Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Catherine Lisak
Not Peer Reviewed

Richard II (Modern)


[2.1]
Enter John of Gaunt sick, [carried in a chair,] with the Duke of York, [and attendants.]
Gaunt Will the King come, that I may breathe my last
In wholesome counsel to his unstaid youth?
York Vex not yourself, nor strive not with your breath,
645For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.
Gaunt Oh, but they say the tongues of dying men
Enforce attention like deep harmony.
Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.
650He that no more must say is listened more
Than they whom youth and ease have taught to gloze,
More are men's ends marked than their lives before.
The setting sun, and music at the close,
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
655Writ in remembrance more than things long past.
Though Richard my life's counsel would not hear,
My death's sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.
York No, it is stopped with other, flattering sounds,
As praises, of whose taste the wise are fond;
660Lascivious meters, to whose venom sound
The open ear of youth doth always listen;
Report of fashions in proud Italy,
Whose manners still our tardy-apish nation
Limps after in base imitation.
665Where doth the world thrust forth a vanity --
So it be new, there's no respect how vile --
That is not quickly buzzed into his ears?
Then all too late comes counsel to be heard,
Where will doth mutiny with wit's regard.
670Direct not him whose way himself will choose.
'Tis breath thou lack'st, and that breath wilt thou lose.
Gaunt Methinks I am a prophet new inspired,
And thus, expiring, do foretell of him.
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
675For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small show'rs last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder;
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
680Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by nature for herself
685Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
690Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessèd plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Feared by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renownèd for their deeds as far from home
695For Christian service and true chivalry
As is the sepulcher in stubborn Jewry
Of the world's ransom, blessèd Mary's son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
700Is now leased out -- I die pronouncing it --
Like to a tenement or pelting farm.
England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of wat'ry Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
705With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds.
That England that was wont to conquer others
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
[Flourish.]
York The King is come. Deal mildly with his youth,
For young hot colts, being raged, do rage the more.
710
Enter King [Richard] and [the] Queen, [Aumerle, Bushy, Green, Bagot, Ross, and Willoughby, with attendants].
Queen How fares our noble uncle Lancaster?
715King Richard What comfort, man? How is't with agèd Gaunt?
Gaunt Oh, how that name befits my composition!
Old Gaunt indeed, and gaunt in being old.
Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast,
And who abstains from meat that is not gaunt?
720For sleeping England long time have I watched;
Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt.
The pleasure that some fathers feed upon
Is my strict fast -- I mean, my children's looks --
And therein fasting, hast thou made me gaunt.
725Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave,
Whose hollow womb inherits naught but bones.
King Richard Can sick men play so nicely with their names?
Gaunt No, misery makes sport to mock itself.
Since thou dost seek to kill my name in me,
730I mock my name, great King, to flatter thee.
King Richard Should dying men flatter with those that live?
Gaunt No, no, men living flatter those that die.
King Richard Thou, now a-dying, sayest thou flatterest me.
Gaunt Oh, no, thou diest, though I the sicker be.
735King Richard I am in health, I breathe, and see thee ill.
Gaunt Now He that made me knows I see thee ill,
Ill in myself to see, and in thee, seeing ill.
Thy deathbed is no lesser than thy land,
Wherein thou liest in reputation sick;
740And thou, too careless patient as thou art,
Commit'st thy anointed body to the cure
Of those physicians that first wounded thee.
A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown,
Whose compass is no bigger than thy head,
745And yet, encagèd in so small a verge,
The waste is no whit lesser than thy land.
Oh, had thy grandsire, with a prophet's eye,
Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons,
From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame,
750Deposing thee before thou wert possessed,
Which art possessed now to depose thyself.
Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
It were a shame to let this land by lease;
But, for thy world enjoying but this land,
755Is it not more than shame to shame it so?
Landlord of England art thou now, not king.
Thy state of law is bondslave to the law,
And thou --
King Richard
A lunatic lean-witted fool,
760Presuming on an ague's privilege,
Dar'st with thy frozen admonition
Make pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood
With fury from his native residence.
Now, by my seat's right royal majesty,
765Wert thou not brother to great Edward's son,
This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head
Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders.
Gaunt Oh, spare me not, my brother Edward's son,
For that I was his father Edward's son!
770That blood already, like the pelican,
Hast thou tapped out and drunkenly caroused.
My brother Gloucester -- plain well-meaning soul,
Whom fair befall in heaven 'mongst happy souls --
May be a precedent and witness good
775That thou respect'st not spilling Edward's blood.
Join with the present sickness that I have,
And thy unkindness be like crooked age,
To crop at once a too long withered flower.
Live in thy shame, but die not shame with thee!
780These words hereafter thy tormentors be! --
Convey me to my bed, then to my grave.
Love they to live that love and honor have.
Exit [borne off by attendants].
King Richard And let them die that age and sullens have,
For both hast thou, and both become the grave.
785York I do beseech your majesty, impute his words
To wayward sickliness and age in him.
He loves you, on my life, and holds you dear
As Harry, Duke of Hereford, were he here.
King Richard Right, you say true: As Hereford's love, so his;
790As theirs, so mine; and all be as it is!
[Enter Northumberland.]
Northumberland My liege, old Gaunt commends him to your majesty.
King Richard
What says he?
795Northumberland
Nay, nothing; all is said.
His tongue is now a stringless instrument;
Words, life, and all, old Lancaster hath spent.
York Be York the next that must be bankrupt so!
Though death be poor, it ends a mortal woe.
800King Richard The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he;
His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be.
So much for that. Now for our Irish wars:
We must supplant those rough rug-headed kerns,
Which live like venom where no venom else
805But only they have privilege to live.
And for these great affairs do ask some charge,
Towards our assistance we do seize to us
The plate, coin, revenues, and movables
Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possessed.
810York How long shall I be patient? Ah, how long
Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong?
Not Gloucester's death, nor Hereford's banishment,
Nor Gaunt's rebukes, nor England's private wrongs,
Nor the prevention of poor Bolingbroke
815About his marriage, nor my own disgrace,
Have ever made me sour my patient cheek,
Or bend one wrinkle on my sovereign's face.
I am the last of noble Edward's sons,
Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first.
820In war was never lion raged more fierce,
In peace was never gentle lamb more mild,
Than was that young and princely gentleman.
His face thou hast, for even so looked he,
Accomplished with the number of thy hours;
825But when he frowned, it was against the French
And not against his friends. His noble hand
Did win what he did spend, and spent not that
Which his triumphant father's hand had won.
His hands were guilty of no kindred blood,
830But bloody with the enemies of his kin.
Oh, Richard! York is too far gone with grief,
Or else he never would compare between.
King Richard
Why, uncle, what's the matter?
835York
O my liege,
Pardon me, if you please. If not, I, pleased
Not to be pardoned, am content withal.
Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
The royalties and rights of banished Hereford?
Is not Gaunt dead? And doth not Hereford live?
840Was not Gaunt just? And is not Harry true?
Did not the one deserve to have an heir?
Is not his heir a well-deserving son?
Take Hereford's rights away, and take from time
His charters and his customary rights;
845Let not tomorrow then ensue today;
Be not thyself! For how art thou a king
But by fair sequence and succession?
Now, afore God -- God forbid I say true! --
If you do wrongfully seize Hereford's rights,
850Call in the letters patents that he hath
By his attorneys general to sue
His livery, and deny his offered homage,
You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
You lose a thousand well-disposèd hearts,
855And prick my tender patience to those thoughts
Which honor and allegiance cannot think.
King Richard Think what you will, we seize into our hands
His plate, his goods, his money, and his lands.
York I'll not be by the while. My liege, farewell.
860What will ensue hereof there's none can tell;
But by bad courses may be understood That their events can never fall out good.
Exit.
King Richard Go, Bushy, to the Earl of Wiltshire straight.
Bid him repair to us to Ely House
865To see this business. Tomorrow next
We will for Ireland, and 'tis time, I trow.
And we create, in absence of ourself,
Our uncle York, lord Governor of England;
For he is just and always loved us well. --
870Come on, our queen. Tomorrow must we part.
Be merry, for our time of stay is short.
[Flourish.]
Exeunt King [Richard] and [the] Queen[, Aumerle, Bushy, Green, and Bagot].
Northumberland[, Willoughby, and Ross remain behind].
Northumberland Well, lords, the Duke of Lancaster is dead.
Ross And living too, for now his son is duke.
875Willoughby Barely in title, not in revenues.
Northumberland Richly in both, if Justice had her right.
Ross My heart is great, but it must break with silence
Ere't be disburdened with a liberal tongue.
Northumberland Nay, speak thy mind, and let him ne'er speak more
880That speaks thy words again to do thee harm!
Willoughby [To Ross] Tends that thou wouldst speak to the Duke of Hereford?
If it be so, out with it boldly, man!
Quick is mine ear to hear of good towards him.
Ross No good at all that I can do for him,
885Unless you call it good to pity him,
Bereft and gelded of his patrimony.
Northumberland Now, afore God, 'tis shame such wrongs are borne
In him, a royal prince, and many more,
890Of noble blood in this declining land.
The King is not himself, but basely led
By flatterers; and what they will inform
Merely in hate, 'gainst any of us all,
That will the King severely prosecute
895'Gainst us, our lives, our children, and our heirs.
Ross The commons hath he pilled with grievous taxes,
And quite lost their hearts. The nobles hath he fined
For ancient quarrels, and quite lost their hearts.
Willoughby And daily new exactions are devised,
900As blanks, benevolences, and I wot not what.
But what, a God's name, doth become of this?
Northumberland Wars hath not wasted it, for warred he hath not,
But basely yielded upon compromise
That which his noble ancestors achieved with blows.
905More hath he spent in peace than they in wars.
Ross The Earl of Wiltshire hath the realm in farm.
Willoughby The King grown bankrupt like a broken man.
Northumberland Reproach and dissolution hangeth over him.
Ross He hath not money for these Irish wars,
910His burdenous taxations notwithstanding,
But by the robbing of the banished Duke.
Northumberland His noble kinsman. Most degenerate King!
But, lords, we hear this fearful tempest sing,
Yet seek no shelter to avoid the storm.
915We see the wind sit sore upon our sails,
And yet we strike not, but securely perish.
Ross We see the very wrack that we must suffer,
And unavoided is the danger now
For suffering so the causes of our wrack.
920Northumberland Not so. Even through the hollow eyes of death
I spy life peering; but I dare not say
How near the tidings of our comfort is.
Willoughby Nay, let us share thy thoughts, as thou dost ours.
Ross Be confident to speak, Northumberland.
925We three are but thyself, and speaking so,
Thy words are but as thoughts. Therefore be bold.
Northumberland Then thus: I have from Le Port Blanc,
A bay in Brittany, received intelligence
That Harry, Duke of Hereford, Rainold, lord Cobham,
Thomas, son and heir to the Earl of Arundel,
930That late broke from the Duke of Exeter,
His brother, Archbishop late of Canterbury,
Sir Thomas Erpingham, Sir John Ramston,
Sir John Norbery, Sir Robert Waterton, and Francis Coint.
All these well furnished by the Duke of Brittany
935With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
Are making hither with all due expedience
And shortly mean to touch our northern shore.
Perhaps they had ere this, but that they stay
The first departing of the King for Ireland.
940If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,
Imp out our drooping country's broken wing,
Redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown,
Wipe off the dust that hides our scepter's gilt,
And make high majesty look like itself,
945Away with me in post to Ravenspurgh.
But if you faint, as fearing to do so,
Stay and be secret, and myself will go.
Ross To horse, to horse! Urge doubts to them that fear.
Willoughby Hold out my horse, and I will first be there.
950
Exeunt.