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THE

LIFE AND DEATH

or

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.

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Gaunt. I have, my liege.

K. Rich. Telline moreover, hast thou sounded him,

If he appeal the Duke on ancient malice;
Or worthily as a good subject should,
On some known ground of treachery in him?
Gaunt. As near as I could sift him on that
argument,-

On some apparent danger seen in him,
Aim'd at your highness, no inveterate malice.
K. Rich. Then call them to our presence;
face to face,

And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
The accuser, and the accused, freely speak :-
[Exeunt some Attendants.
High-stomach'd are they both, and full of ire,
In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.

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

son.

Cousin of Hereford, what dost thou object Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mow. bray ?

Boling. First, (heaven be the record of speech I)

my

In the devotion of a subject's love,
Tendering the precious safety of my prince,
And free from other misbegotten hate,
Come I appellant to this princely presence.-
Now, Thomas Mowbray, do I turn to thee,
And mark my greeting well; for what I speak,
My body shall make good upon this earth,
Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.
Thou art a traitor, and a miscreant;
Too good to be so, and too bad to live;
Since, the more fair and crystal is the sky,
The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly.
Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat;
And wish, (so please my sovereign,) ere I move,
What my tongue speaks, my right-drawn sword
may prove.

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

me

From giving reins and spurs to my free speech;
Which else would post until it had return'd
These terms of treason doubled down his throat.
Setting aside his high blood's royalty,
And let him be no kinsman to my liege.
I do defy him, and I spit at him;

Call him-a slanderous coward, and a villain;
Which to maintain, I would allow him odds;
And meet him, were I tied to run a-foot
Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps,
Or any other ground inhabitable
Where ever Englishman durst set his foot.
Mean time, let this defend my loyalty,-
By all my hopes, most falsely doth he lie.
Boling. Pale trembling coward, there I throw
my gage,

Disclaiming here the kindred of a king;
And lay aside my high blood's royalty,
Which fear, not reverence, makes thee to
cept:

• Charge.

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:
And, when I mount, alive may I not light,
If I be traitor, or unjustly fight!

K. Rich. What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray's charge?

us

It must be great, that can inherit
So much as of a thought of ill in him.
Boling. Look, what I speak my life shal
prove it true;-

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

ments,

Like a false traitor and injurious villain.
Besides I say, and will in battle prove,-
Or here, or elsewhere, to the furthest verge
That ever was survey'd by English eye,-
That all the treasons, for these eighteen years
Complotted and contrived in this land,
Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and
spring.

Further I say, and further will maintain
Upon his bad life, to make all this good,-
That he did plot the Duke of Gloster's death;
Suggest his soon-believing adversaries;
And, consequently, like a traitor coward,
Sluic'd out his innocent soul through streams of
blood :

Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth,
To me, for justice and rough chastisement;
And, by the glorious worth of my descent,
This arm shall do it, or this life be spent.

K. Rich. How high a pitch his resolution

soars !

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Were he my brother, nay, my kingdom's heir,
(As he is but my father's brother's son,)
Now by my sceptre's awe I make a vow,
Such neighbour nearness to our sacred blood
Should nothing privilege him, nor partialize
The unstooping firmness of my upright soul;
He is our subject, Mowbray, so art thou;
Free speech, and fearless, I to thee allow.

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,
Disburs'd I duly to his highness' soldiers :
The other part reserv'd I by consent;
For that my sovereign liege was in my debt,
Upon remainder of a dear account,

Since last I went to France to fetch his queen :
Now swallow down that lie.-For Gloster's

death,

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.

• Possess.

+ Wicked.

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.

som:

In haste whereof, most heartily I pray
Your highness to assign our trial day.

K. Rich. Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be rul'd by me;

Let's purge this choler without letting blood:
This we prescribe though no physician;
Deep malice makes too deep incision:
Forget, forgive; conclude, and be agreed;
Our doctors say, this is no time to bleed.-
Good uncle, let this end where it begun ;
We'll calm the duke of Norfolk, you your son.
Gaunt. To be a make-peace shall become my
age:

Throw down, my son, the duke of Norfolk's gage.

K. Rich. And, Norfolk, throw down his.
Gaunt. When, Harry, when

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,
Which made the fault that we cannot correct,
Put we our quarrel to the will of heaven;
Who when he sees the hours ripe on earth,
Will rain hot vengeance on offenders' heads.
Duch. Finds brotherhood in thee no sharper
spur ?

Hath love in thy old blood no living fire ?
Edward's seven sons, whereof thyself art one,
Were as seven phials of his sacred blood,
Or seven fair branches springing from one root:
Some of those seven are dried by nature's
course,

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,
One flourishing branch of his most royal root,-
Is crack'd, and all the precious liquor spilt;
Is hack'd down, and his summer leaves all
faded,

By envy's hand, and murder's bloody axe.
Ah! Gaunt, his blood was thine; that bed, that
womb,

That

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 :
Give me his gage: Lions make leopards tame.
Nor. Yea, but not change their spots
but my shame,

And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
The purest treasure mortal times afford,
Is-spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times-barr'd-up chest
Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.

take

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

wrong,

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,
At Coventry, upon Saint Lambert's day;
There shall your swords and lauces arbitrate
The swelling difference of your settled hate;
Since we cannot atone you, we shall see
Justice design the victor's chivalry.-
Marshal, command our officers at arms
Be ready to direct these home-alarms.

• Charged against me.

[Exeunt.

Call it not patience, Gaunt, it is despair:
In suffering thus thy brother to be slaughter'd,
Thou show'st the naked pathway to thy life,
Teaching stern murder how to butcher thee:
That which in mean men we entitle--patience,
Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts.
What shall I say? to safeguard thine own life,
The best way is to 'venge my Gloster'

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Thou go'st to Coventry, there to behold
Our cousin Hereford, and fell Mowbray fight:
0 sit my husband's wrongs on Hereford's
spear,
That it may enter butcher Mowbray's breast!
Or, if misfortune miss the first career,
Be Mowbray's sins so heavy in his bosom,
That they may break his foaming courser's
back,

And throw the rider headlong in the lists,
A caitiff recreant to my cousin Hereford !
Farewell, old Gaunt; thy sometime brother's
wife,

With her companion grief must end her life.
Gaunt. Sister, farewell; I must to Coventry :
As much good stay with thee, as go with me!
Duch. Yet one word more ;-Grief boundeth

where it falls,

Not with the empty hollowness, but weight:
I take my leave before I have begun ;
For sorrow ends not when it seemeth done.

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