Act One, Scene Four: I Wish my Brother George was Here (not)

In Act One, Scene Four of Richard the Third, we find ourselves in the first scene that doesn’t have our title character in it.  The locale is George Duke of Clarence’s cell in the Tower of London.

When his “keeper” asks him why he looks so “heavily” (I.iv.1) on this day, George recounts for him his dream from the night before, a set of dreams so terrible that he would not choose to see them again, even if “’twere to buy a world of happy days” (I.iv.6).  What could have been so bad?

The dream begins aboard ship, as George has “broken from the Tower // And was embarked to cross to Burgundy” (I.iv.9-10).  Accompanying him is Richard.  On the deck, Richard stumbles, then as he struggles to regain his balance, he strikes George and sends him overboard.  If drowning isn’t bad enough, he then sees the ghosts of Warwick and Prince Edward haunting him for his “perjury” and “stabb(ing)” crimes (I.iv.50 and 56).

With such a “heavy” (I.iv.74) soul, he asks the keeper stay by him as he sleeps.  After George dozes, the murderers arrive with their orders from the king.  Brakenbury and the keeper leave them to do their duty.  We get some comic interplay as they discuss killing George (they shouldn’t stab him in his sleep because he’ll say that it was “done cowardly” [I.iv.101] when he wakes in heaven).  They wait too long, and George wakes, and as Richard had predicted, George attempts to talk his way out of his sentence.

The second murderer is affected to the extent that he actually warns George against the first murderer’s attack; the second is actually repentant by scene’s end, but to no avail.  George dies at the end of the first act.

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