My Kingdom for a Horse


This famous phrase has originally occurred in Act-V, Scene-IV of William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III. Here King Richard III yells out loudly this famous phrase, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” In the middle of a battle, his horse is killed, while the king wanders to find it in the battlefield for hours, killing everything coming into his way with fatalistic rage.


The phrase is repeated ironically, when someone needs some insignificant item. Shakespeare shows that the value and importance of things may change suddenly and simple and unimportant things, like a horse in the battle, could become important than a whole kingdom. The sense in this line is ironic, as someone wants something insignificant to complete an important task. The king here means that if he does not find his horse, he may lose his kingdom, because in that case he would be either killed or face defeat.


Although this phrase was set in different age, several famous quotes like this coined by Shakespeare are relevant to this day as well. Thus, we see many people continue to quote this phrase today to relate it to their lives when their life or business is compromised with several trivial issues. Its usage is common in politics, business community and especially in everyday life, as sometimes the presence or absence of trivial and little things in life or in the work could make a real difference. A small shopkeeper, if he finds his motorbike or small vehicle not working, could state, “My business for a bike.” Therefore, this phrase is liable to be modified to suit the occasion.

Literary Source

William Shakespeare has used this phrase in Act-V, Scene-IV of his play, Richard III uttered by King Richard, Duke of Gloucester;

King Richard:
A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!

Withdraw, my lord; I’ll help you to a horse.

King Richard:

Slave! I have set my life upon a cast,
And I will stand the hazard of the die.

I think there be six Richmonds in the field;

Dive have I Slain today instead of him.

A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!

(Act-V, Scene-IV, Lines 7-13)

In this scene, Richard goes to the battleground in a crazy and desperate mood. Mad with bloodlust, King says he has killed five Richmonds and one is left. But after losing his horse, he is desperate, because he fear losing in the battle.

Literary Analysis

Arrogant and pathetic, hunchbacked villainous king, Richard III, is going to meet his fate at the hands of future king, Henry VII. King’s most memorable line actually sounds halfway valiant, as he refuses to leave the battle, though his horse bites the dust. However, this line has become a stuff of irrelevant quotation to some Shakespeare’s contemporaries, including satirists and playwrights. Cad John Marston has parodied King’s outcry as “A boat, a boat, a boat, a full hundred marks for a boat!”

Literary Devices

  • Hyperbole: This phrase is hyperbolic, because no horse can cause loss of a kingdom.
  • Dramatic Irony: The phrase is used ironically that horse is more important than entire kingdom.
  • Tone: The tone is that of dejection and disappointment.

1 comment for “My Kingdom for a Horse

  1. Matthew
    March 7, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    “Dive have I Slain today instead of him.”

    I’m pretty sure that ‘dive’ ought to be ‘five’

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