History of Richard III
Act I, Scene 4
London. The Tower.
[Enter CLARENCE and BRAKENBURY]
Sir Robert Brakenbury. Why looks your grace so heavily today?
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, I have pass'd a miserable night,835
So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
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!840
Sir Robert Brakenbury. What was your dream? I long to hear you tell it.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). 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 845
Upon the hatches: thence we looked toward England,
And cited up a thousand fearful times,
During the wars of York and Lancaster
That had befall'n us. As we paced along
Upon the giddy footing of the hatches, 850
Methought that Gloucester stumbled; and, in falling,
Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard,
Into the tumbling billows of the main.
Lord, Lord! methought, what pain it was to drown!
What dreadful noise of waters in mine ears! 855
What ugly sights of death within mine eyes!
Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon;
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels, 860
All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea:
Some lay in dead men's skulls; and, in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept,
As 'twere in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
Which woo'd the slimy bottom of the deep, 865
And mock'd the dead bones that lay scatter'd by.
Sir Robert Brakenbury. Had you such leisure in the time of death
To gaze upon the secrets of the deep?
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Methought I had; and often did I strive
To yield the ghost: but still the envious flood 870
Kept in my soul, and would not let it forth
To seek the empty, vast and wandering air;
But smother'd it within my panting bulk,
Which almost burst to belch it in the sea.
Sir Robert Brakenbury. Awaked you not with this sore agony?875
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, no, my dream was lengthen'd after life;
O, then began the tempest to my soul,
Who pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood,
With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night. 880
The first that there did greet my stranger soul,
Was my great father-in-law, renowned Warwick;
Who cried aloud, 'What scourge for perjury
Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?'
And so he vanish'd: then came wandering by 885
A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
Dabbled in blood; and he squeak'd out aloud,
'Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,
That stabb'd me in the field by Tewksbury;
Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!' 890
With that, methoughts, a legion of foul fiends
Environ'd me about, and howled in mine ears
Such hideous cries, that with the very noise
I trembling waked, and for a season after
Could not believe but that I was in hell, 895
Such terrible impression made the dream.
Sir Robert Brakenbury. No marvel, my lord, though it affrighted you;
I promise, I am afraid to hear you tell it.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O Brakenbury, I have done those things,
Which now bear evidence against my soul, 900
For Edward's sake; and see how he requites me!
O God! if my deep prayers cannot appease thee,
But thou wilt be avenged on my misdeeds,
Yet execute thy wrath in me alone,
O, spare my guiltless wife and my poor children! 905
I pray thee, gentle keeper, stay by me;
My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.
Sir Robert Brakenbury. I will, my lord: God give your grace good rest!
Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours, 910
Makes the night morning, and the noon-tide night.
Princes have but their tides for their glories,
An outward honour for an inward toil;
And, for unfelt imagination,
They often feel a world of restless cares: 915
So that, betwixt their tides and low names,
There's nothing differs but the outward fame.
[Enter the two Murderers]
First Murderer. Ho! who's here?
Sir Robert Brakenbury. In God's name what are you, and how came you hither?920
First Murderer. I would speak with Clarence, and I came hither on my legs.
Sir Robert Brakenbury. Yea, are you so brief?
Second Murderer. O sir, it is better to be brief than tedious. Show
him our commission; talk no more.
[BRAKENBURY reads it]
Sir Robert Brakenbury. 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 of the meaning.
Here are the keys, there sits the duke asleep: 930
I'll to the king; and signify to him
That thus I have resign'd my charge to you.
First Murderer. Do so, it is a point of wisdom: fare you well.
Second Murderer. What, shall we stab him as he sleeps?935
First Murderer. No; then he will say 'twas done cowardly, when he wakes.
Second Murderer. When he wakes! why, fool, he shall never wake till
First Murderer. Why, then he will say we stabbed him sleeping.
Second Murderer. The urging of that word 'judgment' hath bred a kind 940
of remorse in me.
First Murderer. What, art thou afraid?
Second Murderer. Not to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be
damned for killing him, from which no warrant can defend us.
First Murderer. I thought thou hadst been resolute.945
Second Murderer. So I am, to let him live.
First Murderer. Back to the Duke of Gloucester, tell him so.
Second Murderer. I pray thee, stay a while: I hope my holy humour
will change; 'twas wont to hold me but while one
would tell twenty.950
First Murderer. How dost thou feel thyself now?
Second Murderer. 'Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet
First Murderer. Remember our reward, when the deed is done.
Second Murderer. 'Zounds, he dies: I had forgot the reward.955
First Murderer. Where is thy conscience now?
Second Murderer. In the Duke of Gloucester's purse.
First Murderer. So when he opens his purse to give us our reward,
thy conscience flies out.
Second Murderer. Let it go; there's few or none will entertain it.960
First Murderer. How if it come to thee again?
Second Murderer. I'll not meddle with it: it is a dangerous thing: it
makes a man a coward: a man cannot steal, but it
accuseth him; he cannot swear, but it cheques him;
he cannot lie with his neighbour's wife, but it 965
detects him: 'tis a blushing shamefast spirit that
mutinies in a man's bosom; it fills one full of
obstacles: it made me once restore a purse of gold
that I found; it beggars any man that keeps it: it
is turned out of all towns and cities for a 970
dangerous thing; and every man that means to live
well endeavours to trust to himself and to live
First Murderer. 'Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me
not to kill the duke.975
Second Murderer. Take the devil in thy mind, and relieve him not: he
would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.
First Murderer. Tut, I am strong-framed, he cannot prevail with me,
I warrant thee.
Second Murderer. Spoke like a tail fellow that respects his 980
reputation. Come, shall we to this gear?
First Murderer. Take him over the costard with the hilts of thy
sword, and then we will chop him in the malmsey-butt
in the next room.
Second Murderer. O excellent devise! make a sop of him.985
First Murderer. Hark! he stirs: shall I strike?
Second Murderer. No, first let's reason with him.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Where art thou, keeper? give me a cup of wine.
Second Murderer. You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). In God's name, what art thou?990
Second Murderer. A man, as you are.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). But not, as I am, royal.
Second Murderer. Nor you, as we are, loyal.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.
Second Murderer. My voice is now the king's, my looks mine own.995
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). 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?
Both. To, to, to—
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). To murder me?1000
Both. Ay, ay.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). 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?
First Murderer. Offended us you have not, but the king.1005
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). I shall be reconciled to him again.
Second Murderer. Never, my lord; therefore prepare to die.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Are you call'd forth from out a world of men
To slay the innocent? What is my offence?
Where are the evidence that do accuse me? 1010
What lawful quest have given their verdict up
Unto the frowning judge? or who pronounced
The bitter sentence of poor Clarence' death?
Before I be convict by course of law,
To threaten me with death is most unlawful. 1015
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.
First Murderer. What we will do, we do upon command.1020
Second Murderer. And he that hath commanded is the king.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Erroneous vassal! the great King of kings
Hath in the tables of his law commanded
That thou shalt do no murder: and wilt thou, then,
Spurn at his edict and fulfil a man's? 1025
Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hands,
To hurl upon their heads that break his law.
Second Murderer. And that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee,
For false forswearing and for murder too:
Thou didst receive the holy sacrament, 1030
To fight in quarrel of the house of Lancaster.
First Murderer. And, like a traitor to the name of God,
Didst break that vow; and with thy treacherous blade
Unrip'dst the bowels of thy sovereign's son.
Second Murderer. Whom thou wert sworn to cherish and defend.1035
First Murderer. How canst thou urge God's dreadful law to us,
When thou hast broke it in so dear degree?
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Alas! for whose sake did I that ill deed?
For Edward, for my brother, for his sake: Why, sirs,
He sends ye not to murder me for this 1040
For in this sin he is as deep as I.
If God will be revenged for this deed.
O, know you yet, he doth it publicly,
Take not the quarrel from his powerful arm;
He needs no indirect nor lawless course 1045
To cut off those that have offended him.
First Murderer. Who made thee, then, a bloody minister,
When gallant-springing brave Plantagenet,
That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). My brother's love, the devil, and my rage.1050
First Murderer. Thy brother's love, our duty, and thy fault,
Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Oh, if you love my brother, hate not me;
I am his brother, and I love him well.
If you be hired for meed, go back again, 1055
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.
Second Murderer. You are deceived, your brother Gloucester hates you.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, no, he loves me, and he holds me dear: 1060
Go you to him from me.
Both. Ay, so we will.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Tell him, when that our princely father York
Bless'd his three sons with his victorious arm,
And charged us from his soul to love each other, 1065
He little thought of this divided friendship:
Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
First Murderer. Ay, millstones; as be lesson'd us to weep.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). O, do not slander him, for he is kind.
First Murderer. Right, 1070
As snow in harvest. Thou deceivest thyself:
'Tis he that sent us hither now to slaughter thee.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). It cannot be; for when I parted with him,
He hugg'd me in his arms, and swore, with sobs,
That he would labour my delivery.1075
Second Murderer. Why, so he doth, now he delivers thee
From this world's thraldom to the joys of heaven.
First Murderer. Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Hast thou that holy feeling in thy soul,
To counsel me to make my peace with God, 1080
And art thou yet to thy own soul so blind,
That thou wilt war with God by murdering me?
Ah, sirs, consider, he that set you on
To do this deed will hate you for the deed.
Second Murderer. What shall we do?1085
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Relent, and save your souls.
First Murderer. Relent! 'tis cowardly and womanish.
George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.
Which of you, if you were a prince's son,
Being pent from liberty, as I am now, 1090
if two such murderers as yourselves came to you,
Would not entreat for life?
My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks:
O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
Come thou on my side, and entreat for me, 1095
As you would beg, were you in my distress
A begging prince what beggar pities not?
Second Murderer. Look behind you, my lord.
First Murderer. Take that, and that: if all this will not do,
[Stabs him] 1100
I'll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.
[Exit, with the body]
Second Murderer. A bloody deed, and desperately dispatch'd!
How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands
Of this most grievous guilty murder done!1105
[Re-enter First Murderer]
First Murderer. How now! what mean'st thou, that thou help'st me not?
By heavens, the duke shall know how slack thou art!
Second Murderer. I would he knew that I had saved his brother!
Take thou the fee, and tell him what I say; 1110
For I repent me that the duke is slain.
First Murderer. So do not I: go, coward as thou art.
Now must I hide his body in some hole,
Until the duke take order for his burial: 1115
And when I have my meed, I must away;
For this will out, and here I must not stay.