Richard III is a tragic historical play following the rule and death of the title character, Richard. Conniving his way to power in the wake of his brother's death, Richard imprisons his nephews, marries the wife of a butchered enemy, and proceeds to live villainously. He acts out fantasies of revenge and spite bred from a long life of being looked down on due to his minor deformities. At the play's conclusion he is betrayed and killed in battle.
The Life and Death of King Richard III (c. 1591) is William Shakespeare's version of the short career of Richard III of England, who is depicted as a villain. The play is sometimes listed as a tragedy but more correctly belongs among the histories. It picks up the story from Henry VI, Part 3 and is the conclusion of a series that begins with Richard II.
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.
Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.
I'll have her;— but I will not keep her long.
Young, valiant, wise, and, no doubt, right royal,—
The spacious world cannot again afford.
Since every Jack became a gentleman,
There's many a gentle person made a Jack.
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends, stol'n out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.
That, as I am a christian-faithful man,
I would not spend another such a night,
Though 'twere to buy a world of happy days.—
So full of dismal terror was the time!
What ugly sights of death within mine eyes!
Methought, I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon;
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea.
Some lay in dead men’s skulls; and, in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept
(As’t were in scorn of eyes) reflecting gems.
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!
Princes have but their titles for their glories,
An outward honour for an inward toil;
And, for unfelt imagination,
They often feel a world of restless cares:
So that, between their titles and low name,
There's nothing differs but the outward fame.
First Murderer : Remember our reward, when the deed's done. Second Murderer : Zounds, he dies; I had forgot the reward. First Murderer : Where is thy conscience now? Second Murderer : In the Duke of Gloucester's purse. First Murderer : So, when he opens his purse to give us our reward, thy conscience flies out. Second Murderer : Let it go; there's few or none will entertain it. First Murderer : How if it come to thee again? Second Murderer : I'll not meddle with it, it is a dangerous thing, it makes a man a coward; a man cannot steal, but it accuseth him; a man cannot swear, but it checks him; a man cannot lie with his neighbour's wife, but it detects him: 'tis a blushing shame-faced spirit, that mutinies in a man's bosom; it fills one full of obstacles: it made me once restore a purse of gold, that I found; it beggars any man that keeps it: it is turned out of all towns and cities for a dangerous thing; and every man that means to live well, endeavors to trust to himself, and live without it. First Murderer : Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me not to kill the duke.
Why wither not the leaves that want their sap?—
If you will live, lament; if die, be brief,
That our swift-winged souls may catch the king's;
Or, like obedient subjects, follow him
To his new kingdom of perpetual rest.
His wit set down to make his valour live:
Death makes no conquest of this conqueror;
For now he lives in fame, though not in life.
Or die a soldier, as I liv'd a king.
Who builds his hope in air of your fair looks,
Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
Ready, with every nod, to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.
That ever wretched age hath look'd upon.—
Come, lead me to the block; bear him my head:
They smile at me who shortly shall be dead.
Cousin, thou wast not wont to be so dull.
Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead,
And I would have it suddenly performed!
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.
King Richard : Tut, tut, thou troublest me; I am not in the vein.
Here in these confines slily have I lurk’d,
To watch the waning of mine enemies.
A dire induction am I witness to,
And will to France; hoping the consequence
Will prove as bitter, black, and tragical.
Shame sets your life,
And will your death attend.
Which after-hours give leisure to repent.
If I did take the kingdom from your sons,
To make amends, I'll give it to your daughter.
If I have kill'd the issue of your womb,
To quicken your increase, I will beget
Mine issue of your blood upon your daughter.
Thus far into the bowels of the land
Have we march'd on without impediment.
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Nay, wherefore should they? since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself.
Than can the substance of ten thousand soldiers,
Armed in proof, and led by shallow Richmond!
That frowns on me, looks sadly upon him.
Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.
Daring an opposite to every danger;
His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights,
Seeking for Richmond in the throat of death:
Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!
I think there be six Richmonds in the field;
Five have I slain to-day instead of him.
That in submission will return to us;
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 emnity!