Quote of the Fortnight: Shakespeare’s “Richard II”

Richard II ends the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. “Death of Wat Tyler Froissart” by Unknown – Jean Froissart’s Chronicles (Bib. Nat. Fr. 2644, fol. 159v), 15th century manuscriptOriginal online source of uploaded image http://www.english.upenn.edu/~jhsy/pr.html (dead link)Archived version of this page http://web.archive.org/web/20061025081917/http://www.english.upenn.edu/~jhsy/pr.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Death_of_Wat_Tyler_Froissart.jpg#/media/File:Death_of_Wat_Tyler_Froissart.jpg

After a brief break, the Quote of the Fortnight is back! This week’s quote is a speech from William Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” the first play in the so-called “Henriad,” the series of plays concerning Henry IV and his son, Henry V, two of the greatest English kings. Concerning the weak and corrupt rule of Richard II, this play follows his fall from power at the hands of his cousin the Duke of Lancaster, Henry Bolingbroke, who becomes King Henry IV. In this scene, John of Gaunt, Bolingbroke’s father,  is dying, and hopes that his status of dying may make Richard II finally listen to his advice. His words are one of Shakespeare’s great speeches. Enjoy!

John of Gaunt:

“O, but they say the tongues of dying men

enforce attention like deep harmony.

Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,

For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.

He that no more must say is listened more

Than they whom youth and ease have taught to gloze.

More are men’s ends marked than their lives before.

The setting sun, and music at the close,

As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,

Writ in remembrance more than things long past.

Though Richard my life’s counsel would not hear,

My death’s sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.”


1 Comment

  1. I find it sad how Richard has been portrayed in history – it’s all silly, fake tudor propaganda. Nice blog!:)


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