IV. A clown in regal purple drest:

                                           Pope's Edition of Richard II



Passages Popeadmired; Pope's suspicion of the rhymes in the play; Shakespeare's use of rhyme; Richard's speech at Flint Castle; some critical responses; Gaunt's deathbed speech; the deposition scene.



In Pope's edition of Shakespeare, The Life and Death of Richard II follows The Life and Death of King John as the third of Shakespeare's English history plays.

            Pope's approbatory marks throughout the play distinguish it as one of the many which he thought contained some of Shakespeare's very best work. The speeches he marked appear below as a reminder of what the play's excellences appear to be to Pope. Two substantial speeches by Richard are given approbatory commas, the first being that he gives on the Welsh shore:


` Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,

` Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes

` Write sorrow in the bosom of the earth!

` Lets chuse executors, and talk of wills;

` And yet not so────for what can we bequeath,

` Save our deposed bodies to the ground?

` Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's,

` And nothing can we call our own, but death;

` And that small model of the barren earth

` Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.

` For heav'ns sake let us sit upon the ground,

` And tell sad stories of the death of Kings:

` How some have been depos'd, some slain in war:

` Some haunted by the ghosts they dispossess'd:

` Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd,

` All murther'd.────For within the hollow crown,

` That rounds the mortal temples of a King,

` Keeps Death his court, and there the Antick sits

` Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;

` Allowing him a breath, a little scene

` To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;

` Infusing him with self and vain conceit,

` As if this flesh, which walls about our life,

` Were brass impregnable: and humour'd thus,

` Comes at the last, and with a little pin

` Boars through his castle-walls, and farewel King!

` Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood

` With solemn rev'rence: throw away respect,

` Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,

` For you have but mistook me all this while:

` I live on bread like you, feel want like you,

` Taste grief, need friends, like you: subjected thus,

` How can you say to me I am a King?


In the final act, a portion of Richard's soliloquy in Pomfret castle is also distinguished by commas:


` I have been studying, how to compare

` This prison where I live, unto the world;

` And, for because the world is populous,

` And here is not a creature but my self,

` I cannot do it, yet I'll hammer on't.

` My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,

` My soul, the father; and these two beget

` A generation of still-breeding thoughts;

` And these same thoughts people this little world;

` In humour, like these people of the world,

` For no thought is contented. The better sort,

(As thoughts of things divine,) are intermixt

With scruples, and so set the word it self

Against the word; as thus; Come little ones; and then again,

It is as hard to come, as for a Camel

To thread the postern of a needle's eye.

Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot

Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails

May tear a passage through the flinty ribs

Of this hard world, my ragged prison-walls:

And for they cannot, die in their own pride.

Thoughts tending to content, flatter themselves,

` That they are not the first of fortune's slaves

` And shall not be the last. Like silly beggars,

` Who sitting in the stocks, refuge their shame

` That many have, and others must sit there;

` And in this thought, they find a kind of ease,

` Bearing their own misfortune on the back

` Of such as have before endur'd the like.

` Thus play I in one prison, many people,

` And none contented. Sometimes I am King,

` Then treason makes me with myself a beggar,

` And so I am. Then crushing penury

` Perswades me, I was better when a King;

` Then I am king'd again; and by and by,

` Think that I am unking'd by Bolingbroke,

` And streight am nothing────but what-e'er I am,

` Nor I, nor any man, but that man is,

` With nothing shall be pleas'd, 'till he be eas'd

` With being nothing ...


The description of Richard's and Bollingbroke's entry into London is also comma-ed:


  York. Then, as I said, the Duke, great Bolingbroke,

` Mounted upon a hot and fiery steed,

` Which his aspiring rider seem'd to know,

` With slow, but stately pace, kept on his course:

` While all tongues cry'd, God save thee, Bolingbroke.

` You would have thought the very windows spake,

` So many greedy looks of young and old

` Through casements darted their desiring eyes

` Upon his visage; and that all the walls

` With painted imag'ry had said at once,

` Jesu preserve thee, welcome Bolingbroke.

` Whilst he, from one side to the other turning,

` Bare-headed, lower than his proud steed's neck,

` Bespoke them thus; I thank you, country-men;

` And thus still doing, thus he past along.

  Dutch. Alas! poor Richard, where rides he the while?

  York. ` As in a theatre, the eyes of men,

` After a well-grac'd actor leaves the stage,

` Are idely bent on him that enters next,

` Thinking his prattle to be tedious:

` Even so, or with much more contempt, men's eyes

` Did scowle on Richard; no man cry'd, God save him;

` No joyful tongue gave him his welcome home;

` But dust was thrown upon his sacred head,

` Which with such gentle sorrow he shook off,

` His face still combating with tears and smiles,

` The badges of his grief and patience;

` That had not God, for some strong purpose, steel'd

` The hearts of men, they must perforce have melted,

` And barbarism it self have pitied him.


Several speeches from The Life and Death of Richard II are included in Pope's index of `the most considerable' speeches in Shakespeare. Among them are the Pomfret speech quoted above, categorised as `deliberative'. Richard's speech `to England on his arrival ... Act. 3 Scene. 2' in which he curses Bollingbroke is categorised as `execrative'[i]. His other speeches however all fall into the category of the `pathetic', indicating an aspect of Richard's presentation which Pope must have noted, and which is apparent from his selection of passages: for Pope, Richard was a king in whom we may find a striking representation of pathos.

            Pope had before him, in addition to the folio texts, a copy of two early quarto editions of the play.[ii] Their function in his edition is not very significant, and Pope's occasional additions of lines from the 1598 edition[iii], as well as his noting that the `deposition scene' (in Act 4 Scene 1) is omitted from the earliest editions, are not controversial. The relation between the printings of the texts apparently presented Pope with few difficulties, and led him to no unusual conclusions.

            One of the editorial problems which faced Pope was, however, considerably more troubling, and unique among the plays he edited. The nature of this problem can be seen in a note that occurs six pages into Pope's edition of the play:


I must make one remark in general on the Rhymes throughout this whole Play; they are so much inferior to the rest of the writing, that they appear to me of a different hand. What confirms this, is that the context does every where exactly (and frequently much better) connect, without the inserted Rhymes; except in a very few places; and just there too, the rhyming verses are of a much better taste than all the others, which rather strengthens my conjecture.


In An Essay on Criticism, Pope used the word `taste' as an attribute of the reader. It is a gift of heaven to those `born to judge'.


In Poets as true Genius is but rare,

True Taste as seldom is the Critick's Share. (11-12)


Here in his note on The Life and Death of Richard II, however, certain rhyming verses are of a much better taste than others. Taste here then is being used almost as the word `flavour' might be used as denoting a quality intrinsic to the matter under examination. The writer of these bad couplets may be displaying bad taste, but that is not the issue. The lines themselves `taste' bad. In practical terms, the assumption seems to be that the inferiority of the bad couplets is palpable──obvious even to those readers who have not been granted the gift of true poetic taste.

            If Pope marks a passage as being `of a different hand' and degrades it to the foot of the page he is suggesting that the passage displays an incompetence below that to which Shakespeare, even at his laxest moments, could have fallen──Shakespeare's command over the language could not have deserted him so completely. We may disagree with Pope, and this disagreement could take two forms. We might think Pope's estimation of the verse was correct (the verse does taste bad), but that his estimation of Shakespeare's powers is wrong (Shakespeare could, and did, write ineptly). Or we could disagree entirely: Pope's `taste' is not true──his palate is quirky, the verse is not `of a bad taste'──it is Shakespeare's and it is in some way apt.

            Although it may seem odd to bring any form of critical estimation into the business of editing, any editor who produces a text of Richard II and actively believes it to be the work of Shakespeare, is making, implicitly, some statement on their critical estimation of Shakespeare, even if they assume that, as professional editors, their decisions are objective. Bearing in mind the chaos surrounding early Shakespearean texts, it is implicit in any edition that the possibility that passages may have been interpolated must have been considered. If that possibility has not been considered then the edition cannot claim to be an edition of `Shakespeare'. On the other hand, editions which attempt to recreate a text which existed, or may have existed, are what they claim: records (or possible records) of texts (or possible texts)──even though they have the word `Shakespeare' as their title. It is important for any sympathetic understanding of Pope's work, that current thinking is seen shorn of its methodological pretensions. Modern premises about the textual authority of the quarto and folio texts of Richard II and Pope's statement on rhyme both rest ultimately on human judgement. As is the case for the other plays, scholarship can only augment slightly the bulk of supposition and guesswork which constitutes our `knowledge' of the provenance of Shakespearean texts.

            Pope's opening statement does not give him an easy editorial basis from which to embark. He suggests that rhymes throughout the play are frequently inserted, and where they are, he can discern them by their poor quality and interruption of the play. On the other hand, some other rhymes `in a very few places' do not suffer these problems, and are better and therefore genuine. The eventual criterion is fundamentally one of poetic judgement, and here the areas in which that poetic judgement will operate are defined: interpolations should be recognisable, not just by their unpleasant taste, but also by their ham-fisted disruption of context.

            Richard II in its currently accepted text has more lines of `rhetorical rhyme' than any other play attributed to Shakespeare.[iv] While this in itself need not indicate interpolation, it prompts the question──why are there so many rhymes in this play?


                                                             * * *


A moment which brings evidence to bear on this question is the scene (Act 3 Scene 6) where Richard surrenders himself to Bolingbroke at Flint Castle. This moment is recorded in the folios, and Pope's edition, in Parallel text 4.1.

            Pope's first excision (marked 1) removes two lines which gloss and extend the image preceding them. The syntax of the preceding passage allows for pathetic qualification within the broad sweep of the pentameter line and the long (11 line) sentence. Following the opening sequence of questions, Richard's speech uses a number of rhetorical devices to progress. The apparent climax of the comparisons comes with the line `And my large kingdom, for a little grave', and yet still Richard does not finish since the speech offers a pathetic qualification, `A little little grave, an obscure grave', and then the imaginative wit of


Or I'll be bury'd in the King's highway;

Some way of common trade, where subject's feet

May hourly trample on their soveraign's head.


Following his show of rhetorical strength, it is perhaps not difficult to see why Pope has excluded the lines in the passage marked 1:


For on my heart they tread now, whilst I live;

And buryed once, why not upon my head?


with their short-breathed logic, unnecessary gloss of what was already implicit in the preceding image, and needless tautology (`now, whilst I live', `And buryed once') which seem calculated to bolster the line into

ten syllables. Johnson, possibly prompted by consulting Pope's edition, observed of this transition, `Shakespeare is very apt to deviate from the pathetick to the ridiculous. Had the speech of Richard ended at this line [`May hourly trample ...'] it had exhibited the natural language of submissive misery, conforming its intention to the present fortune, and calmly ending its purposes in death.'[v] Pope, we may assume, thought as Johnson did here - and removed the `ridiculous' while retaining the `natural language', the `pathetick'.

            The folio version of Richard's next extended conceit (marked 2) is also truncated in Pope's edition. The folio text may have first aroused Pope's suspicion because of a strange sense of elongation at the beginning of extract 3:


As thus: to drop them still upon one place,

Till they have fretted us a payre of Graves,

Within the Earth: and there lay'd there lyes


The phrase appears to end on `Graves' since the syntax and the fully iambic pentameter coincide in a line typical of rhetorical closure (c.f. `May hourly trample on their soveraign's head', above) and comes to rest at the line's end. The wrong-footing effect of the qualifying clause `within the earth' could signal a legitimate poetic effect but here Pope may have found it difficult to see it as such since it cannot be said to provide more than the redundant, and the obvious, while unfortunately sounding awkward. The following words too may have seemed fumbling, with their loss of grip on tense: `and there lay'd there lyes', and over-generous repetition `digg'd their graves with weeping eyes'. Faced with so much apparent redundancy, the suspicion may have arisen that the lines were being filled out into ten syllables by a less than expert talent: the pun too, on `well' is delivered with less than even Shakespeare's habitual subtlety; it seems to rely on its own repetition to make the point, in an equivalent to the modern day `get it? get it?'


Would not this ill, doe well? Well, well I see


Richard must have said something funny to prompt the reaction from those around him (`you mock at me'). As well as being another rhyme; this is a potential interpolator's reflex, `I talke but idly, and you mock at mee.'

            Moderns of course recognise the puzzling nature of these lines, but the usual approach is to absorb their quirkiness into a conception of the `character' of Richard. Commenting on this passage Peter Ure, the Arden editor, states


It is a part of the drawing of his character ... that his expressiveness is sometimes shown to fall short of the effect he intends, or to induce self-disgust. In III.iii Aumerle is reduced to tears by the genuine pathos of the first half of Richard's speech.  ... But Richard goes too far in the rococo image which follows; tears turn to embarrassment. [vi]


At this point the question of taste is paramount. Before us we have three critics considering this incident: Pope, Johnson and Peter Ure. Remarkably, each critic is largely in agreement about the taste of the lines themselves: for Pope they are interpolations and presumably the rhyme is `of a bad taste'. For Johnson the suspect passage is `ridiculous', but presumably is a characteristic Shakespearean failing `He is not long soft and pathetick without some idle conceit, or contemptible equivocation'[vii]. And for Peter Ure the quibble is a source of `embarrassment', but is a component of Shakespeare's artistry──it is part of drawing Richard's character. So the `taste' in question is not that of the critic, but that of Shakespeare. Pope's contention is that Shakespeare's taste would not encompass these lines; Johnson and Ure (for opposite reasons) that it would.

            As evidence for considering the `embarrassing' lines' character-isation, Ure goes on to comment on the `too abundant fancy' of Richard's prison soliloquy at Pomfret Castle in Act 5 Scene 10. As we have seen, Pope too was also impressed by this speech, allocating a portion of it approbatory commas. But in the Pomfret speech, there is no question of `embarrassment'. Although there is an extended conceit, the pompous rhymes and mean versification seen at Flint Castle are wholly absent. Pope, who had noted in his preface Shakespeare's wish that the actors would `speak no more than was set down for them', evidently believed that Richard's surrender speech as it stands in the folios contains large quantities of interpolated material. As a leading part which could have been seen as containing self-conscious poetising, Richard might have presented a good opportunity to any verse-happy actor who wanted to spike the part with a display of fancy and wit, especially at important theatrical moments.

            An objection to the truth of Pope's opinion could be grounded in the fact that he was not given to punning── or `false wit'. It might be thought that Pope wrongly considered such word play too `low' for a King. However, anybody raising this objection would find contrary evidence in a scene later in the play. In Act 3 Scene 2 in a speech of Richard's describing Bolingbroke's progress through the kingdom, the 1623 Folio reads,


So when this Theefe, this Traytor Bullingbroke,

Who all this while hath revell'd in the Night,

Shall see us rising in our Throne, the East,

His Treasons will sit blushing in his face,

Not able to endure the sight of Day [...]


In the penultimate line, Pope emended `sit' to `set', thereby happily extending the scope of the image and adding to the comparisons between Bolingbroke and the sun which run throughout the play. Pope, however, might have argued that this running comparison was not an example of false wit, but of a metaphor which gave us back the image of our mind.

            Such a comparison, then, might have struck him as very different from the verbal games in extract 4 which he degraded:


In the base Court? base Court, where Kings grow base,

To come at Traytors Calls and doe them Grace.

In the base Court come down: down Court, down King,

For night-Owls shrike, where mounting Larks should sing.


As in the preceding example, it seems as if a pathetic comment gives way to something rather different. Again, a plausible (and suitable) image is expressed, ending in a composed pentameter which brings a natural and satisfying (as well as a syntactic) sense of closure:


Down, down I come, like glist'ring Phaeton,

Wanting the manage of unruly jades


And again this is followed by a switch into a poetic style which is characterised by apparent quibbling, repetition, rhyming, redundancy, irrelevance, and `the sure return of still expected rhymes'. While such a divide is as plain to our sight as it was to Pope's, modern editorial practice which accepts it again forces the critical estimation that Shakespeare is commenting on Richard's `character'. Such lines as the following `Sorrow of heart / Makes him speak fondly, like a frantick man' could be taken to support this view. Pope however seems to have imagined an actor seizing the opportunity to supplement Shakespeare's image (of Phaeton) with a handful of his own puns. In themselves the indications that Richard is speaking `like a frantick man' offer no evidence one way or the other.

Pope's and the folios' king are both `fond' but in degree and kind this fondness is different──as always the editorial decisions Pope made must have been based on a judicious examination of the lines in their context. If Peter Ure is right and it is Richard who `goes too far' (not the author), then the question poses itself──what purpose does the `embarrassment' serve? If the answer is `to discredit Richard' then surely this is a poor way to achieve this end in comparison to the treatment of plot (how much more effective is Richard's dismissive treatment of Gaunt on his death bed, for example). Another question that may have been in Pope's mind is──if these degraded lines are Shakespeare's, then why did he re-use the same effect three times - i.e., corrupting a good image with puns and faltering verse. Clearly he shows from the good images that his art is various enough to devise three intriguing images - that of the buried sovereign, that of the graves fretted by tears, and that of Phaeton. Could he not have blundered with as much variety too? Pope's estimation must have been that he could, since he knew (as we do) that Shakespeare could create the speech of madness with great effect - think of Lear, or Ophelia, or Hamlet. Another consideration is Pope's assertion that the interpolated `rhymes' are identifiable by their disruption of context. Richard's speech, then, should form a better whole with the foreign material (rhymes and non-rhymes) removed, than it does in the folios. Richard's opening speech runs in Pope's edition, as follows. To an ear unaccustomed to a folio-based text, is there reason to suspect missing material?


  K. Rich. What must the King do now? must he submit?

The King shall do it: must he be depos'd?

The King shall be contented: must he lose

The name of King? o'God's name let it go.

I'll give my jewels for a set of beads;

My gorgeous palace, for a hermitage;

My gay apparel, for an alms-man's gown;

My figur'd goblets, for a dish of wood;

My scepter, for a palmer's walking staff;

My subjects, for a pair of carved saints,

And my large kingdom, for a little grave,

A little little grave, an obscure grave.

Or I'll be bury'd in the King's highway;

Some way of common trade, where subject's feet

May hourly trample on their soveraign's head.

Aumerle, thou weep'st, my tender-hearted cousin,

We'll make foul weather with despised tears:

Our sighs, and they, shall lodge the summer corn,

And make a dearth in this revolting land.

Or shall we play the wantons with our woes,

And make some pretty match with shedding tears:

As thus, to drop them still upon one place,

'Till they have fretted us a pair of graves.

Most mighty Prince, my lord Northumberland,

What says King Bolingbroke? will his Majesty

Give Richard leave to live, 'till Richard die?

You make a leg, and Bolingbroke says ay.


Pope had discerned and quarried from the Folio, an incident in which the pathos is not undermined by `embarrassment'. In Pope's edition the cuts have crystallised another long set speech - one of the peculiar `public soliloquies' that Richard gives voice to. Here, Richard emerges as a more coherent figure since his `fond' speech is now of a quality comparable to that of his other longer speeches on the Welsh shore and at Pomfret Castle──still maintaining a fantastic wit and fancy, yet without his slipping into buffoonery, and without the author appearing to lose poetic control.


                                                             * * *


A counter-claim that Pope may have missed the point, and that Richard's `embarrassing' speech is intentionally so, can be tested in part by looking to other parts of the play. While it may be possible that Richard's odd concoction of puns, jests and stumbling verses was specially produced by Shakespeare to characterise him as `camp', embarrassing, incompetent or mad, such a possibility would have to be examined in the light of verse given to Richard, and other characters, elsewhere.

            Parallel text 4.2 shows an earlier scene in which Pope has also removed a large quantity of text. It is that pivotal scene which sees John of Gaunt on his death bed: Act 2 Scene 2. He confronts the King and Queen for the last time, and attempts to caution Richard over the imprudence of his kingship. In the folios Richard's question `how is't with aged Gaunt?' prompts a speech in couplets (marked 1) followed by a short exchange (marked 2) between Gaunt and the King. These Pope omitted from his edition, hastening the movement of the scene so that on their meeting, Gaunt's reprimand is the immediate focus of attention. A consideration that may have affected Pope's judgement even before the text is examined, is that presumably a sense of urgency suits the context. Since the earlier part of the scene has seen Gaunt's impassioned speech on the decaying state of England, it would seem `natural' for him to want to confront the king immediately───Gaunt is, after all, a man on the verge of death. That his earlier speech gives rise to the expectation that he will confront Richard at once can be seen in York's line at the beginning of the extract: `The King is come, deal mildly with his youth'. In the folios it is difficult to see whether Gaunt heeds or ignores this advice, since his reply to Richard's enquiry is an extended joke (extract 1). As was the case for the supposed interpolations in the scene discussed above, the speech is characterised by repetition, generous punning and redundancy: the speech adds nothing to the advance of the plot, and has a character which can be likened to that of a comic cadenza. Some memories of the preceding sceptred isle speech are presented and verbal jests are played off them:


For sleeping England long time have I watcht,

Watching breeds leannesse, leanness is all gaunt.


Although these lines do not rhyme, Pope's suspicions about the interpolations being `of a different hand' come to seem more plausible when this speech is compared to that of Richard in the scene described above. Two different characters in very different situations have suspiciously similar verse given them to apparently little purpose. As with the scene discussed above, any view of the work which retains these lines must provide some justification for their existence.

            Coleridge thought that Gaunt's speech represented


The passion that carries off its excess by play on words, as naturally and, therefore, as appropriately to the drama, as by gesticulations, looks, or tones. This belonging to human nature as human, independent of associations and habits from any particular rank of life or mode of employment. [...] The natural tendency of the mind immersed in one strong feeling to connect that feeling with every sight and object around it, especially when opposed and the word addressed to it [in] any way repugnant to the feeling.


But however accurate Coleridge's assessment of the human brain is[viii], the phenomenon he describes in which the mind will connect its strong feeling with `every sight and object around it', is not that which Gaunt displays where the word `gaunt' is the source and boundary of every comparison, without anything but superficial reference to the immediate context. The accuracy of the phenomenon observed (if indeed these lines show such a phenomenon) does not justify the existence of the passage, or offer any evidence of its authenticity. Pope, perhaps, thought it likely that if Shakespeare had wanted to give Gaunt a death-bed babble at this point, such a speech would be identifiable by a greater pertinence to the situation than the lines which he saw. In comparison Falstaff's (reported) death-bed speech is wandering, funny and touching simultaneously──could the same author really have wanted to show Gaunt near death with a `silly jingle of puns'?[ix]

            The next line offers an interpolator's reflex - `Can sicke men play so nicely with their names?' Pope's answer was no or, at least not in such a fashion in a play written by Shakespeare. The succeeding rhyming interchange between Richard and Gaunt again seeks to justify the existence of Gaunt's punning:


Since thou dost seek to kill my name in mee

I mock my name (great King) to flatter thee


This exchange rejoins what Pope considered Shakespeare's work with a triple repetition of the word `ill' at line endings. Rare in Shakespeare anyway, the existence of the word `ill' three times here may have given Pope further grounds for suspicion, especially since Gaunt instantly regains his composure, and the play its poetic quality.


                                                             * * *


The deposition scene (Act 4 scene 3) prompts an example of Pope's editing at its most incisive. The 1623 Folio and Pope's text appear in parallel text 4.3.

            Richard is characteristically rhetorical in his opening speech, but, in a similar way to the scenes examined above, Pope has identified and removed a portion at the end of the speech which he considered suspect (marked 1).


God save the King: will no man say, Amen?

Am I both Priest and Clarke? well then, Amen.

God save the King, although I be not hee:

And yet Amen, if Heaven doe think him mee.


As before, the question arises, what indications did Pope find that made him think the degraded lines interpolated? As in the preceding cases, there is a sense of two endings and an apparent weakening of poetic quality──both factors combining to produce an unfortunate bathos. The Alexandrine which ends the retained portion, with its significant internal rhyme, brings to an end the long period starting `Yet I well remember' and both logically and poetically concludes the comparison between Richard's subjects and Judas──a conclusion heavy with implication.

            Of the four lines Pope cut, it is easier to guess why the latter two should have been thought corrupt since they may have been seen to exhibit (as did some of the earlier suspect passages) redundancy, awkward syntax and a rhyme. The first two lines however are more difficult to fault. It is possible that the repetition of `Amen' and the sense of `re-opening' the speech prompted him to degrade, or possibly the weak phrase `well then'.

            The next significant cut is the one of nineteen lines marked 2. Faced with the physical situation presented in the first two lines of the speech, with two men holding a crown, the image becomes possible which this passage describes: the crown is a well, and each of the men a bucket. Doubts must instantly arise over whether anybody would find it anything other than ludicrous to compare a king to a bucket, (or indeed to use the word `bucket' at such a juncture at all). Such an image might be compared to the worst excesses of the metaphysical poets, since it is barren of meaning except that heaped on it by the strivings of fancy. Bolingbroke as a bucket is `dancing in the ayre' while Richard is `full of water' which is stretched into `full of teares'. He is `drinking his griefs' while Bolingbroke's bucket `mounts on high'. Within the compass of these nineteen lines, Richard makes a reply which in its triteness may have appeared to sit uncomfortably with the complexity of his attitude to abdication elsewhere:


  Bull. I thought you had been willing to resigne.

  Rich. My Crown I am, but still my Griefes are mine ...


and in a tortuous quibble the same reply is given as a pun:


  Bull. Are you contented to resigne the Crowne?

  Rich. I, no; no, I: for I must nothing bee:

Therefore no, no, for I resigne to thee ...[x]


This degradation by Pope offers one of the strongest examples of the suspect rhymes which Pope referred to in his note at the beginning of the play, especially his assertions about their interruption of context. Again it is striking how the suspect passage differs from those flanking it, especially in respect of Richard's own speech. As in the puns from earlier scenes, the same word is taken up and trooped in a tired parade of creeping phrases:


  Rich. Your Cares set up, do not pluck my Cares downe.

My Care, is losse of Care, by old Care done,

Your Care, is gaine of Care, by new Care wonne:

The Care I give, I have, though given away,

They 'tend the Crowne, yet still with me they stay:


Of this passage Johnson remarked (probably with tongue in cheek) `This is a comparison not easily accommodated to the subject, nor very naturally introduced. The best part is [the] line, in which he makes the usurper the empty bucket.'[xi] Even if Pope thought, like Johnson, that the comparison between Bollingbroke and an empty bucket had any redeeming aspect, it did not prevent him from degrading the whole of this passage.

            There have been attempts to account for the apparent impropriety of the image here. Wilson, in his edition, rejects Johnson's sentiment (and therefore Pope's decision) by justifying the lines as connected to the `well known' medieval french poem by Machaut, Remède de Fortune. He quotes Johnson's note and tells that he `knew nothing of Machaut'. Even assuming Shakespeare would have been familiar with this poem, such knowledge can have no bearing on the authenticity of the lines, and in no way can cancel out their feebleness. Similarly, T.S. Eliot has an idea that such versification in Richard II is an attempt on Shakespeare's part to mimic similar strategies in Seneca[xii]. But adducing a Senecan model does little more than adducing the influence of Machaut. An interpolating actor might have shared Shakespeare's taste for Roman tragedy, but not shared his imitative skill.

            Perhaps a more usual means of incorporating this passage into a conception of Richard II, is - as before - to see it as characterising Shakespeare's king. Again, there is little debate over the poetic quality of the verse before us, merely a difference of opinion between editors over Shakespeare's method. Pope believes the bucket image interpolated, Johnson believes it to be bad Shakespeare, and a modern (say Derek Traversi) sees it as a deliberate act of Shakespeare's art:


it is impossible not to feel that the comparison of the crown to a deep well in which two buckets alternately rise and fall is too shallow to carry the weight of feeling which the speaker desires to lay upon it. It is no accident that Richard's elaborate renunciation of rights already surrendered is set against his rival's plain insistence on the end in view. ... Pathetic and yet too self-conscious to be entirely tragic, sincere and yet engaged in acting his own sincerity, possessed of true feeling and elaborately artificial in expressing it, Richard is the distant predecessor of more than one hero of the mature tragedies, who suffer in acute self-consciousness and whose tragedy expresses itself in terms that clearly point to the presence of the weakness that has been, in part, its cause. The utterances of the deposed king turn, indeed, not merely on natural grief, but on a sense of vanity──nothingness──which the very artificiality of its expression confirms and, paradoxically, deepens.[xiii]


Traversi's assertion that Richard's artificiality of expression `deepens' his utterances is true, but Traversi fails to distinguish between Richard's artifice, and Richard's poetic incompetence, as exemplified by the `too shallow' bucket image. In this respect, his opinion is one which would not have been shared by Pope or Johnson. For Traversi Shakespeare's poor verse can somehow make him, paradoxically, a better artist, while for Johnson it represents Shakespeare at a bad moment, and for Pope it is too bad to be Shakespeare at all.

            After this degraded passage, another sort of repetition occurs a few lines later which provides the standard by which Pope judged the suspect material to be so much inferior:


Now, mark me how I will undo my self;

I give this heavy weight from off my head,

And this unwieldy scepter from my hand,

The pride of kingly sway from out my heart,

With mine own tears I wash away my balm,

With mine own hands I give away my crown,

With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,

With mine own breath release all dutious oaths:

All pomp and Majesty I do forswear:

My manors, rents, revenues, I forgo;

My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny:

God pardon all oaths that are broke to me,

God keep all vows unbroke are made to thee.


Pope no doubt recognised that this speech was highly `artificial', but is all the better for it. The same King who before could not seem to deploy a syntax that could maintain anything but the shortest phrase, here shows himself master of the long phrase (the whole extract is one rhetorical sweep). Within the slow majestic span of this one thought a completely different sensibility to that at work in the suspect passages is in evidence. There, the use of repetition was witty, playing with sounds:


My Care, is losse of Care, by old Care done


here it is more oratorical: anaphora carries the sense with sound:


With mine own tears I wash away my balm,

With mine own hands I give away my crown,

With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,

With mine own breath release all dutious oaths ...


There, the images are disembodied:


The Care I give, I have, though given away,

They 'tend the Crowne, yet still with me they stay


Here they are humanised, sensual:


With mine own tears I wash away my balm ...


Again, Johnson's comment on the degraded passage might act as a useful gloss on what Pope's reaction might have been. He writes, `Shakespeare often obscures his meaning by playing with sounds.'[xiv]

            At the end of this speech too, Pope has isolated and degraded some lines of verse which share these characteristics which are at odds with the bulk of what Richard says. The case here (passages 3 & 4) offers interesting material, since here retained rhymes abut degraded ones, giving us striking evidence to consider why Pope should have written that the genuine rhyming verses were `of a much better taste'. The qualitative difference between the retained and degraded lines, though apparent, is not so clear as in the previous examples from this play. The balance of the lines in the passage marked 3, is achieved by anaphora and balanced phrasing, in a similar way to that seen in Richard's speech earlier, and Shakespeare's rhymes work for their place by focusing the antithesis between Richard and Bollingbroke: (mee / thee; griev'd / atchiev'd). Balance is not absent in the degraded passage, for example in the movement of


God save King Henry, un-King'd Richard sayes


But a crucial difference can be seen in the effect of the rhymes: here they do not point the sense, but rhyme without effect beyond the sound:


God save King Henry, un-King'd Richard sayes,

And send him many yeeres of Sunne-shine days.


Perhaps the lines did not appear to of particularly `bad taste' in themselves. But if taken ironically, they added nothing to what had already been said, and if taken as sincere, clearly pushed Richard's generosity too far.

            Extract 5 illustrates another small cut by Pope; as earlier it is a quibble, and again it impedes the progression of the text on each side of it, requiring the actor playing Richard to switch into a direct address to Bollingbroke and then return to the public rhetorical mode characteristic of Richard. Its removal leaves as awkward a transition, however, with the line starting `And if my word'. Pope emends the `And' to `Ah' and cuts the quibbling line, offering what must have seemed to him a more satisfactory solution than retaining the text.

            Richard's call for a mirror in the subsequent lines gives rise to what has become one of the most famous incidents in the play as it is known today. However, the breaking of the mirror has only been included as a stage direction in Richard II since Theobald's edition──and in Pope's edition the text surrounding the point where the mirror's break now occurs, has been degraded. Pope degraded the passage marked 6, and added no stage direction concerning the mirror. Leaving aside the question of stage action, it appears that, as before, it is the poetic superiority of text which has prompted Pope to cut. Again, there is at the moment of transition into suspect text, a tedious quibble building, this time on the word face:


Is this the Face, which fac'd so many follyes,

That was at last out-fac'd by Bullingbrooke?

A brittle Glory shineth in the Face,

As brittle as the Glory, is the Face ...


Taken together, this text with the text immediately preceding it, forms a series of questions. Poetically, however, the point at which Pope's cut starts is a watershed, since the questions move from being serious, to being inconsequential puns. Pope's cut removes the text in which the smashing of the mirror today occurs, preventing this event from entering his edition of the play. The situation in extract 7 is therefore changed from that to which modern audiences are accustomed, since it marks a further perusal by Richard of his face in the mirror:


The shadow of my sorrow! ha, let's see,

'Tis very true, my grief lies all within ...


The `let's see' is difficult to account for if the mirror is broken, so maybe in addition to considering the poetic quality of the cut lines, Pope considered them an opportunity for a dramatic stage action which was at odds with the apparent meaning of the text[xv]. We cannot know.


                                                             * * *


Having seen three moments in the play where Pope's edition of the text differs from that which is generally accepted, is it possible today to get some impression of the consequences of Pope's editorial actions beyond their immediate context?

            In each of these incidents Richard emerges as a different figure as a direct result of Pope's cuts. The chief difference between Pope's account of Richard and that given by modern editors is that Pope's Richard may produce fanciful and `fond' imagery, but not the `embarrassment' pinpointed by the Arden editor.

            Retaining the passages which Pope has cut gives rise to serious implications for the reception of the play. Establishing a text in which Richard suffers from a kind of poetic schizophrenia creates such a glaring juxtaposition that a critic's mind may be dazzled to all else. The Richard who emerges over the course of Pope's edition is thoughtful, sympathetic, pious, fatally self-regarding and indulgent, but dignified: in the folio and modern texts he is this, but with the addition of becoming a poor metaphysical poet and theatrical clown. His bad rhymes, and suspect verse in general, are `so much inferior to the rest of the writing' states Pope `that they appear to me of a different hand'. Shakespeare's Richard, as presented by Pope, is still a man who studies conceit, a `poet king' capable of the acclaimed soliloquies in Pomfret Castle and on the Welsh coast, yet he is not the fool king, capable of fustian such as that which Pope excluded in the examples above.

            It is perhaps easiest to draw a picture of Pope's Shakespeare by dwelling on those moments where Pope saw him as excelling both himself and others. In The Life and Death of Richard II Shakespeare is a master of dramatic pathos and the language of dramatic pathos──the natural language of submissive misery. `Natural' in this case does not imply a type──an abstraction. On the contrary the creations of Pope's Shakespeare partake of the originality of natural creation. Where the characters of other dramatists resemble each other more than they do anything in life, the characters drawn by Pope's Shakespeare `are so much Nature her self, that 'tis a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her.'[xvi] So fine is the conception of character that each `is as much an Individual, as those in Life itself'. But the most striking attribute of Pope's Shakespeare is `the wonderful Preservation of' such finely drawn characters.

            At the same time the character of Shakespeare's interpolators is also becoming clear. They are in one sense quite talented, (capable of composing lines that are more or less iambic), are fond of rhymes, and have an irresistible fascination for the quibble. So great is this fascination that they indulged in the same word play whatever the character they were writing for, or whatever the demands of the dramatic moment.


                                                Notes for Chapter IV



[i]. Johnson defines to execrate as `to curse, to imprecate ill upon, to abominate'.

[ii]. One dated 1598, the other 1608, as recorded in the table at the end of vol. 6 of Pope's edition.

[iii]. E.g., in Act 4 Scene 1, the following speech of Aumerle's takes its last three lines from the Quarto text:


        Aum. And if I do not, may my hands rot off,

      And never brandish more revengeful steel

      Over the glittering helmet of my foe.

      Who sets me else? by heav'n, I'll throw at all.

      I have a thousand spirits in my breast,

      To answer twenty thousand such as you.

[iv]. `Rhetorical rhyme' is counted as rhyme preceding a change of speaker, a change of scene, or a stage direction. [Source for all these figures: Shakespeare Use of Rhyme (op. cit.)]

[v]. Johnson's edition p. 66

[vi]. Arden edition, p. lxx.

[vii]. Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare (op. cit.) p. 18.

[viii]. That human beings experiencing certain kinds of trauma or incapacity can exhibit compulsive punning is shown by the following reports given by Koestler (The Act of Creation, p. 317-319):


The phenomenon to be described is known as `Förster's syndrome'. It was first observed by Förster in 1929, when he was operating on a patient suffering from a tumour in the third ventricle - a small cavity deep down in the phylogenetically ancient regions of the mid-brain, adjacent to structures intimately concerned with the arousal of emotions. When the surgeon began to manipulate the tumour, affecting those sensitive structures, the (conscious) patient burst into a manic flight of speech, `quoting passages in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He exhibited typical sound associations, and with every word of the operator broke into a flight of ideas. Thus, on hearing the operator ask for a Tupfer [tampon] he burst into `Tupfer ... Tupfer, Hupfer, Hüpfer, hüpfen Sie mal ...' On hearing the word Messer, he burst into `Messer, messer, Metzer, Sie sind ein Metzel, da ist ja ein Gemetzel, metzeln Sie doch nicht so messen Sie doch Sie messen ja nicht Herr Professor, profiteor, professus sum, profiteri.'


... Förster's patient opened up a curious insight into the processes in the poet's brain - in an unexpectedly literal sense of the word. The first flight of ideas, Tupfer, Hupfer, etc. - `tampon, jumper, go and jump in the air' -has a gruesome kind of humour coming from a man tied face down to the operating table with his skull open. The second flight, translated, runs as follows: Messer, Metzer, etc. - `Knife, butcher, you are a butcher in a butchery; truly this is a massacre [Gemetzel]; don't go on butchering [mettzeln], take measurements [messen]; why don't you measure, Herr Professor, profiteor professus sum,' and so on.


... Less dramatic than Förster's syndrome but equally convincing were experiments by Luria and Vinagradova, which demonstrated that subjects who normally associated words by their meaning regressed to association by sound when they were made drowsy by chloral hydrate (Br. J. of Psychol, May, 1959).

[ix]. Iriving, vol 2, p. 463

[x]. The Arden edition prints this, still with imperfect sense, as


      Ay, no; no, ay; for I must nothing be.

      Therefore no "no", for I resign to thee.


The problem is that the initial `Ay, no' reduces to `no' when it should reduce to `yes' for the passage to make any sense.

[xi]. and Johnson cites the lines in his dictionary for his definition of `bucket'.

[xii]. `Seneca in Elizabethan Translation' Collected in Selected Essays (op. cit.).

[xiii]. Shakespeare: from Richard II to Henry V, p. 40.

[xiv]. Johnson's edition (op. cit.) , p. 79.

[xv]. Even in modern texts which chose to retain the lines Pope cut, there is no reason why the mirror should be broken since the mirror and face have become so involved through imagery that `there it is, crackt in an hundred shivers' could be Richard's account of his own face's appearance. This would also allow the subsequent `let's see' (start of extract 7) to be accounted for.

[xvi]. See Pope's Preface.