A Bloody Deed
Richard III, Act I, Scene 4
Murderers vs. Duke of Clarence
Comedy & Tyranny in Richard III (click for link)
Stephen W. Smith
Thomas More Studies 2 (2007)
What, shall we stab him as he sleeps?
No; then he will say 'twas done cowardly, when he wakes.
When he wakes! why, fool, he shall never wake till
Why, then he will say we stabbed him sleeping.
The urging of that word 'judgment' hath bred a kind
of remorse in me.
What, art thou afraid?
Not to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be
damned for killing him, from which no warrant can defend us.
I thought thou hadst been resolute.
So I am, to let him live.
Back to the Duke of Gloucester, tell him so.
I pray thee, stay a while: I hope my holy humour
will change; 'twas wont to hold me but while one
would tell twenty.
How dost thou feel thyself now?
'Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet
Remember our reward, when the deed is done.
'Zounds, he dies: I had forgot the reward.
Where is thy conscience now?
In the Duke of Gloucester's purse.
So when he opens his purse to give us our reward,
thy conscience flies out.
Let it go; there's few or none will entertain it.
How if it come to thee again?
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; he cannot swear, but it cheques him;
he cannot lie with his neighbour's wife, but it
detects him: 'tis a blushing shamefast 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 endeavours to trust to himself and to live
'Zounds, it is even now at my elbow, persuading me
not to kill the duke.
Take the devil in thy mind, and relieve him not: he
would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.
Tut, I am strong-framed, he cannot prevail with me,
I warrant thee.
Spoke like a tail fellow that respects his
reputation. Come, shall we to this gear?
Take him over the costard with the hilts of thy
sword, and then we will chop him in the malmsey-butt
in the next room.
O excellent devise! make a sop of him.
Hark! he stirs: shall I strike?
No, first let's reason with him.
Where art thou, keeper? give me a cup of wine.
You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon.
In God's name, what art thou?
A man, as you are.
But not, as I am, royal.
Nor you, as we are, loyal.
Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.
My voice is now the king's, my looks mine own.
How darkly and how deadly dost thou speak!
Your eyes do menace me: why look you pale?
Who sent you hither? Wherefore do you come?
To, to, to--
To murder me?
You scarcely have the hearts to tell me so,
And therefore cannot have the hearts to do it.
Wherein, my friends, have I offended you?
Offended us you have not, but the king.
I shall be reconciled to him again.
Never, my lord; therefore prepare to die.
Are you call'd forth from out a world of men
To slay the innocent? What is my offence?
Where are the evidence that do accuse me?
What lawful quest have given their verdict up
Unto the frowning judge? or who pronounced
The bitter sentence of poor Clarence' death?
Before I be convict by course of law,
To threaten me with death is most unlawful.
I charge you, as you hope to have redemption
By Christ's dear blood shed for our grievous sins,
That you depart and lay no hands on me
The deed you undertake is damnable.
What we will do, we do upon command.
And he that hath commanded is the king.
Erroneous vassal! the great King of kings
Hath in the tables of his law commanded
That thou shalt do no murder: and wilt thou, then,
Spurn at his edict and fulfil a man's?
Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hands,
To hurl upon their heads that break his law.
And that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee,
For false forswearing and for murder too:
Thou didst receive the holy sacrament,
To fight in quarrel of the house of Lancaster.
And, like a traitor to the name of God,
Didst break that vow; and with thy treacherous blade
Unrip'dst the bowels of thy sovereign's son.
Whom thou wert sworn to cherish and defend.
How canst thou urge God's dreadful law to us,
When thou hast broke it in so dear degree?
Alas! for whose sake did I that ill deed?
For Edward, for my brother, for his sake: Why, sirs,
He sends ye not to murder me for this
For in this sin he is as deep as I.
If God will be revenged for this deed.
O, know you yet, he doth it publicly,
Take not the quarrel from his powerful arm;
He needs no indirect nor lawless course
To cut off those that have offended him.
Who made thee, then, a bloody minister,
When gallant-springing brave Plantagenet,
That princely novice, was struck dead by thee?
My brother's love, the devil, and my rage.
Thy brother's love, our duty, and thy fault,
Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.
Oh, if you love my brother, hate not me;
I am his brother, and I love him well.
If you be hired for meed, go back again,
And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,
Who shall reward you better for my life
Than Edward will for tidings of my death.
You are deceived, your brother Gloucester hates you.
O, no, he loves me, and he holds me dear:
Go you to him from me.
Ay, so we will.
Tell him, when that our princely father York
Bless'd his three sons with his victorious arm,
And charged us from his soul to love each other,
He little thought of this divided friendship:
Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
Ay, millstones; as be lesson'd us to weep.
O, do not slander him, for he is kind.
Right, as snow in harvest. Thou deceivest thyself:
'Tis he that sent us hither now to slaughter thee.
It cannot be; for when I parted with him,
He hugg'd me in his arms, and swore, with sobs,
That he would labour my delivery.
Why, so he doth, now he delivers thee
From this world's thraldom to the joys of heaven.
Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord.
Hast thou that holy feeling in thy soul,
To counsel me to make my peace with God,
And art thou yet to thy own soul so blind,
That thou wilt war with God by murdering me?
Ah, sirs, consider, he that set you on
To do this deed will hate you for the deed.
What shall we do?
Relent, and save your souls.
Relent! 'tis cowardly and womanish.
Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.
Which of you, if you were a prince's son,
Being pent from liberty, as I am now,
if two such murderers as yourselves came to you,
Would not entreat for life?
My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks:
O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
Come thou on my side, and entreat for me,
As you would beg, were you in my distress
A begging prince what beggar pities not?
Look behind you, my lord.
Take that, and that: if all this will not do,
I'll drown you in the malmsey-butt within.
Exit, with the body
A bloody deed, and desperately dispatch'd!
How fain, like Pilate, would I wash my hands
Of this most grievous guilty murder done!