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K. Rich. Mine ear is open, and my heart prepar’d 8 : The worst is worldly loss, thou canst unfold. Say, is my kingdom lost? why, 'twas my care? And what loss is it, to be rid of care? Strives Bolingbroke to be as great as we? Greater he shall not be; if he serve God, We'll serve him too, and be his fellow so : Revolt our subjects ? that we cannot mend; They break their faith to God, as well as us: Cry woe, destruction, ruin, loss, decay: The worst is—death, and death will have his day.
Scroop. Glad am I, that your highness is so arm’d To bear the tidings of calamity Like an unseasonable stormy day, Which makes the silver rivers drown their shores, As if the world were all dissoly'd to tears; So high above his limits swells the rage Of Bolingbroke, covering your fearful land With hard bright steel, and hearts harder than steel. White-beards havearm’d their thin and hairless scalps Against thy majesty; and boys, with women's voices, Strive to speak big, and clap their female joints In stiff unwieldy arms against thy crown:
beadsmen learn to bend their bows Of double-fatal yew9 against thy state;
8 • It seems to be the design of the poet to raise Richard to esteem in his fall, and consequently to interest the reader in his favour. He gives him only passive fortitude, the virtue of a confessor, rather than of a king. In his prosperity we saw him imperious and oppressive; but in his distress he is wise, patient, and pious.'-Johnson.
9 Yew is called double-fatal, because of the poisonous quality of the leaves, and on account of the wood being used for instruments of death. From some ancient statutes it appears that every Englishman, while archery was practised, was obliged to keep in his house either a bow of yew or some other wood. It has been supposed that yews were anciently planted in churchyards not only to defend the church from the wind, but on account of their use in making bows; while their poisonous quality was kept from doing mischief to the cattle in that sacred enclosure.
Yea, distaff-women manage rusty bills
K.Rich. Too well, too well, thou tell’st a tale so ill:
Scroop. Peace have they made with bim, indeed,
K. Rich. O villains, vipers, damnd without re
Scroop. Sweet love, I see, changing his property,
is made With heads, and not with hands : those whom
you curse, Have felt the worst of death's destroying wound, And lie full low, grav'd 11 in the hollow ground.
10 The mention of Bagot here is a lapse of the poet or the king; but perhaps it may have been intended to mark more strongly the perturbation of the king's mind by making him inquire at first for Bagot, whose loyalty, on further recollection, might show him the impropriety of the question.
il i. e. buried. The verb is not peculiar to Shakspeare. We have it in Gower, and in Lord Surrey's translation of the fourth Æneid:
Cinders, think'st thou, mind this, or graved ghosts?' Shakspeare uses it again in Timon of Athens :
ditches grave you all.' George Cavendish, in his Metrical Visions, makes the Duke of Suffolk say:
And my hedles body, vouchsafe to se it graved.'
Aum. Is Bushy, Green, and the earl of Wiltshire
dead ? Scroop. Yea, all of them at Bristol lost their heads. Aum. Where is the duke, my father, with his power? K.Rich. No matter where; of comfort no man speak: Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs ; Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth. Let's choose executors, and talk of wills : And yet not so,-for what can we bequeath, Save our deposed bodies to the ground? Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's, And nothing can we call our own, but death; And that small model 12 of the barren earth, Which serves as paste and cover to our bones. For heaven's sake, let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the death of kings :How some have been depos’d, some slain in war; Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos’d; Some poison’d by their wives, some sleeping kill’d; All murder'd:-For within the hollow crown, That rounds the mortal temples of a king, Keeps death his court: and there the antick sits 13, Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp; Allowing him a breath, a little scene To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks ; Infusing him with self and vain conceit, As if this flesh, which walls about our life, Were brass impregnable; and humour'd thus,
12 A small model, or module, for they were the same in Shakspeare's time, seems to mean in this place a small portion or quantity. It is a Latinism from modulus, the measure or quantity of a thing.'
13 It is not impossible that Shakspeare borrowed this idea from that most exquisite emblematic book of engravings on wood the Dance of Death, or Imagines Mortis, attributed to Holbein. See the seventh print.
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Aum. My father hath a power, inquire of him;
broke, I come
task it is, to win our own. Say, Scroop, where lies our uncle with his power? Speak sweetly, man, although thy looks be sour.
Scroop. Men judge by the complexion of the sky
The state and inclination of the day:
My tongue hath but a heavier tale to say.
14 Tradition here seems to mean traditional practices, i.e. established or customary homage.
15 That is, to die fighting is to return the evil that we suffer, to destroy the destroyers.
Your uncle York hath join'd with Bolingbroke;
K. Rich. Thou hast said enough.Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth
Aum. My liege, one word.
He does me double wrong, That wounds me with the flatteries of his tongue. Discharge my followers, let them hence:— Away, From Richard's night, to Bolingbroke's fair day.
Wales. A Plain before Flint Castle. Enter, with Drum and Colours, BOLINGBROKE and Forces; YORK, NORTHUMBERLAND, and Others.
Boling. So that by this intelligence we learn, The Welshmen are dispers'd; and Salisbury
16 This sentiment is drawn from nature. Nothing is more offensive to a mind convinced that its distress is without remedy, and preparing to submit quietly to irresistible calamity, than these petty and conjectured comforts, which unskilful officiousness thinks it virtue to administer.
17 To ear the land is to till it, to plough it, from the Saxon erian. So in All's Well that Ends Well:
• He that ears my land, spares my team.'