« AnteriorContinuar »
LIFE AND DEATH OF KING RICHARD III.
THIS tragedy, though it is called the Life and Death of this Prince, comprizes, at most, but the last eight years of his time; for it opens with George Duke of Clarence being clapped up in the Tower, which happened in the beginning of the year 1477; and closes with the death of Richard at Bosworth field, which battle was fought on the 22d of August, in the year 1485. Theobald.
It appears that several dramas on the present subject had been written before Shakspeare attempted it. See the notes at the con. clusion of this play, which was first entered at Stationer's Hall by Andrew Wise, Oct. 20, 1597, under the title of The Tragedie of King Richard the Third, with the Death of the Duke of Clarence. Before this, viz. Aug. 15th, 1586, was entered, A tragical Report of King Richard the Third, a Ballad. It may be necessary to remark that the words, song, ballad, book, enterlude and play, were often synonymously used. Steevens.
This play was written, I imagine, in the same year in which it was first printed,-1597. The Legend of King Richard III, by Francis Seagars, was printed in the first edition of The Mirrour for Magistrates, 1559, and in that of 1575, and 1587, but Shak. speare does not appear to be indebted to it. In a subsequent edition of that book printed in 1610, the old legend was omitted, and a new one inserted, by Richard Nichols, who has very freely copied the play before us. In 1597, when this tragedy was pub lished, Nichols, as Mr. Warton has observed, was but thirteen years old. Hist. of Poetry, Vol. III, p. 267.
The real length of time in this piece is fourteen years; (not eight years, as Mr. Theobald supposed;) for the second scene commences with the funeral of King Henry VI, who, according to the received account, was murdered on the 21st of May, 1471. The imprisonment of Clarence, which is represented previously in the first scene, did not in fact take place till 1477-8.
It has been since observed to me by Mr. Elderton, (who is of opinion that Richard was charged with this murder by the Lancastrian historians without any foundation) that "it appears on the face of the publick accounts allowed in the exchequer for the maintenance of King Henry and his numerous attendants in the Tower, that he lived to the 12th of June, which was twenty-two days after the time assigned for his pretended assassination; was exposed to the publick view in St. Paul's for some days, and interred at Chertsey with much solemnity, and at no inconsiderable expence." Malone.
King Edward the fourth.
Edward, prince of Wales, afterwards
king Edward V,
Richard, duke of York.
sons to the king.
George, duke of Clarence,
Richard, duke of Gloster, after- brothers to the king. wards king Richard III,
A young son of Clarence.
Henry, earl of Richmond, afterwards king Henry VII. Cardinal Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury.
Thomas Rotheram, archbishop of York. John Morton, bishop of Ely.
Duke of Buckingham.
Duke of Norfolk: earl of Surrey, his son.
Earl of Oxford. Lord Hastings. Lord Stanley. Lord
Sir Thomas Vaughan. Sir Richard Ratcliff.
Sir Robert Brakenbury, lieutenant of the Tower,
Elizabeth, queen of king Edward IV.
Duchess of York, mother to king Edward IV. Clarence,
Lady Anne, widow of Edward prince of Wales, son to king Henry VI; afterwards married to the duke of Gloster.
A young daughter of Clarence.
Lords, and other attendants; two gentlemen, a pursuivant, scrivener, citizens, murderers, messengers, ghosts, soldiers, c.
LIFE AND DEATH
KING RICHARD III.
ACT I.....SCENE I.
London. A Street.
Glo. Now is the winter of our discontent1 Made glorious summer by this sun of York;2 And all the clouds, that lowr'd upon our house, In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
1- the winter of our discontent-] Thus, in Sidney's Astrophel and Stella:
"Gone in the winter of my miserie." Steevens.
2- 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.
So, in Drayton's Miseries of Queen Margaret:
"Three suns were seen that instant to appear,
"Which this brave duke took to himself alone:" &c.
Again, in the 22d Song of the Polyolbion:
"And thankful to high heaven which of his cause had care, "Three suns for his device still in his ensign bare."
Such phænomena, if we may believe tradition, were formerly not uncommon. In the Wrighte's Play in the Chester Collection, MS. Harl. 1013, the same circumstance is introduced as attending on a more solemn event:
"That day was seene veramente
See Vol. X, p. 315, n. 8. Malone.
Our bruised arms3 hung up for monuments;
3 Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths; Our bruised arms &c.] So, in The Rape of Lucrece: "Made glorious by his manly chivalry,
"With bruised arms and wreaths of victory." Malone. 4 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.] So, 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 first edition of it appeared in 1559, but the lines quoted on the present as well as future occasions throughout this play, are not found in any copy before that of 1610, so that the author was more probably indebted to Shakspeare, than Shakspeare to him:
-the battles fought in field before
"Were turn'd to meetings of sweet amitie;
"The war-god's thund'ring cannons' dreadful rore,
"And set his thoughts upon her wanton lookes." Steevens. Shakspeare seems to have had the following passage from Lyly's Alexander and Campaspe, 1584, before him, when he wrote these lines: "Is the warlike sound of drum and trump turn'd to the soft noise of lyre and lute? The neighing of barbed steeds, whose loudness filled the air with terror, and whose breaths dimned the sun with smoak, converted to delicate tunes and amorous glances?" &c. Reed.
delightful measures.] A measure was, strictly speaking, a court dance of a stately turn, though the word is sometimes employed to express dances in general.
So, in Romeo and Juliet:
"We'll measure them a measure, and be gone."
See Vol. IV, p. 117, n. 8. Steevens.
barbed steeds,] i. e. steeds caparisoned in a warlike manner. I. Haywarde, in his Life and Raigne of King Henry IV, 1599, says, "The Duke of Hereford came to the barriers, mounted upon a white courser, barbed with blew and green velvet," &c.
Barbed, however, may be no more than a corruption of barded. Equus bardatus, in the Latin of the middle ages, was a horse