List iconRichard III:
Act 1, scene 4
List icon

Richard III
Act 1, scene 4



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

As Richard III opens, Richard is Duke of Gloucester and his brother, Edward IV, is king. Richard is eager to clear his…

Act 1, scene 1

Richard, alone onstage, reveals his intention to play the villain. He then pretends to console Clarence, the first victim of…

Act 1, scene 2

Richard woos Lady Anne over the corpse of King Henry VI, Anne’s father-in-law, whom Richard murdered.

Act 1, scene 3

Queen Elizabeth bemoans her situation in the face of her husband’s serious illness; Richard quarrels with Queen Elizabeth, her brother,…

Act 1, scene 4

Richard’s agents murder the imprisoned Clarence.

Act 2, scene 1

The dying King Edward IV attempts to reconcile the quarreling factions in his royal court. Queen Elizabeth and her kindred,…

Act 2, scene 2

As the Duchess of York mourns Clarence’s death, Queen Elizabeth enters grieving for the death of King Edward IV. Richard…

Act 2, scene 3

Three citizens discuss the possibly tumultuous succession of Prince Edward.

Act 2, scene 4

As Queen Elizabeth awaits the coming of Prince Edward, news arrives that Richard has imprisoned her brother Rivers, her son…

Act 3, scene 1

Richard and Buckingham arrive in London with Prince Edward and order that Edward’s brother, the Duke of York, be taken…

Act 3, scene 2

Responding to Catesby, Hastings flatly refuses to support Richard’s bid for the throne, and takes great satisfaction in the news…

Act 3, scene 3

The Queen’s brother Rivers, her son Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan are led to execution. They recall Margaret’s curse, and…

Act 3, scene 4

A council of lords meets to plan the coronation of Edward V. Richard, learning from Buckingham of Hastings’ refusal to…

Act 3, scene 5

Richard and Buckingham excuse the summary execution of Hastings to the Mayor of London by staging an “uprising” that they…

Act 3, scene 6

The professional scribe who has just finished transcribing Hastings’ indictment shows how the charge against Hastings had been prepared and…

Act 3, scene 7

Richard and Buckingham, having failed to persuade London’s officials and citizens that Richard should be king, stage a scene of…

Act 4, scene 1

Queen Elizabeth, her son Dorset, and the Duchess of York meet Lady Anne and Clarence’s daughter as all approach the…

Act 4, scene 2

The newly crowned Richard asks Buckingham to arrange the deaths of Prince Edward and the Duke of York. When Buckingham…

Act 4, scene 3

Tyrrel reports the deaths of Edward IV’s sons. Richard then reveals that Anne is dead and that he will now…

Act 4, scene 4

Queen Margaret, Queen Elizabeth, and the Duchess of York grieve for their dead. Richard enters on his way to confront…

Act 4, scene 5

Lord Stanley sends news to Richmond, whose army is marching on London: Stanley will be unable to help because Richard…

Act 5, scene 1

Buckingham is led to execution.

Act 5, scene 2

Richmond and his army march against Richard.

Act 5, scene 3

Richard and Richmond and their supporters prepare for battle. Asleep, Richard and Richmond are each visited by the ghosts of…

Act 5, scene 4

In battle Richard has been unhorsed and faces defeat.

Act 5, scene 5

Richmond kills Richard and is given the crown that he will wear as King Henry VII. His coming marriage to…

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Scene 4
Enter Clarence and Keeper.

 Why looks your Grace so heavily today?
 O, I have passed a miserable night,
 So full of fearful dreams, of ugly sights,
 That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
5 I would not spend another such a night
 Though ’twere to buy a world of happy days,
 So full of dismal terror was the time.
 What was your dream, my lord? I pray you tell me.
 Methoughts that I had broken from the Tower
10 And was embarked to cross to Burgundy,
 And in my company my brother Gloucester,
 Who from my cabin tempted me to walk
 Upon the hatches. Thence we looked toward
15 And cited up a thousand heavy times,
 During the wars of York and Lancaster,
 That had befall’n us. As we paced along
 Upon the giddy footing of the hatches,
 Methought that Gloucester stumbled, and in falling
20 Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard
 Into the tumbling billows of the main.
 O Lord, methought what pain it was to drown,
 What dreadful noise of waters in my ears,
 What sights of ugly death within my eyes.
25 Methoughts I saw a thousand fearful wracks,
 A thousand men that fishes gnawed upon,
 Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
 Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
 All scattered in the bottom of the sea.

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

30 Some lay in dead men’s skulls, and in the holes
 Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept—
 As ’twere in scorn of eyes—reflecting gems,
 That wooed the slimy bottom of the deep
 And mocked the dead bones that lay scattered by.
35 Had you such leisure in the time of death
 To gaze upon these secrets of the deep?
 Methought I had, and often did I strive
 To yield the ghost, but still the envious flood
 Stopped in my soul and would not let it forth
40 To find the empty, vast, and wand’ring air,
 But smothered it within my panting bulk,
 Who almost burst to belch it in the sea.
 Awaked you not in this sore agony?
 No, no, my dream was lengthened after life.
45 O, then began the tempest to my soul.
 I passed, methought, the melancholy flood,
 With that sour ferryman which poets write of,
 Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
 The first that there did greet my stranger-soul
50 Was my great father-in-law, renownèd Warwick,
 Who spake aloud “What scourge for perjury
 Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?”
 And so he vanished. Then came wand’ring by
 A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
55 Dabbled in blood, and he shrieked out aloud
 “Clarence is come—false, fleeting, perjured
 That stabbed me in the field by Tewkesbury.
 Seize on him, furies. Take him unto torment.”
60 With that, methoughts, a legion of foul fiends

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 Environed me and howlèd in mine ears
 Such hideous cries that with the very noise
 I trembling waked, and for a season after
 Could not believe but that I was in hell,
65 Such terrible impression made my dream.
 No marvel, lord, though it affrighted you.
 I am afraid, methinks, to hear you tell it.
 Ah keeper, keeper, I have done these things,
 That now give evidence against my soul,
70 For Edward’s sake, and see how he requites me.—
 O God, if my deep prayers cannot appease thee,
 But thou wilt be avenged on my misdeeds,
 Yet execute thy wrath in me alone!
 O, spare my guiltless wife and my poor children!—
75 Keeper, I prithee sit by me awhile.
 My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.
 I will, my lord. God give your Grace good rest.
Clarence sleeps.

Enter Brakenbury the Lieutenant.

 Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
 Makes the night morning, and the noontide night.
80 Princes have but their titles for their glories,
 An outward honor for an inward toil,
 And, for unfelt imaginations,
 They often feel a world of restless cares,
 So that between their titles and low name
85 There’s nothing differs but the outward fame.

Enter two Murderers.

FIRST MURDERER Ho, who’s here?

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 What wouldst thou, fellow? And how cam’st thou
SECOND MURDERER I would speak with Clarence, and I
90 came hither on my legs.
BRAKENBURY What, so brief?
FIRST MURDERER ’Tis better, sir, than to be tedious.—
 Let him see our commission, and talk no more.
Brakenbury reads the commission.
 I am in this commanded to deliver
95 The noble Duke of Clarence to your hands.
 I will not reason what is meant hereby
 Because I will be guiltless from the meaning.
 There lies the Duke asleep, and there the keys.
He hands them keys.
 I’ll to the King and signify to him
100 That thus I have resigned to you my charge.
FIRST MURDERER You may, sir. ’Tis a point of wisdom.
 Fare you well.
Brakenbury and the Keeper exit.
SECOND MURDERER What, shall I stab him as he
FIRST MURDERER 105No. He’ll say ’twas done cowardly,
 when he wakes.
SECOND MURDERER Why, he shall never wake until the
 great Judgment Day.
FIRST MURDERER Why, then he’ll say we stabbed him
110 sleeping.
SECOND MURDERER The urging of that word “judgment”
 hath bred a kind of remorse in me.
FIRST MURDERER What, art thou afraid?
SECOND MURDERER Not to kill him, having a warrant,
115 but to be damned for killing him, from the which
 no warrant can defend me.
FIRST MURDERER I thought thou hadst been resolute.

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

SECOND MURDERER So I am—to let him live.
FIRST MURDERER I’ll back to the Duke of Gloucester
120 and tell him so.
SECOND MURDERER Nay, I prithee stay a little. I hope
 this passionate humor of mine will change. It was
 wont to hold me but while one tells twenty.
FIRST MURDERER How dost thou feel thyself now?
SECOND MURDERER 125Faith, some certain dregs of conscience
 are yet within me.
FIRST MURDERER Remember our reward when the
 deed’s done.
SECOND MURDERER Zounds, he dies! I had forgot the
130 reward.
FIRST MURDERER Where’s thy conscience now?
SECOND MURDERER O, in the Duke of Gloucester’s
FIRST MURDERER When he opens his purse to give us
135 our reward, thy conscience flies out.
SECOND MURDERER ’Tis no matter. Let it go. There’s
 few or none will entertain it.
FIRST MURDERER What if it come to thee again?
SECOND MURDERER I’ll not meddle with it. It makes a
140 man a coward: a man cannot steal but it accuseth
 him; a man cannot swear but it checks him; a man
 cannot lie with his neighbor’s wife but it detects
 him. ’Tis a blushing, shamefaced spirit that mutinies
 in a man’s bosom. It fills a man full of
145 obstacles. It made me once restore a purse of gold
 that by chance I found. It beggars any man that
 keeps it. It is turned out of towns and cities for a
 dangerous thing, and every man that means to live
 well endeavors to trust to himself and live without it.
FIRST MURDERER 150Zounds, ’tis even now at my elbow,
 persuading me not to kill the Duke.
SECOND MURDERER Take the devil in thy mind, and

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 believe him not. He would insinuate with thee but
 to make thee sigh.
FIRST MURDERER 155I am strong-framed. He cannot prevail
 with me.
SECOND MURDERER Spoke like a tall man that respects
 thy reputation. Come, shall we fall to work?
FIRST MURDERER Take him on the costard with the
160 hilts of thy sword, and then throw him into the
 malmsey butt in the next room.
SECOND MURDERER O, excellent device—and make a
 sop of him!
FIRST MURDERER Soft, he wakes.
FIRST MURDERER No, we’ll reason with him.
Clarence wakes.
 Where art thou, keeper? Give me a cup of wine.
 You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.
 In God’s name, what art thou?
FIRST MURDERER 170 A man, as you are.
CLARENCE But not, as I am, royal.
FIRST MURDERER Nor you, as we are, loyal.
 Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.
 My voice is now the King’s, my looks mine own.
175 How darkly and how deadly dost thou speak!
 Your eyes do menace me. Why look you pale?
 Who sent you hither? Wherefore do you come?
CLARENCE To murder me?
BOTH 180Ay, ay.

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 You scarcely have the hearts to tell me so
 And therefore cannot have the hearts to do it.
 Wherein, my friends, have I offended you?
 Offended us you have not, but the King.
185 I shall be reconciled to him again.
 Never, my lord. Therefore prepare to die.
 Are you drawn forth among a world of men
 To slay the innocent? What is my offense?
 Where is the evidence that doth accuse me?
190 What lawful quest have given their verdict up
 Unto the frowning judge? Or who pronounced
 The bitter sentence of poor Clarence’ death
 Before I be convict by course of law?
 To threaten me with death is most unlawful.
195 I charge you, as you hope to have redemption,
 By Christ’s dear blood shed for our grievous sins,
 That you depart, and lay no hands on me.
 The deed you undertake is damnable.
 What we will do, we do upon command.
200 And he that hath commanded is our king.
 Erroneous vassals, the great King of kings
 Hath in the table of His law commanded
 That thou shalt do no murder. Will you then
 Spurn at His edict and fulfill a man’s?
205 Take heed, for He holds vengeance in His hand
 To hurl upon their heads that break His law.
 And that same vengeance doth He hurl on thee

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 For false forswearing and for murder too.
 Thou didst receive the sacrament to fight
210 In quarrel of the House of Lancaster.
 And, like a traitor to the name of God,
 Didst break that vow, and with thy treacherous
 Unrippedst the bowels of thy sovereign’s son.
215 Whom thou wast sworn to cherish and defend.
 How canst thou urge God’s dreadful law to us
 When thou hast broke it in such dear degree?
 Alas! For whose sake did I that ill deed?
 For Edward, for my brother, for his sake.
220 He sends you not to murder me for this,
 For in that sin he is as deep as I.
 If God will be avengèd for the deed,
 O, know you yet He doth it publicly!
 Take not the quarrel from His powerful arm;
225 He needs no indirect or lawless course
 To cut off those that have offended Him.
 Who made thee then a bloody minister
 When gallant-springing, brave Plantagenet,
 That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?
230 My brother’s love, the devil, and my rage.
 Thy brother’s love, our duty, and thy faults
 Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.
 If you do love my brother, hate not me.
 I am his brother, and I love him well.
235 If you are hired for meed, go back again,

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,
 Who shall reward you better for my life
 Than Edward will for tidings of my death.
 You are deceived. Your brother Gloucester hates
240 you.
 O no, he loves me, and he holds me dear.
 Go you to him from me.
FIRST MURDERER  Ay, so we will.
 Tell him, when that our princely father York
245 Blessed his three sons with his victorious arm,
 He little thought of this divided friendship.
 Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
 Ay, millstones, as he lessoned us to weep.
 O, do not slander him, for he is kind.
250 Right, as snow in harvest. Come, you deceive
 ’Tis he that sends us to destroy you here.
 It cannot be, for he bewept my fortune,
 And hugged me in his arms, and swore with sobs
255 That he would labor my delivery.
 Why, so he doth, when he delivers you
 From this Earth’s thralldom to the joys of heaven.
 Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord.
 Have you that holy feeling in your souls
260 To counsel me to make my peace with God,
 And are you yet to your own souls so blind

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 That you will war with God by murd’ring me?
 O sirs, consider: they that set you on
 To do this deed will hate you for the deed.
SECOND MURDERER, to First Murderer 
265 What shall we do?
CLARENCE  Relent, and save your souls.
 Which of you—if you were a prince’s son
 Being pent from liberty, as I am now—
 If two such murderers as yourselves came to you,
270 Would not entreat for life? Ay, you would beg,
 Were you in my distress.
 Relent? No. ’Tis cowardly and womanish.
 Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.
 To Second Murderer. My friend, I spy some pity
275 in thy looks.
 O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
 Come thou on my side and entreat for me.
 A begging prince what beggar pities not?
SECOND MURDERER Look behind you, my lord.
280 Take that, and that. (Stabs him.) If all this will not
 I’ll drown you in the malmsey butt within.
He exits with the body.
 A bloody deed, and desperately dispatched.
 How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands
285 Of this most grievous murder.

Enter First Murderer.

 How now? What mean’st thou that thou help’st me

Richard III
ACT 1. SC. 4

 By heavens, the Duke shall know how slack you
 have been.
290 I would he knew that I had saved his brother.
 Take thou the fee, and tell him what I say,
 For I repent me that the Duke is slain.He exits.
 So do not I. Go, coward as thou art.
 Well, I’ll go hide the body in some hole
295 Till that the Duke give order for his burial.
 And when I have my meed, I will away,
 For this will out, and then I must not stay.
He exits.