Richard III

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

KING EDWARD IV

Have I a tongue to doom my brother’s death,
And shall the tongue give pardon to a slave?
My brother killed no man; his fault was thought,
110And yet his punishment was bitter death.
Who sued to me for him? Who, in my wrath,
Kneeled at my feet, and bade me be advised?
Who spoke of brotherhood? Who spoke of love?
Who told me how the poor soul did forsake
115The mighty Warwick and did fight for me?
Who told me, in the field by Tewkesbury,
When Oxford had me down, he rescued me,
And said “Dear brother, live, and be a king”?
Who told me, when we both lay in the field
120Frozen almost to death, how he did lap me
Even in his garments and did give himself,
All thin and naked, to the numb-cold night?
All this from my remembrance brutish wrath
Sinfully plucked, and not a man of you
125Had so much grace to put it in my mind.
But when your carters or your waiting vassals
Have done a drunken slaughter and defaced
The precious image of our dear Redeemer,
You straight are on your knees for pardon, pardon,
130And I, unjustly too, must grant it you.
Stanley rises
But for my brother, not a man would speak,
Nor I, ungracious, speak unto myself
For him, poor soul. The proudest of you all
135Have been beholding to him in his life,
Yet none of you would once beg for his life.
O God, I fear Thy justice will take hold
On me and you, and mine and yours for this!—
Come, Hastings, help me to my closet.—
140Ah, poor Clarence.

KING EDWARD IV

I was willing to condemn my brother to death, but you want me to pardon a peasant? My brother didn’t kill anyone. He was only to blame for some thoughts he had. But his punishment was bitter death. Who pleaded with me to pardon his life? Who, when I was in a rage, kneeled at my feet and told me to reconsider? Who talked about brotherhood? Who talked about love? Who told me how the poor man abandoned the mighty earl of Warwick to fight for me? Who told me how he rescued me in the field at Tewksbury, when Oxford had me down, saying, “Dear brother, live and be a king”? Who told me how, when we both lay in the field freezing to death, he wrapped me in his own clothes and spent a numbingly cold night naked? I forgot all of this in my brutish anger, and not one of you had the grace to remind me. But when your servants get drunk and kill someone, you go right down on your knees for “pardon, pardon.” And, though he doesn’t deserve it, I have to grant your request. But not one of you would speak up for my brother. And I didn’t speak to myself on his behalf, either. The best of you owed something to him in his lifetime, but none of you would plead for his life. Oh God, I fear your justice will destroy me and all of these men, and their families and mine, because of this! Come, Hastings, help me to my room. Oh, poor Clarence.