The castle at Pomfret.
Enter KING RICHARD
KING RICHARD enters.
KING RICHARD II
I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
5I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out.
My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
10In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix’d
With scruples and do set the word itself
Against the word:
15As thus, ‘Come, little ones,’ and then again,
‘It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.’
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails
20May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune’s slaves,
25Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there;
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
30Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
35Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king’d again: and by and by
Think that I am unking’d by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate’er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
40With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing. Music do I hear?
KING RICHARD II
I have been thinking about how I might compare this prison I live in to the world. But because the world is full of people and I’m the only one here, I cannot do it. Yet I’ll work it out. My brain and my soul will produce enough thoughts to fill this little world, like people in the outside world and just as discontented. The better kind of thought, like the thought of divine things, is mixed with doubts and compares passages from scripture, like
“Come, little ones” and “It is as hard for a rich man to enter heaven as for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye.”
Both passages involve the ease—or difficulty—of reaching heaven.“Come, little ones” and “It is as hard for a rich man to enter heaven as for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye.” Ambitious thoughts plot unlikely miracles, such as digging through the walls of my cell by hand, and these thoughts die in their prime because they are futile. Contented thoughts tell themselves that they aren’t the first to be a slave to fortune, and they won’t be the last. They’re like beggars in the stocks who take comfort in the fact that others have already sat there and more will sit there. So I host many people inside my own head, and none are content. Sometimes I’m king, and then some treason makes me wish I was a beggar, and so then I am a beggar. Then terrible poverty persuades me that I was better off as king, so then I am king again. And then I think that I have been dethroned by Bolingbroke, and suddenly I’m nothing. But whatever I am, just like all men, I’ll never be happy until I am dead and nothing at all. Do I hear music?