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This tragedy, though it is called the life and death of this prince, comprizes, at most, but the last eight years of his time; for it opens with George duke of Clarence being clapped up in the Tower, which happened in the beginning of the year 1477; and closes with the death of Richard at Bosworth field, which battle was fought on the 22d of August, in the year 1485. THEOBALD.
It appears that several dramas on the present subject had been written before Shakspeare attempted it. This play was first entered at Stationers' Hall by Andrew Wise, Oct. 20, 1597, under the title of The Tragedie of King Richard the Third, with the Death of the Duke of Clarence. Before this, viz. Aug. 15th, 1586, was entered, A tragical Report of King Richard the Third, a Ballad. It may be necessary to remark that the words, song, ballad, enterlude and play, were often synonymously used. STEVENS.
This play was written, I imagine, in the year 1593. The Legend of King Richard III. by Francis Seagars, was printed in the first edition of The Mirrour for Magistrates, 1559, and in that of 1575, and 1587, but Shakspeare does not appear to be indebted to it. In a subsequent edition of that book printed in 1610, the old legend was omitted, and a new one inserted, by Richard Niccols, who has very freely copied the play before us. In 1597, when this tragedy was published, Niccols, as Mr. Warton has observed, was but thirteen years old. Hist. of Poetry, vol. III. p. 267.
The real length of time in this piece is fourteen years ; (not eight years, as Mr. Theobald supposed :) for the second scene commences with the funeral of king Henry VI. who, according to the received account, was murdered on the 21st of May, 1471. The imprisonment of Clarence, which is represented previously in the first scene, did not in fact take place till 1477-8.
It has been since observed to me by Mr. Elderton, (who is of opinion that Richard was charged with this murder by the Lancastrian historians without any foundation,) that “ it appears on the face of the publick accounts allowed in the exchequer for the maintenance of king Henry and his numerous attendants in the Tower, that he lived to the 12th of June, which was twenty-two days after the time assigned for his pretended assassination; was exposed to the publick view in St. Paul's for some days, and interred at Chertsey with much solemnity, and at no inconsiderable expence.” Malone,
King EDWARD the Fourth.
Sons to the King.
terwards King Richard III. A young Son of Clarence. Henry, Earl of Richmond, afterwards K. Henry VII. Cardinal BOURCHIER, Archbishop of Canterbury. THOMAS ROTHERHAM, Archbishop of York. John Mor
TON, Bishop of Ely. Duke of BUCKINGHAM. Duke of NORFOLK: Earl of SURREY, his Son. Earl Rivers, Brother to King Edward's Queen : Marquis of DORSET, and Lord GREY, her Sons. Earl of OXFORD. Lord Hastings. Lord STANLEY.
Lord LOVEL. Sir THOMAS Vaughan. Sir Richard RATCLIFF. Sir WILLIAM CATESBY. Sir JAMES TYRREL. Sir JAMES BLOUNT. Sir WALTER HERBERT. Sir ROBERT BRAKENBURY, Lieutenant of the Tower. CHRISTOPHER URSWICK, a Priest. Another Priest. Lord Mayor of London. Sheriff of Wiltshire. ELIZABETH, Queen of King Edward IV. MARGARET, Widow of King Henry VI. Duchess of York, Mother to King Edward IV. Clarence,
and Gloster. Lady Anne, Widow of Edward Prince of Wales, Son to
King Henry VI.; afterwards married to the Duke of
Gloster. A young Daughter of Clarence. Lords, and other Attendants; two Gentlemen, a Pursui
vant, Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Ghosts, Soldiers, 8c.
LIFE AND DEATH
KING RICHARD III,
SCENE I. - London. A Street.
I this sun of York ;] Alluding to the cognizance of Edward IV. which was a sun, in memory of the three suns, which are said to have appeared at the battle which he gained over the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross.
i- delightful measures.] A measure was, strictly speaking, a court dance of a stately turn, though the word is sometimes employed to express dances in general.
And now, - instead of mounting barbed steeds,
9 barbed steeds,] i. e, steeds caparisoned in a warlike manner. Barbed, however, may be no more than a corruption of barded. Equus bardatus, in the Latin of the middle ages, was a horse adorned with military trappings.
4 He capers – War capers. This is poetical, though a little harsh; if it be York that capers, the antecedent is at such a distance, that it is almost forgotten.
5 Cheated of feature by dissenibling nature,] By dissembling is not meant hypocritical nature, that pretends one thing, and does another: but nature that puts together things of a dissimilar kind, as a brave soul and a deformed body. Feature is used here, as in other pieces of the same age, for beauty in general.
6 And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,] Shakspeare very diligently inculcates, that the wickedness of Richard proceeded from his deformity, from the envy that rose at the comparison of his own person with others, and which incited him to disturb the pleasures that he could not partake, Johnson.