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THIS tragedy, though it is called the life and death of this prince, comprizes, at most, but the last eight years of his time; for it opens with George duke of Clarence being clapped up in the Tower, which happened in the beginning of the year 1477; and closes with the death of Richard at Bosworth field, which battle was fought on the 22d of August, in the year 1485. THEOBALD.
It appears that several dramas on the present subject had been written before Shakspeare attempted it. This play was first entered at Stationers' Hall by Andrew Wise, Oct. 20, 1597, under the title of The Tragedie of King Richard the Third, with the Death of the Duke of Clarence. Before this, viz. Aug. 15th, 1586, was entered, A tragical Report of King Richard the Third, a Ballad. It may be necessary to remark that the words, song, ballad, enterlude and play, were often synonymously used. STEEVENS.
This play was written, I imagine, in the year 1593. The Legend of King Richard III. by Francis Seagars, was printed in the first edition of The Mirrour for Magistrates, 1559, and in that of 1575, and 1587, but Shakspeare does not appear to be indebted to it. In a subsequent edition of that book printed in 1610, the old legend was omitted, and a new one inserted, by Richard Niccols, who has very freely copied the play before us. In 1597, when this tragedy published, Niccols, as Mr. Warton has observed, was but thirteen years old. Hist. of Poetry, vol. III. p. 267.
The real length of time in this piece is fourteen years; (not eight years, as Mr. Theobald supposed :) for the second scene commences with the funeral of king Henry VI. who, according to the received account, was murdered on the 21st of May, 1471. The imprisonment of Clarence, which is represented previously in the first scene, did not in fact take place till 1477-8.
It has been since observed to me by Mr. Elderton, (who is of opinion that Richard was charged with this murder by the Lancastrian historians without any foundation,) that " it appears on the face Publick accounts allowed in the exchequer for the maintenance
of king Henry and his numerous attendants in the Tower, that he lived to the 12th of June, which was twenty-two days after the time assigned for his pretended assassination; was exposed to the publick view in St. Paul's for some days, and interred at Chertsey with much solemnity, and at no inconsiderable expence." MALONE.
King EDWARD the Fourth.
EDWARD, Prince of Wales, afterwards
K. Edward V.
Sons to the King.
RICHARD, Duke of York.
GEORGE, Duke of Clarence,
RICHARD, Duke of Gloster, af-Brothers to the King. terwards King Richard III.
A young Son of Clarence.
HENRY, Earl of Richmond, afterwards K. Henry VII.
Duke of NORFOLK: Earl of SURREY, his Son.
Sir THOMAS VAUGHAN. Sir RICHARD Ratcliff.
ELIZABETH, Queen of King Edward IV.
Duchess of YORK, Mother to King Edward IV. Clarence, and Gloster.
Lady ANNE, Widow of Edward Prince of Wales, Son to King Henry VI.; afterwards married to the Duke of Gloster.
A young Daughter of Clarence.
Lords, and other Attendants; two Gentlemen, a Pursuivant, Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Ghosts, Soldiers, &c.
LIFE AND DEATH
KING RICHARD III.
SCENE I.-London. A Street.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;1
In the deep bosom of the ocean bury'd.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
this sun of York ;] Alluding to the cognizance of Edward IV. which was a sun, in memory of the three suns, which are said to have appeared at the battle which he gained over the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross.
delightful measures.] A measure was, strictly speaking, a court dance of a stately turn, though the word is sometimes employed to express dances in general.
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds,
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries, —
But I, that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty,
That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them;
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,"
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
barbed steeds,] i. e. steeds caparisoned in a warlike manner. Barbed, however, may be no more than a corruption of barded. Equus bardatus, in the Latin of the middle ages, was a horse adorned with military trappings.
4 He capers-] War capers. This is poetical, though a little harsh; if it be York that capers, the antecedent is at such a distance, that it is almost forgotten.;
5 Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,] By dissembling is not meant hypocritical nature, that pretends one thing, and does another: but nature that puts together things of a dissimilar kind, as a brave soul and a deformed body. Feature is used here, as in other pieces of the same age, for beauty in general.
6 And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,] Shakspeare very diligently inculcates, that the wickedness of Richard proceeded from his deformity, from the envy that rose at the comparison of his own person with others, and which incited him to disturb the pleasures that he could not partake. JOHNSON.