to bear me to the slaughter-house.
O now I need the priest that spake to me!
I now repent I told the pursuivant,
As too triumphing, how mine enemies
Today at Pomfret bloodily were butcher’d,
And I myself secure, in grace and favor.
O Margaret, Margaret, now thy heavy curse
Is lighted on poor Hastings’ wretched head!
Come, come, dispatch, the Duke would be at dinner,
Make a short shrift, he longs to see your head.
O momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
Who builds his hope in air of your good looks
Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
Ready with every nod to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.
Come, come, dispatch, ’tis bootless to exclaim.
O bloody Richard! Miserable England!
I prophesy the fearfull’st time to thee
That ever wretched age hath look’d upon.
Come, lead me to the block; bear him my head.
They smile at me who shortly shall be dead.