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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF
KING RICHARD III.
ACT I. SCENE I.
-this sun of York;] ALLUDING to the cognizance of Edward IV. which was a sun, in memory of the three suns which are said to have appeared at the battle which he gained over the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross. STEEVENS. Line 7. 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, &c.] It is not improbable that Shakspeare was indebted on this occasion to the following lines in The tragical Life and Death of King Richard the Third, which is one of the metrical monologues in a collection entitled, The Mirrour of Magistrates, the preface to which is dated 1586.
-the battles fought in fields before
"To sweet-tun'd noise of pleasing minstrelsie,
"God Mars laid by his launce, and tooke his lute, "And turn'd his rugged frownes to smiling lookes; "Instead of crimson fields, war's fatal fruit, "He bath'd his limbs in Cypris warbling brookes, "And set his thoughts upon her wanton lookes." Line 10. -barbed steeds] Are steeds adorned with military trappings. I. Haywarde, in his Life and Raigne of Henry IV. 1599, says, "The duke of Hereford came to the barriers, "mounted upon a white courser, barbed with blue and green "velvet," &c. STEEVENS.
Line 12. He capers-] War capers. This is poetical, though a little harsh; if it be York that capers, the antecedent is at such a distance, that it is almost forgotten. JOHNSON.
Line 19. Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,] By dissembling is not meant hypocritical nature, that pretends one thing and does another; but nature that puts together things of a dissimilar kind, as a brave soul and a deformed body. WARB. Dissembling is here put very licentiously for fraudful, deceitful.
Feature is used here, as in other pieces of the same age, for beauty in general. MALONE.
Line 28. And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,] Shakspeare very diligently inculcates, that the wickedness of Richard proceeded from his deformity, from the envy that rose at the comparison of his own person with others, and which incited him to disturb the pleasures that he could not partake. JOHNSON. Line 31. And hate the idle pleasures-] Perhaps we might read,
And bate the idle pleasures—
inductions dangerous,] Preparations for mischief. The induction is preparatory to the action of the play.
-Edward be as true and just,] The meaning is,
if Edward keeps his word.
Line 64. -toys-] Fancies, freaks of imagination, JOHNS.
81. Humbly complaining, &c.] I think these two lines
might be better given to Clarence.
Line 86. The jealous o'erworn widow, and herself,] That is, the queen and Shore. JOHNSON. Line 118. the queen's abjects-] That is, not the queen's subjects, whom she might protect, but her abjects, whom she drives away. JOHNSON.
Line 121. Were it to call king Edward's widow-sister,] This is a very covert and subtle manner of insinuating treason. The natural expression would have been, were it to call king Edward's wife, sister. I will solicit for you, though it should be at the expence of so much degradation and constraint, as to own the lowborn wife of king Edward for a sister. But by slipping, as it were casually, widow into the place of wife, he tempts Clarence with an oblique proposal to kill the king. JOHNSON.
King Edward's widow is, I believe, only an expression of contempt, meaning the widow Gray, whom Edward had thought proper to make his queen. He has just before called her, the jealous o'erworn widow. Steevens.
Line 148. should be mew'd,] A mew is a place where any thing is confined.
ACT I. SCENE II.
obsequiously lament-] Obsequious, in this in
stance, means funereal. So in Hamlet, act i. sc. ii. To do obsequious sorrow.
Line 242. example.
I'll make a corse of him that disobeys.] So in
I'll make a ghost of him that lets me. JOHNSON. -pattern of thy butcheries:] Pattern is instance, or JOHNSON.
-see! dead Henry's wounds
Open their congeal'd mouths, and bleed afresh.] It is a tradition very generally received, that the murdered body bleeds on the touch of the murderer. This was so much believed by sir Kenelm Digby, that he has endeavoured to explain the reason. JOHNSON.
Line 272. Vouchsafe, diffus'd infection of a man,] I believe, diffus'd in this place signifies irregular, uncouth; such is its mean ing in other passages of Shakspeare.
Diffus'd infection of a man may mean, thou that art as danger. ous as a pestilence, that infects the air by its diffusion. STEEV. Line 298. That laid their guilt—] The crime of my brothers. He has just charged the murder of lady Anne's husband upon Edward. JOHNSON.
Line 374. they kill me with a living death.] In imitation of this passage, and, I suppose, of a thousand more, Pope writes, -a living death I bear,
Says Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair. JOHNS. Line 378. These eyes, which never, &c.] The twelve follow ing beautiful lines added after the first editions.
They were added with many more.
Line 404. But 'twas thy beauty-] Shakspeare countenances the observation, that no woman can ever be offended with the mention of her beauty.
Line 443. Crosby-place:] A house near Bishopsgate-street, belonging to the duke of Gloucester.
Line 457. Imagine I have said farewell already.] Cibber, who altered Rich. III. for the stage, was so thoroughly convinced of the ridiculousness and improbability of this scene, that he thought himself obliged to make Tressel say,
When future chronicles shall speak of this,
They will be thought romance, not history. STEEVENS. Line 478. Fram'd in the prodigality of nature,] i. e. when nature was in a prodigal or lavish mood. WARBURTON.
Line 479. —und, no doubt, right royal,] Of the degree of royalty belonging to Henry the sixth there could be no doubt, nor could Richard have mentioned it with any such hesitation; he could not indeed very properly allow him royalty. I believe we should read,
and, no doubt, right loyal.
That is, true to her bed. He enumerates the reasons for which she should love him. He was young, wise, and valiant; these were apparent and indisputable excellencies. He then mentions another not less likely to endear him to his wife, but which he had less opportunity of knowing with certainty, and, no doubt, right loyal, JOHNSON,
Richard means only full of all the noble properties of a king. No doubt, right royal, may, however, be ironically spoken, alluding to the incontinence of his mother Margaret. STEEVENS.
-a marvellous proper man.] Marvellous is here used adverbially: proper in old language was handsome.
ACT I. SCENE III.
Line 518. It is determin'd, not concluded yet:] Determin'd signifies the final conclusion of the will: concluded, what cannot be altered by reason of some act, consequent on the final judgWARBURTON.
Line 641. 642.
my pains-] My labours; my toils. JOHNS. -out, devil!] Out is an expression of disgust
Was not your husband
In Margaret's battle,] It is said in Henry VI.
that he died in quarrel of the house of York.
The account here given is the true one. Line 688. Hear me, you wrangling pirates, &c.] This scene of Margaret's imprecations is fine and artful. She prepares the audience, like another Cassandra, for the following tragic revolutions. WARBURTON.
Line 693. Ah, gentle villain,] The meaning of gentle is not tender or courteous, but high-born. An opposition is meant between that and villain, which means at once a wicked and a lowborn wretch.
Since ev'ry Jack is made a gentleman,
There's many a gentle person made a Jack. JOHNSON. Line 694. What mak'st thou in my sight?] An obsolete expression for-what dost thou in my sight?
Line 735. by surfeit die your king,] Alluding to his
luxurious life. Line 769. rooting hog!] The expression is fine, alluding (in memory of her young son) to the ravage which hogs make,. with the finest flowers, in gardens; and intimating that Elizabeth was to expect no other treatment for her sons. WARBURTON.
She calls him hog, as an appellation more contemptuous than ́