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ACT IV, SCENE i
KING RICHARD, MESSENGER, LORD LOVELL, CATESBY
RICH. Mighty Fortune, who has seduced me with your false appearances, why do you lift me up, so that I can fall harder from a high eminence? The end of one evil is the stepping-stone towards a future one. A dire conspiracy is leveled against me. I am wretchedly tormented by fear, troubled by a seething flood of cares. From his overseas haunt Richmond, that treacherous Earl, is aiming at my throne. A hostile mob of citizens has sworn to fight for him. Soon, affected by such fear of this evil, I punished my servants with death. But fear still vexes my unquiet heart. The Queen Mother is eager to marry her daughter off to Richmond so that her hostile family can regain the favor of the Yorkists, so that “the English nation can redouble its strength.” They promise themselves the scepter, taken by force. Oh the baleful crime! A powerful enemy will reign in my palace, consigning me to the Fates. [Enter a Messenger.]
MESS. The Earl of Richmond has sailed.
RICH. Oh, my lamentable destiny! Tell me what has been done.
MESS. On the morning when October had consumed twelve days, we were scanning the vast sea and saw roving ships put in to land. They were seeking that port of Dorchester called Poole. There we waited, a doubtful bunch, observing them a long while. Then we recognized the fierce Earl of Richmond aboard the flagship. They lingered several days, possibly expecting reinforcements. And when they spotted us holding the high banks, they approached the shore, asking if we were enemies or soldiers friendly to the Duke. We feigned crafty deceitful expressions, saying that Buckingham had stationed us soldiers there to await the Earl and, if he were doubtful about the way, to lead him to the Duke’s camp. Our conjoined forces could win with ease, for the King is overwhelmed, buried by his great fear. Those men mistrusted our friendly words, spread their sails to the wind, and with full sails flew off to Britanny. [Exit.]
RICH. Why, inconstant goddess, do you sport with me to my misery? Lately you raised me up to the top on your wheel, wafted me prosperous days with your gentle breeze. Then swiftly you laid me prostrate on the slippery ground. What a variable, malign, fickle goddess!
LOV. Why does heavy care vex your distraught mind? Where is that old courage of yours? Let your lofty spirit banish cowardly fears. The strong man scarcely knows terror. Let noble courage not fail in the face of any peril. Why shudder at the ghost of the dead Duke? Why quake at the rest of the rebels? Do they not lie buried in the ground? Do you foolishly dread their dust? A promised marriage and a pact with the Scots are keeping them faithful to the peace-treaty. Ambassadors are carrying your communications to the Duke of Britanny. Promise him the rebels’ lands if he gives you military support. What man is not open to persuasion by generous rewards? Cease to fear, you are anxious about something that is quite safe.
CAT. If the obstinate Duke, led by your rewards, is not stirred to action, there remains another approach: detach Richmond from his betrothal to your niece. If the House of York does not bring assistance to the Lancastrians, it will threaten you in vain no matter how dangerously it grumbles. Break up Richmond’s wedding, keep Edward’s daughter from marrying, if you want to have your way.
RICH. The drawn sword, snatched up, will put an end to the engagement. She will marry Hell first.
LOV. But there is great iniquity in the violation of asylum. Think of a better plan, since this medicine is of no benefit for your malady. Sin does not cure the guilty, nor is crime to be purged by open wrongdoing. Recently the people, whom you have long cultivated in manifold ways, have become attracted to you. Thunderstruck by your monstrous crime, they would immediately hate you.
CAT. What can be achieved by soft entreaties is not to be accomplished by harsh threats, by a tyrant’s savage command or chill fear.
RICH. Shall I be so insane as to allow this marriage, hateful to me, let my scepter be ripped away? This will never happen. Let my criminal impiety shore up my throne. I shall dare anything. Crime is to be conquered by crime. A sovereign can readily break his oath. In other matters, go on practicing piety forever. Let the sword be drawn, blood will protect my crown.
LOV. The gentle Queen can be turned in either direction by mild words. Let messengers soon deliver your order that the mother allow her daughters to be brought to Court.
CAT. If your wife should chance to die, you can prevail by marrying your niece yourself, and in this way the Earl’s expectations will be shattered.
RICH. I like what you say. Everything is to be attempted rather than that my reign should collapse. But this is bad advice — as long as my wife lives. It is needful to surrender her to death.
LOV. Circulate a rumor that she is dead.
RICH. As long as she is preserved, what can a rumor accomplish?
LOV. Possibly, oppressed by the lingering burden of her cares, she will die — and let her death be more certain than that. Bribe somebody to whisper secretly that she is a threat to your security because of her barrenness: a sterile wife ought to be banished from your Court. A King should bless his palace with happy progeny. A savage plague of perpetual grief will quickly kill off this timid woman.
RICH. Rather, I shall stab her. I shall sooner remove her with a lethal poison, before there will be a pestilence and slaughter for my throne. And you, my easy friends whom I have always cherished, my loyal group of Nobles, approach the Abbey, then dutifully greet the mother with my words. Say that I desire her friendship, that my sordid life has changed. I struggle against all things that disturb the public peace. I cannot gain popular support until I embrace my late brother’s daughters, whose two brothers I killed, wretch that I am. Tell her I court her son, the Marquis, with honors. Promise him extensive lands, much wealth, if he immediately returns to England, welcome from his exile. [Exeunt the rest, leaving Richard alone.]
Astonished upheaval churns my mind. It is seized by fear for the kingdom, never able to rest. Now I can only cure this evil if I marry my niece. But my wife is in the way. I am already familiar with evildoing. Why do I hesitate to take off my wife with poison? Be bold, my mind. Are you afraid of your sins? It is late for shame: the greatest part of my misdemeanors is already accomplished. what does it help me, poor soul that I am, to be pious after so many felonies? Bah, you are doing nothing! I have done unspeakable things, and take no pleasure in small sins. Let us preserve the kingdom. All safety lies in cold steel.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
LOVELL, QUEEN ELIZABETH
LOV. Consort of our late sovereign, famous lady, the royal command has appointed us ambassadors to you, bidding you abandon this prison of a shrine and join the brilliant Court, mighty mother. Let the King’s former great wickedness not move you. How ashamed he is of his criminal career! His mature years bid him live in a holy manner. His mind, previously lapsed into sin, craves to abandon this sullied life, and at length he has conceived a repugnance towards vice. When you want to prevail, arms are most pleasing, and the sword, once drawn, does not know how to impose a limit on itself. But a tranquil peace is more expedient for a victor, who is terrified by any civic tumult lest he lose again the glory he has gained. Our King ardently desires to be adored by his common people. The sovereign cannot accomplish this unless in a holy way he cultivates you and your daughters, and bestows upon them (whose brothers, alas, he shamefully murdered) splendid marriages. Lo, he will collapse, done in by this great sorrow. His face is wet with weeping, the avenger of crime. Only the exaltation of your daughters is wanting for his life’s amendment. And if your son, the noble Marquis of Dorset, who now wanders foreign shores as an exile, will desert Richmond’s arms and return, he will flourish as a noble Lord, august in his high station, and all the largess of the splendid Court will lie open for him. He will ask for nothing in vain. Now, therefore, Your Majesty, seek the shining brilliance of the Court, reconcile yourself to the prince. Do not spurn him who is so well-disposed toward you. Rather, send your daughters to Court as a token of your devotion, nor let them whom our pious King uniquely loves shiver in this obscure place. Why are you silent, staring at the ground? Why let your heart churn in vague error?
QUEEN Me? The hands, dripping with the blood of my sons! Did not this cruel man kill my children and befoul my marriage with slander? This fiend cannot spare a mother. Infamously he inflicted a wound on his own family. Where madness rules, will the steel cease to rage? Who imagines there is any limit to his wickedness? Is anybody able to rage reasonably? A drawn sword will guard whatever you know you have gained by your acts of cruelty. Whatever your crime has achieved will be protected by greater wrongdoing. A Court a-swim with the blood of my family is scarcely pleasing to me. What marriages might I expect for those of my blood? Does he wish to celebrate marriages for my daughters? First let him grant burial rites for my sons. As a mother I demand the right to bury my children first. The dead, too, are owed their proper honor.
LOV. Why revive buried hatreds? Does everlasting wrath vex your heart? One may expiate the sins one has done. What good does it do to fill up heaven with such groans, to strike the sky with laments? Why do you keep picking at this wound, not allowing yourself to be healed? If every time each man should sin an angry Jupiter would then and there hurl vindictive fires at him, our shameful world would be devastated in squalor, and Venus, urging on all mankind, could never repopulate it with her progeny. Does his cold steel still terrify you?
QUEEN By its blow I have been undone.
LOV. But, striking better, it heals the wound.
QUEEN More often anger resorts to new weapons.
LOV. Rejected mercy is more inclined to anger.
QUEEN But chronic rage knows no mercy.
LOV. Who fears his arms, now that his anger is extinguished?
QUEEN You can scarcely get your fill of bloodshed until your thirst is quenched.
LOV. In the shedding of blood, what is necessary suffices.
QUEEN But whatever a madman wants is a necessity.
LOV. Anger without strength is a laughingstock, soon repenting its rash enterprises. If you are afraid of his heart, stricken with rage, and if you still dread the King’s impious threats, this is your sole remaining hope: struggle against him with prayer. You will achieve nothing against his combative forces but, thrown into turmoil, his mind will seethe all the stronger. He allows no force to oppose him.
QUEEN [To herself.] Alas for me, a woman! Alas, what shall I do in my unhappiness? My vacillating mind goes back and forth, fearing everything. My lost throne bids me hope again. Shall I hand my daughters to the King? Shall I deprive them of honor? The Court is suitable for my daughters. But what am I doing? Why should I believe him? He killed your innocent sons — will he spare their sisters? Their claim to the throne is equal to that of the boys. To whom will the King marry my daughters, when he has basely claimed them to be born of an adulteress?
LOV. Why burn your anxious heart with doubt? If the King’s pious life does not persuade you, and you dream that his spirit is still fierce, then ponder on how great a menace he will be for you if he is angered because you scorn his kindly intentions
QUEEN Can the King threaten anything worse than death?
LOV. Hating life, will you now destroy your daughters?
QUEEN Oh dearest daughters, alas! The King is ready to bestow happy marriages upon you. Depart, unhappy ones, go where Fortune bids you. But throw yourselves at your uncle’s knees as suppliants. Forget the throne, unfortunate royal children. Private life is more fitting, as the throne is a source of harm. It is advantageous to do what necessity commands. Everything is full of terror, but nothing is to be openly feared. The lion never scorns the plaints of the timid beasts, nor has contempt for their suppliant pleas. If happy Fortune will bless you, then your parent bids you go. If a cruel fate will destroy you, at the same time I shall take revenge upon myself with death. As your mother I shall pay the penalty for my own undertaking, [To a servant.] You remain here as a loyal confidant. Soon you must fly posthaste to the shores of France and persuade my son the Marquis to return. Let him fear no doubtful outcome, nor should he dread the threats of our cruel prince. The King repents his unspeakable crime and unhappily laments his nephews’ bloody end. He promises largess, great honors, a carefree life. Therefore let my son eagerly spread his prosperous sails and give himself back to his beloved nation.
ACT IV, SCENE iii
KING RICHARD, QUEEN ANNE, A MESSENGER
RICH. [To himself.] I see the two sisters, oh happy day. Compose your expression. I shall embrace them closely. [Aloud.] Lovable nieces, how gladly I kiss you. I regret the unfortunate turn your life has taken, and so it has grieved me that you have been shut up in that holy prison. So now I shall change this piteous sadness into joy, dress you in finery, and arrange noble marriages for you. [Exeunt the girls.] Now my spirit rejoices. I enjoy the peace I have yearned for. But the hateful person of my wife disrupts these marriage-plans. Anne makes her sad way here. I shall conceal my evil plans behind a happy face and soften her diseased mind with pious words. [Enter Queen Anne.]
QUEEN [To herself.] Alas, in what floods of cares am I now tossed? What horrid evil does my mind foretell? Shall I exchange my sighs for lugubrious outcries? Shall I strike the glittering stars with my plaints? Wretched, what shall I do? Shall I bewail my fate? A rumor has spread that I have died, the chattering talk has it that I am in my grave. Therefore a tomb is sought for me while I yet live. Living, I adorn my funeral with tears, and now I am forced to perform the rites for my own self. Why does my ungrateful husband threaten me with death? Does the cruel man think nothing of our love? The grave Cardinal Archbishop, a father to me, tells me this, his cheeks awash with tears. “The King,” says he, “has long ago been satiated with your love, will not embrace or kiss you. He says you are barren, unfit for the throne. A royal marriage requires a consort who can produce sons as ornaments of the realm, sons who can wield their father’s scepter in their tiny hands.” My mind is tossed by shifting floods. Rumor troubles it, a sinister augur of my fate. Wretched, what shall I do? See, they are seeking a savage death for me, they want me to finish out the final days of my life, to snatch my broken threads from the harsh Sisters.
[To Richard.] Famous glory of England, mighty sovereign, what have I, an unhappy one, done? Why am I being dragged to death? See, tattling voices proclaim that I am dead, and a funereal throng summons me to the tomb. If my fidelity to our marriage displeases you, or if I have unwittingly harmed your honor, then let me die by your hands without shame and (I am not despairing) let your sword probe my offending vitals. Let the common people not wound me with their slander. Let me, a Queen, not die at the hands of sordid base folk.
RICH. Unhappy one, I shall never prepare death for my consort or wet my pure hands with your blood. Let those idle menaces not disturb you. The unruly mob is always a master of error, and the scandalmongering throng does not know how to spare its prince. Now stop sighing, take better care of yourself. The weighty affairs of England press, and rebels are stirring up troublesome movements. These above all else a leader must repress. Afterwards, we shall enjoy each other’s embraces. [Exit Anne. Enter a Messenger.]
MESS. The Earl of Richmond has escaped your clutches.
RICH. Tell me how he avoided the dark dungeon.
MESS. When our sails, bellied out by the wind, had overcome the heaving waves and our ship touched the shore of Britanny, we immediately explained your message to the Duke. Arthritis oppressed him, and his sick spirit was not sufficient for conducting any business. Therefore the care of affairs had been delegated to the Ducal Treasurer, a man named Pierre Landois. So we next promised this man the rebels’ estates or whatever else kindly Fortune might supply, if he would restore the exiled Richmond and his accomplices to his own country. Our lavish promises persuaded the Treasurer, and this agent rejoiced in such English gifts because he could be powerful, protected by English resources, and could deflect the threats of his invidious enemy. Soon he pursued the Earl at a rapid clip, but the Earl had perceived his clever wiles and secretly decamped to Paris. Then those whom misfortune had joined to him as fellow refugees followed as his companions. Landois laments the rewards he has let slip, but he laments too late. Although he wished to overtake the fugitive with swift force, so that his horsemen rode at an earth-shaking gallop, brandishing their swords, in an attempt to slow down the fleeing Earl, they soon came back and all their labor proved fruitless. For Richmond, relying on the King of France and safe enough, solicits aid against your government. Nor is this the end of your troubles. At Hammes Castle the Earl of Oxford has been freed from prison and made his escape. As a suppliant comrade, he has joined himself to the Earl.
RICH. Oh hateful news! Oh my shining palace, destined to suffer a heavier downfall than that of the house of Oedipus! Oh the splendid glory of kingship, shining with your false light! Oh bitter destiny, oh the invidious fate of my reign! But, foolish one, spare the gods, whom you annoy with your rascality. Dark realms of Dis, black Chaos, you bloodless crew, whatever blocks me from Jove, who has hidden himself from me, manufacture deceits for my benefit. Richmond’s crime summons your band, so that swiftly he will spew out his life — unless my grief exacts even worse penalties.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
A MESSENGER, KING RICHARD
MESS. Queen Anne has just died in the prime of her life.
RICH. Oh harsh Fates! Oh gods too savage! Mortal affairs possess nothing certain. Farewell, single dear consort of my life. Tell me the cruel manner of her sad demise.
MESS. After she had sat a while, sadly mourning, alas, she gave out sighs often mingled with great sobs, often with tears. With bitter complaints she attacked her ungrateful husband. In the end, a thunderstruck madness laid hold of the restless lady. Now she paced about aimlessly, as if suffering inner turmoil, and suddenly made her complaint in a broken voice. “What had is tearing out my heart? Anne, it is your husband!” she said. “Alas, a faithful heart is a bad present to offer an ingrate.” Afterwards the pupils of her eyes entirely disappeared, all you could see was the whites. Repeatedly she vomited, her mind often lapsed into delirium. Cold sweat broke out on her limbs, the rosy color left her face. Her golden brow shriveled, her feverish temples turned livid. All the hairs dropped out of her eyelids. Her lips grew wet with a disgusting drool and (a horrible sight) her tongue, pale yellow in appearance, bulged out of her gaping mouth. Now her fingernails lost their bright gleam and died, as if affected by a poison. Finally the poor woman fell, after struggling against her fate. [Exit.]
RICH. Now I can pursue a happy wedding to my niece and break off her present betrothal, pledged in vain. But the girl approaches with hesitant steps. A suitor, I shall begin my attempt to gain her hand, [Enter Edward’s eldest daughter.]
Girl, descended from royal stock, and yourself worthy of a scepter, now that the sad Fates have taken off my consort (oh the sorrow of it), who should better be joined to me in wedlock than someone born of a King’s proud family? Let us merge our souls, pledge me your troth. Take me as your husband.
Why are you silent with that angry expression?
DAUGHT. I? Oh the unspeakable crime, not to be expiated by any funeral pyres! Am I, to my misery, supposed to be your wife, staining my hands with the red blood of those you have slain? Olympian Jupiter will sooner desert his wife, the moon will rule the day and the sun the night, fiery Etna will pour out cool streams, the meandering Nile will cast forth burning rocks. Will I remain silent about those little nephews, hateful to you but who were my beloved brothers, cruelly killed by your hand, evil uncle? Before that, Tethys will begin the bright day from the west; before that, the Hare will make his escape from the Dog. Jupiter punishes felonious evildoing, no matter how hidden, and brooks no clever deceits. Sliding rocks used to weigh down Sisyphus’ shoulders, savage Procustes received his severe comeuppance, because in life they killed their guests. But, alas, you did not murder guests, you poor man, you killed your nephews, who had scarcely put off their swaddling-clothes.
RICH. Come now, my girl, cease this enraged talk lest a single crime create two corpses. I confess that I acquired my throne by means of bloodshed, the death of innocents. Thus it pleased the Fates. So your brothers died? I am sorry. I regret my act. They are dead? A deed cannot be undone. Shall I weep over their death? Tears accomplish nothing. So what do you want me to do? [He draws his sword.] Shall I recompense the double murder of your brothers by shedding my blood with my own hand? I shall do so. I offer my breast to this drawn sword, and, if it pleases you, I would prefer to die by your wounding. I shall seek fire, water, earth, or the perilous Caucasus; I shall seek Tartarus, the gloomy grove of the Styx. I shall shirk no effort to be pleasing to you, royal lady.
DAUGHT. Be it love, hate, anger, or loyalty — I do not care. It is enough for me to despise whatever you have in mind. Your sword will stab this breast before your incestuous lust defiles my body. Oh Jupiter, skilled with your savage fire, why does your forked thunderbolt not set the world ablaze? Why does the earth not yawn, immediately swallowing this great monster of a savage prince, surpassing the race of Gorgons in his horror?
RICH. Silence, you naughty girl. Will your family loyalty only keep still if confronted with weapons? Does my life count for naught? Are you not moved by the prospect of a royal marriage? Do my bitter tears mean nothing? A King has two ways of enforcing his authority, love and fear. For those who rule, both are useful means of compulsion.
DAUGHT. If you force me to die, I shall willingly comply.
RICH. You will die.
DAUGHT. Death will be more welcome. Oppressed by my sorrows, it is preferable for me to die at once rather than live on, vexed by cares.
RICH. You will die, fool.
DAUGHT. Have you no greater threat? I would prefer to die a maiden rather than live in incest with a tyrant, an object of hate to gods and men.
RICH. [To himself.] Alas, what are you doing, unfortunate? She spurns your marriage-offer. [Aloud.] Live as a Queen, be mine. But hold your tongue about your brother.
DAUGHT. He is not unhappy who knows how to die.
RICH. You really want to? The steel knows no fear, and, once drawn, is unmerciful.
DAUGHT. Shades of Nero, Furies of Cleopatra, rise up! Make an end to this marriage similar to that of the house of [ . . . ]. It is not sufficient for you to have slaughtered my brothers the princes, befouling your hand with noble blood? Must you also debauch a maiden as her husband? Oh, our morality, our evil times! But a fierce bird will first pick at my entrails, you will first lay your cruel hands upon me, or send against me whatever baleful monster you nourish, before I, a chaste virgin, will succumb to this unclean marriage. [Exit.]
RICH. She leaves, foolishly scorning an engagement to me. The stupid girl shuns a royal marriage. Now I shall postpone this matter (the rabid girl’s threats will perhaps fade away) while i consider matters of state. [Enter a messenger.]
MESS. Insolent Richmond has lately been in high spirits. At the pinnacle, he arrogantly swelled with pride, but now the poor fellow has received his comeuppance. At last he regrets his undertaking, his threat is dissipated.
RICH. Oh happy day, which confirms me in my rule! Now the sure trust of an enduring peace is established. But tell me everything, for the unhappy feed on hope.
MESS. So far the King of France flourishes in his early youth: his age does not yet adorn him with a beard, nor does his boyish hand adequately grasp the scepter. Rather, in his tender years he is governed by tutors until in his maturity he can learn to rule with firmness. Constantly the Earl besieges these people with his wicked petitions, ardently begging subsidy for his exhausted resources. Nor does he allow his entreaties to die out before, at the cost of much personal effort, his persistence wearies many. Nor can his exhausted mind brook any delays, so that he has become annoyed that his plaints are so frequently rejected. Even though his numerous following of Noblemen urges him to put up with this protracted rebuff, his spirit is despondent. He prefers to live as an exile, and regrets his fruitless enterprise.
RICH. Now it behooves us happy people to celebrate this festal day. Oh noble day, worthy to be noted with a white stone! Now my destiny flows on more gently amidst prosperity. How many storms the Earl stirred up in vain, and how awful were the calamities wherewith he recently menaced us! But the crime will rebound upon its author. Now our fleet sails a peaceful sea, and it needlessly patrols for Richmond’s return. So forbid my ships more sailing, let every soldier guarding our harbors put up his arms. This will be the end of our evils. I may govern in peace. Now my terror vanishes — unless you fear something that needs not be dreaded.
Go to Act V of the Third Action