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Richard III Justice Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #10

This, this All-Souls' day to my fearful soul
Is the determin'd respite of my wrongs;
That high All-Seer which I dallied with
Hath turn'd my feigned prayer on my head
And given in earnest what I begg'd in jest.
Thus doth He force the swords of wicked men
To turn their own points in their masters' bosoms.
Thus Margaret's curse falls heavy on my neck.
'When he' quoth she 'shall split thy heart with sorrow,
Remember Margaret was a prophetess.'
Come lead me, officers, to the block of shame;
Wrong hath but wrong, and blame the due of blame. (5.1.3)

Buckingham is distinct from many of the others who have met their fate at Richard's desertion. Rather than curse Richard at his death, Buckingham owns up to the fact that he's been an awful guy, and that actually he pretty much deserves this fate. Buckingham sees that justice has been served, and while he's still angry at Richard, he accepts his own complicity in his fate.

Quote #11

O Thou, whose captain I account myself,
Look on my forces with a gracious eye;
Put in their hands Thy bruising irons of wrath,
That they may crush down with a heavy fall
The usurping helmets of our adversaries!
Make us Thy ministers of chastisement,
That we may praise Thee in the victory!
To Thee I do commend my watchful soul
Ere I let fall the windows of mine eyes.
Sleeping and waking, O, defend me still!  (5.5.2)

Richmond sees himself and his men as agents of God's justice, almost like God's army. He's careful to keep saying that the praise for any victory will belong to God, but there's something paradoxical in the anointing of oneself as God's messenger. Two things on this: it fits the paradigm of Richard in contrast to Richmond; if Richard is clearly an agent of the devil, then Richmond should be an agent of God. The second is the historical context of the play – in Shakespeare's time, God was seen as conferring legitimacy on royalty (though the Divine Right of Kings had yet to be codified). Since Shakespeare's patron, Elizabeth I, was a direct descendant of Richmond, it might be important for him to portray her line as rightfully carrying out God's work.

Quote #12

A base foul stone, made precious by the foil
Of England's chair, where he is falsely set;
One that hath ever been God's enemy.
Then if you fight against God's enemy,
God will in justice ward you as his soldiers;
If you do sweat to put a tyrant down,
You sleep in peace, the tyrant being slain;
If you do fight against your country's foes,
Your country's foes shall pay your pains the hire;
If you do fight in safeguard of your wives,
Your wives shall welcome home the conquerors;
If you do free your children from the sword,
Your children's children quits it in your age.
Then, in the name of God and all these rights,
Advance your standards, draw your willing swords. (5.5.5)

This is more than an absolutely beautiful and rousing speech from Richmond – it speaks to justice as something greater than an abstract concept. If Richmond's side should prevail, it's not just the royal line and God's will that will be honored. The men here are fighting for personal justice too – for their wives and children and their own honor as citizens. It kind of puts in perspective the fact that the men aren't just pawns of royal relations that have nothing to do with them – they're intimately invested in the outcome of putting down this tyrant.

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