This page contains the original text of Richard III, Act 1, Scene 4. Shakespeare’s original Richard III text is long, so we’ve split the text into one Scene per page. All Acts and Scenes are listed on the original Richard III text page, or linked to from the bottom of this page.
ACT 1, SCENE 4. London. The Tower
Enter CLARENCE and BRAKENBURY
Why looks your grace so heavily today?
O, I have pass’d a miserable night,
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!
What was your dream? I long to hear you tell it.
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 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,
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!
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,
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,
And mock’d the dead bones that lay scatter’d by.
Had you such leisure in the time of death
To gaze upon the secrets of the deep?
Methought I had; and often did I strive
To yield the ghost: but still the envious flood
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.
Awaked you not with this sore agony?
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.
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
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!’
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,
Such terrible impression made the dream.
No marvel, my lord, though it affrighted you;
I promise, I am afraid to hear you tell it.
O Brakenbury, I have done those things,
Which now bear evidence against my soul,
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!
I pray thee, gentle keeper, stay by me;
My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.
I will, my lord: God give your grace good rest!
Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
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:
So that, betwixt their tides and low names,
There’s nothing differs but the outward fame.
Enter the two Murderers
Ho! who’s here?
In God’s name what are you, and how came you hither?
I would speak with Clarence, and I came hither on my legs.
Yea, are you so brief?
O sir, it is better to be brief than tedious. Show
him our commission; 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 of the meaning.
Here are the keys, there sits the duke asleep:
I’ll to the king; and signify to him
That thus I have resign’d my charge to you.
Do so, it is a point of wisdom: fare you well.
What, shall we stab him as he sleeps?
No; then he will say ’twas done cowardly, when he wakes.
When he wakes! why, fool, he shall never wake till
Why, then he will say we stabbed him sleeping.
The urging of that word ‘judgment’ hath bred a kind
of remorse in me.
What, art thou afraid?
Not to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be
damned for killing him, from which no warrant can defend us.
I thought thou hadst been resolute.
So I am, to let him live.
Back to the Duke of Gloucester, tell him so.
I pray thee, stay a while: I hope my holy humour
will change; ’twas wont to hold me but while one
would tell twenty.
How dost thou feel thyself now?
‘Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet
Remember our reward, when the deed is done.
‘Zounds, he dies: I had forgot the reward.
Where is thy conscience now?
In the Duke of Gloucester’s purse.
So when he opens his purse to give us our reward,
thy conscience flies out.
Let it go; there’s few or none will entertain it.
How if it come to thee again?
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
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
dangerous thing; and every man that means to live
well endeavours to trust to himself and to live
‘Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me
not to kill the duke.
Take the devil in thy mind, and relieve him not: he
would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.
Tut, I am strong-framed, he cannot prevail with me,
I warrant thee.
Spoke like a tail fellow that respects his
reputation. Come, shall we to this gear?
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.
O excellent devise! make a sop of him.
Hark! he stirs: shall I strike?
No, first let’s reason with him.
Where art thou, keeper? give me a cup of wine.
You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.
In God’s name, what art thou?
A man, as you are.
But not, as I am, royal.
Nor you, as we are, loyal.
Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.
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?
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?
Offended us you have not, but the king.
I shall be reconciled to him again.
Never, my lord; therefore prepare to die.
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?
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.
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.
What we will do, we do upon command.
And he that hath commanded is the king.
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?
Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hands,
To hurl upon their heads that break his law.
And that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee,
For false forswearing and for murder too:
Thou didst receive the holy sacrament,
To fight in quarrel of the house of Lancaster.
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.
Whom thou wert sworn to cherish and defend.
How canst thou urge God’s dreadful law to us,
When thou hast broke it in so dear degree?
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
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
To cut off those that have offended him.
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.
Thy brother’s love, our duty, and thy fault,
Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.
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,
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.
You are deceived, your brother Gloucester hates you.
O, no, he loves me, and he holds me dear:
Go you to him from me.
Ay, so we will.
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,
He little thought of this divided friendship:
Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
Ay, millstones; as be lesson’d us to weep.
O, do not slander him, for he is kind.
As snow in harvest. Thou deceivest thyself:
‘Tis he that sent us hither now to slaughter thee.
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.
Why, so he doth, now he delivers thee
From this world’s thraldom to the joys of heaven.
Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord.
Hast thou that holy feeling in thy soul,
To counsel me to make my peace with God,
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.
What shall we do?
Relent, and save your souls.
Relent! ’tis cowardly and womanish.
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,
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,
As you would beg, were you in my distress
A begging prince what beggar pities not?
Look behind you, my lord.
Take that, and that: if all this will not do,
I’ll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.
Exit, with the body
A bloody deed, and desperately dispatch’d!
How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands
Of this most grievous guilty murder done!
Re-enter First Murderer
How now! what mean’st thou, that thou help’st me not?
By heavens, the duke shall know how slack thou art!
I would he knew that I had saved his brother!
Take thou the fee, and tell him what I say;
For I repent me that the duke is slain.
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:
And when I have my meed, I must away;
For this will out, and here I must not stay.
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