Act I - Act I, Scene 1

SCENE: England

King Richard the Third


SCENE I. London. A street

[Enter GLOSTER.]

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag'd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now,--instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,--
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I,--that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;--
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,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false, and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,--
About a prophecy which says that G
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul:--here Clarence comes.

[Enter CLARENCE, guarded, and BRAKENBURY.]

Brother, good day: what means this armed guard
That waits upon your grace?

His majesty,
Tendering my person's safety, hath appointed
This conduct to convey me to the Tower.

Upon what cause?

Because my name is George.

Alack, my lord, that fault is none of yours;
He should, for that, commit your godfathers:--
O, belike his majesty hath some intent
That you should be new-christen'd in the Tower.
But what's the matter, Clarence? may I know?

Yea, Richard, when I know; for I protest
As yet I do not: but, as I can learn,
He hearkens after prophecies and dreams;
And from the cross-row plucks the letter G,
And says a wizard told him that by G
His issue disinherited should be;
And, for my name of George begins with G,
It follows in his thought that I am he.
These, as I learn, and such like toys as these,
Hath mov'd his highness to commit me now.

Why, this it is when men are rul'd by women:--
'Tis not the king that sends you to the Tower;
My Lady Grey his wife, Clarence, 'tis she
That tempers him to this extremity.
Was it not she and that good man of worship,
Antony Woodville, her brother there,
That made him send Lord Hastings to the Tower,
From whence this present day he is deliver'd?
We are not safe, Clarence; we are not safe.

By heaven, I think there is no man is secure
But the queen's kindred, and night-walking heralds
That trudge betwixt the king and Mistress Shore.
Heard you not what an humble suppliant
Lord Hastings was to her for his delivery?

Humbly complaining to her deity
Got my Lord Chamberlain his liberty.
I'll tell you what,--I think it is our way,
If we will keep in favour with the king,
To be her men and wear her livery:
The jealous o'er-worn widow, and herself,
Since that our brother dubb'd them gentlewomen,
Are mighty gossips in our monarchy.

I beseech your graces both to pardon me;
His majesty hath straitly given in charge
That no man shall have private conference,
Of what degree soever, with your brother.

Even so; an't please your worship, Brakenbury,
You may partake of any thing we say:
We speak no treason, man;--we say the king
Is wise and virtuous; and his noble queen
Well struck in years, fair, and not jealous;--
We say that Shore's wife hath a pretty foot,
A cherry lip, a bonny eye, a passing pleasing tongue;
And that the queen's kindred are made gentlefolks:
How say you, sir? can you deny all this?

With this, my lord, myself have naught to do.

Naught to do with Mistress Shore! I tell thee, fellow,
He that doth naught with her, excepting one,
Were best to do it secretly alone.

What one, my lord?

Her husband, knave:--wouldst thou betray me?

I do beseech your grace to pardon me; and, withal,
Forbear your conference with the noble duke.

We know thy charge, Brakenbury, and will obey.

We are the queen's abjects and must obey.--
Brother, farewell: I will unto the king;
And whatsoe'er you will employ me in,--
Were it to call King Edward's widow sister,--
I will perform it to enfranchise you.
Meantime, this deep disgrace in brotherhood
Touches me deeper than you can imagine.

I know it pleaseth neither of us well.

Well, your imprisonment shall not be long;
I will deliver or else lie for you:
Meantime, have patience.

I must perforce: farewell.

[Exeunt CLARENCE, BRAKENBURY, and guard.]

Go tread the path that thou shalt ne'er return.
Simple, plain Clarence!--I do love thee so
That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,
If heaven will take the present at our hands.--
But who comes here? The new-delivered Hastings?


Good time of day unto my gracious lord!

As much unto my good Lord Chamberlain!
Well are you welcome to the open air.
How hath your lordship brook'd imprisonment?

With patience, noble lord, as prisoners must;
But I shall live, my lord, to give them thanks
That were the cause of my imprisonment.

No doubt, no doubt; and so shall Clarence too;
For they that were your enemies are his,
And have prevail'd as much on him as you.

More pity that the eagles should be mew'd
Whiles kites and buzzards prey at liberty.

What news abroad?

No news so bad abroad as this at home,--
The king is sickly, weak, and melancholy,
And his physicians fear him mightily.

Now, by Saint Paul, that news is bad indeed.
O, he hath kept an evil diet long,
And overmuch consum'd his royal person:
'Tis very grievous to be thought upon.
What, is he in his bed?

He is.

Go you before, and I will follow you.


He cannot live, I hope; and must not die
Till George be pack'd with posthorse up to heaven.
I'll in, to urge his hatred more to Clarence
With lies well steel'd with weighty arguments;
And, if I fail not in my deep intent,
Clarence hath not another day to live;
Which done, God take King Edward to his mercy,
And leave the world for me to bustle in!
For then I'll marry Warwick's youngest daughter:
What though I kill'd her husband and her father?
The readiest way to make the wench amends
Is to become her husband and her father:
The which will I; not all so much for love
As for another secret close intent,
By marrying her, which I must reach unto.
But yet I run before my horse to market:
Clarence still breathes; Edward still lives and reigns:
When they are gone, then must I count my gains.



  1. Richard uses this metaphor to celebrate his family's present good fortune. Edward, his brother, has just taken the throne from Henry VI. This fortune turns the "discontented winter" into "glorious summer." Richard uses Edward's emblem the sun to metaphorically disperse the clouds over their family's house. Over the rest of the speech, Richard's happiness about the current state of affairs ebbs a bit as he reflects on his deformity —a hunchback—which he claims makes all days winter for him. He reveals his own ambitions for the throne and establishes the desires which will lead to manipulation, treachery, and murder later in the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. This is a wonderful line. It actually suggests a man limping because the emphasis would be on the word "bark" and then on the word "halt" (meaning limp). Since Shakespeare wanted his actors to suit the action to the word and the word to the action, the actor playing Gloster would probably take a turn or two on the stage to demonstrate his lameness by listing to one side on the word "bark" and on the other side on the word "halt." The line is also striking because of the way Gloster seems to be mocking himself by admitting the painful truth that dogs will bark at him when they see him passing because his appearance makes them believe he is a dangerous person--which he is! This is funny in an ironic way because there is nothing he can do about the dogs barking at him; he just has to keep walking, and limping.

    Gloster's entire soliloquy raises the question of whether people's characters are shaped by the bodies and faces they happen to be born with.

    — William Delaney
  3. Warwick's youngest daughter was Lady Anne Neville.  Lady Anne had been engaged to, but did not marry, Edward, the Prince of Wales. Edward was the son of Henry VI. Shakespeare, however, improperly identifies her as Edward's widow. Whether the mistake was deliberate artistic license or simply an error is not known.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  4. Would go to prison in place of Clarence; also, a pun on "lie," i.e., to tell a falsehood.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  5. None whatsoever. Despite Richard's rank (or "degree") he is not allowed to speak to the prisoner.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  6. Named them as (usually) knights.  It should be noted that Richard is grossly underestimating the status of the Queen prior to her marriage.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  7. The queen, who had been previously married before her husband died. 

    "o'er-worn" = faded, past its (her) time.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  8. Servants of noble households (the "livery") wore that the colors of that family.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  9. "Lord Chamberlain" was Hasting's title.  Allegedly, after her affair with Edward ended, Lady Shore became Lord Chamberlain's mistress.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  10. Jane Shore, the wife of a London goldsmith, had a notorious affair with Edward.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  11. A man of honor.  This is meant as a sarcasm.  The term "man of honor" was typically bestowed on a middle-class man, and is therefore an inappropriate address for the Queen's brother (Anthony Woodeville, who succeeded his father as Earl Rivers). 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  12. This is a sarcastic reference to the Queen, who was married to John Grey ("Gray" in other editions) until his death, prior to her marriage to the king. The queen's maiden name was Elizabeth Woodeville (sometimes "Woodville").

    — Jamie Wheeler
  13. The Tower of London was a prison which housed noble prisoners, and by Elizabethan times, traitors and political agitators as well.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  14. Edward interprets as "George" but it actually stands for "Gloster" (Glouchester).

    — Jamie Wheeler
  15. Clarence was older than Richard and would become king if Edward and his heirs died. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  16. A reference to his physical imperfections, like a coin is stamped with an indelible image.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  17. Two meanings:  1)  a leap in dancing made by men 2) an allusion to sexual escapades.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  18. In other editions, "son."  Edward IV was the son of Richard, Duke of York. Edward's emblem was the sun. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  19. Richard is the Duke of Gloster (often spelled "Glouchester" but pronounced "Gloster").

    — Jamie Wheeler