Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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5.5Sc. 18

Editor’s NoteEnter Richard alone.
Editor’s Note1

richard I have been studying how I may compare

2This prison where I live unto the world;

Editor’s Note3And for because the world is populous,

4And here is not a creature but myself,

5I cannot do it. Yet I'll hammer it out.

Editor’s Note6My brain I'll prove the female to my soul ,

7My soul the father, and these two beget

Editor’s Note8A generation of still-breeding thoughts;

Editor’s Note9And these same thoughts people this little world

Editor’s Note10In humours like the people of this world ,

11For no thought is contented. The better sort,

Editor’s Note12As thoughts of things divine, are intermixed

Editor’s Note13With scruples, and do set the word itself

Editor’s Note14Against the word, as thus: 'Come little ones',

15And then again:

Editor’s Note16'It is as hard to come as for a camel

Editor’s Note17To thread the postern of a small needle's eye.'

Editor’s Note18Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot

Editor’s Note19Unlikely wonders: how these vain weak nails

Link 20May tear a passage through the flinty ribs

Editor’s Note21Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls;

Editor’s Note22And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.

Editor’s Note23Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves

24That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,

Editor’s Note25Nor shall not be the last—like seely beggars,

Editor’s Note26Who, sitting in the stocks, refuge their shame

pg 919Editor’s Note27That many have and others must set there;

28And in this thought they find a kind of ease,

29Bearing their own misfortunes on the back

30Of such as have before endured the like.

31Thus play I in one person many people,

32And none contented. Sometimes am I king;

33Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,

34And so I am. Then crushing penury

35Persuades me I was better when a king;

36Then am I kinged again, and by and by,

37Think that I am unkinged by Bolingbroke,

Editor’s Note38And straight am nothing. But whate'er I be,

Editor’s Note39Nor I, nor any man that but man is,

40With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased

Editor’s Note41With being nothing. The music plays

Music do I hear.

42Ha, ha; keep time! How sour sweet music is

Editor’s Note43When time is broke and no proportion kept.

44So is it in the music of men's lives.

45And here have I the daintiness of ear

Editor’s Note46To check time broke in a disordered string;

Editor’s Note47But for the concord of my state and time

Editor’s Note48Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.

49I wasted time, and now doth time waste me,

Editor’s Note50For now hath time made me his numb'ring clock.

Editor’s Note51My thoughts are minutes, and with sighs they jar

Editor’s Note52Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch

Editor’s Note53Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,

Editor’s Note54Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.

Editor’s Note55Now, sir, the sound that tells what hour it is

56Are clamorous groans which strike upon my heart,

Link 57Which is the bell. So sighs, and tears, and groans

Editor’s Note58Show minutes, times, and hours. But my time

59Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,

Editor’s Note60While I stand fooling here, his jack of the clock.

61This music mads me. Let it sound no more,

Editor’s Note62For though it have holp mad men to their wits,

63In me it seems it will make wise men mad.

[Music ceases]

64Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me,

pg 92065For 'tis a sign of love, and love to Richard

Editor’s Note66Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.

Enter a Groom of the stable

groom Hail, royal Prince!

richard Thanks, noble peer.

Editor’s Note68The cheapest of us is ten groats too dear.

69What art thou, and how comest thou humbly hither,

Editor’s Note70Where no man never comes but that sad dog

71That brings me food to make misfortune live?


groom I was a poor groom of thy stable, King,

73When thou wert king; who, travelling towards York,

74With much ado at length have gotten leave

Editor’s Note75To look upon my sometimes royal master's face.

Editor’s Note76O, how it erned my heart when I beheld

77In London streets, that coronation day,

Editor’s Note78When Bolingbroke rode on roan Barbary,

79That horse that thou so often hast bestrid,

Editor’s Note80That horse that I so carefully have dressed!

Editor’s Note81

richard Rode he on Barbary? Tell me, gentle friend,

82How went he under him?


groom So proudly as if he disdained the ground.


richard So proud that Bolingbroke was on his back.

Editor’s Note85That jade hath eat bread from my royal hand;

Editor’s Note86This hand hath made him proud with clapping him.

87Would he not stumble, would he not fall down—

Editor’s Note88Since pride must have a fall—and break the neck

89Of that proud man that did usurp his back?

90Forgiveness, horse. Why do I rail on thee,

91Since thou, created to be awed by man,

Link 92Wast born to bear? I was not made a horse,

93And yet I bear a burden like an ass,

Editor’s Note94Spur-galled and tired by jauncing Bolingbroke.

Enter [Keeper] to Richard with meat.
Editor’s Note95

keeper (To Groom) Fellow, give place. Here is no longer stay.


richard (To Groom) If thou love me, 'tis time thou wert away.


groom What my tongue dares not, that my heart shall say.

Exit Groom

keeper My lord, will't please you to fall to?


richard Taste of it first, as thou art wont to do.

Editor’s Note100

keeper My lord, I dare not. Sir Pierce of Exton,

101Who lately came from the King, commands the contrary.

pg 921102

richard The devil take Henry of Lancaster and thee!

103Patience is stale, and I am weary of it.

Editor’s Note[He strikes the Keeper]

keeper Help, help, help!

Editor’s NoteThe murderers [Exton and his Men] rush in
Editor’s Note105

richard How now! What means death in this rude assault?

[He seizes a weapon from a man, and kills him]

106Villain, thy own hand yields thy death's instrument.

107Go thou, and fill another room in hell.

Here Exton strikes him down.

richard That hand shall burn in never-quenching fire

Editor’s Note109That staggers thus my person. Exton, thy fierce hand

110Hath with the King's blood stained the King's own land.

Editor’s Note111Mount, mount my soul; thy seat is up on high,

112Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward here to die,

[He dies]

exton As full of valour as of royal blood.

114Both have I spilt. O, would the deed were good!

115For now the devil that told me I did well,

116Says that this deed is chronicled in hell.

117This dead king to the living King I'll bear.

118Take hence the rest, and give them burial here.

Exeunt Exton with Richard's body at one door, and his men with other bodies at the other door

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
5.5.0 Enter … alone The rear stage wall now represents the wall confining Richard in prison at Pomfret Castle in Yorkshire; the prison may also be suggested by shackles.
Editor’s Note
5.5.1 studying meditating
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5.5.3 for because because
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5.5.6 My … soul (reverses the usual stereotyping of reason as male, emotion as female)
Editor’s Note
5.5.6 the female i.e. receptive
Editor’s Note
5.5.6 soul (here the source of emotions)
Editor’s Note
5.5.8 still-breeding ever-breeding
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5.5.9 this little world i.e. the prison; perhaps also Richard himself
Editor’s Note
5.5.10 humours temperaments; moods, capriciousness (hence 'no thought is contented')
Editor’s Note
5.5.10 this world i.e. the real world
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5.5.12 As such as
Editor’s Note
5.5.12–13 are … set i.e. being intermixed with scruples, set (in effect, the 'scruples' themselves set)
Editor’s Note
5.5.13 scruples doubts, perplexities
Editor’s Note
5.5.14 Come, little ones (from Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, and Luke 18:25)
Editor’s Note
5.5.16–17 It … eye Misquotes Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, or Luke 18:25, which speak of the unlikelihood of the rich reaching heaven. Richard interpolates 'to come' and 'the postern'. The biblical passages were interpreted as 'needle' as the sewing implement, 'camel' as 'cable-rope'; or 'needle' as 'small pedestrian entrance in gateway to city walls', 'camel' as the beast of burden. 'Postern' (small back gateway) points to the latter.
Editor’s Note
5.5.17 needle's (one syllable)
Editor’s Note
5.5.18 Thoughts i.e. other thoughts
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5.5.19 wonders miracles
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5.5.21 ragged rugged
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5.5.22 for because
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5.5.22 pride arrogance; prime of life
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5.5.23 content contentment
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5.5.25 Nor … last i.e. not ever shall be
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5.5.25 seely foolish, simple-minded
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5.5.26 refuge find refuge for
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5.5.27 That i.e. in the thought that
Editor’s Note
5.5.27 set be placed
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5.5.38 straight at once
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5.5.39 but merely
Editor’s Note music plays Probably strings and/or wind instruments in early performances. The 1623 text cues the music one line earlier, so that Richard clearly responds to actual music, while the location of the direction in the 1597 text can be staged so that the audience understands the music as an externalization of the music that has been playing in Richard's mind. The groom might play the music on stage, or the music can be ethereal and with no clear explanation of its source.
Editor’s Note
5.5.43 proportion harmony
Editor’s Note
5.5.46 check rebuke
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5.5.46 disordered string string instrument playing out of tune
Editor’s Note
5.5.47 concord harmony
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5.5.47 state existence, condition
Editor’s Note
5.5.48 Had not i.e. I would not have had
Editor’s Note
5.5.50 numb'ring clock i.e. clock which counts the hours, as opposed to an hourglass
Editor’s Note
5.5.51–4 My … tears The details of this conceit fit together imperfectly.
Editor’s Note
5.5.52 watches clockwork mechanism
Editor’s Note
5.5.52 outward watch outer casing; outer sentry; hence the mind's outward watcher
Editor’s Note
5.5.53 point pointer, hand
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5.5.54 pointing still always pointing
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5.5.54 cleansing them from tears i.e. wiping tears from my eyes
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5.5.55 tells count
Editor’s Note
5.5.58 my time i.e. the time appointed for my rule as king
Editor’s Note
5.5.60 jack of the clock (model human figure that strikes the bell of a clock on the hour or quarter-hour)
Editor’s Note
5.5.62 holp helped
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5.5.66 strange brooch rare ornament
Editor’s Note
5.5.68 The … dear i.e. you have overpriced the cheaper of us in calling me 'royal'. This is a quibble on the coins called a 'royal' (worth 10 shillings), a 'noble' (worth 6 shillings), and a 'groat' (worth 4 pence). Ten groats is roughly the difference between the first two.
Editor’s Note
5.5.68 cheapest cheaper
Editor’s Note
5.5.70 sad dismal-looking
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5.5.75 sometimes formerly (qualifying 'royal'); or former (qualifying 'master')
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5.5.76 erned grieved
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5.5.78 Barbary (a favoured breed of horse; but here specifically the horse's name)
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5.5.80 dressed groomed
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5.5.81 gentle (a term of address usually reserved for the gentry)
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5.5.85 jade (contemptuous term for a horse)
Editor’s Note
5.5.86 clapping patting
Editor’s Note
5.5.88 pride … fall (proverbial)
Editor’s Note
5.5.94 Spur-galled with sores caused by spurring
Editor’s Note
5.5.94 jauncing prancing. The image casts Bolingbroke as an exuberant rider of Richard, who does not share the horseman's enthusiasm.
Editor’s Note
5.5.95 give place leave
Editor’s Note
5.5.100 I dare not A food-taster originally tested for poison, but tasting was more usually a courteous formality. The keeper's instructions not to taste are intended as an insult to Richard.
Editor’s Note He … Keeper Portrayals of the rest of the scene have ranged from Richard as a ferocious, competent warrior to Richard as physically weak or even delirious, fighting in desperation.
Editor’s Note Exton … Men How many men enter with Exton, and how many of them Richard kills, are decided by the performers. Richard claims at least one kill before being struck down, and practitioners must consider who is left to drag the bodies off stage.
Editor’s Note
5.5.105 What means death what does death mean by (but the exact sense is uncertain)
Editor’s Note
5.5.109 staggers … person i.e. makes me totter
Editor’s Note
5.5.111 seat resting-place
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