From Richard II, Act 3 Scene 2, by William Shakespeare

Annotations by Ian McKellen, handwritten in a copy of the 1961 Arden paperback which he used during his tour.

Click here to see a scan of the actual pages

Underlines indicate handwritten underlining in the text. [Bracketed] items are notes inserted by the webmaster. The numbers in the text below refer to three notes written at the end of the speech:

1. hate Death for its power & deception.

2. despises himself for being deceived & proud

3. irony: but somewhere is regret [The number 3 is written twice but the note refers only to the second 3.]


Sorrow Rich.  No matter where—of comfort no man speak:  
luxuriant 1 Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs; 145
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes  
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth;  
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills.  
2 And yet not so—for what can we bequeath  
Save our deposed / bodies to the ground? 150
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke’s,  
And nothing can we call our own but death;   3 WOW.  
And that small model of the barren earth  cf the earth of his speech 3.[1.]24  
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.  
For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground 155
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:  
more & more
clearer, clearer
up to the poetic truthful statement: the 1st of
his life.
How some have been depos’d, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,  
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping kill’d,  
All murthered—for within the hollow crown 160
as life is transitory
so kingship is not

total absolute
the king is a subject of death

That rounds the mortal temples of a king

feel the worms  Keeps Death his court, and there the antic 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; 165
hate death Infusing him with self / and vain conceit smile.  
'wasn't I silly' 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  
Bores thorough his castle wall, and farewell king! 3  170
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood  
With solemn reverence; throw away respect,  
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty;  
For you have but mistook me all this while.  
I live with bread like you, feel want,  175
Taste grief, need friends—subjected thus, down extreme right  
How can you say to me, I am a king?  


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