Richard III

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Richard III published in 1996.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.1-2
Explanation and Analysis:

These opening lines of the play are among Shakespeare's most famous. They are spoken as a soliloquy by the play's title character, Richard III. Note that it begins with the very present now, and marks the time by mentioning the seasons. The house of York has won the throne in the Wars of the Roses, turning the "winter of our discontent," filled with tragedy, death, and war, into "glorious summer."

The "son of York" Richard refers to is his brother King Edward, who has ascended to the throne. Here Richard III puns on "sun," shining down in greatness and eliminating "all the clouds that loured upon our house." Richard goes on to describe the joyous celebrations taking place in England and the effects of the war's end. These lines are often delivered sarcastically, as Richard goes on to say that he cannot enjoy the festivities and wishes the war were still going on. Richard wishes for a wintery war instead of the boring, peaceful summer, as he himself cannot enjoy the pleasures of such peace. It is for this reason, outlined below, that he decides to "prove a villain."


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Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,
And descant on mine own deformity;
And therefore,--since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,--
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams…

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), King Edward IV
Page Number: 1.1.24-33
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard has gone on to describe his deformity, greatly exaggerated in the play, which prevents him from enjoying "sporting tricks," "love's majesty," or the benefits of peacetime. He says in this time of peace, he has "no delight to pass away the time," other than spotting his own "shadow in the sun" and make fun of his own deformities. Note that he is from the first speech obsessed with the passage of time, and that he now puns on "sun" the other way, suggesting that he is in his brother's (the son of York's) shadow.

Because he "cannot prove a lover" and cannot take part in the peaceful festivities, Richard decides to "prove a villain." He consciously decides to be evil, and he announces it to the audience in the very first scene of the play--in a way almost implicating them in the scenes that follow, whether they like it or not. His motives are hatred, boredom, frustration, and a hunger for power. As he begins to outline in the last lines of the excerpt, Richard has already laid a plot to set his brothers against each other by telling King Edward of a false prophesy.

Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Poor key-cold figure of a holy king,
Pale ashes of the house of Lancaster,
Thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood

Related Characters: Lady Anne, Queen Anne (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Page Number: 1.2.5-7
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins with the entrance of Lady Anne and a funeral procession bearing King Henry VI's coffin. Henry VI was Lady Anne's father-in-law, as she was married to his son Edward of Westminster; both men were killed by Richard. With the lines quoted here, Lady Anne begins a long monologue in which she mourns her father-in-law and husband and curses the man who killed them (Richard).

She starts by addressing the dead body directly. "Key-cold" essentially means stone cold; the body is as lifeless as a cold key. She next characterizes the dead king as the "pale ashes of the house of Lancaster," which has now fallen out of power with the ascension of the house of York. The Lancaster royal bloodline has been theoretically ended, and thus we see a double meaning in "thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood." The king is literally bloodless since he is dead, and he is also bloodless in the sense that his son has been killed and his bloodline has been stopped. Note also that she calls him a "holy" king; kings and queens at the time were considered to be rulers by "divine right." The play will question this idea, and consider how important character is in a ruler--whether blood alone should be the deciding factor of who heads the state. 

Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

Cannot a plain man live, and think no harm,
But thus his simple truth must be abus'd
With silken, sly, insinuating Jacks?

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), Queen Elizabeth
Page Number: 1.3.52-43
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Queen Elizabeth and her brothers are worrying about King Edward's health. Though her brothers try to comfort her, Elizabeth is afraid that if the king dies, Richard will seize power, since he hates her and since her sons are too young to rule. After King Edward announces that he wants Richard and Queen Elizabeth's brothers to make peace, Richard enters, furious, and complains that he is being slandered to the king.

Here Richard suggests that he is a "plain man" who thinks "no harm." He claims that he has been "abus'd" by "silken, sly, insinuating Jacks." These lines are extremely ironic, since Richard himself has been slandering pretty much everyone else on stage, and he has the most eloquent (and least "plain") tongue around. Richard has been slandering Queen Elizabeth to Clarence, for example, and so everyone blames her for Clarence's imprisonment. Richard is doing what he does throughout the play: using lies and carefully constructed language to manipulate others and gain power, all while seeming innocent.

Can curses pierce the clouds and enter heaven? –
Why, then, give way, dull clouds, to my quick curses!

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.203-205
Explanation and Analysis:

Old Queen Margaret, wife of King Henry VI and mother of Edward of Westminster, has entered unnoticed. While Richard and Queen Elizabeth bicker, Margaret delivers a series of angry asides under her breath, accusing Elizabeth of stealing her throne and Richard of killing her husband and son. Eventually, Margaret gets tired of waiting and speaks out loud, calling everyone "wrangling pirates." She then directly accuses Elizabeth and says that Richard owes her a husband and a son. Soon everyone gangs up on Margaret.

Furious with everyone on stage, the old queen then launches into an eloquent tirade against the house of York. In the quote she asks a rhetorical question: can curses really make their way into heaven? In that case, she instructs the "dull clouds" to separate and make way for her "quick curses." Indeed, what follows is extremely quick, in the sense that it conveys her fierce intelligence, and her predictive powers. The curse language that she begins with this quote is future-shaping or predictive, as the curses she makes ultimately come true.

Thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog,
Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Related Symbols: The Boar
Page Number: 1.3.239-241
Explanation and Analysis:

In Margaret's stream of prophetic curses, Richard is saved for last. She curses him to be tortured by his conscience, to mistake his friends for traitors and traitors for friends, and to be kept sleepless by nightmares of hell. She then begins a long list of horrible epithets. We can note that the list is strengthened by Anaphora--the repetition of a single word (or words) at the beginning of consecutive lines. In this case, the repeated word is "thou." Margaret continues for six lines and seems to have more material before being interrupted by Richard saying "Margaret." Note that she responds masterfully with only "Richard!"

The quoted expert gives the first half of her six-line list of epithets against Richard. She calls him an "abortive, rooting hog" and a "slave of nature" and "son of hell." Note that even without precisely understanding the meaning of these lines one can perceive the sting of Margaret's language. Her reference to a "rooting hog" is a clever play on Richard's heraldic symbol, the Boar. She twists the supposedly noble Boar into a disgusting, aggressive Hog, outlining Richard's true personality.

But everyone on stage has already been cursed by Margaret, and so they are blinded to her accurate assessment of Richard's character. Though Margaret seems to know her predictions will come true, the others discount them. After her exit, Richard pretends to forgive her and spares her life (since she technically has been banished on punishment of death). By doing so, Richard further discounts Margaret's slew of curses and impresses everyone with his gentleness.

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol'n forth of Holy Writ;
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.356-358
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard offers this soliloquy after everyone has left the stage, and before two murderers enter; Richard will send the murderers to kill Clarence. In the soliloquy, Richard excitedly outlines the plan he has put into action: he has cast doubt on Clarence, but placed the blame on this doubt and Clarence's imprisonment on Elizabeth and her circle. What's more, he has recited scripture in order to appear religious and innocent, compounding the forgiving image he built after Margaret's curses.

This excerpt concludes the soliloquy and explains what Richard has done with his plan, specifically with the invocation of the Bible. He has done so in order to "clothe" his "naked villainy," which is apparent to the audience from the beginning of the play, but carefully obscured to the characters within it. To cover himself, Richard uses bits and pieces of the Bible to "seem a saint" but acknowledging "I play the devil." This line echoes his opening claim to "prove a villain," extending the claim with the meta-theatrical notion that he is 'playing' a character, in this case a devil. The devil himself is known to use scriptures for his own purposes, which is exactly what Richard has done.

Note also the interesting sonic features of the line "With odd old ends stol'n forth of Holy Writ." Metrically, it breaks from the typical pattern of 5 iambs, giving five consecutive stressed syllables in "odd old ends stol'n forth." The line is also drawn out by use of assonance, and the repeated use of 'o' sounds in odd, old, stol'n, forth, of, and Holy draws out the line in delivery. The line then is followed by five classical iambs, a typical line of Shakespeare's verse.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

But he, poor man, by your first order died,
And that a winged Mercury did bear:
Some tardy cripple bore the countermand,
That came too lag to see him buried.

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), King Edward IV, George, Duke of Clarence
Page Number: 2.1.90-93
Explanation and Analysis:

Though he is physically ill, King Edward uses his powers to heal the relationships of his subjects in an attempt to keep the peace. He is seemingly successful, and determines that if Richard swears like everyone else, the peace will be kept. Richard then enters, and after being commanded, he swears to keep peace and declares that he has no enemies in England. With peace supposedly made, Queen Elizabeth asks the King to pardon Clarence. At this point Richard interjects that Clarence has been killed, to which Edward protests that the order to kill Clarence was reversed.

The lines quoted give Richard's response to Edward's protest. Richard explains that Clarence (called ironically a "poor man," since Richard was the one who ordered the murder) was killed by the first order, which was carried by a a "wingéd Mercury"--the classical messenger of the gods. Contrasted to the speed of the first order, the second ("the countermand") was delivered by "some tardy cripple" (like Richard himself). Richard claims the reversal on the killing order came too late to save Clarence. The truth, of course, is that Richard sent the murderers himself, and here he manipulates ideas of time and speed in order to again make himself seem innocent, and to make Clarence's death seem like an accident.

Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Ay me, I see the ruin of my house!
The tiger now hath seiz'd the gentle hind;
Insulting tyranny begins to jet
Upon the innocent and aweless throne.
Welcome, destruction, blood, and massacre!
I see, as in a map, the end of all.

Related Characters: Queen Elizabeth (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Page Number: 2.4.54-59
Explanation and Analysis:

Edward is dead, and his son, Prince Edward of Wales, is in line to be crowned king. But Richard and his sidekick Buckingham plot to have Richard crowned; they imprison and plan to kill Queen Elizabeth's relatives Rivers, Dorset, and Grey. In this scene Elizabeth's younger son, Duke of York, has recounted a strange interaction with Richard, and Elizabeth sees through Richard's manipulation of her son. A messenger then enters and informs Elizabeth of her relatives' imprisonment.

To this news Queen Elizabeth responds with the lamentation excerpted in the quote. She claims to see the "ruin of her house," since by imprisoning or killing everyone, Richard has disempowered her family. She refers to him as a "tiger" that has pounced on his opportunity, characterizing him as tyranny ascending to the throne that should be pure ("innocent"). She dramatically welcomes "destruction, blood, and massacre," saying that she sees the end of everything like she's viewing a map. This language is powerful and dramatic, but Elizabeth is essentially correct--she sees what will happen, but can do nothing to stop it.

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Your are too senseless-obstinate, my lord,
Too ceremonious and traditional.
Weigh it but with the grossness of this age,
You break not sanctuary in seizing him.
The benefit thereof is always granted
To those whose dealings have deserv'd the place
And those who have the wit to claim the place.
The Prince hath neither claim'd it nor deserv'd it,
And therefore, in mine opinion, cannot have it.
Then, taking him from thence that is not there,
You break no privilege nor charter there.

Related Characters: Duke of Buckingham (speaker), Duke of York, Cardinal Bouchier
Page Number: 3.1.45-55
Explanation and Analysis:

After learning that her family was captured, Queen Elizabeth and her younger son Duke of York took sanctuary, meaning that they are hiding in a church, where they are supposed to be safe regardless of who is in power. In this scene, Edward, Prince of Wales and new uncrowned king, is greeted by Richard, Buckingham, and a Cardinal. Soon Hastings enters and reports the news that the king's mother and brother cannot greet the king since they have taken sanctuary, which is sacred.

But Buckingham instructs the cardinal to retrieve the Duke of York. When the Cardinal refuses, Buckingham uses a careful, twisted argument to justify doing so: seizing the Duke of York is not breaking sanctuary, since the benefits of sanctuary are only granted to those who have specifically requested it. Since the Prince hasn't requested sanctuary, instead being taken by his mother, Buckingham argues that technically he doesn't deserve protection. Thus the "obstinate" Cardinal is convinced (or forced) by a loophole into breaking sanctuary and fetching the young Prince. Here, we see Richard's power overstepping usual boundaries: he exerts his will over the young King and over what is usually allowed by the Church.

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Indeed, I am no mourner for that news,
Because they have been still my adversaries;
But that I'll give my voice on Richard's side
To bar my master's heirs in true descent,
God knows I will not do it to the death.

Related Characters: Lord Hastings (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Edward, Prince of Wales
Page Number: 3.2.53-57
Explanation and Analysis:

Lord Hastings has been warned by Lord Stanley of a dream in which Richard kills Hastings; Stanley has fled and with a message urges Hastings to do the same. But Hastings believes that everything is fine, and that Catesby is a good friend who can be trusted. Soon Catesby enters and begins to suggest to Hastings that Richard be crowned King. Hastings doesn't approve, even when Catesby delivers the "good news" that Richard is killing Hastings' enemies and hopes for support.

It is to this news that Hastings responds with the lines in the quote. He says that the news is indeed good (he's "no mourner for that news") because it does concern his enemies. However, Hastings says that the suggestion that he will support Richard and prevent the King's true heirs from taking power is preposterous. He "will not do it to the death." Here, Hastings stays true to the rules of bloodlines, the state, and honor, continuing to serve the King even after Edward's death and hoping to prevent Richard's usurpation. His language here is also slightly prophetic, as he will soon be killed for his refusal to endorse Richard.

Act 3, Scene 5 Quotes

Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
Intending deep suspicion. Ghastly looks
Are at my service, like enforced smiles;
And both are ready in their offices
At any time to grace my strategems.

Related Characters: Duke of Buckingham (speaker)
Page Number: 3.5.6-12
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene clearly exhibits the theatrical nature of Richard's manipulation and schemes. The scene begins with Richard instructing Buckingham on how to convincingly pretend that he's sad, much like a director giving notes to an actor. As Richard's co-conspirator, Buckingham is comfortable in the role: he claims that he "can counterfeit the deep tragedian," explicitly calling himself an actor (a tragedian is an actor in a tragedy--which is exactly what the actor who is playing Buckingham already is, giving an added layer of meta-theatricality).

Buckingham (and the actor playing Buckingham) knows all the tricks of the trade: "Ghastly looks / Are at [his] service," just like fake smiles. This acting, he says, is a crucial tool ready to be employed in any moment for the benefit of their strategy. Richard and Buckingham proceed to act in front of the mayor to win public approval, and now we see that this manipulation and acting is calculated, practiced, and coached by the master manipulator/director Richard.

What! think you we are Turks or Infidels?
Or that we would, against the form of law,
Proceed thus rashly in the villain's death
But that the extreme peril of the case,
The peace of England and our person's safety,
Enforc'd us to this execution?

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker)
Page Number: 3.5.42-47
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines come from the performance in which Buckingham and Richard convince the Mayor (and through him the common people) that Hastings was a traitor who deserved death. Such a performance is key to maintain public image and ease Richard's pathway to the throne. Buckingham and Richard first claim that Hastings was a traitor, and that he plotted their deaths. When the mayor questions them, Richard responds with this quote.

He invokes both his status as Christian and Englishman, asking rhetorically, "think you we are Turks or Infidels?" He implies that since they are English Christians, they would never execute someone without a good reason (invoking a sense of racial superiority that is ironically undercut as soon as it leaves Richard's mouth--for Richard himself proves that Christian Europeans are as bloodthirsty as anyone else). He continues by saying that they wouldn't go against the law or kill Hastings so quickly unless the case was so extreme as they described. Richard fashions the killing as necessary for the peace of England and to save their own lives. Thus framed as moral and essential, the execution appears justified to the Mayor. Very quickly, the Mayor determines that Hastings deserved his death; the deceptive theatre of Richard and Buckingham is convincing. Note that again, language is Richard's weapon and method of obtaining power. He commits atrocities of violence, but it is through language that he is able to translate that violence into power, false innocence, and the crown.

Act 3, Scene 6 Quotes

Who is so gross
That cannot see this palpable device?
Yet who's so bold but says he sees it not?
Bad is the world; and all will come to nought,
When such ill dealing must be seen in thought.

Related Characters: Scrivener (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Lord Hastings, Sir William Catesby
Page Number: 3.6.10-14
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines are spoken in a soliloquy by a Scrivener (basically a notetaker or transcriber) who enters the stage alone in this brief scene. With him, he carries the indictment of Hastings, which took him eleven hours to write. However, Hastings has been executed before his sentencing could even be read, indicating to the Scrivener (and the public) that the execution was extralegal and suspicious.

The Scrivener asks rhetorically who is so stupid or lacking in perception ("gross") that they cannot see what is clearly going on (the "palpable device" of Richard's deception). At the same time, the Scrivener comments on the frustrating dilemma by asking who is brave enough to speak out loud what everyone internally knows to be the truth about Richard--everyone knows, but because they are afraid, they pretend they don't. The Scrivener concludes that the world is bad and will come to nothing when people must think about such an evil as Richard. Note that the rhyming couplet of nought and thought end the scene with emphasis.

Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

No, so God help me, they spake not a word;
But, like dumb statues or breathing stones,
Star'd each on other, and look'd deadly pale.
Which when I saw, I reprehended them,
And ask'd the mayor what meant this willful silence.

Related Characters: Duke of Buckingham (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of York
Page Number: 3.7.24-28
Explanation and Analysis:

Buckingham is reporting to Richard on the results of the rumors they spread and on the citizens' reaction to Richard's rise to power. The people were silent, so Buckingham tried rousing them, asking them to cry out "God save Richard, England's royal king!" But, as he explains in the quote, they were still silent and "spake not a word." Buckingham describes the people as "dumb statues or breathing stones," staring at each other and looking pale.

This response is deemed a "willful silence," meaning that there is an intention and clear message given by the lack of words. The silence of the citizens speaks loudly: they are scared to voice their opinions directly, but they resist Richard as a king. Their hesitancy to support him shows that their wishes can affect those in power, and the limitations of language. At a certain point, the manipulative rhetorical powers of Richard and his followers become insufficient to convince the common people that he is not corrupt. Likewise, the citizens are unable to articulate their discomfort or true opinions, instead being forced to communicate through their silent speech and resistance. 

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

My woman's heart
Grossly grew captive to his honey words
And proved the subject of my own soul's curse,
Which ever since hath kept my eyes from rest

Related Characters: Lady Anne, Queen Anne (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Page Number: 4.1.83-86
Explanation and Analysis:

Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess, Dorset, Anne, and Margaret Plantagenet are all at the Tower in hopes of visiting the young princes. However, they are stopped by Brackenbury, who says that Richard (whom he calls king) has forbidden visits. Immediately following Brackenbury's exit, Stanley enters and informs the women that indeed, Richard will be crowned king, and that Anne's presence is required so that she can be crowned his queen.

Here, she laments her situation, frustratedly recalling how Richard wooed her with his "honey words." Richard's language is a powerful tool, and Anne, too, is eloquent in her cries, but she becomes the victim of her own prophetic curse-speech. During her grief and Richard's courtship, she cursed him to make the woman he married miserable. Now that she has married him, subdued by those honey words, she has fulfilled her own prophecy and is herself extremely miserable and restless, unable to sleep. 

Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

I must be married to my brother's daughter,
Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass.
Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin:
Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye.

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), King Edward IV, Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of York
Page Number: 4.2.63-68
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard is now King, but he fears that he might lose his power to Edward Prince of Wales. Richard tells Buckingham to kill the young princes, and when Buckingham hesitates, Richard becomes irate and ultimately decides to hire someone else and drop Buckingham. Killing the young princes isn't the only precaution Richard will take to preserve his power--he also instructs Catesby to spread rumors that Anne is sick. He will then lock away Anne to hide her health so that he can marry someone else to solidify his position as king.

Richard's plan is to marry King Edward's (his brother's) daughter Elizabeth. He believes such a marriage is the only way to save the fragility of his power, which he suggests stands on "brittle glass." The disgusting irony of such a plan is not lost on Richard. Elizabeth is the sister of the Prince of Wales, and thus Richard plans to "Murder her brothers, and then marry her!" He calls the plan an "uncertain way of gain," suggesting for a moment that he feels some discomfort or remorse, but Richard soon clarifies that he is remorseless--his uncertainty seemingly only regards the feasibility of such a plan working out smoothly. But by now he is "so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin." He is literally and figuratively drenched in blood and sins, so much so that he is immune to pity, remorse, or tears.

Compare this line to murderous Macbeth, who also gains the throne through murder: "I am in blood / Stepped in so far" (3.4.167-168).

Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

Ah, my poor princes! ah, my tender babes!
My unblown flowers, new-appearing sweets!
If yet your gentle souls fly in the air
And be not fix'd in doom perpetual,
Hover about me with your airy wings
And hear your mother's lamentation!

Related Characters: Queen Elizabeth (speaker), Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of York
Page Number: 4.4.10-15
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins with Queen Margaret alone on stage delivering a soliloquy in which she explains that she has been "slyly" lurking in the Palace, secretly watching the downfalls of her enemies. She pauses and hides, however, when Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess enter the stage. The pair is distraught over the deaths of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York.

Elizabeth begins with this monologue, crying out to her dead sons, whom she calls her "tender babes" and her "unblown flowers." In this powerful speech, she invites the "gentle souls" of her children to "hover about her" and hear their "mother's lamentation," that is, unless they are "fix'd in doom perpetual." We see in Elizabeth the pain of losing her children and her desire to speak to them even in their deaths; she cries out to them, wanting them to know that she grieves for them. At the same time, we see the uncertainty that death brings; she doesn't know if they are doomed to hell or exist as "airy" angel-like spirits who can hear and be near her.

Watching a mother lose her children is extremely painful, though not for Margaret, who comments (below) that Elizabeth and the Duchess deserve their grief for their crimes against her. Margaret will ultimately tell Elizabeth that the power behind curses is bitter grief.

I had an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
I had a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him:
Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard kill'd him.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Queen Elizabeth, King Edward IV, Ghost of King Henry VI, Ghost of Edward of Westminster
Page Number: 4.4.42-45
Explanation and Analysis:

Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess continue to lament the deaths of the Prince of Wales and Duke of York, while Queen Margaret offers asides suggesting that she has suffered worse and that the other women are deserving of their grief. When Elizabeth and the Duchess sit down, Queen Margaret reveals herself and asks them to privilege her grief over their own since she had been grieving for longer than they have. She then compares the woes of each side, suggesting they can see their own losses as mirrors of her own.

With beautiful parallel phrasing she shows how the losses and grief are related. Margaret had an Edward, "till a Richard kill'd him." She had "a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him." The Edward she speaks of first is her son Edward of Westminster, and the Harry is King Henry IV, her husband. Both men have been murdered by Richard III. Likewise, Elizabeth "hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him," and had a "Richard" as well, "till a Richard kill'd him." The Edward Margaret mentions second is King Edward, Elizabeth's husband, and the lost Richard is the Duke of York, Elizabeth's son. The parallel phrasing and similar names and relationships of the deceased are linked masterfully by the same words which end each of the lines in the quote. Richard III killed everyone mentioned. These lines illuminate the gruesome extent of Richard's murders, and help turn Elizabeth and the Duchess more fully against Richard.

Forbear to sleep the nights, and fast the days;
Compare dead happiness with living woe;
Think that thy babes were fairer than they were,
And he that slew them fouler than he is:
Bettering thy loss makes the bad causer worse:
Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Queen Elizabeth
Page Number: 4.4.121-126
Explanation and Analysis:

Margaret, the Duchess, and Elizabeth have been angrily bickering, trading insults and blaming each other for their losses. Queen Margaret reminds the other women of her curse, now fulfilled, and begins to exit, when Elizabeth begs her to teach her how to curse: "O, thou well skilled in curses, stay awhile / And teach me how to curse my enemies." The lines in the quote are Margaret's response, a recipe for powerful curses.

She instructs Elizabeth to stay awake at night and fast (not eat) during the days. Next, she says to compare the happiness that is now dead with the woe that she now experiences. Remember your lost children as perfect and better than they ever really were, and imagine the one who killed your children to be even worse than he is; such thinking will make the loss seem more terrible ("better") and make the killer seem more evil ("worse"). Understanding these instructions and constantly thinking about your revenge will give Elizabeth the power ("teach thee how") to curse.

Here we see that the curse-language and power attributed to women in the play is fueled by loss and woe. Elizabeth calls out in response to this instruction, "My words are dull. O, quicken them with thine!" But rather than giving further instruction or giving Elizabeth secret words, she simply responds that "Thy woes will make them sharp and pierce like mine." It is woe that hones the women's words and woe that embodies their words with the ability to curse others.

Bear her my true love's kiss; and so, farewell.
Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), Queen Elizabeth
Page Number: 4.4.453-454
Explanation and Analysis:

This exchange comes after a long conversation between Richard and Elizabeth. Richard has already been cursed by his mother, the Duchess, who has exited. In his dialogue with Elizabeth, he tries to convince her to help him to marry her daughter. Richard believes that such a marriage will secure his seat on the throne (as discussed above in 4.3). But Elizabeth is appalled, saying that she'll do anything she can to protect her daughter from the man who murdered her sons, suggesting to Richard that she knows of his evil deeds.

After a long argument with many shifting tactics, Richard appears to convince Elizabeth to talk to her daughter and write back with her answer. Richard, believing himself victorious, tells Elizabeth to bring her daughter Richard's "true love's kiss," and bids the Queen farewell. The moment the Queen leaves the stage, Richard calls her a "relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!" behind her back. This line plays on the stereotype that women are fickle and untrustworthy, constantly changing their minds. Richard knows that Elizabeth would be a fool to get tricked again and change her mind (relent), but in this case Elizabeth is actually fooling Richard, pretending to agree to support him when in reality she will not.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar,
That spoil'd your summer fields and fruitful vines,
Swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough
In your embowelled bosoms—this foul swine
Is now even in the centre of this isle

Related Characters: Richmond, King Henry VII (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Related Symbols: The Boar
Page Number: 5.2.7-12
Explanation and Analysis:

We have learned that Elizabeth lied to Richard and has in fact promised her daughter's hand in marriage to Richmond. Before being executed, Buckingham has cried out that he wishes he had repented during Edward's reign, and that Margaret's curses have come true. In this scene, we see Richmond with his troops, indicating that battle is eminent and Richard's hold on his throne is growing weaker and weaker.

In the quote, Richmond addresses his troops, whom he says have been "bruised" by Richard's "tyranny." He informs them that he has good news, information provided Lord Stanley. It is this information that Richmond delivers in the excerpted lines. He calls Richard a "wretched, bloody, and usurping boar," indicating that he is evil, violent, and that his claim to the throne is illegitimate. The boar has "spoil'd" the "summer fields and fruitful vines" of the people, and he "swills" their "warm blood like wash." His reign is terrible and is hurting the people, enraging them. In Richmond's language the boar (which should be noble, as the sign of Richard's herald) is transformed into a disgusting beast that feeds on the disembowelled "trough" of his victims. Richard is then characterized as a "foul swine." All of these insults and characterizations are to the service of Richmond's simple announcement: Richard is nearby ("at the centre of this isle").

Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

What do I fear? Myself? There's none else by.
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No-yes, I am.
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why-
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself!
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deed committed by myself!
I am a villain; yet I lie, I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter.

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker)
Page Number: 5.3.194-204
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard and Richmond's armies have camped for the night, preparing for battle the next day. Between the two camps, the ghosts of King Henry VI, Clarence, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan, Hastings, Edward Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, Anne, and Buckingham rise in succession. Each ghost speaks to both commander, cursing Richard and wishing Richmond well; the ghosts call for Richard's death. After this haunting, Richard wakes from a nightmare. Startled, he delivers a shaking soliloquy in which he debates with himself, going back and forth between self-love and self-loathing.

Here, he begins by asking what he is so afraid of. Is it himself? Since there is no one else around (he is in denial of or only subconsciously aware of the ghosts), but at the same since "Richard loves Richard" and is himself ("I am I"), he thinks he has no reason to be afraid. He asks if there is some murderer there, and his first answer is no, since there is no one there threatening him. But he quickly changes to "yes, I am" since he himself is a murderer. We see his guilt constantly resurfacing only to be repressed again. We can compare him to Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost, who can fly from hell "no more than from himself." Richard cannot flee from himself, or get revenge upon himself, but he is tortured by merely being himself and enduring his guilt.

Thus he undulates between "I love myself," and "I hate myself." He calls himself a villain and says he is not. He instructs himself to speak well of himself, but then says not to flatter himself. Wracked by guilt, blood, and power, Richard has become fractured--his very language, the tool of his power, now falling apart--and he now appears alienated and powerless. His downfall is almost complete, and towards the end of his speech, Richard even realizes that no one will pity him since he has no pity for himself.

The sun will not be seen to-day;
The sky doth frown and lour upon our army.
I would these dewy tears were from the ground.
Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me
More than to Richmond? For the selfsame heaven
That frowns on me looks sadly upon him.

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), Richmond, King Henry VII
Related Symbols: The Clock
Page Number: 5.3.299-304
Explanation and Analysis:

At Richard's camp, everyone is preparing for battle; Richard notices the black sky, a bad omen, and wonders why the sun "disdains to time." As always, Richard is obsessed with the time, and now is out of sync with the clock, the sun, and nature. Richard determines that "the sun will not be seen to-day," and comments that "the sky doth frown and lour upon our army." The dew on the ground also disturbs Richard.

However, Richard here uses language to deceive himself. He knows the lack of sunshine to be a bad omen, but hopes this omen is for Richmond instead of himself. He asks why it should be for him any more than Richmond, since the same heavens frown on both of them. This clever interpretation of the sky and the bad omen it carries may be enough to momentarily maintain appearances and Richard's confidence, but ultimately, it proves futile, as Richard and his camp will be defeated by Richmond's forces.

Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament,
We will unite the white rose and the red:
Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
That long have frown'd upon their enmity!
What traitor hears me, and says not amen?
England hath long been mad, and scarr'd herself

Related Characters: Richmond, King Henry VII (speaker)
Page Number: 5.5
Explanation and Analysis:

The chaotic battle has been fought and lost; the crazed Richard has fulfilled his prophetic nightmare and uttered the famous line, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" Richmond has killed Richard, and entered with the crown. In his final speech, he pardons all of the traitorous soldiers who fought for Richard. We see Richmond is a very different kind of ruler than Richard, truly seeking to bring peace and prosperity to England.

Richmond says that he will "unite the white rose and the red," meaning that, by marrying Queen Elizabeth's daughter (whom Richard planned to marry), he will unite the houses of Lancaster and York. He cries out for heaven to smile upon this union, and for England to cease being "mad, and scarr'd." Richmond goes on to proclaim that England will know peace, saying that he will end the injustices and the countless years of civil war that have plagued the country.

And so begins the Tudor dynasty, which provided the lineage of Elizabeth I, the Queen of England who ruled when Richard III was first written and performed. Thus, as in many of Shakespeare's "histories," the story at least partly ends up glorifying and justifying the current monarch.

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