Richard III

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 4

page Act 1 Scene 4 Page 2

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CLARENCE

Some lay in dead men’s skulls, and in the holes
30Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept—
As ’twere in scorn of eyes—reflecting gems,
That wooed the slimy bottom of the deep
And mocked the dead bones that lay scattered by.

CLARENCE

Some of the gems had wedged themselves like imitation eyes into the dead men’s skulls. The fake eyes gazed dully at the bones scattered around.

KEEPER

Had you such leisure in the time of death
35To gaze upon the secrets of the deep?

KEEPER

So you had time as you were dying to look around?

CLARENCE

Methought I had, and often did I strive
To yield the ghost, but still the envious flood
Stopped in my soul and would not let it forth
To find the empty, vast, and wand'ring air,
40But smothered it within my panting bulk,
Who almost burst to belch it in the sea.

CLARENCE

I thought I did, and I often tried to die. But the terrible water always held me back. It wouldn’t let my soul find its way to air but smothered it inside my gasping body. My body wanted so badly to vomit up my spirit that it almost burst.

KEEPER

Awaked you not in this sore agony?

KEEPER

And didn’t you wake up during this terrible agony?

CLARENCE

No, no, my dream was lengthened after life.
O, then began the tempest to my soul.
45I passed, methought, the melancholy flood,
With that sour ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
The first that there did greet my stranger-soul
Was my great father-in-law, renownèd Warwick,
50Who spake aloud, “What scourge for perjury
Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?”
And so he vanished. Then came wand'ring by
A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
Dabbled in blood, and he shrieked out aloud

CLARENCE

Oh, no, my dream went on even after I died. In fact, the real nightmare had only just begun. With the help of the grim

ferryman

According to Greek mythology, an old man, Charon, ferries the dead across the river Styx to Hades, the underworld for the good and bad alike. Shakespeare adds a certain Christian flavor here to alter this tradition: the underworld of Clarence’s dream is hellish.

ferryman
that poets like to write about, my soul crossed the river into the kingdom of endless night.
The first to greet me there was my great

father-in-law

Clarence abandoned Warwick, who fought for the Lancasters, to join forces with his own brother King Edward IV.

father-in-law
, the famous earl of Warwick. He cried aloud, “What terrible punishment can this dark realm devise for the oath-breaker Clarence?” And he vanished. Then a ghost like an angel with its hair spattered in blood wandered by, and shieked,