Richard II - Act 2, scene 1
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Act 2, scene 1
John of Gaunt, knowing that he is dying, speaks plainly to Richard about his deficiencies as king. Richard expresses his fury. Gaunt is taken offstage and word comes that he has died. Richard declares that all of Gaunt’s possessions now belong to the crown and will be used to help fund his war in Ireland. After Richard exits, Northumberland and two other nobles lament the injustice done to Bolingbroke, and Northumberland reveals that Bolingbroke is on his way back to England. The three nobles set out to join him.Enter John of Gaunt sick, with the Duke of York, ⌜and
0670 Will the King come, that I may breathe my last
0671 In wholesome counsel to his unstaid youth?
0672 Vex not yourself nor strive not with your breath,
0673 For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.
0674 5 O, but they say the tongues of dying men
0675 Enforce attention like deep harmony.
0676 Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in
0678 For they breathe truth that breathe their words in
0679 10 pain.
0680 He that no more must say is listened more
0681 Than they whom youth and ease have taught to
0683 More are men’s ends marked than their lives before.
0684 15 The setting sun and music at the close,
0685 As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
0686 Writ in remembrance more than things long past.
0687 Though Richard my life’s counsel would not hear,
0688 My death’s sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.
0689 20 No, it is stopped with other flattering sounds,
0690 As praises, of whose taste the wise are ⌜fond;⌝
0691 Lascivious meters, to whose venom sound
0692 The open ear of youth doth always listen;
0693 Report of fashions in proud Italy,
0694 25 Whose manners still our tardy-apish nation
0695 Limps after in base imitation.
0696 Where doth the world thrust forth a vanity—
0697 So it be new, there’s no respect how vile—
0698 That is not quickly buzzed into his ears?
0699 30 Then all too late comes counsel to be heard
0700 Where will doth mutiny with wit’s regard.
0701 Direct not him whose way himself will choose.
0702 ’Tis breath thou lack’st, and that breath wilt thou
0704 35 Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
0705 And thus expiring do foretell of him:
0706 His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
0707 For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
0708 Small showers last long, but sudden storms are
0709 40 short;
0710 He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
0711 With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder;
0712 Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
0713 Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
0714 45 This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
0715 This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
0716 This other Eden, demi-paradise,
0717 This fortress built by Nature for herself
0718 Against infection and the hand of war,
0719 50 This happy breed of men, this little world,
0720 This precious stone set in the silver sea,
0721 Which serves it in the office of a wall
0722 Or as ⌜a⌝ moat defensive to a house,
0724 55 This blessèd plot, this earth, this realm, this
0726 This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
0727 Feared by their breed and famous by their birth,
0728 Renownèd for their deeds as far from home
0729 60 For Christian service and true chivalry
0730 As is the sepulcher in stubborn Jewry
0731 Of the world’s ransom, blessèd Mary’s son,
0732 This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
0733 Dear for her reputation through the world,
0734 65 Is now leased out—I die pronouncing it—
0735 Like to a tenement or pelting farm.
0736 England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
0737 Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
0738 Of wat’ry Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
0739 70 With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds.
0740 That England that was wont to conquer others
0741 Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
0742 Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
0743 How happy then were my ensuing death!
Enter King and Queen, ⌜Aumerle, Bushy, Green, Bagot,
Ross, Willoughby,⌝ etc.
0744 75 The King is come. Deal mildly with his youth,
0745 For young hot colts being ⌜reined⌝ do rage the more.
QUEEN, ⌜to Gaunt⌝
0746 How fares our noble uncle Lancaster?
KING RICHARD, ⌜to Gaunt⌝
0747 What comfort, man? How is ’t with agèd Gaunt?
0748 O, how that name befits my composition!
0749 80 Old Gaunt indeed and gaunt in being old.
0750 Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast,
0751 And who abstains from meat that is not gaunt?
0753 Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt.
0754 85 The pleasure that some fathers feed upon
0755 Is my strict fast—I mean my children’s looks—
0756 And, therein fasting, hast thou made me gaunt.
0757 Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave,
0758 Whose hollow womb inherits naught but bones.
0759 90 Can sick men play so nicely with their names?
0760 No, misery makes sport to mock itself.
0761 Since thou dost seek to kill my name in me,
0762 I mock my name, great king, to flatter thee.
0763 Should dying men flatter with those that live?
0764 95 No, no, men living flatter those that die.
0765 Thou, now a-dying, sayest thou flatterest me.
0766 O, no, thou diest, though I the sicker be.
0767 I am in health, I breathe, and see thee ill.
0768 Now He that made me knows I see thee ill,
0769 100 Ill in myself to see, and in thee, seeing ill.
0770 Thy deathbed is no lesser than thy land,
0771 Wherein thou liest in reputation sick;
0772 And thou, too careless-patient as thou art,
0773 Commit’st thy anointed body to the cure
0774 105 Of those physicians that first wounded thee.
0775 A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown,
0776 Whose compass is no bigger than thy head,
0777 And yet ⌜encagèd⌝ in so small a verge,
0778 The waste is no whit lesser than thy land.
0780 Seen how his son’s son should destroy his sons,
0781 From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame,
0782 Deposing thee before thou wert possessed,
0783 Which art possessed now to depose thyself.
0784 115 Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
0785 It were a shame to let this land by lease;
0786 But, for thy world enjoying but this land,
0787 Is it not more than shame to shame it so?
0788 Landlord of England art thou now, not king.
0789 120 Thy state of law is bondslave to the law,
0790 And thou—
KING RICHARD 0791 A lunatic lean-witted fool,
0792 Presuming on an ague’s privilege,
0793 Darest with thy frozen admonition
0794 125 Make pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood
0795 With fury from his native residence.
0796 Now, by my seat’s right royal majesty,
0797 Wert thou not brother to great Edward’s son,
0798 This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head
0799 130 Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders.
0800 O, spare me not, my ⌜brother⌝ Edward’s son,
0801 For that I was his father Edward’s son!
0802 That blood already, like the pelican,
0803 Hast thou tapped out and drunkenly caroused.
0804 135 My brother Gloucester—plain, well-meaning soul,
0805 Whom fair befall in heaven ’mongst happy souls—
0806 May be a precedent and witness good
0807 That thou respect’st not spilling Edward’s blood.
0808 Join with the present sickness that I have,
0809 140 And thy unkindness be like crooked age
0810 To crop at once a too-long withered flower.
0811 Live in thy shame, but die not shame with thee!
0812 These words hereafter thy tormentors be!—
0814 145 Love they to live that love and honor have.
He exits, ⌜carried off by Attendants.⌝
0815 And let them die that age and sullens have,
0816 For both hast thou, and both become the grave.
0817 I do beseech your Majesty, impute his words
0818 To wayward sickliness and age in him.
0819 150 He loves you, on my life, and holds you dear
0820 As Harry, Duke of Hereford, were he here.
0821 Right, you say true: as Hereford’s love, so his;
0822 As theirs, so mine; and all be as it is.
0823 My liege, old Gaunt commends him to your Majesty.
0824 155 What says he?
NORTHUMBERLAND 0825 Nay, nothing; all is said.
0826 His tongue is now a stringless instrument;
0827 Words, life, and all, old Lancaster hath spent.
0828 Be York the next that must be bankrupt so!
0829 160 Though death be poor, it ends a mortal woe.
0830 The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he;
0831 His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be.
0832 So much for that. Now for our Irish wars:
0833 We must supplant those rough rugheaded kern,
0834 165 Which live like venom where no venom else
0835 But only they have privilege to live.
0836 And, for these great affairs do ask some charge,
0837 Towards our assistance we do seize to us
0839 170 Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possessed.
0840 How long shall I be patient? Ah, how long
0841 Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong?
0842 Not Gloucester’s death, nor Hereford’s banishment,
0843 Nor Gaunt’s rebukes, nor England’s private wrongs,
0844 175 Nor the prevention of poor Bolingbroke
0845 About his marriage, nor my own disgrace,
0846 Have ever made me sour my patient cheek
0847 Or bend one wrinkle on my sovereign’s face.
0848 I am the last of noble Edward’s sons,
0849 180 Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first.
0850 In war was never lion raged more fierce,
0851 In peace was never gentle lamb more mild,
0852 Than was that young and princely gentleman.
0853 His face thou hast, for even so looked he,
0854 185 Accomplished with ⌜the⌝ number of thy hours;
0855 But when he frowned, it was against the French
0856 And not against his friends. His noble hand
0857 Did win what he did spend, and spent not that
0858 Which his triumphant father’s hand had won.
0859 190 His hands were guilty of no kindred blood,
0860 But bloody with the enemies of his kin.
0861 O, Richard! York is too far gone with grief,
0862 Or else he never would compare between.
0863 Why, uncle, what’s the matter?
YORK 0864 195 O, my liege,
0865 Pardon me if you please. If not, I, pleased
0866 Not to be pardoned, am content withal.
0867 Seek you to seize and gripe into your hands
0868 The royalties and rights of banished Hereford?
0869 200 Is not Gaunt dead? And doth not Hereford live?
0870 Was not Gaunt just? And is not Harry true?
0871 Did not the one deserve to have an heir?
0873 Take Hereford’s rights away, and take from time
0874 205 His charters and his customary rights;
0875 Let not tomorrow then ensue today;
0876 Be not thyself; for how art thou a king
0877 But by fair sequence and succession?
0878 Now afore God—God forbid I say true!—
0879 210 If you do wrongfully seize Hereford’s rights,
0880 Call in the letters patents that he hath
0881 By his attorneys general to sue
0882 His livery, and deny his offered homage,
0883 You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
0884 215 You lose a thousand well-disposèd hearts,
0885 And prick my tender patience to those thoughts
0886 Which honor and allegiance cannot think.
0887 Think what you will, we seize into our hands
0888 His plate, his goods, his money, and his lands.
0889 220 I’ll not be by the while. My liege, farewell.
0890 What will ensue hereof there’s none can tell;
0891 But by bad courses may be understood
0892 That their events can never fall out good.He exits.
0893 Go, Bushy, to the Earl of Wiltshire straight.
0894 225 Bid him repair to us to Ely House
0895 To see this business. Tomorrow next
0896 We will for Ireland, and ’tis time, I trow.
0897 And we create, in absence of ourself,
0898 Our uncle York Lord Governor of England,
0899 230 For he is just and always loved us well.—
0900 Come on, our queen. Tomorrow must we part.
0901 Be merry, for our time of stay is short.
King and Queen exit ⌜with others;⌝
Northumberland, ⌜Willoughby, and Ross⌝ remain.
0902 Well, lords, the Duke of Lancaster is dead.
0903 And living too, for now his son is duke.
0904 235 Barely in title, not in revenues.
0905 Richly in both, if justice had her right.
0906 My heart is great, but it must break with silence
0907 Ere ’t be disburdened with a liberal tongue.
0908 Nay, speak thy mind, and let him ne’er speak more
0909 240 That speaks thy words again to do thee harm!
WILLOUGHBY, ⌜to Ross⌝
0910 Tends that thou wouldst speak to the Duke of
0912 If it be so, out with it boldly, man.
0913 Quick is mine ear to hear of good towards him.
0914 245 No good at all that I can do for him,
0915 Unless you call it good to pity him,
0916 Bereft and gelded of his patrimony.
0917 Now, afore God, ’tis shame such wrongs are borne
0918 In him, a royal prince, and many more
0919 250 Of noble blood in this declining land.
0920 The King is not himself, but basely led
0921 By flatterers; and what they will inform
0922 Merely in hate ’gainst any of us all,
0923 That will the King severely prosecute
0924 255 ’Gainst us, our lives, our children, and our heirs.
0925 The commons hath he pilled with grievous taxes,
0926 And quite lost their hearts. The nobles hath he fined
0927 For ancient quarrels, and quite lost their hearts.
0928 And daily new exactions are devised,
0929 260 As blanks, benevolences, and I wot not what.
0930 But what i’ God’s name doth become of this?
0931 Wars hath not wasted it, for warred he hath not,
0932 But basely yielded upon compromise
0933 That which his noble ancestors achieved with blows.
0934 265 More hath he spent in peace than they in wars.
0935 The Earl of Wiltshire hath the realm in farm.
0936 The King grown bankrupt like a broken man.
0937 Reproach and dissolution hangeth over him.
0938 He hath not money for these Irish wars,
0939 270 His burdenous taxations notwithstanding,
0940 But by the robbing of the banished duke.
0941 His noble kinsman. Most degenerate king!
0942 But, lords, we hear this fearful tempest sing,
0943 Yet seek no shelter to avoid the storm;
0944 275 We see the wind sit sore upon our sails,
0945 And yet we strike not, but securely perish.
0946 We see the very wrack that we must suffer,
0947 And unavoided is the danger now
0948 For suffering so the causes of our wrack.
0949 280 Not so. Even through the hollow eyes of death
0950 I spy life peering; but I dare not say
0951 How near the tidings of our comfort is.
0952 Nay, let us share thy thoughts, as thou dost ours.
0953 Be confident to speak, Northumberland.
0954 285 We three are but thyself, and speaking so
0955 Thy words are but as thoughts. Therefore be bold.
0956 Then thus: I have from Le Port ⌜Blanc,⌝
0957 A bay in Brittany, received intelligence
0958 That Harry Duke of Hereford, Rainold Lord
0959 290 Cobham,
0960 That late broke from the Duke of Exeter,
0961 His brother, archbishop late of Canterbury,
0962 Sir Thomas Erpingham, Sir John Ramston,
0963 Sir John Norbery, Sir Robert Waterton, and Francis
0964 295 Coint—
0965 All these well furnished by the Duke of Brittany
0966 With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
0967 Are making hither with all due expedience
0968 And shortly mean to touch our northern shore.
0969 300 Perhaps they had ere this, but that they stay
0970 The first departing of the King for Ireland.
0971 If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,
0972 Imp out our drooping country’s broken wing,
0973 Redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown,
0974 305 Wipe off the dust that hides our scepter’s gilt,
0975 And make high majesty look like itself,
0976 Away with me in post to Ravenspurgh.
0977 But if you faint, as fearing to do so,
0978 Stay and be secret, and myself will go.
0979 310 To horse, to horse! Urge doubts to them that fear.
0980 Hold out my horse, and I will first be there.