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Shakespeare’s Richard III
If a writer’s style is admired by enough people, it will be copied and might come to influence the standard variety of a language. This was the case with William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Not only have many of his phrases entered the English language, but the Oxford English Dictionary cites him as the first person on record to use some 1,800 words, around 800 of which survive.
This is the first edition of Richard III. The first line 'Now is the winter of our discontent' is familiar to many English speakers. Elsewhere in this history play, Shakespeare introduces us to the phrase a tower of strength, and the word hunchbacked appears for the first time.
William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Third, 1597.
Shakespeare, Richard III
Nor. A good direction warlike soveraigne, [he sheweth him a paper]
This found I on my tent this morning.
[?] of Norfolke be not so bould,
For [?] thy master be bought and sould.
King A thing devised by the enemie.
Go gentlemen every man unto his charge,
Let not our babling dreames affright our foules;
Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devisd at first to keepe the strong in awe,
Our strong armes be our conscience swords, our law.
March on, joine bravelie, let us to it pell mell,
If not to heaven then hand in hand to hell.
His Oration to his army.
What shal I saie more then I have inferd?
Remember whom you are to cope withall,
A sort of vagabonds, rascols and runawaies,
A scum of Brittains and base lacky pesants,
Whom their [?] country vomits forth,
To desperate adventures and assurd destruction,
You sleeping safe they bring to you unrest,
You having lands and blest with beauteous wifes,
They would restraine one, distaine the other,
And who doth lead them but a paltry fellow,?
Long kept in Brittaine at our mothers cost,
A milkesopt, one that never in his life
Felt so much colde as over shooes in snow:
Lets whip these stragglers ore the seas againe,
Lash hence these overweening rags of Frace,
These famisht beggers wearie of their lives,
Who but for dreaming on this fond exploit,
For want of means poore rats had hangd themselves,
If we be conquered, let men conquer us,
And not these bastard Brittains whom our fathers
Have in their own land beaten bobd and thumpt,
And in record left them the heires of shame.
Shall these enjoy our lands, lie with our wives?
Ravish our daughters, harke I heare their drum,
Fight gentlemen of England, fight bold yeomen,
Draw archers your arrowes to the head,
Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in bloud,
Amaze the welkin with your broken staves,
What saies lord Staneley, wil he bring his power?
[Maf.?] My lord, he doth deny to come.
King. Off with his sonne Georges head.
Nor. My lord, the enemie is past the marsh,
After the battaile let George Stanley die.
King A Thousand harts are great within my bosome,
Advance our standards, set upon our foes,
Our ancient word of courage, faire saint George
Inspire us with the spleene of fierie Dragons,
Upon them victorie sits on our helmes.
Alarum, excursions, Enter Catesby.
Cates. Rescew my lord of Norffolke, rescew, rescew,
The king enacts more wonders than a man,
Daring an opposite to everie danger,
His horse is slaine, and all on foot he fights,
Seeking for Richmond in the throat of death,
Rescew faire lord, or else the daie is lost.
King A horse, a horse, my kingdome for a horse.
Cates. Withdraw my lord, ile helpe you to a horse.
King Slave I have set my life upon a cast,
And I will stand the hazard of the die,
I thinke there be sixe Richmonds in the field,
Five have I slaine to daie in stead of him,
A horse, a horse, my kingdome for a horse.
Alarum, Enter Richard and Richmond, they fight, Richard is slain then retrait being founded. Enter Richmond, Darby, bearing the crowne, with other Lords, &c.
Ri. God and your armies be praisd victorious freends,
The daie is ours, the bloudie dog is dead.
Dar. Couragious Richmond, wel hast tho acquit thee,
Loe here this long usurped roialtie.
From the dead temples of this bloudie wretch,
Have I plukt off to grace thy browes withall,
Weare it, enjoy it, and make much of it.