- “Ah, hark! the fatal followers do pursue, And I am faint and cannot fly their fury; And were I strong, I would not shun their fury. The sands are number'd that make up my life; Here must I stay, and here my life must end.” Act I scene 4, lines 22-26 These words are spoken by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, after his forces have been defeated at the Battle of Wakefield. York has been wounded and he knows he is about to be captured by the Lancastrians.
- “Down, down to hell, and say I sent thee hither!” Act 5, scene 6, line 67 Richard of Gloucester speaks these words as he stabs Henry VI, who is a prisoner in the Tower of London.
- “How couldst thou drain the life-blood of the child, To bid the father wipe his eyes withal, And yet be seen to bear a woman's face? Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible; Thou stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.“ Act 1, scene 4, lines 137-42 Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, speaks. He has been captured by the Lancastrian forces and he is being taunted by Queen Margaret, who has placed a paper crown on his head, mocking his desire to be king. In his turn, he unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse aimed at her. The reference to the dead child is to York’s son Rutland, who has been killed by Clifford. Margaret has given York a napkin soaked in Rutland’s blood to wipe any tears he may shed for his loss.
- “Would I were dead! if God's good will were so; For what is in this world but grief and woe? O God! methinks it were a happy life, To be no better than a homely swain; To sit upon a hill, as I do now.” Act 2, scene 5, lines 19-23 King Henry speaks. During the Battle of Towton, he has wandered off by himself, since even his own commanders find that he just gets in the way. He speaks at length about the cares of kingship and wishes he could lead a more simple life.&
- “Here burns my candle out; ay, here it dies, Which whiles it lasted gave King Henry light. O Lancaster! I fear thy overthrow More than my body's parting with my soul! My love and fear glued many friends to thee; And, now I fall, thy tough commixtures melt, Impairing Henry, strengthening mis-proud York. The common people swarm like summer flies; And whither fly the gnats but to the sun? And who shines now but Henry's enemies?” Act 2, scene 6, lines 1-10 Clifford has been mortally wounded in the Battle of Towton, and he fears that now he is gone, King Henry will be overthrown. The Duke of York is now in the ascendant, and the common people will always follows whoever is winning.
- “Why, love forswore me in my mother's womb; And, for I should not deal in her soft laws, She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe To shrink mine arm up like a wither'd shrub; To make an envious mountain on my back, Where sits deformity to mock my body; To shape my legs of an unequal size; To disproportion me in every part, Like to a chaos, or an unlicked bear-whelp That carries no impression like the dam. And am I then a man to be beloved? O, monstrous fault, to harbour such a thought! Then, since this earth affords no joy to me But to command, to check, to o'erbear such As are of better person than myself, I'll make my heaven to dream upon the crown, And, whiles I live, to account this world but hell Until my mis-shap'd trunk that bear this head Be round impaled with a glorious crown.” Act 3, scene 2, lines 153-171 Richard, Duke of Gloucester soliloquizes on his physical deformities and his unsuitability for love. Given these handicaps, he resolves only to seek power, to win the crown for himself.
- “Hasty marriage seldom proveth well.” Act 4, scene 1, line 18 Richard, Duke of Gloucester, expresses his views to his brother, Edward IV, after Edward has married Lady Grey even though he has not known her for long.
- “England is safe, if true within itself ” Act 4, scene 1, line 40 Lord Hastings expresses the view that England does not need an alliance with France to prosper. This is after the newly crowned Edward IV has alienated the king of France by entering a secret marriage even while Warwick was engaged in diplomatic efforts to arrange a marriage between Edward and the king of France’s sister-in-law.
- “What fates impose, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide.” Act 4, scene 3, lines 58-59 King Edward speaks. He has just been captured and deposed as king by Warwick, who restores Henry VI to the throne and sends Edward off to be guarded by the Archbishop of York.
- “O tiger's heart wrapp'd in a woman's hide! And thus I prophesy, that many a thousand, Which now mistrust no parcel of my fear, And many an old man's sigh and many a widow's, And many an orphan's water-standing eye, Men for their sons', wives for their husbands' fate, And orphans for their parents' timeless death, Shall rue the hour that ever thou wast born.” Act 5, scene 6, lines 37-43 The deposed King Henry, imprisoned in the Tower, speaks these words to Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Henry realizes that Gloucester has come to kill him. He is also a good judge of character, since Gloucester, the future Richard III, murders his way to the crown, as is shown in Shakespeare’s later play of that title,