Richard II By William Shakespeare Act I

No, Bolingbroke: if ever I were traitor,
My name be blotted from the book of life,
And I from heaven banish'd as from hence!
But what thou art, God, thou, and I, do know;
And all too soon, I fear, the king shall rue.
Farewell, my liege. Now no way can I stray;
Save back to England, all the world's my way.


Uncle, even in the glasses of thine eyes
I see thy grieved heart: thy sad aspect
Hath from the number of his banish'd years
Pluck'd four away. — [To BOLINGBROKE.] Six frozen winters spent,
Return with welcome home from banishment.

How long a time lies in one little word!
Four lagging winters and four wanton springs
End in a word: such is the breath of kings.

I thank my liege that in regard of me
He shortens four years of my son's exile;
But little vantage shall I reap thereby:
For, ere the six years that he hath to spend
Can change their moons and bring their times about,
My oil-dried lamp and time-bewasted light
Shall be extinct with age and endless night;
My inch of taper will be burnt and done,
And blindfold death not let me see my son.

Why, uncle, thou hast many years to live.

But not a minute, king, that thou canst give:
Shorten my days thou canst with sullen sorrow,
And pluck nights from me, but not lend a morrow;
Thou can'st help time to furrow me with age,
But stop no wrinkle in his pilgrimage;
Thy word is current with him for my death,
But dead, thy kingdom cannot buy my breath.

Thy son is banish'd upon good advice,
Whereto thy tongue a party-verdict gave.
Why at our justice seem'st thou then to lower?

Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour.
You urg'd me as a judge; but I had rather
You would have bid me argue like a father.
O! had it been a stranger, not my child,
To smooth his fault I should have been more mild.:
A partial slander sought I to avoid,
And in the sentence my own life destroy'd.
Alas! I look'd when some of you should say
I was too strict to make mine own away;
But you gave leave to my unwilling tongue
Against my will to do myself this wrong.

Cousin, farewell; and, uncle, bid him so:
Six years we banish him, and he shall go.

[Flourish. Exit KING RICHARD and Train.]

Cousin, farewell: what presence must not know,
From where you do remain let paper show.

My lord, no leave take I; for I will ride,
As far as land will let me, by your side.

O! to what purpose dost thou hoard thy words,
That thou return'st no greeting to thy friends?

I have too few to take my leave of you,
When the tongue's office should be prodigal
To breathe the abundant dolour of the heart.

Thy grief is but thy absence for a time.

Joy absent, grief is present for that time.

What is six winters? They are quickly gone.

To men in joy; but grief makes one hour ten.

Call it a travel that thou tak'st for pleasure.

My heart will sigh when I miscall it so,
Which finds it an enforced pilgrimage.

The sullen passage of thy weary steps
Esteem as foil wherein thou art to set
The precious jewel of thy home return.

Nay, rather, every tedious stride I make
Will but remember me what a deal of world
I wander from the jewels that I love.
Must I not serve a long apprenticehood
To foreign passages, and in the end,
Having my freedom, boast of nothing else
But that I was a journeyman to grief?

All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
Teach thy necessity to reason thus;
There is no virtue like necessity.
Think not the king did banish thee,
But thou the king. Woe doth the heavier sit,
Where it perceives it is but faintly borne.
Go, say I sent thee forth to purchase honour,
And not the King exil'd thee; or suppose
Devouring pestilence hangs in our air,
And thou art flying to a fresher clime.
Look, what thy soul holds dear, imagine it
To lie that way thou go'st, not whence thou com'st.
Suppose the singing birds musicians,
The grass whereon thou tread'st the presence strew'd,
The flowers fair ladies, and thy steps no more
Than a delightful measure or a dance;
For gnarling sorrow hath less power to bite
The man that mocks at it and sets it light.

O! who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
By bare imagination of a feast?
Or wallow naked in December snow
By thinking on fantastic summer's heat?
O, no! the apprehension of the good
Gives but the greater feeling to the worse:
Fell sorrow's tooth doth never rankle more
Than when it bites, but lanceth not the sore.

Come, come, my son, I'll bring thee on thy way.
Had I thy youth and cause, I would not stay.

Then, England's ground, farewell; sweet soil, adieu;
My mother, and my nurse, that bears me yet!
Where'er I wander, boast of this I can,
Though banish'd, yet a true-born Englishman.


Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How many beheadings have occurred in the final scene of the play?