Excerpt from Richard II

By William Shakespeare

(Nominated by Anjna Chouhan)

All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
Teach thy necessity to reason thus;
There is no virtue like necessity.
Think not the king did banish thee,
But thou the king. Woe doth the heavier sit,
Where it perceives it is but faintly borne.
Go, say I sent thee forth to purchase honour
And not the king exiled thee; or suppose
Devouring pestilence hangs in our air
And thou art flying to a fresher clime:
Look, what thy soul holds dear, imagine it
To lie that way thou go’st, not whence thou comest:
Suppose the singing birds musicians,
The grass whereon thou tread’st the presence strew’d,
The flowers fair ladies, and thy steps no more
Than a delightful measure or a dance;
For gnarling sorrow hath less power to bite
The man that mocks at it and sets it light.

(Richard II, Act 1, Scene 3).

When speaking to his newly banished son, Henry Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt explains that exceptional circumstances call for a swift attitudinal adjustment; and much as populations remove themselves from the ‘devouring pestilence’, so too must adversity lead to innovation and virtue, often through the power of positive thinking. As much as sorrow can be agonisingly gnarling, it is also powerfully transformative, if only we’d choose to make it so.  

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Lucy Heuschen
3 years ago

Thank you for nominating this wonderful excerpt! It’s a great reminder to tread lightly and be kind to ourselves as we try to adapt to difficult circumstances.

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