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Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head!
What says lord Stanley? will he bring his power?
K. RICH. Off with his son George's head'. NOR. My lord, the enemy is pass'd the marsh2; After the battle let George Stanley die.
K. RICH. A thousand hearts are great within my bosom:
Advance our standards3, set upon our foes;
9 Amaze the WELKIN with your broken staves!] That is, fright the skies with the shivers of your lances. JOHNSON. So, in Soliman and Perseda:
Now by the marble face of the welkin."
A similar idea is more tamely expressed in W. Smith's Palsgrave, 1613:
Spears flew in splinters half the way to heaven."
The same imagery is justified by the following passage in Froissart's Chronicle, vol. ii. cap. lxxviii.: "Syr Raynolde du Roy brake his spere in iiii peces, and the shevers flewe a grete hyght in to the ayre." STEEVENS.
Off INSTANTLY, &c.] The word-instantly, was supplied by Sir Thomas Hanmer. Without it, this line has no pretensions to metre. STEEVENS.
the enemy is pass'd the MARSH;] There was a large marsh in Bosworth plain between the two armies. Henry passed it, and made such a disposition of his forces that it served to protect his right wing. By this movement he gained also another point, that his men should engage with the sun behind them, and in the faces of his enemies: a matter of great consequence when hows and arrows were in use. MALONE.
3 Advance our standards, &c.] So again, in The Mirrour of Magistrates; and apparently borrowed from Shakspeare:
Advance then captaines, forward to the fight,
Our ancient word of courage, fair Saint George,
Another Part of the Field.
Alarum: Excursions. Enter NORFOLK, and Forces; to him CATESBY.
CATE. Rescue, my lord of Norfolk, rescue, rescue! The king enacts more wonders than a man, Daring an opposite to every danger*;
"Upon them, friends; the cause is yours and mine;
So Holinshed after Hall: " like valiant champions advance forth your standardes, and assay whether your enemies can decide and try the title of battaile by dint of sword; avaunce, I say again, forward, my captaines.-Now Saint George to borrow, let us set forward." MALONE.
4 Daring AN opposite to every danger;] Perhaps the poet
"Daring and opposite to every danger." TYRWHITT. Perhaps the following passage in Chapman's version of the eighth book of Homer's Odyssey may countenance the old reading:
a most dreadful fight
"Daring against him." STEEVENS.
The old reading is perhaps right. An opposite is frequently used by Shakspeare and the contemporary writers, for adversary. So, in Twelfth-Night: - your opposite hath in him what youth, strength, skill, and wrath, can furnish man withal." Again: and his opposite the youth bears in his visage no presage of cruelty." So, in Blurt Mr. Constable, a comedy, by Middleton, 1602: "to strengthen us against all opposites." Again, more appositely, in Marston's Antonio and Mellida, 1602: "Myself, myself, will dare all opposites."
The sense then should seem to be, that King Richard enacts
His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights,
Alarum. Enter King RICHARD.
K. RICH. A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
CATE. Withdraw, my lord, I'll help you to a horse.
K. RICH. Slave, I have set my life upon a cast, And I will stand the hazard of the die :
I think, there be six Richmonds in the field;
wonders, "daring the adversary he meets with to every danger attending single combat." MALONE.
To dare a single opposite to every danger, is no very wonderful exploit.—I should therefore adopt Tyrwhitt's amendment, which infers that he flew to oppose every danger, wherever it was to be found, and read with him, " and opposite." M. MASON.
5 A horse! a horse!] In The Battle of Alcazar, 1594, the Moor calls cut in the same manner :
"A horse, a horse, villain a horse!
"That I may take the river straight, and fly!
Here is a horse, my lord,
"As swiftly pac'd as Pegasus."
This passage in Shakspeare appears to have been imitated by several of the old writers, if not stolen. So, Heywood, in the Second Part of his Iron Age, 1632:
a horse, a horse!
"Ten kingdoms for a horse to enter Troy." STEEVens. Marston seems to have imitated this line in his Satires, 1599: “A man, a man, a kingdom for a man!" MALONE. This line is introduced into Marston's What You Will, Act II. Sc. I. 4to. 1607:
"Ha! he mounts Chirall on the wings of fame,
It is thus given in the old interlude (see the end of this play): "A horse! a horse! a fresh horse."
6 Five have I slain to-day, instead of him:] Shakspeare had employed this incident with historical propriety in The First Part of King Henry IV. STEEVENS.
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse'!
Alarums. Enter King RICHARD and RICHMOND ; and exeunt, fighting. Retreat and flourish. Then enter RICHMOND, STANLEY, bearing the Crown, with divers other Lords, and Forces.
RICHM. God, and your arms, be prais'd, victorious friends;
The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead.
STAN. Courageous Richmond, well hast thou acquit thee!
Lo, here, this long-usurped royalty,
From the dead temples of this bloody wretch
Shakspeare had good ground for this poetical exaggeration; Richard, according to Polydore Virgil, was determined, if possible, to engage with Richmond in single combat. [See p. 240, 1. 2.] For this purpose he rode furiously to that quarter of the field where the Earl was; attacked his stand-bearer, Sir William Brandon, and killed him; then assaulted Sir John Cheny, whom he overthrew having thus at length cleared his way to his antagonist, he engaged in single combat with him, and probably would have been victorious, but that at that instant Sir William Stanley with three thousand men joined Richmond's army, and the royal forces fled with great precipitation. Richard was soon afterwards overpowered by numbers, and fell, fighting bravely to the last moment. MALONE.
7 A horse! a horse !] Some enquiry hath been made for the first performers of the capital characters of Shakspeare.
We learn, that Burbage, the alter Roscius of Camden, was the original Richard, from a passage in the poems of Bishop Corbet; who introduced his host at Bosworth describing the battle:
"But when he would have said king Richard died,
"And call'd a horse, a horse, he Burbage cried." FARMER. 8 of THIS bloody wretch-] It is not necessary to suppose that Richmond points to the dead body of Richard, when he speaks of him. According to an ancient idiom in our language, the demonstrative pronoun is often used instead of the prepositive article. So, in King Henry IV. Part I. :
but for these vile
"He would himself have been a soldier." STEEVENS.
Wear it, enjoy it, and make much of it.
RICHM. Great God of heaven, say, amen, to all!— But, tell me, is young George Stanley living?
STAN. He is, my lord, and safe in Leicester town. Whither, if it please you, we may now withdraw us. RICHM. What men of name are slain on either side?
STAN. John duke of Norfolk, Walter lord Ferrers, Sir Robert Brakenbury, and sir William Brandon. RICHM. Inter their bodies as becomes their births. Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled,
That in submission will return to us;
And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament',
Divided, in their dire division 2.
9 But, tell me FIRST, &c.] The word-first was introduced by Sir Thomas Hanmer, to complete the verse. STEEVENS.
as we have ta'en the sacrament,] So, in Holinshed, p. 745: "The earle himselfe first tooke a corporall oth on his honor, promising that incontinent after he shuld be possessed of the crowne and dignitie of the realme of England, he would be conjoined in matrimonie with the ladie Elizabeth, daughter to king Edward the Fourth." STEEVENS.
2 All THIS divided York and Lancaster,
Divided, in their dire division.] I think the passage will be somewhat improved by a slight alteration:
"All that divided York and Lancaster,
Divided in their dire division,
"O now let Richmond and Elizabeth,
"The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God's fair ordinance conjoin together!"
Let them unite all that York and Lancaster divided. JOHNSON.