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KING RICHARD III.
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.
2 -Warwick's youngest daughter:] This speech corrects an inadvertence of Shakspeare, at the close of the third act of Henry VI. Part 3, for there Warwick is made to say, that he will join his eldest daughter to Edward prince of Wales.
Open their congeal'd mouths, and bleed afresh!] It is a tradition very generally received, that the murdered body bleeds on the touch of the murderer. This was so much believed by sir Kenelm Digby, that he has endeavoured to explain the reason. JOHNSON.
4 Imagine I have said farewell already.] Cibber, who altered K. Rich. III. for the stage, was so thoroughly convinced of the ridiculousness and improbability of this scene, that he thought himself obliged to make Tressel say,
When future chronicles shall speak of this,
and, no doubt, right royal,] Of the degree of royalty belonging to Henry the sixth there could be no doubt, nor could Richard have mentioned it with any such hesitation; he could not indeed very properly allow him royalty. I believe we should read, —and, no doubt, right loyal.
That is, true to her bed. He enumerates the reasons for which she should love him. He was young, wise, and valiant; these were apparent and indisputable excellencies. He then mentions another not less likely to endear him to his wife, but which he had less opportunity of knowing with certainty, and, no doubt, right loyal.
Richard means only full of all the noble properties of a king. No doubt, right royal, may, however, be ironically spoken, alluding to the incontinence of Margaret.
6 Hear me, you wrangling pirates, &c.] This scene of Margaret's imprecations is fine and artful. She prepares the audience, like another Cassandra, for the following tragic revolutions.
7 that bottled spider,] A spider is called bottled, because, like other insects, he has a middle slender and a belly protuberant. Richard's form and venom, made her liken him to a spider. JOHNSON.
8 Peace, master Marquis, you are malapert, &c.] Shakspeare may either allude to the late creation of the marquis of Dorset, or to the institution of the title
of marquis here in England, as a special dignity, which was no older than Richard II. Robert Vere, earl of Oxford, was the first, who, as a distinct dignity, received the title of marquis, 1st December, anno nono Richardi secundi. See Ashmole's History of the Order of the Garter, p. 456.
9-frank'd up to fatting-] A frank is an old English word for a hog-sty. 'Tis possible he uses this metaphor to Clarence, in allusion to the crest of the family of York, which was a boar. Whereto relate those famous old verses on Richard III.
The cat, the rat, and Lovel the dog,
Rule all England under a hog.
The same metaphor occurs in the last scene of act iv. 10 lawful quest—] Quest is jury or inquest.
11 Have I a tongue to doom my brother's death?] This lamentation is very tender and pathetick. The recollection of the good qualities of the dead is very natural, and no less naturally does the king endeavour to communicate the crime to others.
12 Forthwith from Ludlow the young prince be fetch'd] Edward the young prince, in his father's lifetime, and at his demise, kept his household at Ludlow, as prince of Wales; under the governance of Antony Woodville, earl of Rivers, his uncle by the mother's side. The intention of his being sent thither was to see justice done in the Marches; and by the authority of his presence, to restrain the Welshmen, who were wild, dissolute, and ill-disposed, from their accustomed murders and outrages. Vid. Hall, Holinshed, &c.
-to your chamber.] Camera regia, from its
being the city of royal residence.
14 Thus, like the formal vice, Iniquity,
I moralize two meanings in one word.] By vice, the author means not a quality, but a person. There was hardly an old play, till the period of the Reformation, which had not in it a devil, and a droll character, a jester; (who was to play upon the devil;) and this buffoon went by the name of a Vice. This buffoon was at first accoutred with a long jerkin, a cap with a pair of ass's ears, and a wooden dagger, with which (like another Harlequin) he was to make sport in belabouring the devil. This was the constant entertainment in the times of popery, whilst spirits, and witchcraft, and exorcising held their own. When the Reformation took place, the stage shook off some grossities, and encreased in refinements. The masterdevil then was soon dismissed from the scene; and this buffoon was changed into a subordinate fiend, whose business was to range on earth, and seduce poor mortals into that personated vicious quality, which he occasionally supported; as, iniquity in general, hypocrisy, usury, vanity, prodigality, gluttony, &c. Now, as the fiend (or vice), who personated Iniquity (or Hypocrisy, for instance) could never hope to play his game to the purpose but by hiding his cloven foot, and assuming a semblance quite different from his real character; he must certainly put on a formal demeanour, moralize and prevaricate in his words, and pretend a meaning directly opposite to his genuine and primitive intention. If this does not
explain the passage in question, 'tis all that I can at present suggest upon it.
Dr. Warburton and Mr. Upton have also written long notes to illustrate the character of vice; but they do not give a more satisfactory account of that personage, than what is contained in the above remarks of Theobald. Dr. Johnson is, I believe, right in attributing to him something of the character of our modern Punch.
"I have nothing to add to the observations of these learned critics, but that some traces of this antiquated exhibition are still retained in the rustic puppetplays, in which I have seen the Devil very lustily belaboured by Punch, whom I hold to be the legitimate successor of the old Vice."
15 Because that I am little, like an ape,] The reproach seems to consist in this: at country shews it was common to set the monkey on the back of some other animal, as a bear. The duke, therefore, in calling himself ape, calls his uncle bear.
16 -come upon your cue-] This expression is borrowed from the theatre. The cue, queue, or tail of a speech, consists of the last words, which are the token for an entrance or answer. To come on the cue, therefore, is to come at the proper time.
17 Three times to-day my foot-cloth horse did stumble, &c.] So in the Legend of Lord Hastings by M. D. My palfrey, in the plainest paved street,
Thrice bowed his bones, thrice kneeled on the floor, Thrice shunn'd (as Balaam's ass) the dreaded Tow'r.