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Richard III

Richard III Translation Act 3, Scene 7

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Enter RICHARD and BUCKINGHAM, at several doors

RICHARD

How now, how now? What say the citizens?

RICHARD

Tell me, tell me, what did the citizens say?

BUCKINGHAM

Now, by the holy mother of our Lord,The citizens are mum, say not a word.

BUCKINGHAM

I swear by the holy mother of our Lord—the citizens didn't say a word.

RICHARD

Touched you the bastardy of Edward’s children?

RICHARD

Did you mention that Edward's children are bastards?

BUCKINGHAM

I did, with his contract with Lady Lucy And his contract by deputy in France; Th' unsatiate greediness of his desire And his enforcement of the city wives; His tyranny for trifles; his own bastardy, As being got, your father then in France, His resemblance being not like the duke. Withal, I did infer your lineaments, Being the right idea of your father, Both in your form and nobleness of mind; Laid open all your victories in Scotland, Your discipline in war, wisdom in peace, Your bounty, virtue, fair humility; Indeed, left nothing fitting for your purpose Untouched or slightly handled in discourse. And when mine oratory grew toward end, I bid them that did love their country’s good Cry “God save Richard, England’s royal king!”

BUCKINGHAM

I did. I brought up his earlier engagements—to Lady Lucy, who bore him a child, and Lady Bona in France. And I described the insatiable greediness of his lust, and his rape of citizens' wives. I reminded them of his harsh punishments for trivial offenses, and said that he was nothing like the duke your father, as the duke was away in France when Edward was conceived. Then I brought up your own appearance and suggested that you were the spitting image of your father, both in your looks and in your noble mind. I described all your victories in Scotland, your discipline in battle, your wisdom in peacetime, your generosity, your virtue, and your noble humility. Indeed, I didn't leave out anything that might have helped your case at all. And then when my speech came to an end, I asked those who loved their country to cry, "God save Richard, England's royal king!"

RICHARD

And did they so?

RICHARD

And did they do it?

BUCKINGHAM

No. So God help me, they spake not a word But, like dumb statues or breathing stones, Stared each on other and looked deadly pale; Which when I saw, I reprehended them And asked the mayor what meant this willful silence. His answer was, the people were not used To be spoke to but by the recorder. Then he was urged to tell my tale again: “Thus saith the duke. Thus hath the duke inferred”— But nothing spoke in warrant from himself. When he had done, some followers of mine own, At the lower end of the hall, hurled up their caps, And some ten voices cried “God save King Richard!” And thus I took the vantage of those few. “Thanks, gentle citizens and friends,” quoth I. "This general applause and cheerful shout Argues your wisdoms and your love to Richard"— And even here brake off, and came away.

BUCKINGHAM

No. So help me God, they didn't say a word, but just sat there like silent statues or breathing stones. They looked at each other and turned deadly pale, and when I saw this, I scolded them and asked the mayor what they meant by this stubborn silence. The mayor said that the citizens weren't used to being spoken to except by the town's official recorder. So I made the recorder repeat my tale. Everything was "the duke said this" and "the duke means that," and he added nothing of his own opinion. When he was done, some of my own followers at the end of the hall threw their caps in the air, and ten or so voices cried, "God save King Richard!" So I pounced on that feeble opportunity and said, "Thank you, noble citizens and friends. This public applause and joyful shouting clearly shows your wisdom and your love for Richard." And then I broke off my speech, and came straight here.

RICHARD

What tongueless blocks were they! Would not they speak?Will not the mayor then and his brethren come?

RICHARD

What tongueless blockheads! Why wouldn't they speak? Will the mayor and his fellow citizens not come here?

BUCKINGHAM

The Mayor is here at hand. Intend some fear; Be not you spoke with but by mighty suit. And look you get a prayer book in your hand And stand between two churchmen, good my lord, For on that ground I’ll make a holy descant . And be not easily won to our requests. Play the maid’s part: still answer “nay,” and take it.

BUCKINGHAM

The mayor is on his way and nearly here. Pretend to be afraid, and don't let yourself be spoken to until we plead with you. And get a prayer book in your hand and stand between two priests, my good lord. I'll use that to improvise an argument for your holiness. But don't be easily won over by our requests to be king. Be like a coy virgin: refuse for a long time, and then finally accept.

RICHARD

I go. An if you plead as well for themAs I can say “nay” to thee for myself,No doubt we bring it to a happy issue.

RICHARD

I'm going now. If you're as good at pleading on their behalf as I am at saying "no" to you, then there's no doubt this will end well.

Knocking within

BUCKINGHAM

Go, go, up to the leads. The Lord Mayor knocks.

BUCKINGHAM

Go, go, up to the roof. The Lord Mayor knocks.

Exit RICHARD

Enter the LORD MAYOR and CITIZENS

Welcome, my lord. I dance attendance here.I think the duke will not be spoke withal.

Welcome, my lord. I'm just entertaining myself and waiting for an audience with the duke. I don't think he wants to be spoken to.

Enter CATESBY

Now, Catesby, what says your lord to my request?

Now, Catesby, what does your lord say to my request?

CATESBY

He doth entreat your Grace, my noble lord, To visit him tomorrow or next day. He is within, with two right reverend fathers, Divinely bent to meditation, And in no worldly suits would he be moved To draw him from his holy exercise.

CATESBY

My noble lord, he asks your Grace to please visit him tomorrow or the next day. He is inside with two priests, deep in prayer. He doesn't want to be disturbed from his holy labors by any worldly business.

BUCKINGHAM

Return, good Catesby, to the gracious duke. Tell him myself, the mayor, and aldermen, No less importing than our general good, In deep designs, and matters of great moment Are come to have some conference with his grace.

BUCKINGHAM

Return, good Catesby, to the gracious duke. Tell him that I, the mayor, and some citizens have come to confer with his Grace about matters of great importance, which concern the good of all.

CATESBY

I’ll signify so much unto him straight.

CATESBY

I'll tell him that right away.

Exit

BUCKINGHAM

Ah, ha, my lord, this prince is not an Edward! He is not lolling on a lewd love bed, But on his knees at meditation; Not dallying with a brace of courtesans, But meditating with two deep divines; Not sleeping, to engross his idle body, But praying, to enrich his watchful soul. Happy were England would this virtuous prince Take on his grave the sovereignty thereof. But sure I fear we shall not win him to it.

BUCKINGHAM

Aha, my lord, this prince is not an Edward! He's not lolling about in a lustful bed, but on his knees in prayer; not enjoying himself with a few prostitutes, but praying with two learned priests; not sleeping to fatten up his lazy body, but praying to enrich his attentive soul. England would be blessed to have this virtuous prince wearing its crown. But I'm afraid he won't agree to it.

LORD MAYOR

Marry, God defend his grace should say us nay!

LORD MAYOR

Indeed, God forbid that he should say no to us!

BUCKINGHAM

I fear he will. Here Catesby comes again.

BUCKINGHAM

I fear that he will. Here comes Catesby again.

Enter CATESBY

Now, Catesby, what says his grace?

Now, Catesby, what does his Grace say?

CATESBY

He wonders to what end you have assembled Such troops of citizens to come to him, His grace not being warned thereof before. He fears, my lord, you mean no good to him.

CATESBY

He wonders why you have assembled such a large group of citizens to come to him without warning him beforehand. He fears that you mean him harm, my lord.

BUCKINGHAM

Sorry I am my noble cousin should Suspect me that I mean no good to him. By heaven, we come to him in perfect love, And so once more return and tell his grace.

BUCKINGHAM

I'm sorry that my noble cousin should suspect that I wish him harm. By heaven, we are here because we love him. Go back and tell him.

Exit CATESBY

When holy and devout religious menAre at their beads, ’tis much to draw them thence,So sweet is zealous contemplation.

When holy and devout religious men are praying, it takes a great deal to draw them away, because they are so wrapped up in their eager contemplation of God.

Enter RICHARD aloft, between two bishops CATESBY returns

LORD MAYOR

See where his Grace stands, ’tween two clergymen.

LORD MAYOR

See where his Grace is standing—between two clergymen.

BUCKINGHAM

Two props of virtue for a Christian prince, To stay him from the fall of vanity; And, see, a book of prayer in his hand, True ornaments to know a holy man.— Famous Plantagenet, most gracious prince, Lend favorable ears to our requests, And pardon us the interruption Of thy devotion and right Christian zeal.

BUCKINGHAM

They are like two virtuous supports for a Christian prince, to prevent him from the downfall of vanity. And see, he has a prayer book in his hand. These are the accessories of a holy man.

[To RICHARD] Most gracious prince, famous Plantagenet, hear our requests and pardon us for interrupting your prayer and proper Christian devotion.

RICHARD

My lord, there needs no such apology. I do beseech your Grace pardon me, Who, earnest in the service of my God, Deferred the visitation of my friends. But, leaving this, what is your Grace’s pleasure?

RICHARD

My lord, there's no need for such an apology. I ask your Grace to pardon me instead. I've been so focused on serving God that I kept my friends waiting. But aside from this, what is it you want?

BUCKINGHAM

Even that, I hope, which pleaseth God above And all good men of this ungoverned isle.

BUCKINGHAM

Only that which will, I hope, please God above, and all good men of this ungoverned island.

RICHARD

I do suspect I have done some offenseThat seems disgracious in the city’s eye,And that you come to reprehend my ignorance.

RICHARD

I suspect that I've committed some offense that the citizens disapprove of, and you've come to reprimand me for my ignorance.

BUCKINGHAM

You have, my lord. Would it might please your Grace, On our entreaties, to amend your fault.

BUCKINGHAM

You have, my lord. If it would please your Grace, you should listen to our request and make up for your offense.

RICHARD

Else wherefore breathe I in a Christian land?

RICHARD

Why else would I live in a Christian country, if I can't be forgiven for my faults?

BUCKINGHAM

Know, then, it is your fault that you resign The supreme seat, the throne majestical, The sceptered office of your ancestors, Your state of fortune, and your due of birth, The lineal glory of your royal house, To the corruption of a blemished stock, Whiles in the mildness of your sleepy thoughts, Which here we waken to our country’s good, The noble isle doth want her proper limbs— Her face defaced with scars of infamy, Her royal stock graft with ignoble plants, And almost shouldered in the swallowing gulf Of dark forgetfulness and deep oblivion; Which to recure, we heartily solicit Your gracious self to take on you the charge And kingly government of this your land, Not as Protector, steward, substitute, Or lowly factor for another’s gain, But as successively, from blood to blood, Your right of birth, your empery, your own. For this, consorted with the citizens, Your very worshipful and loving friends, And by their vehement instigation, In this just suit come I to move your Grace.

BUCKINGHAM

Know, then, that it is your fault that you've given up the supreme seat, the majestic throne, the powerful office of your ancestors, your position of greatness, and the glory of your royal family—all of which are yours by birth. And instead you've handed it over to a corrupted, impure usurper. You have been lost in prayer and dreamy contemplation, but now we've come to alert you of your country's needs. Our noble island wants her true self back—her face has been scarred by Edward's infamous deeds, and her royal family has been corrupted by ignoble outsiders. Its majesty is almost lost in an abyss of dark forgetfulness and deep oblivion. To fix this situation, we beg your Grace to take charge and become king of this land—not Lord Protector, steward, substitute, or lowly agent to another ruler, but king, the successor of a noble bloodline. This is your right by birth, your empire, your own. It's for this purpose that I have come with these citizens—who are your devoted and loving friends, and vehemently begged me to do this—to try and convince your Grace to accept our plea.

RICHARD

I cannot tell if to depart in silence Or bitterly to speak in your reproof Best fitteth my degree or your condition. If not to answer, you might haply think Tongue-tied ambition, not replying, yielded To bear the golden yoke of sovereignty, Which fondly you would here impose on me. If to reprove you for this suit of yours, So seasoned with your faithful love to me, Then on the other side I checked my friends. Therefore, to speak, and to avoid the first, And then, in speaking, not to incur the last, Definitively thus I answer you: Your love deserves my thanks, but my desert Unmeritable shuns your high request. First, if all obstacles were cut away And that my path were even to the crown As the ripe revenue and due of birth, Yet so much is my poverty of spirit, So mighty and so many my defects, That I would rather hide me from my greatness, Being a bark to brook no mighty sea, Than in my greatness covet to be hid And in the vapor of my glory smothered. But, God be thanked, there is no need of me, And much I need to help you, were there need. The royal tree hath left us royal fruit, Which, mellowed by the stealing hours of time, Will well become the seat of majesty, And make, no doubt, us happy by his reign. On him I lay what you would lay on me, The right and fortune of his happy stars, Which God defend that I should wring from him.

RICHARD

I can't decide if I should leave in silence or bitterly scold you. I don't know which response is more appropriate to my rank and your social position. If I say nothing, you might think that my silence means consent, and you'll assume that I agree to bear the golden burden of responsibility that you're foolishly trying to impose on me. But if I scold you for this request just after you've proven your faithful love for me, then I would be guilty of rebuking my friends. Therefore I will speak, and so avoid the first possibility, but with my words I will avoid the second. So this is my answer, once and for all: I thank you for your love, but I don't deserve to be king. So I must turn down your noble request. Even if all obstacles were removed and my path led straight to the crown—my proper birthright—my poverty of spirit and my many other flaws would still make me prefer to hide from my greatness, rather than be swallowed up by it and be smothered in glory. I am only a small boat, unprepared for the stormy sea of kingship. But, thank God, there is no need for me to rule. The royal tree has left us royal fruit, which, with time, will fit the throne well, and make us all happy as our king. I lay on him the responsibility you want to lay on me, as it is his birthright and his happy destiny. God forbid that I should steal the crown from him.

BUCKINGHAM

My lord, this argues conscience in your Grace, But the respects thereof are nice and trivial, All circumstances well considerèd. You say that Edward is your brother’s son; So say we too, but not by Edward’s wife. For first was he contract to Lady Lucy— Your mother lives a witness to that vow— And afterward by substitute betrothed To Bona, sister to the king of France. These both put off, a poor petitioner, A care-crazed mother to a many sons, A beauty-waning and distressèd widow, Even in the afternoon of her best days, Made prize and purchase of his wanton eye, Seduced the pitch and height of his degree To base declension and loathed bigamy. By her in his unlawful bed he got This Edward, whom our manners term “the Prince.” More bitterly could I expostulate, Save that, for reverence to some alive, I give a sparing limit to my tongue. Then, good my lord, take to your royal self This proffered benefit of dignity, If not to bless us and the land withal, Yet to draw forth your noble ancestry From the corruption of abusing times Unto a lineal, true-derivèd course.

BUCKINGHAM

My lord, your response shows that you have a strong conscience, but your objections are trivial, especially considering the circumstances. You say that Prince Edward is your brother's son. We agree, but not by your brother's wife. King Edward was first engaged to Lady Lucy—and your mother lives as a witness to this—and after that he was betrothed to Lady Bona, the King of France's sister-in-law. But when both these engagements failed, Elizabeth Grey—a harried mother of many sons, a poor widow losing her former beauty, a woman past her prime—took advantage of his lust and seduced him away from his role of majesty. She led him to drop his standards and commit adultery with her. With him she conceived this illegitimate Edward, whom we now politely call "the Prince." I could describe even worse things, too, but I'll restrain myself out of respect for some who are still alive. Therefore, my good lord, even if you don't want to bless us and the land with your rule, then at least accept this offered crown to rescue your noble family from its current corruption. Return the line of hereditary kingship to a true, straight course.

LORD MAYOR

Do, good my lord. Your citizens entreat you.

LORD MAYOR

Do accept, my lord. Your citizens beg you.

BUCKINGHAM

Refuse not, mighty lord, this proffered love.

BUCKINGHAM

Don't refuse this love we offer you, mighty lord.

CATESBY

O, make them joyful. Grant their lawful suit.

CATESBY

Oh, make them joyful. Grant their request!

RICHARD

Alas, why would you heap this care on me? I am unfit for state and majesty. I do beseech you, take it not amiss; I cannot, nor I will not, yield to you.

RICHARD

Alas, why would you heap this responsibility on me? I am unfit for power and majesty. Don't take this the wrong way, but I cannot and will not give in to you.

BUCKINGHAM

If you refuse it, as in love and zeal Loath to depose the child, your brother’s son— As well we know your tenderness of heart And gentle, kind, effeminate remorse, Which we have noted in you to your kindred And equally indeed to all estates— Yet know whe'er you accept our suit or no, Your brother’s son shall never reign our king, But we will plant some other in the throne, To the disgrace and downfall of your house. And in this resolution here we leave you.— Come, citizens. Zounds, I’ll entreat no more.

BUCKINGHAM

If you're refusing this out of love and family honor, because you're reluctant to depose the child, your brother's son—we all know how tender your heart is. We know what gentle, kind, and tearful feelings you have for your relatives, and indeed for people of any rank and status. But know this: whether or not you accept our request, your brother's son will never be our king. We'll find someone else to take the throne, to the disgrace and downfall of your family. And with this we leave you.

[To CITIZENS] Come, citizens. By God, I'll beg no more!

RICHARD

O, do not swear, my lord of Buckingham!

RICHARD

Oh, do not swear, my lord of Buckingham!

Exit BUCKINGHAM and some others

CATESBY

Call them again, sweet prince. Accept their suit.If you deny them, all the land will rue it.

CATESBY

Call them back, sweet prince. Accept their request. If you deny them, the whole country will regret it.

RICHARD

Will you enforce me to a world of cares? Call them again. I am not made of stones, But penetrable to your kind entreaties, Albeit against my conscience and my soul.

RICHARD

Would you force me into a world of worries? Call them back then. I am not made of stone. I can be persuaded by these kind pleas, even though it goes against my conscience and my soul.

Enter BUCKINGHAM and the rest

Cousin of Buckingham and sage, grave men, Since you will buckle fortune on my back, To bear her burden, whe'er I will or no, I must have patience to endure the load; But if black scandal or foul-faced reproach Attend the sequel of your imposition, Your mere enforcement shall acquittance me From all the impure blots and stains thereof, For God doth know, and you may partly see, How far I am from the desire of this.

Cousin Buckingham and you wise, solemn men, since you intend to force the crown onto my head—to bear its burden whether I want to or not—then I must have the patience to endure the load. But if any foul scandal or ugly criticism comes of this, the mere fact that you forced me to accept must clear me from any future blame. For God knows, and you can see, how reluctant I am to accept this responsibility.

LORD MAYOR

God bless your Grace! We see it and will say it.

LORD MAYOR

God bless your Grace! We will bear witness to the fact that you didn't want the crown.

RICHARD

In saying so, you shall but say the truth.

RICHARD

And in saying so, you'll only be telling the truth.

BUCKINGHAM

Then I salute you with this royal title: Long live Richard, England’s worthy king!

BUCKINGHAM

Then I salute you with this royal title: Long live Richard, England's worthy king!

ALL

Amen.

ALL

Amen.

BUCKINGHAM

Tomorrow will it please you to be crowned?

BUCKINGHAM

Will you let yourself be crowned tomorrow?

RICHARD

Even when you please, since you will have it so.

RICHARD

Whenever you want, since you will insist on it.

BUCKINGHAM

Tomorrow, then, we will attend your Grace, And so most joyfully we take our leave.

BUCKINGHAM

Tomorrow, then. We will wait on your Grace. And now we joyfully bid you farewell.

RICHARD

[to the bishops] Come, let us to our holy task again.—Farewell, my cousin. Farewell, gentle friends.

RICHARD

[To the bishops] Come, let us return to our holy labors.

[To BUCKINGHAM and CITIZENS] Farewell, my cousin. Farewell, noble friends.

Exeunt

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Matt cosby
About the Translator: Matt Cosby
Matt Cosby graduated from Amherst College in 2011, and currently works as a writer and editor for LitCharts. He is from Florida but now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also makes art, plays the piano, and goes to dog parks.