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LIFE AND DEATH
KING RICHARD II.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
TIE action of this drama comprises little more than the two last years of King Richard's reign. It commences with Bolinbroke's accusation of treason against Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, in 1398, and terminates with the murder of Richard at Pomfret Castle, about the year 1400. Shakspeare wrote the play in 1597, deriving his materials chiefly from Hollinshed's Chronicle, many passages of which, he has almost literally embodied with his own. The speech of the Bishop of Carlisle, in defence of King Richard's unalienable right, and immunity from human jurisdiction, is particularly copied from that old writer. The historical points of the tragedy are consequently accurate; for notwithstanding the Lancasterian prejudices of those who have recorded his reign, Richard was a weak prince, and unfit for government. He had capacity enough, but no solid judgment, nor good education: he was violent in temper, profuse in expence, fond of idle show, devoted to favourites, and addicted to low society. Yet his punishment outbalanced his offence. Dr. Johnson has remarked of this play, that it cannot be said" much to affect the passions, or enlarge the understanding ;" but it is impossible to contemplate the abject degradation of the unfortunate monarch, as drawn by the poet, without questioning the truth and judgment of this critical rescript. In dignity of thought and fertility of expression, it is certainly superior to many of Shakspeare's productions, however it may yield to them in attractive incident or highly-wrought catastrophe. Yet where can we find a combination of circumstances more truly pathetic, than those with which Shakspeare has surrounded the short career of Richard, from his landing in Wales, to his murder at Pomfret. If the bitterness of his sorrow when deserted by his friends, and bearded by his barons--if the lowliness and patience of his carriage, whilst exposed to the insults of the rabble, and greeted with the mockery of homage by his aspiring rival---if the majesty of his sentiments, soaring above conscious helplessness or constitutional imbecility---and if his heroic resistance when despatched by his savage assailants--are not calculated to "affect the passions, or enlarge the understanding," there is no dramatic portraiture that is capable of doing so.
Gaunt. I have, my liege.
K. Rich. Telline moreover, hast thou sounded him,
If he appeal the Duke on ancient malice;
On some apparent danger seen in him,
And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
Re-enter Attendants, with BOLINGBROKE and NORFOLK.
Boling. May many years of happy days be fall
My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege ! Nor. Each day still better other's happiness; Until the heavens, envying earth's good hap, Add an immortal title to your crown!
K. Rich. We thank you both: yet one but flatters us,
As well appeareth by the cause you come; Namely, to appeal each other of high trea
Cousin of Hereford, what dost thou object Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mow. bray ?
Boling. First, (heaven be the record of speech I)
In the devotion of a subject's love,
Nor. Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal;
'Tis not the trial of a woman's war (The bitter clamour of two eager tongues) Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain: The blood is hot, that must be cool'd for this, Yet can I not of such tame patience boast, As to be hush'd, and naught at all to say: First, the fair reverence of your highness curbs
From giving reins and spurs to my free speech;
Call him-a slanderous coward, and a villain;
Disclaiming here the kindred of a king;
If guilty dread hath left thee so much strength, As to take up mine honour's pawn, then stoop: By that, and all the rights of kighthood else, Will I make good against thee, arm to arm, What I have spoke, or thou can'st worst devise.
Nor. I take it up; and, by that sword I swear, Which gently laid my knighthood on my shoulder,
I'll answer thee in any fair degree,
Or chivalrous design of knightly trial:
K. Rich. What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray's charge?
It must be great, that can inherit
That Mowbray hath receiv'd eight thousand nobles,
In name of lendings for your highness' soldiers The which he hath detain'd for lewd employ
Like a false traitor and injurious villain.
Further I say, and further will maintain
Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries
K. Rich. How high a pitch his resolution
Were he my brother, nay, my kingdom's heir,
Nor. Then, Bolingbroke, as low as to thy heart,
Through the false passage of thy throat, thou liest !
The parts of that receipt I had for Calais,
Since last I went to France to fetch his queen :
I slew him not; but to my own disgrace, Neglected my sworn duty in that case,For you, my noble lord of Lancaster, The honourable father to my foe, Once did I lay in ambush for your life A trespass that doth vex my grieved soul: But, ere I last receiv'd the sacrament, ex-I did confess it; and exactly begg'd Your grace's pardon, and, I hope, I had it. ↑ Prompt.
This is my fault:
SCENE 11.-The same.-A Room in the Duke of LANCASTER's Palace.
As for the rest appeal'd,⚫ It issues from the rancour of a villain, A recreant and most degenerate traitor : Which in myself 1 boldly will defend; And interchangeably hurl down my gage Upon this overweening traitor's foot, To prove myself a loyal gentleman
Enter GAUNT, and Duchess of Gloster. Gaunt. Alas! the part I had in Gloster' blood
Doth more solicit me, than your exclaims,
Even in the best blood chamber'd in his bo- To stir against the butchers of his life.
In haste whereof, most heartily I pray
K. Rich. Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be rul'd by me;
Let's purge this choler without letting blood:
Throw down, my son, the duke of Norfolk's gage.
K. Rich. And, Norfolk, throw down his.
Obedience bids, I should not bid again.
K. Rich. Norfolk, throw down; we bid; there is no boot.
Nor. Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot;
My life thou shalt command, but not my shame;
The one my duty owes but my fair name, (Despite of death, that lives upon my grave,) To dark dishonour's use thou shalt not have. I am disgrac'd, impeach'd, and baffled here; Pierc'd to the soul with slander's venom'd spear;
The which no balm can cure, but his blood
Which breath'd this poison.
But since correction lieth in those hands,
Hath love in thy old blood no living fire ?
Some of those branches by the destinies cut: But Thomas, my dear lord, my life, my Gloster,
One phial full of Edward's sacred blood,
By envy's hand, and murder's bloody axe.
mettle, that self meuld, that fashion'd thee,
Made him a man; and though thou liv'st, and breath'st,
Yet art thou slain in him: Thou dost consent In some large measure to thy father's death, In that thou seest thy wretched brother die, heart-Who was the model of thy father's life.
K. Rich. Rage must be withstood :
And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
Mine honour is my life; both grow in one; Take honour from me and my life is done: Then, dear my liege, mine honour let me try; In that I live, aud for that will I die.
K. Rich. Cousin, throw down your gage; do you begin.
Boling. O God, defend my soul from such foul sin!
Shall I seem crest-fallen in my father's sight? Or with pale beggar-fear impeach my height Before this out dar'd dastard! Ere my tongue Shall wound mine honour with such feeble
Or sound so base a parle, my teeth shall tear The slavish motive of recanting fear; And spit it bleeding in his high disgrace, Where shame doth harbour, even in Mowbray's face. [Exit GAUNT. K. Rich. We were not born to sue, but to command:
Which since we cannot do to make you friends,
Be ready, as your lives shall answer it,
• Charged against me.
Call it not patience, Gaunt, it is despair:
Thou go'st to Coventry, there to behold
And throw the rider headlong in the lists,
With her companion grief must end her life.
where it falls,
Not with the empty hollowness, but weight: