"The Hollow Crown"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: King Richard returns to England from the Irish wars to find that Bolingbroke, his exiled cousin, has returned to England to claim his inheritance seized by Richard on the death of his uncle, John of Gaunt, father of the exiled Bolingbroke, and that the companions of Richard charged with the responsibility of Bristol castle have been executed. The downcast king suggests to his companions that they sit down and talk of the deaths of kings:


RICHARD
. . . For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
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 feared, and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable; and humoured thus,
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
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,
Taste grief, need friends; subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a King?