(Richard of Gloucester; Buckingham; Mayor; Aldermen; First Citizen; Second Citizen; Third Citizen; Catesby; Two Bishops)
Buckingham reports to Richard that the citizens are reluctant to proclaim him King. The Mayor and his aldermen come to visit Richard, who quickly hides. Buckingham assures the Mayor that Richard is studying religion with a pair of priests. Buckingham and Catesby play a hypocritical game, insisting that Richard is worried at seeing such a crowd coming for him. When Richard enters, accompanied by two bishops, Buckingham urges him to seize the crown, but Richard refuses. Buckingham threatens to dethrone the entire family, and stalks out with the Mayor and his men. Richard has them called back and, insisting that it is entirely against his will, accepts to become King. He agrees to be crowned the next day and goes back in with the bishops. (248 lines)
Enter Richard of Gloucester and Buckingham at several doors.
How now, how now, what say the citizens?
Now, by the holy Mother of our Lord,
The citizens are mum, say not a word.
Touch’d you the bastardy of Edward’s children?
I did, with his contract with Lady Lucy,
And his contract by deputy in France,
Th’ unsatiate greediness of his desire,
And his enforcement of the city wives,
His tyranny for trifles, his own bastardy,
As being got, your father then in France,
And his resemblance, being not like the Duke.
Withal I did infer your lineaments,
Being the right idea of your father,
Both in your form and nobleness of mind;
Laid open all your victories in Scotland,
Your discipline in war, wisdom in peace,
Your bounty, virtue, fair humility;
Indeed, left nothing fitting for your purpose
Untouch’d or slightly handled in discourse.
And when mine oratory drew to an end,
I bid them that did love their country’s good
Cry, “God save Richard, England’s royal king!”
And did they so?
No, so God help me, they spake not a word,
But like dumb statues, or breathing stones,
Star’d each on other, and look’d deadly pale;
Which when I saw, I reprehended them,
And ask’d the Mayor what meant this willful silence.
His answer was, the people were not used
To be spoke to but by the Recorder.
Then he was urg’d to tell my tale again:
“Thus saith the Duke, thus hath the Duke inferr’d”—
But nothing spake in warrant from himself.
When he had done, some followers of mine own,
At lower end of the hall, hurl’d up their caps,
And some ten voices cried, “God save King Richard!”
And thus I took the vantage of those few:
“Thanks, gentle citizens and friends,” quoth I,
“This general applause and cheerful shout
Argues your wisdoms and your love to Richard”—
And even here brake off, and came away.
What tongueless blocks were they! Would they not speak?
No, by my troth, my lord.
Will not the Mayor then and his brethren come?
The Mayor is here at hand. Intend some fear,
Be not you spoke with but by mighty suit;
And look you get a prayer-book in your hand,
And stand between two churchmen, good my lord—
For on that ground I’ll make a holy descant—
And be not easily won to our requests:
Play the maid’s part, still answer nay, and take it.
I go; and if you plead as well for them
As I can say nay to thee for myself,
No doubt we bring it to a happy issue.
Go, go up to the leads, the Lord Mayor knocks.
Enter the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens.
Welcome, my lord! I dance attendance here;
I think the Duke will not be spoke withal.
Now, Catesby, what says your lord to my request?
He doth entreat your Grace, my noble lord,
To visit him tomorrow or next day.
He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
Divinely bent to meditation,
And in no worldly suits would he be mov’d,
To draw him from his holy exercise.
Return, good Catesby, to the gracious Duke,
Tell him, myself, the Mayor and Aldermen,
In deep designs, in matter of great moment,
No less importing than our general good,
Are come to have some conference with his Grace.
I’ll signify so much unto him straight.
Ah ha, my lord, this prince is not an Edward!
He is not lulling on a lewd love-bed,
But on his knees at meditation;
Not dallying with a brace of courtezans,
But meditating with two deep divines;
Not sleeping, to engross his idle body,
But praying, to enrich his watchful soul.
Happy were England, would this virtuous prince
Take on his Grace the sovereignty thereof,
But sure I fear we shall not win him to it.
Marry, God defend his Grace should say us nay!
I fear he will. Here Catesby comes again.
Now, Catesby, what says his Grace?
He wonders to what end you have assembled
Such troops of citizens to come to him,
His Grace not being warn’d thereof before:
He fears, my lord, you mean no good to him.
Sorry I am my noble cousin should
Suspect me that I mean no good to him.
By heaven, we come to him in perfit love,
And so once more return and tell his Grace.
When holy and devout religious men
Are at their beads, ’tis much to draw them thence,
So sweet is zealous contemplation.
Enter Richard of Gloucester aloft, between two Bishops. Catesby returns.
See where his Grace stands, ’tween two clergymen!
Two props of virtue for a Christian prince,
To stay him from the fall of vanity;
And see, a book of prayer in his hand—
True ornaments to know a holy man.
Famous Plantagenet, most gracious prince,
Lend favorable ear to our requests,
And pardon us the interruption
Of thy devotion and right Christian zeal.
My lord, there needs no such apology.
I do beseech your Grace to pardon me,
Who, earnest in the service of my God,
Deferr’d the visitation of my friends.
But leaving this, what is your Grace’s pleasure?
Even that (I hope) which pleaseth God above
And all good men of this ungovern’d isle.
I do suspect I have done some offense
That seems disgracious in the city’s eye,
And that you come to reprehend my ignorance.
You have, my lord. Would it might please your Grace,
On our entreaties, to amend your fault!
Else wherefore breathe I in a Christian land?
Know then, it is your fault that you resign
The supreme seat, the throne majestical,
The sceptred office of your ancestors,
Your state of fortune, and your due of birth,
The lineal glory of your royal house,
To the corruption of a blemish’d stock;
Whiles in the mildness of your sleepy thoughts,
Which here we waken to our country’s good,
The noble isle doth want her proper limbs;
Her face defac’d with scars of infamy,
Her royal stock graft with ignoble plants,
And almost should’red in the swallowing gulf
Of dark forgetfulness and deep oblivion.
Which to recure, we heartily solicit
Your gracious self to take on you the charge
And kingly government of this your land:
Not as protector, steward, substitute,
Or lowly factor for another’s gain;
But as successively, from blood to blood,
Your right of birth, your empery, your own.
For this, consorted with the citizens,
Your very worshipful and loving friends,
And by their vehement instigation,
In this just cause come I to move your Grace.
I cannot tell if to depart in silence,
Or bitterly to speak in your reproof,
Best fitteth my degree or your condition.
If not to answer, you might haply think
Tongue-tied ambition, not replying, yielded
To bear the golden yoke of sovereignty,
Which fondly you would here impose on me.
If to reprove you for this suit of yours,
So season’d with your faithful love to me,
Then on the other side, I check’d my friends.
Therefore—to speak, and to avoid the first,
And then, in speaking, not to incur the last—
Definitively thus I answer you:
Your love deserves my thanks, but my desert
Unmeritable shuns your high request.
First, if all obstacles were cut away,
And that my path were even to the crown,
As the ripe revenue and due of birth,
Yet so much is my poverty of spirit,
So mighty and so many my defects,
That I would rather hide me from my greatness—
Being a bark to brook no mighty sea—
Than in my greatness covet to be hid
And in the vapor of my glory smother’d.
But God be thank’d, there is no need of me,
And much I need to help you, were there need:
The royal tree hath left us royal fruit,
Which mellow’d by the stealing hours of time,
Will well become the seat of majesty,
And make (no doubt) us happy by his reign.
On him I lay that you would lay on me,
The right and fortune of his happy stars,
Which God defend that I should wring from him!
My lord, this argues conscience in your Grace,
But the respects thereof are nice and trivial,
All circumstances well considered.
You say that Edward is your brother’s son:
So say we too, but not by Edward’s wife;
For first was he contract to Lady Lucy—
Your mother lives a witness to his vow—
And afterward by substitute betroth’d
To Bona, sister to the King of France.
These both put off, a poor petitioner,
A care-craz’d mother to a many sons,
A beauty-waning and distressed widow,
Even in the afternoon of her best days,
Made prize and purchase of his wanton eye,
Seduc’d the pitch and height of his degree
To base declension and loath’d bigamy.
By her, in his unlawful bed, he got
This Edward, whom our manners call the Prince.
More bitterly could I expostulate,
Save that for reverence to some alive,
I give a sparing limit to my tongue.
Then, good my lord, take to your royal self
This proffer’d benefit of dignity;
If not to bless us and the land withal,
Yet to draw forth your noble ancestry
From the corruption of abusing times
Unto a lineal true-derived course.
Do, good my lord, your citizens entreat you.
Refuse not, mighty lord, this proffer’d love.
O, make them joyful, grant their lawful suit!
Alas, why would you heap this care on me?
I am unfit for state and majesty.
I do beseech you take it not amiss,
I cannot nor I will not yield to you.
If you refuse it—as, in love and zeal,
Loath to depose the child, your brother’s son;
As well we know your tenderness of heart
And gentle, kind, effeminate remorse,
Which we have noted in you to your kindred
And egally indeed to all estates—
Yet know, whe’er you accept our suit or no,
Your brother’s son shall never reign our king,
But we will plant some other in the throne,
To the disgrace and downfall of your house;
And in this resolution here we leave you.
Come, citizens. ’Zounds, I’ll entreat no more.
O, do not swear, my Lord of Buckingham.
Exeunt Buckingham, Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens.
Call him again, sweet prince, accept their suit.
If you deny them, all the land will rue it.
Will you enforce me to a world of cares?
Call them again, I am not made of stones,
But penetrable to your kind entreaties,
Albeit against my conscience and my soul.
Enter Buckingham and the rest.
Cousin of Buckingham, and sage grave men,
Since you will buckle Fortune on my back,
To bear her burden whe’er I will or no,
I must have patience to endure the load;
But if black scandal or foul-fac’d reproach
Attend the sequel of your imposition,
Your mere enforcement shall acquittance me
From all the impure blots and stains thereof;
For God doth know, and you may partly see,
How far I am from the desire of this.
God bless your Grace! We see it and will say it.
In saying so you shall but say the truth.
Then I salute you with this royal title—
Long live Richard, England’s worthy king!
Tomorrow may it please you to be crown’d?
Even when you please, for you will have it so.
Tomorrow then we will attend your Grace,
And so most joyfully we take our leave.
To the Bishops.
Come, let us to our holy work again.—
Farewell, my cousin, farewell, gentle friends.