Richard II

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

Ely House.
Ely Palace, London.
Enter JOHN OF GAUNT sick, with the DUKE OF YORK, & c
JOHN OF GAUNT, who is very sick, and the DUKE OF YORK, as well as a few assistants, enter.
Will the king come, that I may breathe my last
In wholesome counsel to his unstaid youth?
Is the young, wild king going to come visit me so I can give him my last words of advice before I die?
Vex not yourself, nor strive not with your breath;
For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.
Don’t waste the little strength you have worrying about that. Even if he did come, the king doesn’t listen to advice.
5O, but they say the tongues of dying men
Enforce attention like deep harmony:
Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.
He that no more must say is listen’d more
10Than they whom youth and ease have taught to glose;
More are men’s ends mark’d than their lives before:
The setting sun, and music at the close,
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
Writ in remembrance more than things long past:
15Though Richard my life’s counsel would not hear,
My death’s sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.
Also, in general, people pay more attention at the end of somebody’s life. It’s just like the last bite of dessert—it’s the sweetest part, the part you try to make last, and the part you remember most. So, even though King Richard ignored me throughout my life, maybe he’ll listen to me now that I am dying.
No; it is stopp’d with other flattering sounds,
As praises, of whose taste the wise are feared,
Lascivious metres, to whose venom sound
20The open ear of youth doth always listen;
Report of fashions in proud Italy,
Whose manners still our tardy apish nation
Limps after in base imitation.
Where doth the world thrust forth a vanity—
25So it be new, there’s no respect how vile—
That is not quickly buzzed into his ears?
Then all too late comes counsel to be heard,
Where will doth mutiny with wit’s regard.
Direct not him whose way himself will choose:
30’Tis breath thou lack’st, and that breath wilt thou lose.
No, he won’t listen—his ears are stuffed with all the sounds that make him happy, like the flattery and praise he receives, which wise men know to be wary of. He also likes raunchy poems, which immature young people always listen to. And he listens to the fashion reports from Italy, which England is always copying and always shamefully trying to catch up to. As long as it is new, no matter how awful it is, it instantly grabs Richard’s attention. His desire for all of these things doesn’t allow him to listen to good advice. Don’t give him direction, because he chooses his own course. You’ll just be wasting your precious breath.