"False, Fleeting, Perjured Clarence"

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Last Updated on August 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 305

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Context: King Edward the Fourth has sent his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, to the Tower of London, where he will be murdered. Responsible for Clarence's imprisonment is Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the brother of the king and the imprisoned duke. Richard, later to be King Richard the Third, is plotting to remove all obstacles on his path to the throne, and he has persuaded the king that a man whose name begins with "G" will murder the king's sons. Suspicion has fallen, as Richard expected it to fall, on George, the Duke of Clarence, who earlier turned on the Earl of Warwick, his father-in-law, to help King Edward to the English throne. While in prison in the Tower of London, the Duke of Clarence has a terrible dream, in which he sees himself shoved overboard from a ship to his death by his brother Richard. In the dream he sees himself arriving in Hell, having passed over the River Styx in Charon's boat. He dreams he meets the Earl of Warwick, who curses him, and then the ghost of Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth, whom Clarence killed after the Battle of Tewksbury. Prince Edward's ghost also cries out for revenge in Hell. Clarence relates the dream to his keeper at the Tower of London.

. . . Then came wandring by,
A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
Dabbled in blood; and he shrieked out aloud,
Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjur'd Clarence,
That stabbed me in the field by Tewksbury:
Seize on him, Furies, take him unto torment!
With that, methought, a legion of foul fiends
Environed me, and howled in mine ears
Such hideous cries, that with the very noise
I trembling waked, and for a season after,
Could not believe but that I was in hell,
Such terrible impression made my dream.


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