Shakespeare Quotes

A tower of strength

King Richard:
Up with my tent! Here will I lie tonight—
But where to-morrow? Well, all's one for that.
Who hath descried the number of the traitors?

Norfolk:
Six or seven thousand is their utmost power.

King Richard:
Why, our battalia trebles that account!
Besides, the King's name is a tower of strength,
Which they upon the adverse faction want.

Richard The Third Act 5, scene 3, 7–14

As the villainous King Richard 111 prepares to battle the forces of the virtuous Earl of Richmond (later Henry VII), he pitches his tent on Bosworth Field and banishes thoughts of possible defeat. His confidence, however, is shaken, despite the superiority of his forces—thrice as many as Henry's. At least, he assures himself, he has "the King's name," which ought to wield force no matter how brutal and corrupt the king. "The King's name is a tower of strength"—strong, tall, unassailable.

Richard's assertion perhaps derives from Proverbs 18:10—"The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." King Solomon's image makes more sense than King Richard's; it is easy to imagine the strength of a tower, but difficult to imagine a tower of strength. Richard could mean either "a strong tower" or "a tower built of strength," but in adopting the phrase we really lean toward the latter. We make the quality of a thing (the strength of a tower) into a freestanding material, as if it were like concrete.

Speakers: King Richard, Norfolk