The Troublesome Reign of King John
|The Queen's Men|
Enter KING JOHN, QUEEN ELEANOR his mother, William Marshal Earl of PEMBROKE, the earls of ESSEX and of SALISBURY.
Barons of England, and my noble lords:
Though God and fortune have bereft from us
Victorious Richard, scourge of infidels,
And clad this land in stole of dismal hue,
Yet give me leave to joy, and joy you all,
That from this womb hath sprung a second hope,
A king that may in rule and virtue both
Succeed his brother in his empery.
My gracious mother queen, and barons all:
Though far unworthy of so high a place,
As is the throne of mighty England’s king,
Yet John your lord, contented uncontent,
Will (as he may) sustain the heavy yoke
Of pressing cares that hang upon a crown.
My Lord of Pembroke, and Lord Salisbury,
Admit the Lord Chatillon to our presence,
That we may know what Philip king of France
(By his ambassadors) requires of us.
Dare lay my hand that Eleanor can guess
Whereto this weighty embassade doth tend:
If of my nephew, Arthur, and his claim,
Then say my son I have not missed my aim.
Enter CHATILLON and the two earls[, PEMBROKE and SALISBURY].
My lord Chatillon, welcome into England!
How fares our brother Philip king of France?
His Highness at my coming was in health,
And willed me to salute your majesty,
And say the message he hath given in charge.
And spare not, man, we are prepared to hear.
Philip, by grace of God most Christian king of France, having taken into his guardain and protection Arthur, duke of Brittany, son and heir to Jeffrey thine elder brother, requireth in the behalf of the said Arthur, the kingdom of England, with the lordship of Ireland, Poitiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine; and I attend thine answer.
A small request—belike he makes account
That England, Ireland, Poitiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
Are nothing for a king to give at once!
I wonder what he means to leave for me.
Tell Philip, he may keep his lords at home
With greater honor than to send them thus
On embassades that not concern himself,
Or if they did, would yield but small return.
Is this thine answer?
It is, and too good an answer for so proud a message.
Then, King of England, in my master’s name,
And in Prince Arthur Duke of Brittany’s name,
I do defy thee as an enemy,
And wish thee to prepare for bloody wars.
My lord—that stands upon defiance thus—
Commend me to my nephew; tell the boy,
that I, Queen Eleanor, his grandmother,
Upon my blessing charge him leave his arms,
Whereto his headstrong mother pricks him so.
Her pride we know, and know her for a dame
That will not stick to bring him to his end,
So she may bring herself to rule a realm.
Next wish him to forsake the king of France,
And come to me and to his uncle here,
And he shall want for nothing at our hands.
This shall I do, and thus I take my leave.
Pembroke, convey him safely to the sea,
But not in haste; for as we are advised,
We mean to be in France as soon as he,
To fortify such towns as we possess
In Anjou, Touraine, and in Normandy.
Enter the SHRIEVE, and whispers the Earl of SALISBURY in the ear.
Please it your Majesty, here is the shrieve of Northamptonshire, with certain persons that of late committed a riot, and have appealed to your Majesty beseeching your Highness for special cause to hear them.
Will them come near, and while we hear the cause,
Go, Salisbury, and make provision;
We mean with speed to pass the sea to France.
Say shrieve, what are these men? what have they done?
or whereto tends the course of this appeal?
Please it your Majesty, these two brethren unnaturally falling at odds about their father’s living have broken your highness’ peace, in seeking to right their own wrongs without cause of law, or order of justice, and unlawfully assembled themselves in mutinous manner, having committed a riot, appealing from trial in their country to your highness: and here I, Thomas Nidigate, shrieve of Northamptonshire, do deliver them over to their trial.
My Lord of Essex, will the offenders to stand forth, and tell the cause of their quarrel.
Gentlemen, it is the king’s pleasure that you discover your griefs, and doubt not but you shall have justice.
Please it your majesty, the wrong is mine; yet will I abide all wrongs, before I once open my mouth to unrip the shameful slander of my parents, the dishonor of myself, and the wicked dealing of my brother in this princely assembly.
Then by my prince his leave shall Robert speak,
And tell your majesty what right I have
To offer wrong, as he accounteth wrong.
My father—not unknown unto your grace—
Received his spurs of knighthood in the field
At kingly Richard’s hands in Palestine,
Whenas the walls of Acon gave him way:
His name, Sir Robert Falconbridge of Mountberry.
What by succession from his ancestors,
And warlike service under England’s arms,
His living did amount to at his death
Two thousand marks revenue every year;
And this, my lord, I challenge for my right,
As lawful heir to Robert Falconbridge.
If first-born son be heir indubitate
By certain right of England’s ancient law,
How should myself make any other doubt,
But I am heir to Robert Falconbridge?
Fond youth, to trouble these our princely ears
Or make a question in so plain a case:
Speak, is this man thine elder brother born?
Please it your grace with patience for to hear;
I not deny but he mine elder is,
Mine elder brother too; yet in such sort,
As he can make no title to the land.
A doubtful tale as ever I did hear,
Thy brother and thine elder, and no heir.
Explain this dark enigma.
I grant, my lord, he is my mother’s son,
Base born, and base begot, no Falconbridge.
Indeed the world reputes him lawful heir;
My father in his life did count him so;
And here my mother stands to prove him so.
But I, my lord, can prove, and do aver
Both to my mother’s shame and his reproach,
He is no heir, nor yet legitimate.
Then, gracious lord, let Falconbridge enjoy
The living that belongs to Falconbridge,
And let not him possess another’s right.
Prove this, the land is thine by England’s law.
Ungracious youth, to rip thy mother’s shame,
The womb from whence thou didst thy being take.
All honest ears abhor thy wickedness,
But gold I see doth beat down nature’s law.
My gracious lord, and you, thrice reverend dame,
That see the tears distilling from mine eyes,
And scalding sighs blown from a rented heart,
For honor and regard of womanhood,
Let me entreat to be commanded hence.
Let not these ears receive the hissing sound
Of such a viper, who with poisoned words
Doth macerate the bowels of my soul.
Lady, stand up, be patient for awhile;
And fellow, say, whose bastard is thy brother?
Not for myself, nor for my mother now,
But for the honor of so brave a man,
Whom he accuseth with adultery,
Here I beseech your grace upon my knees,
To count him mad, and so dismiss us hence.
Nor mad, nor mazed, but well advised, I
Charge thee before this royal presence here
To be a bastard to King Richard’s self,
Son to your grace, and brother to your Majesty.
Thus bluntly, and—
Young man, thou need’st not be ashamed of thy kin,
Nor of thy sire. But forward with thy proof.
The proof so plain, the argument so strong,
As that your Highness and these noble lords,
And all—save those that have no eyes to see—
Shall swear him to be bastard to the king.
First when my father was ambassador
In Germany unto the emperor,
The king lay often at my father’s house.
And all the realm suspected what befell:
And at my father’s back return again
My mother was delivered as ‘tis said,
Six weeks before the account my father made.
But more than this: look but on Philip’s face,
His features, actions, and his lineaments,
And all this princely presence shall confess
He is no other but King Richard’s son.
Then, gracious lord, rest he King Richard’s son,
And let me rest safe in my father’s right,
That am his rightful son and only heir.
Is this thy proof, and all thou hast to say?
I have no more, nor need I greater proof.
First, where thou said’st in absence of thy sire
My brother often lodged in his house,
And what of that? base groom to slander him,
That honored his ambassador so much,
In absence of the man to cheer the wife?
This will not hold, proceed unto the next.
Thou say’st she termed six weeks before her time.
Why, good Sir Squire, are you so cunning grown
To make account of women’s reckonings?
Spit in your hand and to your other proofs:
Many mischances hap in such affairs
To make a woman come before her time.
And where thou say’st he looketh like the king
In action, feature and proportion,
Therein I hold with thee, for in my life
I never saw so lively counterfeit
Of Richard Coeur-de-lion, as in him.
Then, good my lord, be you indifferent judge,
And let me have my living and my right.
Nay, hear you sir, you run away too fast.
Know you not, omne simile non est idem?
Or have read in—hark, ye good sir,
‘Twas thus I warrant, and no otherwise,
She lay with Sir Robert your father, and thought upon King Richard, my son, and so your brother was formed in this fashion.
Madam, you wrong me thus to jest it out,
I crave my right! King John, as thou art king,
So be thou just, and let me have my right.
Why, foolish boy, thy proofs are frivolous,
Nor canst thou challenge anything thereby.
But thou shalt see how I will help thy claim.
This is my doom, and this my doom shall stand
Irrevocable, as I am King of England.
For thou know’st not, we’ll ask of them that know;
His mother and himself shall end this strife,
And as they say, so shall thy living pass.
My lord, herein I challenge you of wrong,
To give away my right, and put the doom
Unto themselves. Can there be likelihood
That she will loose?
Or he will give the living from himself?
It may not be, my lord. Why should it be?
Lords, keep him back, and let him hear the doom.
Essex, first ask the mother thrice who was his sire.
Lady Margaret, widow of Falconbridge,
Who was father to thy son Philip?
Please it your majesty, Sir Robert Falconbridge.
This is right, ask my fellow there if I be a thief.
Ask Philip whose son he is.
Philip, who was thy father?
Mas, my lord, and that’s a question. And you had not taken some pains
with her before, I should have desired you to ask my mother.
Say who was thy father.
Faith, my lord, to answer you sure he is my father that was
nearest my mother when I was gotten, and him I think to be Sir
Essex, for fashion’s sake demand again,
And so an end to this contention.
Was ever man thus wronged as Robert is?
Philip, speak, I say, who was thy father?
Young man, how now—what, art thou in a trance?
Philip awake! The man is in a dream.
Philippus atavis aedite regibus.
What say’st thou, Philip? Sprung of ancient kings?
Quo me rapit tempestas?
What wind of honor blows this fury forth?
Or whence proceed these fumes of majesty?
Methinks I hear a hollow echo sound,
That Philip is the son unto a king:
The whistling leaves upon the trembling trees,
Whistle in consort, I am Richard’s son.
The bubbling murmur of the water’s fall
Records Philippus Regius filius.
Birds in their flight make music with their wings,
Filling the air with glory of my birth!
Birds, bubbles, leaves, and mountain’s echo, all
Ring in mine ears that I am Richard’s son.
Fond man, ah, whither art thou carried?
How are thy thoughts ywrapt in honor’s heaven,
Forgetful what thou art, and whence thou cam’st?
Thy father's land cannot maintain these thoughts,
These thoughts are far unfitting Falconbridge,
And well they may, for why this mounting mind
Doth soar too high to stoop to Falconbridge.
Why, how now? Knowest thou where thou art?
And knowest thou who expects thine answer here?
Wilt thou upon a frantic madding vein
Go lose thy land, and say thyself base borne?
No, keep thy land, though Richard were thy sire,
Whate’er thou think’st, say thou art Falconbridge.
Speak man, be sudden, who thy father was.
Please it your Majesty, Sir Robert—
Philip, that Falconbridge cleaves to thy jaws;
It will not out, I cannot for my life
Say I am son unto a Falconbridge.
Let land and living go, ‘tis honor’s fire
That makes me swear King Richard was my sire.
Base to a king adds title of more state
Than knights begotten, though legitimate.
Please it your grace, I am King Richard’s son.
Robert, revive thy heart, let sorrow die,
His falt’ring tongue not suffers him to lie.
What head-strong fury doth enchant my son?
Philip cannot repent, for he hath done.
Then Philip, blame not me; thyself hast lost
By willfulness, thy living and thy land.
Robert, thou art the heir of Falconbridge;
God give thee joy, greater than thy desert.
Why how now, Philip—give away thy own?
Madam, I am bold to make myself your nephew,
The poorest kinsman that your Highness hath,
And with this proverb ‘gin the world anew—
Help hands, I have no lands, honor is my desire,
Let Philip live to show himself worthy so great a sire.
Philip, I think thou knew’st thy grandam’s mind;
But cheer thee boy, I will not see thee want
As long as Eleanor hath foot of land;
Henceforth thou shalt be taken for my son,
And wait on me and on thine uncle here,
Who shall give honor to thy noble mind.
Philip, kneel down, that thou may’st throughly know
How much thy resolution pleaseth us;
Rise up, Sir Richard Plantagenet, King Richard’s son.
Grant heavens that Philip once may show himself
Worthy the honor of Plantagenet,
Or basest glory of a bastard’s name.
Now, gentlemen, we will away to France,
To check the pride of Arthur and his mates.
Essex, thou shalt be ruler of my realm,
And toward the main charges of my wars,
I’ll seize the lazy abbey lubbers’ lands
Into my hands to pay my men of war.
The Pope and popelings shall not grease themselves
With gold and groats that are the soldiers’ due.
Thus forward lords, let our command be done,
And march we forward mightily to France.
Manet PHILIP and his MOTHER.
Madam, I beseech you deign me so much leisure as the hearing of a matter that I long to impart to you.
What’s the matter, Philip? I think your suit in secret, tends to some money matter, which you suppose burns in the bottom of my chest.
No madam, it is no such suit as to beg or borrow,
But such a suit, as might some other grant,
I would not now have troubled you withal.
A God’s name let us hear it.
Then madam thus, your ladyship sees well,
How that my scandal grows by means of you,
In that report hath rumored up and down
I am a bastard, and no Falconbridge.
This gross attaint so tilteth in my thoughts,
Maintaining combat to abridge my ease,
That field and town, and company alone,
Whatso I do, or wheresoe’er I am,
I cannot chase the slander from thy thoughts.
If it be true, resolve me of my sire,
For pardon, madam, if I think amiss.
Be Philip Philip and no Falconbridge,
His father doubtless was as brave a man.
To you on knees as sometime Phaeton,
Mistrusting silly Merop for his sire,
Straining a little bashful modesty,
I beg some instance whence I am extracted.
Yet more ado to haste me to my grave,
And wilt thou too become a mother’s cross?
Must I accuse myself to close with you?
Slander myself to quiet your affects?
Thou mov’st me Philip, with this idle talk,
Which I remit, in hope this mood will die.
Nay lady mother, hear me further yet,
For strong conceit drives duty hence awhile.
Your husband Falconbridge was father to that son,
That carries marks of nature like the sire,
The son that blotteth you with wedlock’s breach,
And holds my right, as lineal in descent
From him whose form was figured in his face.
Can nature so dissemble in her frame,
To make the one so like as like may be,
And in the other print no character
To challenge any mark of true descent?
My brother’s mind is base, and too too dull,
To mount where Philip lodgeth his affects,
And his external graces that you view,
Though I report it, counterpoise not mine.
His constitution plain debility
Requires the chair, and mine the seat of steel.
Nay, what is he, or what am I to him?
When any one that knoweth how to carp
Will scarcely judge us both one country born.
This, madam, this hath drove me from myself,
And here by heaven’s eternal lamps I swear,
As cursed Nero with his mother did,
So I with you, if you resolve me not.
Let mother’s tears quench out thy anger’s fire,
And urge no further what thou dost require.
Let son’s entreaty sway the mother now,
Or else she dies; I’ll not infringe my vow.
Unhappy talk—must I recount my shame,
Blab my misdeeds, or by concealing die?
Some power strike me speechless for a time,
Or take from him awhile his hearing’s use!
Why wish I so, unhappy as I am?
The fault is mine, and he the faulty fruit;
I blush, I faint, oh would I might be mute!
Mother, be brief: I long to know my name.
And longing die to shroud thy mother’s shame.
Come madam, come, you need not be so loath;
The shame is shared equal twixt us both.
Is’t not a slackness in me worthy blame,
To be so old and cannot write my name?
Good mother, resolve me.
Then, Philip, hear thy fortune and my grief,
My honor’s loss by purchase of thyself,
My shame, thy name, and husband’s secret wrong,
All maimed and stained by youth’s unruly sway.
And when thou knowest from whence thou art extraught,
Or if thou knew’st what suits, what threats, what fears,
To move by love, or massacre by death,
To yield with love, or end by love’s contempt,
The mightiness of him that courted me,
Who tempered terror with his wanton talk,
That something may extenuate the guilt.
But let it not advantage me so much;
Upbraid me rather with the Roman Dame
That shed her blood to wash away her shame.
Why stand I to expostulate the crime
With pro et contra, now the deed is done,
When to conclude two words may tell the tale,
That Philip’s father was a prince’s son,
Rich England’s rule, world’s only terror he,
For honor’s loss left me with child of thee—
Whose son thou art, then pardon me the rather,
For fair King Richard was thy noble father.
Then, Robin Falconbridge, I wish thee joy,
My sire a king, and I a landless boy.
God’s lady, mother, the world is in my debt;
There’s something owing to Plantagenet.
Aye, marry, sir, let me alone for game,
I’ll act some wonders now I know my name.
By blessed Mary I’ll not sell that pride
For England’s wealth, and all the world beside.
Sit fast the proudest of my father’s foes,
Away good mother, there the comfort goes.
Enter PHILIP the French KING and LEWIS, LIMOGES, CONSTANCE, and her son ARTHUR.
Now gin we broach the title of thy claim,
Young Arthur, in the Albion territories,
Scaring proud Angiers with a puissant siege;
Brave Austria, cause of Couer-de-lion’s death,
Is also come to aid thee in thy wars;
And all our forces join for Arthur’s right.
And, but for causes of great consequence,
Pleading delay till news from England come,
Twice should not Titan hide him in the west,
To cool the fetlocks of his weary team,
Till I had with an unresisted shock
Controlled the manage of proud Angiers’ walls,
Or made a forfeit of my fame to chance.
Maybe that John in conscience or in fear
To offer wrong where you impugn the ill,
Will send such calm conditions back to France,
As shall rebate the edge of fearful wars.
If so, forbearance is a deed well done.
Ah, mother, possession of a crown is much,
And John as I have heard reported of,
For present vantage would adventure far.
The world can witness in his brother’s time,
He took upon him rule and almost reign;
Then must it follow as a doubtful point,
That he’ll resign the rule unto his nephew.
I rather think the menace of the world
Sounds in his ears as threats of no esteem,
And sooner would he scorn Europae’s power,
Than lose the smallest title he enjoys—
For questionless he is an Englishman.
Why are the English peerless in compare?
Brave cavaliers as ere that island bred,
Have lived and died, and dared and done enough,
Yet never graced their country for the cause:
England is England, yielding good and bad,
And John of England is as other Johns.
Trust me, young Arthur, if thou like my reed,
Praise thou the French that help thee in this need.
The Englishman hath little cause, I trow,
To spend good speeches on so proud a foe.
Why Arthur, here’s his spoil that now is gone,
Who when he lived outrode his brother john;
But hasty curs that lie so long to catch
Come halting home, and meet their overmatch.
But news comes now—here’s the ambassador.
And in good time! Welcome, my lord Chatillon!
What news? Will John accord to our command?
Be I not brief to tell your Highness all,
He will approach to interrupt my tale,
For one self bottom brought us both to France.
He on his part will try the chance of war,
And if his words infer assured truth,
Will lose himself and all his followers,
Ere yield unto the least of your demands.
The mother queen she taketh on amain
Gainst Lady Constance, counting her the cause
That doth effect this claim to Albion,
Conjuring Arthur with a grandam’s care,
To leave his mother; willing him submit
His state to John and her protection,
Who—as she saith—are studious for his good.
More circumstance the season intercepts:
This is the sum, which briefly I have shown.
This bitter wind must nip somebody’s spring,
Sudden and brief; why so—’tis harvest weather.
But say, Chatillon, what persons of account are with him?
Of England, Earl pembroke and Salisbury,
The only noted men of any name.
Next them a bastard of the king’s deceased,
A hardy wild head, tough and venturous,
With many other men of high resolve.
Then is there with them Eleanor, mother queen,
And Blanche her niece, daughter to the king of Spain:
These are the prime birds of this hot adventure.
Enter JOHN and his followers, QUEEN, BASTARD, earls, etc.
Me seemeth John an over-daring spirit
Effects some frenzy in thy rash approach,
Treading my confines with thy armed troops.
I rather looked for some submiss reply
Touching the claim thy nephew Arthur makes
To that which thou unjustly dost usurp.
For that Chatillon can discharge you all;
I list not plead my title with my tongue.
Nor came I hither with intent of wrong
To France or thee, or any right of thine;
But in defense and purchase of my right,
The town of Angiers—which thou dost begirt
In the behalf of Lady Constance’ son,
Whereto nor he nor she can lay just claim.
Yes, false intruder, if that just be just,
And headstrong usurpation put apart,
Arthur my son, heir to thy elder brother,
Without ambiguous shadow of descent,
Is sovereign to the substance thou withhold’st.
Misgoverned gossip, stain to this resort,
Occasion of these undecided jars,
I say (that know) to check thy vain suppose,
Thy son hath naught to do with that he claims.
For proof whereof, I can infer a will,
That bars the way he urgeth by descent.
A will indeed, a crabbed woman’s will,
Wherein the devil is an overseer,
And proud dame Eleanor sole executress!
More wills than so, on peril of my soul,
Were never made to hinder Arthur’s right.
But say there was, as sure there can be none,
The law intends such testaments as void,
Where right descent can no way be impeached.
Peace Arthur, peace, thy mother makes thee wings
To soar with peril after Icarus,
And trust me youngling, for the father’s sake,
I pity much the hazard of thy youth.
Beshrew you else, how pitiful you are,
Ready to weep to hear him ask his own;
Sorrow betide such grandams and such grief,
That minister a poison for pure love.
But who so blind, as cannot see this beam,
That you forsooth would keep your cousin down,
For fear his mother should be used too well?
Aye, there’s the grief, confusion catch the brain,
That hammers shifts to stop a prince’s reign.
Impatient, frantic, common slanderer,
Immodest dame, unnurtured quarreler,
I tell thee I, not envy to thy son
But justice makes me speak as I have done.
But here’s no proof that shows your son a king.
What wants, my sword shall more at large set down.
But that may break before the truth be known.
Then this may hold till all his right be shown.
Good words, Sir Sauce, your betters are in place.
Not you, Sir Doughty, with your lion’s case.
Ah joy betide his soul, to whom that spoil belonged;
Ah Richard, how thy glory here is wronged.
Methinks that Richard’s pride, and Richard’s fall
Should be a precedent t’affright you all.
What words are these? How do my sinews shake?
My father’s foe clad in my father’s spoil,
A thousand furies kindle with revenge,
Searing my inwards with a brand of hate.
How doth Alecto whisper in mine ears?
Delay not Philip; kill the villain straight;
Disrobe him of the matchless muniment
Thy father’s triumph o’er the savages.
Base herdgroom, coward, peasant, worse than a threshing slave,
What mak’st thou with the trophy of a king?
Sham’st thou not coistrel, loathsome dunghill swad,
To grace thy carcass with an ornament
Too precious for a monarch’s coverture?
Scarce can I temper due obedience
Unto the presence of my sovereign,
From acting outrage on this trunk of hate!
But arm thee traitor, wronger of renown,
For by his soul I swear, my father’s soul,
Twice will I not review the morning’s rise,
Till I have torn that trophy from thy back,
And split thy heart, for wearing it so long.
Philip hath sworn, and if it be not done,
Let not the world repute me Richard’s son.
Nay soft, Sir Bastard, hearts are not split so soon;
Let them rejoice that at the end do win,
And take this lesson at thy foeman’s hand:
Pawn not thy life to get thy father’s skin.
Well may the world speak of his knightly valor,
That wins this hide to wear a lady’s favor.
Ill may I thrive, and nothing brook with me,
If shortly I present it not to thee.
Lordings, forbear, for time is coming fast,
That deeds may try what words cannot determine,
And to the purpose for the cause you come.
Meseems you set right in chance of war,
Yielding no other reasons for your claim,
But so and so, because it shall be so.
So wrong shall be suborned by trust of strength;
A tyrant’s practice to invest himself,
Where weak resistance giveth wrong the way,
To check the which, in holy lawful arms,
I in the right of Arthur Geoffrey’s son,
Am come before this city of Angiers,
To bar all other false supposed claim,
From whence or howsoe’er the error springs.
And in his quarrel on my princely word,
I’ll fight it out unto the latest man.
Know, king of France, I will not be commanded
By any power or prince in Christendom,
To yield an instance how I hold mine own,
More than to answer, that mine own is mine.
But wilt thou see me parley with the town,
And hear them offer me allegiance,
Fealty and homage, as true liegemen ought.
Summon them—I will not believe it till I see it, and when I see it I’ll soon change it.
They summon the town, the citizens appear upon the walls.
You men of Angiers, and as I take it my loyal subjects: I have summoned you to the walls to dispute on my right, were to think you doubtful therein, which I am persuaded you are not. In few words, our brother’s son, backed with the king of France, have beleaguered your town upon a false pretended title to the same; in defense whereof I your liege lord have brought our power to fence you from the usurper, to free your intended servitude, and utterly to supplant the foemen, to my right and your rest. Say then, who keep you the town for?
For our lawful king.
I was no less persuaded; then in God’s name open your gates, and let me enter.
And it please your Highness, we control not your title, neither will we rashly admit your entrance. If you be lawful king, with all obedience we keep it to your use; if not king, our rashness to be impeached for
yielding, without more considerate trial, we answer not as men lawless, but to the behoof of him that proves lawful.
I shall not come in then?
No, my lord, till we know more.
Then hear me speak in the behalf of Arthur, son of Geoffrey, elder brother to John, his title manifest without contradiction to the crown and kingdom of England, with Angiers and divers towns on this side of the sea: will you acknowledge him your liege lord, who speaketh in my word to entertain you with all favors as beseemeth a king to his subjects, or a friend to his well-wishers: or stand to the peril of your contempt, when his title is proved by the sword?
We answer as before: till you have proved one right, we acknowledge none right; he that tries himself our sovereign, to him will we remain firm subjects, and for him, and in his right we hold our town as desirous to know the truth as loath to subscribe before we know. More than this we cannot say, and more than this
we dare not do.
Then john, I defy thee in the name and behalf of Arthur Plantagenet thy king and cousin, whose right and patrimony thou detainest, as I doubt not ere the day end in a set battle make thee confess; whereunto with a zeal to right I challenge thee.
I accept the challenge, and turn the defiance to thy throat.
Excursions. The BASTARD chaseth LYMOGES the Austrich duke, and maketh him leave the lion’s skin.
And art thou gone?—misfortune haunt thy steps,
And chill cold fear assail thy times of rest.
Morpheus, leave here thy silent ebon cave,
Besiege his thoughts with dismal fantasies,
And ghastly objects of pale threat’ning Mors.
Affright him every minute with stern looks,
Let shadow temper terror in his thoughts,
And let the terror make the coward mad,
And in his madness let him fear pursuit,
And so in frenzy let the peasant die.
Here is the ransom that allays his rage,
The first freehold that Richard left his son,
With which I shall surprise his living foes,
As Hector’s statue did the fainting Greeks.
Enter the kings’ HERALDS with trumpets to the walls of Angiers: they summon the town.
John by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Anjou, Touraine, etc, demandeth once again of
you his subjects of Angiers, if you will quietly surrender up the town into his hands.
Philip by the grace of God King of France, demandeth in the behalf of Arthur, duke of Brittany, if you will
surrender up the town into his hands, to the use of the said Arthur.
Heralds, go tell the two victorious princes that we, the poor inhabitants of Angiers, require a parley of their Majesties.
Enter the KINGS, QUEEN ELEANOR, BLANCHE, BASTARD, LYMOGES, LEWIS, CASTILIAN, PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, CONSTANCE, and ARTHUR, duke of Brittany.
Herald, what answer do the townsmen send?
Will Angiers yield to Philip king of France?
The townsmen on the walls accept your grace.
And crave a parley of your Majesty.
You citizens of Angiers, have your eyes
Beheld the slaughter that our English bows
Have made upon the coward fraudful French?
And have you wisely pondered therewithal
Your gain in yielding to the English king?
Their loss in yielding to the English king.
But John, they saw from out their highest towers
The chevaliers of France and crossbow shot
Make lanes of slaughtered bodies through thine host,
And are resolved to yield to Arthur’s right.
Why Philip, though thou bravest it fore the walls,
Thy conscience knows that John hath won the field.
What e’er my conscience knows, thy army feels
That Philip had the better of the day.
Philip indeed hath got the lion’s case,
Which here he holds to Lymoge’s disgrace.
Base duke to fly and leave such spoils behind;
But this thou knew’st of force to make me stay.
It fared with thee as with the mariner,
Spying the hugie whale, whose monstrous bulk
Doth bear the waves like mountains ‘fore the wind,
That throws out empty vessels, so to stay
His fury, while the ship doth sail away.
Philip, ‘tis thine; and for this princely presence,
Madam, I humbly lay it at your feet,
Being the first adventure I achieved,
And first exploit your grace did enjoin:
Yet many more I long to be enjoined.
Philip, I take it, and I thee command
To wear the same as erst thy father did;
Therewith receive this favor at my hands,
T’encourage thee to follow Richard’s fame.
Ye citizens of Angiers, are ye mute?
Arthur or John, say which shall be your king!
We care not which, if once we knew the right,
But till we know we will not yield our right.
Might Philip counsel two so mighty kings,
As are the kings of England and of France,
He would advise your graces to unite
And knit your forces ‘gainst these citizens,
Pulling their battered walls about their ears.
The town once won, then strive about the claim,
For they are minded to delude you both.
Kings, princes, lords and knights assembled here,
The citizens of Angiers all by me
Entreat your Majesty to hear them speak;
And as you like the motion they shall make,
So to account and follow their advice.
JOHN & PHILIP
Speak on; we give thee leave.
Then thus: whereas that young and lusty knight
Incites you on to knit your kingly strengths,
The motion cannot choose but please the good,
And such as love the quiet of the state.
But how, my lords, how should your strengths be knit?
Not to oppress your subjects and your friends,
And fill the world with brawls and mutinies,
But unto peace your forces should be knit
To live in princely league and amity.
Do this, the gates of Angiers shall give way
And stand wide open to your hearts’ content.
To make this peace a lasting bond of love,
Remains one only honorable means,
Which by your pardon I shall here display.
Lewis, the Dolphin and the heir of France,
A man of noted valor through the world,
Is yet unmarried: let him take to wife
The beauteous daughter of the King of Spain,
Niece to King John, the lovely lady Blanche,
Begotten on his sister Eleanor.
With her in marriage will her uncle give
Castles and towers as fitteth such a match.
The kings thus joined in league of perfect love,
They may so deal with Arthur, duke of Brittany,
Who is but young, and yet unmeet to reign,
As he shall stand contented every way.
Thus have I boldly—for the common good—
Delivered what the city gave in charge.
And as upon conditions you agree,
So shall we stand content to yield the town.
A proper peace, if such a motion hold;
These kings bear arms for me, and for my right,
And they shall share my lands to make them friends.
Son John, follow this motion, as thou lovest thy mother;
Make league with Philip, yield to anything.
Lewis shall have my niece, and then be sure
Arthur shall have small succor out of France.
Brother of France, you hear the citizens:
Then tell me, how you mean to deal herein.
Why John, what canst thou give unto thy niece,
That hast no foot of land, but Arthur’s right?
By’r Lady, citizens, I like your choice—
A lovely damsel is the Lady Blanche,
Worthy the heir of Europe for her pheere.
What kings, why stand you gazing in a trance?
Why how now lords? Accursed citizens
To fill and tickle their ambitious ears
With hope of gain that springs from Arthur’s loss.
Some dismal planet at thy birthday reigned,
For now I see the fall of all thy hopes.
Lady, and duke of Brittany, know you both,
The king of France respects his honor more
Than to betray his friends and favorers.
Princess of Spain, could you affect my son,
If we upon conditions could agree?
Swounds madam, take an English gentleman!
Slave as I was, I thought to have moved the match.
Grandam, you made me half a promise once
That Lady Blanche should bring me wealth enough,
And make me heir of store of English land.
Peace Philip, I will look thee out a wife;
We must with policy compound this strife.
If Lewis get her, well, I say no more;
But let the frolic Frenchman take no scorn,
If Philip front him with a English horn.
Lady, what answer make you to the king of France?
Can you affect the Dolphin for your lord?
I thank the king that likes of me so well,
To make me bride unto so great a prince;
But give me leave, my lord, to pause on this,
Lest being too too forward in the cause,
It may be blemish to my modesty.
Son John, and worthy Philip King of France,
Do you confer a while about the dower,
And I will school my modest niece so well,
That she shall yield as soon as you have done.
Aye, there’s the wretch that broacheth all this ill,
Why fly I not upon the beldame’s face,
And with my nails pull forth her hateful eyes.
Sweet mother, cease these hasty madding fits;
For my sake, let my grandam have her will.
O, would she with her hands pull forth my heart,
I could afford it to appease these broils.
But, mother, let us wisely wink at all:
Lest farther harms ensue our hasty speech.
Brother of England, what dowry wilt thou give
Unto my son in marriage with thy niece?
First, Philip knows her dowry out of Spain
To be so great as may content a king;
But more to mend and amplify the same,
I give in money thirty thousand marks.
For land, I leave it to thine own demand.
Then I demand Volquessen, Touraine, Maine,
Poictiers and Anjou, these five provinces,
Which thou as king of England hold’st in France;
Then shall our peace be soon concluded on.
No less than five such provinces at once?
Mother, what shall I do? My brother got these lands
With much effusion of our English blood,
And shall I give it all away at once?
John, give it him; so shalt thou live in peace,
And keep the residue sans jeopardy.
Philip, bring forth thy son; here is my niece,
And here in marriage I do give with her
From me and my successors English kings,
Volquessen, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
And thirty thousand marks of stipend coin.
Now, citizens, how like you of this match?
We joy to see so sweet a peace begun.
Lewis with Blanche shall ever live content.
But now, King John, what say you to the duke?
Father, speak as you may in his behalf.
King John, be good unto thy nephew here,
And give him somewhat that shall please thee best.
Arthur, although thou troublest England’s peace,
Yet here I give thee Brittany for thine own,
Together with the earldom of Richmond,
And this rich city of Angiers withal.
And if thou seek to please thine uncle John,
Shalt see, my son, how I will make of thee.
Now everything is sorted to this end,
Let’s in and there prepare the marriage rites,
Which in Saint Mary’s chapel presently
Shall be performed ere this presence part.
Manent CONSTANCE and ARTHUR.
Madam, good cheer, these drooping languishments
Add us redress to salve our awkward haps.
If heavens have concluded these events,
To small avail is bitter pensiveness.
Seasons will change, and so our present grief
May change with them, and all to our relief.
Ah boy, thy years I see are far to green
To look into the bottom of these cares.
But I, who see the poise that weigheth down
Thy weal, my wish, and all the willing means
Wherewith thy fortune and thy fame should mount,
What joy, what ease, what rest can lodge in me,
With whom all hope and hap doth disagree?
Yet lady’s tears, and cares, and solemn shows,
Rather than helps, heap up more work for woes.
If any power will hear a widow’s plaint,
That from a wounded soul implores revenge,
Send fell contagion to infect this clime,
This cursed country, where the traitor’s breath
Whose perjury as proud Briareus,
Beleaguers all the sky with misbelief.
He promised Arthur, and he sware it too,
To fence thy right, and check thy foeman’s pride:
But now black-spotted perjure as he is,
He takes a truce with Eleanor’s damned brat,
And marries Lewis to her lovely niece,
Sharing thy fortune, and thy birthday’s gift
Between these lovers—ill betide the match.
And as they shoulder thee from out thy own,
And triumph in a widow’s tearful cares,
So heavens cross them with a thriftless course.
Is all the blood yspilt on either part,
Closing the cranies of the thirsty earth,
Grown to a lovegame and a bridal feast?
And must thy birthright bid the wedding bans?
Poor helpless boy, hopeless and helpless too,
To whom misfortune seems no yoke at all.
Thy stay, thy state, thy imminent mishaps
Woundeth thy mother’s thoughts with feeling care,
Why look’st thou pale? The color flies thy face.
I trouble now the fountain of thy youth,
And make it moody with my dole’s discourse.
Go in with me, reply not, lovely boy;
We must obscure this moan with melody,
Lest worser wrack ensue our malcontent.
Enter the King of England, the King of France, ARTHUR, BASTARD, LEWIS, LYMOGES, CONSTANCE, BLANCHE, CHATILLON, PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, and ELEANOR.
This is the day, the long desired day,
Wherein the realms of England and of France
Stand highly blessed in a lasting peace.
Thrice happy is the bridegroom and the bride,
From whose sweet bridal such a concord springs,
To make of mortal foes immortal friends.
Ungodly peace made by another’s war.
Unhappy peace, that ties thee from revenge.
Rouse thee, Plantagenet; live not to see
The butcher of the great Plantagenet.
Kings, princes, and ye peers of either realms,
Pardon my rashness, and forgive the zeal
That carries me in fury to a deed
Of high desert, of honor, and of arms.
A boon, O kings, a boon doth Philip beg
Prostrate upon his knee, which knee shall cleave
Unto the superficies of the earth,
Till France and England grant this glorious boon.
Speak, Philip; England grants thee thy request.
And France confirms what e’er is in his power.
Then, duke, sit fast; I level at thy head,
Too base a ransom for my father’s life.
Princes, I crave the combat with the duke
That braves it in dishonor of my sire.
Your words are past, nor can you now reverse
The princely promise that revives my soul,
Whereat methinks I see his sinews shake.
This is the boon, dread lords, which granted once
Or life or death are pleasant to my soul,
Since I shall live and die in Richard’s right.
Base bastard, misbegotten of a king,
To interrupt these holy nuptial rites
With brawls and tumults to a duke’s disgrace—
Let it suffice, I scorn to join in fight,
With one so far unequal to myself.
A fine excuse, kings if you will be kings,
Then keep your words, and let us combat it.
Philip, we cannot force the duke to fight,
Being a subject unto neither realm:
But tell me, Austria, if an English duke
Should dare thee thus, wouldst thou accept the challenge?
Else let the world account the Austrich duke
The greatest coward living on the earth.
Then cheer thee, Philip, John will keep his word.
Kneel down; in sight of Philip king of France
And all these princely lords assembled here,
I gird thee with the sword of Normandy,
And of that land I do invest thee duke;
So shalt thou be in living and in land
Nothing inferior unto Austria.
King John, I tell thee flatly to thy face
Thou wrongst mine honor; and that thou may’st see
How much I scorn thy new-made duke and thee,
I flatly say I will not be compelled!
And so farewell Sir Duke of low degree,
I’ll find a time to match you for this gear.
Stay, Philip, let him go, the honor’s thine.
I cannot live unless his life be mine.
Thy forwardness this day hath joyed my soul,
And made me think my Richard lives in thee.
Lordings let’s in, and spend the wedding day
In masques and triumphs, letting quarrels cease.
Enter a CARDINAL from Rome.
Stay, king of France, I charge thee join not hands
With him that stands accursed of god and men.
Know, John, that I, Pandulph, cardinal of Milan, and legate from the see of Rome, demand of thee in the name of our holy father the Pope Innocent, why thou dost, contrary to the laws of our holy mother the church, and our holy father the pope, disturb the quiet of the church, and disanull the election of Stephen Langton, whom his holiness hath elected archbishop of Canterbury: this in his holiness’ name I demand of thee.
And what hast thou or the Pope thy master to do to demand of me, how I employ mine own? Know Sir Priest, as I honor the church and holy churchmen, so I scorn to be subject to the greatest prelate in the world. Tell thy master so from me, and say, John of England said it, that never an Italian priest of them all, shall either have tithe, toll, or poling penny out of England, but as I am king, so will I reign next under God, supreme head both over spiritual and temporal: and he that contradicts me in this, I’ll make him hop headless.
What King John, know you what you say, thus to blaspheme against our holy father the Pope?
Philip, though thou and all the princes of Christendom suffer themselves to be abused by a prelate’s slavery, my mind is not of such base temper. If the pope will be king in England, let him win it with the sword; I know no other title he can allege to mine inheritance.
John, this is thine answer?
Then I Pandulph of Padua, legate from the apostolic see, do in the name of Saint Peter and his successor our holy father Pope Innocent, pronounce thee accursed, discharging every of thy subjects of all duty and fealty that they do owe to thee, and pardon and forgiveness of sin to those of them whatsoever, which shall carry arms against thee, or murder thee: this I pronounce, and charge all good men to abhor thee as an
So sir, the more the fox is cursed the better a fares; if God bless me and my land, let the pope and his shavelings curse and spare not.
Furthermore, I charge thee, Philip king of France, and all the kings and princes of Christendom, to make war upon this miscreant: and whereas thou hast made a league with him, and confirmed it by oath, I do in
the name of our foresaid father the pope, acquit thee of that oath as unlawful, being made with an heretic—how say’st thou, Philip, dost thou obey?
Brother of France, what say you to the cardinal?
I say, I am sorry for your Majesty, requesting you to submit yourself to the church of Rome.
And what say you to our league, if I do not submit?
What should I say? I must obey the pope.
Obey the pope, and break your oath to God?
The legate hath absolved me of mine oath;
Then yield to Rome, or I defy thee here.
Why, Philip, I defy the pope and thee,
False as thou art, and perjured king of France,
Unworthy man to be accompted king.
Giv’st thou thy sword into a prelate’s hands?
Pandulph, where I of abbots, monks and friars
Have taken somewhat to maintain my wars,
Now will I take no more but all they have.
I’ll rouse the lazy lubbers from their cells,
And in despite I’ll send them to the pope.
Mother, come you with me, and for the rest
That will not follow John in this attempt,
Confusion light upon their damned souls.
Come lords, fight for your king that fighteth for your good.
And are they gone? Pandulph, thyself shalt see
How France will fight for Rome and romish rites.
Nobles, to arms, let him not pass the seas.
Let’s take him captive, and in triumph lead
The king of England to the gates of Rome.
Arthur, bestir thee man, and thou shalt see
What Philip king of France will do for thee.
And will your grace upon your wedding day
Forsake your bride and follow dreadful drums?
Nay, good my lord, stay you at home with me.
Sweetheart, content thee, and we shall agree.
Follow me lords, Lord Cardinal lead the way,
Drums shall be music to this wedding day.
Excursions: the BASTARD pursues AUSTRIA, and kills him.
Thus hath King Richard’s son performed his vows,
And offered Austria’s blood for sacrifice
Unto his father’s everlasting soul.
Brave Coeur de Lion, now my heart doth say
I have deserved—though not to be thy heir
Yet as I am, thy base-begotten son—
A name as pleasing to thy Philip’s heart
As to be called the Duke of Normandy.
Lie there, a prey to every ravening fowl,
And as my father triumphed in thy spoils,
And trod thine ensigns underneath his feet,
So do I tread upon thy cursed self,
And leave thy body to the fowls for food.
Excursions: ARTHUR, CONSTANCE, LEWIS, having taken QUEEN ELEANOR prisoner.
Thus hath the God of kings with conquering arm
Dispersed the foes to true succession.
Proud, and disturber of thy country’s peace,
Constance doth live to tame thine insolence,
And on thy head will now avenged be
For all the mischiefs hatched in thy brain.
Contemptuous dame, unreverent duchess thou,
To brave so great a queen as Eleanor.
Base scold, hast thou forgot that I was wife,
And mother to three mighty English kings?
I charge thee then, and you forsooth, sir boy,
To set your grandmother at liberty.
And yield to John your uncle and your king.
‘Tis not thy words, proud queen, shall carry it.
Nor yet thy threats, proud dame, shall daunt my mind.
Sweet grandam, and good mother, leave these brawls.
I’ll find a time to triumph in thy fall.
My time is now to triumph in thy fall,
And thou shalt know that Constance will triumph.
Good mother, weigh it is Queen Eleanor;
Though she be captive, use her like herself.
Sweet grandam, bear with what my mother says,
Your Highness shall be used honorably.
Enter a MESSENGER.
Lewis my lord, Duke Arthur, and the rest,
To arms in haste, King John rallies <Q relyes> his men,
And ‘gins the fight afresh; and swears withal
To lose his life, or set his mother free.
Arthur away, ‘tis time to look about.
Why how now dame? What, is your courage cooled?
No Eleanor, my courage gathers strength,
And hopes to lead both John and thee as slaves—
And in that hope, I hale thee to the field.
Excursions. ELEANOR is rescued by JOHN, and ARTHUR is taken prisoner. Exeunt. Sound victory.
Enter JOHN, ELEANOR, and ARTHUR prisoner, BASTARD, PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, and HUBERT de burgh.
Thus right triumphs, and John triumphs in right.
Arthur, thou seest, France cannot bolster thee;
Thy mother’s pride hath brought thee to this fall.
But if at last, nephew, thou yield thyself
Into the guardance of thine uncle John,
Thou shalt be used as becomes a prince.
Uncle, my grandam taught her nephew this,
To bear captivity with patience.
Might hath prevailed, not right, for I am king
Of England, though thou wear the diadem.
Son John, soon shall we teach him to forget
These proud presumptions, and to know himself.
Mother, he never will forget his claim;
I would he lived not to remember it.
But leaving this, we will to England now,
And take some order with our popelings there,
That swell with pride, and fat of laymen’s lands.
Philip, I make thee chief in this affair;
Ransack the abbeys, cloisters, priories,
Convert their coin unto my soldiers’ use;
And whatsoe’er he be within my land,
That goes to Rome for justice and for law,
While he may have his right within the realm,
Let him be judged a traitor to the state,
And suffer as an enemy to England.
Mother, we leave you here beyond the seas
As regent of our provinces in France,
While we to England take a speedy course,
And thank our God that gave us victory.
Hubert de Burgh, take Arthur here to thee;
Be he thy prisoner. Hubert, keep him safe,
For on his life doth hang thy sovereign’s crown,
But in his death consists thy sovereign’s bliss.
Then Hubert, as thou shortly hear’st from me,
So use the prisoner I have given in charge.
Frolic, young prince, though I your keeper be,
Yet shall your keeper live at your command.
As please my god, so shall become of me.
My son to England, I will see thee shipped,
And pray to God to send thee safe ashore.
Now wars are done I long to be at home
To dive into the monks’ and abbots’ bags,
To make some sport among the smooth-skin nuns,
And keep some revel with the Fanzen Friars.
To England, lords; each look unto your charge
And arm yourselves against the Roman pride.
Enter the King of France, LEWIS his son, CARDINAL PANDULPH Legate, and CONSTANCE.
What, every man attached with this mishap?
Why frown you so; why droop ye lords of France?
Methinks it differs from a warlike mind
To lower it for a check or two of chance.
Had Lymoges escaped the bastard’s spite
A little sorrow might have served our loss.
Brave Austria, heaven joys to have thee there.
His soul is safe and free from purgatory;
Our holy father hath dispensed his sins,
The blessed saints have heard our orisons,
And all are mediators for his soul,
And in the right of these most holy wars,
His Holiness free pardon doth pronounce
To all that follow you gainst English heretics,
Who stand accursed in our mother church.
Enter CONSTANCE alone.
To aggravate the measure of our grief,
All malcontent comes Constance for her son.
Be brief, good madam, for your face imports
A tragic tale behind that’s yet untold.
Her passions stop the organ of her voice,
Deep sorrow throbbeth misbefallen events.
Out with it lady, that our act may end
A full catastrophe of sad laments.
My tongue is tuned to story forth mishap;
When did I breath to tell a pleasing tale?
Must Constance speak? let tears prevent her talk.
Must I discourse? let Dido sigh and say
She weeps again to hear the wrack of Troy.
Two words will serve, and then my tale is done:
Eleanor’s proud brat hath robbed me of my son.
Have patience, madam, this is chance of war;
He may be ransomed, we revenge his wrong.
Be it ne’er so soon, I shall not live so long.
Despair not yet, come Constance, go with me,
These clouds will fleet, the day will clear again.
Now Lewis, thy fortune buds with happy spring;
Our Holy Father’s prayers effecteth this.
Arthur is safe, let John alone with him,
Thy title next is fair’st to England’s crown.
Now stir thy father to begin with John;
The pope says aye, and so is Albion thine.
Thanks, my lord legate, for your good conceit,
‘Tis best we follow now the game is fair;
My father wants to work him your good words.
A few will serve to forward him in this,
Those shall not want: but let’s about it then.
Enter PHILIP leading a FRIAR, charging him to show where the Abbot’s gold lay.
Come on, you fat Franciscans, dally no longer, but show me where the Abbot’s treasure lies, or die.
Benedicamus Domini, was ever such an injury.
Sweet Saint Withold of thy lenity, defend us from extremity,
And hear us for Saint Charity, oppressed with austerity.
In nomini Domini, make I my homily,
Gentle gentility, grieve not the clergy.
Gray gowned good face, conjure ye, ne’er trust me for a groat,
If this waist girdle hang thee not that girdeth in thy coat.
Now, bald and barefoot bungie birds, when up the gallows climbing,
Say Philip he had words enough to put you down with rhyming.
A pardon, O parce, Saint Francis for mercy
Shall shield thee from nightspells and dreaming of devils;
If thou wilt forgive me, and never more grieve me
With fasting and praying, and Hail Mary saying.
From black purgatory a penance right sorry,
Friar Thomas will warm you, it shall never harm you.
Come, leave off your rabble—sirs, hang up this lozel.
For charity I beg his life, Saint Francis’ chiefest friar,
The best in all our convent, sir, to keep a winter’s fire.
O strangle not the good old man, my hostess’ oldest guest,
And I will bring you, by and by, unto the prior’s chest.
Aye, say’st thou so, and if thou wilt the friar is at liberty;
If not, as I am honest man, I’ll hang you both for company.
Come hither; this is the chest, though simple to behold,
that wanteth not a thousand pound in silver and in gold.
Myself will warrant full so much—I know the abbot’s store—
I’ll pawn my life there is no less to have whate’er is more.
I take thy word, the overplus unto thy share shall come,
But if there want of full so much, thy neck shall pay the sum.
Break up the coffer, friar.
Oh I am undone; fair Alice the nun
Hath took up her rest in the abbot’s chest.
Sancte benedicite, pardon my simplicity.
Fie, Alice, confession will not salve this transgression.
What have we here—a holy nun? So keep me God in health,
A smooth-faced nun—for aught I know—is all the abbot’s wealth.
Is this the nunnery’s chastity? Beshrew me but I think
They go as oft to venery as niggards to their drink.
Why paltry friar and pandar too, ye shameless shaven crown,
Is this the chest that held a hoard, at least a thousand pound?
And is the hoard a holy whore? Well be the hangman nimble,
He’ll take the pain to pay you home, and teach you to dissemble.
O spare the friar Anthony; a better never was
To sing a dirge solemnly, or read a morning mass.
If money be the means of this, I know an ancient nun,
That hath a hoard this seven years, did never see the sun;
And that is yours, and what is ours, so favor now be shown,
You shall command as commonly, as if it were your own.
Your honor excepted.
Aye, Thomas, I mean so.
From all save from friars.
Good sir, do not think so.
I think and see so: why how cam’st thou here?
To hide her from laymen.
‘Tis true, sir, for fear.
For fear of the laity—a pitiful dread
When a nun flies for succor to a fat friar’s bed.
But now for your ransom, my cloister-bred coney,
To the chest that you speak of where lies so much money.
Fair sir, within this press, of plate and money is
The value of a thousand marks, and other things by gis.
Let us alone, and take it all, ‘tis yours, sir, now you know it.
come on, sir friar, pick the lock, this gear doth cotton handsome,
that covetousness so cunningly must pay the lecher’s ransom.
what is in the hoard?
friar lawrence, my lord, now holy water help us,
some witch, or some devil is sent to delude us.
haud credo laurentius, that thou shouldst be penned thus
in the press of a nun we are all undone,
and brought to discredence if thou be friar lawrence.
amor vincit omnia, so cato affirmeth,
and therefore a friar whose fancy soon burneth,
because he is mortal and made of mold,
he omits what he ought and doth more than he should.
How goes this gear? the friar’s chest filled with a fausen nun,
The nun again locks friar up, to keep him from the sun.
Belike the press is purgatory, or penance passing grievous:
The friars’ chest a hell for nuns. How do these dolts deceive us?
Is this the labor of their lives to feed and live at ease,
To revel so lasciviously as often as they please?
I’ll mend the fault or fault my aim, if I do miss amending.
‘Tis better burn the cloisters down than leave them for offending.
But holy you, to you I speak, to you religious devil,
Is this the press that holds the sum to quite you for your evil?
I cry peccavi, parce me; good sir, I was beguiled.
Absolve, sir, for charity she would be reconciled.
And so I shall—sirs, bind them fast, this is their absolution.
Go hang them up for hurting them, haste them to execution.
O tempus edax rerum,
Give children books, they tear them.
O vanitas vanitatis, in this waning aetatis,
At threescore well near to go to this gear,
To my conscience a clog to die like a dog.
Exaudi me Domine, si vis me parce
Dabo pecuniam, si habeo veniam.
To go and fetch it, I will dispatch it,
A hundred pound sterling for my lives’ sparing.
Enter PETER a prophet, with people.
Ho, who is here? Saint Francis be your speed,
Come in, my flock, and follow me, your fortunes I will read.
Come hither boy, go get thee home, and climb not overhigh:
For from aloft thy fortunes stand in hazard; thou shalt die.
God be with you, Peter, I pray you come to our house a Sunday.
My boy, show me thy hand; bless thee my boy,
For in thy palm I see a many troubles are ybent to dwell,
But thou shalt scape them all and do full well.
I thank you Peter—there’s a cheese for your labor. My sister prays ye to come home, and tell her how many husbands she shall have, and she’ll give you a rib of bacon.
My masters, stay at the town’s end for me; I’ll come to you all anon. I must dispatch some business with a friar, and then I’ll read your fortunes.
How now, a prophet? Sir prophet whence are ye?
I am of the world and in the world, but live not as others by the world. What I am I know, and what thou wilt be I know. If thou knowest me now be answered; if not, enquire no more what I am.
Sir, I know you will be a dissembling knave, that deludes the people with blind prophecies. You are him I look for; you shall away with me; bring away all the rabble, and you Friar Lawrence, remember your ransom, a hundred pound, and a pardon for yourself, and the rest come on. Sir prophet, you shall with me, to receive a prophet’s reward.
Enter HUBERT de Burgh with three men.
My masters, I have showed you what warrant I have for this attempt; I perceive by your heavy countenances, you had rather be otherwise employed, and for my own part, I would the king had made choice of some other executioner. Only this is my comfort, that a king commands, whose precepts neglected or omitted, threat’neth torture for the default. Therefore in brief, leave me, and be ready to attend the adventure; stay within that entry, and when you hear me cry, “God save the king,” issue suddenly forth, lay hands on Arthur, set him in this chair, wherein—once fast bound—leave him with me to finish the rest.
We go, though loath.
My lord, will it please your honor to take the benefit of the fair evening?
Enter ARTHUR to HUBERT de Burgh.
Gramercie, Hubert, for thy care of me.
In or to whom restraint is newly known
The joy of walking is small benefit,
Yet will I take thy offer with small thanks.
I would not lose the pleasure of the eye.
But tell me courteous keeper, if you can,
How long the king will have me tarry here.
I know not, prince, but as I guess, not long.
God send you freedom, and God save the king.
They issue forth.
Why how now, sirs; what may this outrage mean?
O help me, Hubert, gentle keeper, help!
God send this sudden mutinous approach
Tend not to reave a wretched guiltless life.
So, sirs, depart, and leave the rest for me.
Then Arthur, yield; death frowneth in thy face—
What meaneth this? Good Hubert, plead the case.
Patience, young lord, and listen words of woe,
Harmful and harsh, hell’s horror to be heard—
A dismal tale fit for a fury’s tongue—
I faint to tell, deep sorrow is the sound.
What, must I die?
No news of death, but tidings of more hate,
A wrathful doom, and most unlucky fate;
Death’s dish were dainty at so fell a feast,
Be deaf, hear not, it’s hell to tell the rest.
Alas, thou wrong’st my youth with words of fear—
‘Tis hell, ‘tis horror, not for one to hear—
What is it, man? If it must needs be done,
Act it and end it, that the pain were gone.
I will not chant such dolor with my tongue,
Yet must I act the outrage with my hand.
My heart, my head, and all my powers beside,
Peruse this letter, lines of treble woe,
Read o’er my charge, and pardon when you know.
Hubert, these are to command thee, as thou tend’rest our quiet in mind and the estate of our person, that presently upon the receipt of our command, thou put out the eyes of Arthur Plantagenet.
Ah monstrous damned man, his very breath infects the elements,
Contagious venom dwelleth in his heart,
Effecting means to poison all the world.
Unreverent may I be to blame the heavens
Of great injustice, that the miscreant
Lives to oppress the innocents with wrong.
Ah, Hubert, makes he thee his instrument
To sound the tromp that causeth hell triumph?
Heaven weeps, the saints do shed celestial tears,
They fear thy fall, and cite thee with remorse,
They knock thy conscience, moving pity there,
Willing to fence thee from the rage of hell—
Hell, Hubert, trust me, all the plagues of hell
Hangs on performance of this damned deed.
This seal, the warrant of the body’s bliss,
Ensureth Satan chieftain of thy soul;
Subscribe not, Hubert, give not God’s part away.
I speak not only for eyes’ privilege,
The chief exterior that I would enjoy;
But for thy peril, far beyond my pain,
Thy sweet soul’s loss, more than my eyes’ vain lack;
A cause internal, and eternal too.
Advise thee Hubert, for the case is hard,
To lose salvation for a king’s reward.
My lord, a subject dwelling in the land
Is tied to execute the king’s command.
Yet God commands, whose power reacheth further,
That no command should stand in force to murther.
But this same essence hath ordained a law,
A death for guilt, to keep the world in awe.
I plead not guilty, treasonless and free.
But that appeal, my lord, concerns not me.
Why, thou art he that may’st omit the peril.
Aye, if my sovereign would remit his quarrel.
His quarrel is unhallowed false and wrong.
Then be the blame to whom it doth belong.
Why that’s to thee if thou as they proceed,
Conclude their judgement with so vile a deed.
Why then no execution can be lawful,
If judge’s dooms must be reputed doubtful.
Yes where in form of law in place and time,
The offender is convicted of the crime.
My lord, my lord, this long expostulation
Heaps up more grief than promise of redress.
For this I know, and so resolved I end,
That subjects’ lives on kings’ commands depend.
I must not reason why he is your foe,
But do his charge since he commands it so.
Then do thy charge, and charged be thy soul
With wrongful persecution done this day.
You rowling eyes, whose superficies yet
I do behold with eyes that nature lent,
Send forth the terror of your mover’s frown,
To wreak my wrong upon the murderers
That rob me of your fair reflecting view:
Let hell to them—as earth thy wish to me—
Be dark and direfull guerdon for their guilt,
And let the black tormenters of deep Tartary
Upbraid them with this damned enterprise,
Inflicting change of tortures on their souls.
Delay not Hubert, my orisons are ended,
Begin I pray thee, reave me of my sight;
But to perform a tragedy indeed,
Conclude the period with a mortal stab.
Constance farewell, tormentor come away,
Make my dispatch the tyrant’s feasting day.
I faint, I fear, my conscience bids desist!
Faint, did I say? Fear was it that I named?
My king commands, that warrant sets me free:
But God forbids, and he commandedeth kings.
That great commander counterchecks my charge,
He stays my hand, he maketh soft my heart.
Go cursed tools, your office is exempt,
Cheer thee young lord, thou shalt not lose an eye,
Though I shold purchase it with loss of life.
I’ll to the king, and say his will is done,
And of the langor tell him thou art dead.
Go in with me, for Hubert was not born
To blind those lamps that nature polished so.
Hubert, if ever Arthur be in state,
Look for amends of this received gift;
I took my eyesight by thy courtesy,
Thou lent’st them me, I will not be ingrate.
But now procrastination may offend
Depart we Hubert to prevent the worst.
Enter KING JOHN, ESSEX, SALISBURY, PEMBROKE.
Now warlike followers resteth aught undone
That may impeach us of fond oversight?
The French have felt the temper of our swords,
Cold terror keeps possession in their souls,
Checking their overdaring arrogance
For buckling with so great an overmatch.
The arch proud titled priest of Italy,
That calls himself grand vicar under God
Is busied now with trental obsequies,
Mass and months mind, dirge and I know not what
To ease their souls in painful purgatory,
That have miscarried in these bloody wars.
Heard you not, lords, when first his Holiness
Had tidings of our small account of him,
How with a taunt vaunting upon his toes
He urged a reason why the English ass
Disdained the blessed ordinance of Rome?
The title—reverently might I infer—
Became the kings that erst have borne the load,
The slavish weight of that controlling priest,
Who at his pleasure tempered them like wax
To carry arms on danger of his curse,
Banding their souls with warrants of his hand.
I grieve to think how kings in ages past,
Simply devoted to the see of Rome,
Have run into a thousand acts of shame.
But now for confirmation of our state,
Sith we have proyned the more than needful branch
That did oppress the true well-growing stock,
It resteth we throughout our territories
Be reproclaimed and invested king.
My liege, that were to busy men with doubts.
Once were you crowned, proclaimed, and with applause
Your city streets have echoed to the ear,
“God save the king, God save our sovereign John!”
Pardon my fear; my censure doth infer
Your Highness not deposed from regal state,
Would breed a mutiny in people’s minds,
What it should mean to have you crowned again.
Pembroke, perform what I have bid thee do,
Thou know’st not what induceth me to this.
Essex, go in, and lordings all be gone
About this task; I will be crowned anon.
Enter the BASTARD.
Philip, what news, how do the abbots’ chests?
Are friars fatter than the nuns are fair?
What cheer with churchmen—had they gold or no?
Tell me how hath thy office tooke effect?
My lord, I have performed your Highness’ charge:
The ease-bred abbots and the barefoot friars,
The monks, the priors and holy cloistered nuns
Are all in health, and were, my lord, in wealth,
Till I had tithed and told their holy hoards.
I doubt not when your Highness sees thy prize,
You may proportion all their former pride.
Why so, now sorts it, Philip, as it should:
This small intrusion into abbey trunks
Will make the popelings excommunicate,
Curse, ban, and breathe out damned orisons,
As thick as hailstones ‘fore the spring’s approach;
But yet as harmless and without effect,
As is the echo of a cannon’s crack
Discharged against the battlements of heaven.
But what news else befell there, Philip?
Strange news, my lord: within your territories,
Near Pomfret is a prophet new sprung up,
Whose divination volleys wonders forth;
To him the commons throng with country gifts.
He sets a date unto the beldame’s death,
Prescribes how long the virgin’s state shall last,
Distinguisheth the moving of the heavens,
Gives limits unto holy nuptial rites,
Foretelleth famine, aboundeth plenty forth,
Of fate, of fortune, life and death he chats,
With such assurance, scruples put apart,
As if he knew the certain dooms of heaven,
Or kept a register of all the destinies.
Thou tell’st me marvels, would thou hadst brought the man;
We might have questioned him of things to come.
My lord, I took a care of “had I wist,”
And brought the prophet with me to the court.
He stays, my lord, but at the presence door;
Pleaseth your Highness, I will call him in.
Nay, stay awhile; we’ll have him here anon.
A thing of weight is first to be performed.
Enter the nobles and crown King JOHN, and then cry “God save the king”.
Lordings and friends, supporters of our state,
Admire not at this unaccustomed course,
Nor in your thoughts blame not this deed of yours.
Once ere this time was I invested king,
Your fealty sworn as liegemen to our state;
Once since that time ambitious weeds have sprung
To stain the beauty of our garden plot;
But heavens in our conduct rooting thence
The false intruders, breakers of world’s peace,
Have to our joy, made sunshine chase the storm.
After the which, to try your constancy
That now I see is worthy of your names,
We craved once more your helps for to invest us
Into the right that envy sought to wrack.
Once was I not deposed, your former choice,
Now twice been crowned and applauded king;
Your cheered action to install me so,
Infers assured witness of your loves,
And binds me over in a kingly care
To render love with love, rewards of worth
To balance down requital to the full.
But thanks the while, thanks, lordings, to you all;
Ask me and use me, try me and find me yours.
A boon, my lord, at vantage of your words
We ask to guerdon all our loyalties.
We take the time your Highness bids us ask:
Please it you grant, you make your promise good,
With lesser loss than one superfluous hair
That not remembered falleth from your head.
My word is past; receive your boon, my lords.
What may it be? Ask it, and it is yours.
We crave, my lord, to please the commons with
The liberty of Lady Constance’ son:
Whose durance darkeneth your Highness’ right,
As if you kept him prisoner, to the end
Yourself were doubtful of the thing you have.
Dismiss him thence; your Highness needs not fear,
Twice by consent you are proclaimed our king.
This, if you grant, were all unto your good;
For simple people muse you keep him close.
Your words have searched the center of my thoughts
Confirming warrant of your loyalties,
Dismiss your counsel, sway my state,
Let John do nothing but by your consents.
Why how now, Philip—what ecstasy is this?
Why casts thou up thy eyes to heaven so?
There the five moons appear.
See, see my lord, strange apparitions.
Glancing mine eye to see the diadem
Placed by the bishops on your Highness’ head,
From forth a gloomy cloud, which curtain-like
Displayed itself, I suddenly espied
Five moons reflecting, as you see them now.
Even in the moment that the crown was placed
Gan they appear, holding the course you see.
What might portend these apparitions,
Unusual signs, forerunners of event,
Presagers of strange terror to the world?
Believe me, lords, the object fears me much.
Philip, thou told’st me of me of [sic] wizard late.
Fetch in the man to descant of this show.
The heavens frown upon the sinful earth,
When with prodigious unaccustomed signs
They spot their superficies with such wonder.
Before the ruins of Jerusalem,
Such meteors were the ensigns of his wrath
That hast’ned to destroy the faultful town.
Enter the BASTARD with the PROPHET.
Is this the man?
It is, my lord.
Prophet of Pomfret, for so I hear thou art,
That calculat’st of many things to come:
Who by a power replete with heavenly gift
Can’st blab the counsel of thy maker’s will.
If fame be true, or truth be wronged by thee,
Decide in ciphering what these five moons
Portend this clime, if they presage at all.
Breathe out thy gift, and if I live to see
Thy divination take a true effect,
I’ll honor thee above all earthly men.
The sky wherein these moons have residence
Presenteth Rome, the great metropolis
Where sits the Pope in all his holy pomp.
Four of the moons present four provinces,
To wit, Spain, Denmark, Germany, and France,
That bear the yoke of proud commanding Rome,
And stand in fear to tempt the prelate’s curse.
The smallest moon that whirls about the rest,
Impatient of the place he holds with them,
Doth figure forth this island Albion,
Who ‘gins to scorn the see and state of Rome,
And seeks to shun the edicts of the Pope.
This shows the heaven, and this I do aver
Is figured in these apparitions.
Why then it seems the heavens smile on us,
Giving applause for leaving of the Pope.
But for they chance in our meridian,
Do they effect no private growing ill
To be inflicted on us in this clime?
The moons effect no more than what I said;
But on some other knowledge that I have
By my prescience, ere Ascension day
Have brought the sun unto his usual height,
Of crown, estate, and royal dignity,
Thou shalt be clean despoiled and dispossessed.
False dreamer, perish with thy witched news,
Villain, thou wound’st me with thy fallacies;
If it be true, die for thy tidings’ price;
If false, for fearing me with vain suppose.
Hence with the witch, hell’s damned secretary.
Lock him up sure: for by my faith I swear,
True or not true, the wizard shall not live.
Before Ascension day—who should be cause hereof?
Cut off the cause and then the effect will die.
Tut, tut, my mercy serves to maim myself,
The root doth live, from whence these thorns spring up,
Aye, and my promise past for his deliv’ry?
Frown friends, fail faith, the devil go withal,
The brat shall die that terrifies me thus.
Pembroke and Essex, I recall my grant;
I will not buy your favors with my fear.
Nay, murmur not, my will is law enough;
I love you well, but if I loved you better,
I would not buy it with my discontent.
How now, what news with thee?
According to your Highness’ strict command
Young Arthur’s eyes are blinded and extinct.
Why so, then he may feel the crown, but never see it.
Nor see nor feel, for of the extreme pain,
Within one hour gave he up the ghost.
What, is he dead?
He is, my lord.
Then with him die my cares.
Now joy betide thy soul.
And heavens revenge thy death.
What have you done, my lord? Was ever heard
A deed of more inhumane consequence?
Your foes will curse, your friends will cry revenge.
Unkindly rage more rough than northern wind,
To chip the beauty of so sweet a flower.
What hope in us for mercy on a fault,
When kinsman dies without impeach of cause,
As you have done, so come to cheer you with,
The guilt shall never be cast me in my teeth.
And are you gone? The devil be your guide:
Proud rebels as you are to brave me so:
Saucy, uncivil, checkers of my will.
Your tongues give edge unto the fatal knife:
That shall have passage through your trait’rous throats.
But hush’t, breathe not bug’s words too soon abroad,
Lest time prevent the issue of thy reach.
Arthur is dead, aye, there the corzie grows,
But while he lived, the danger was the more;
His death hath freed me from a thousand fears,
But it hath purchased me ten times ten thousand foes.
Why all is one; such luck shall haunt his game,
To whom the devil owes an open shame.
His life a foe that leveled at my crown,
His death a frame to pull my building down.
My thoughts harped still on quiet by his end,
Who living aimed shrewdly at my room:
But to prevent that plea twice was I crowned,
Twice did my subjects swear me fealty,
And in my conscience loved me as their liege,
In whose defense they would have pawned their lives.
But now they shun me as a serpent’s sting,
A tragic tyrant stern and pitiless,
And not a title follows after John,
But butcher, bloodsucker and murderer.
What planet governed my nativity,
To bode me sovereign types of high estate,
So interlaced with hellish discontent,
Wherein fell fury hath no interest?
Cursed be the crown, chief author of my care—
Nay, cursed my will that made the crown my care:
Cursed be my birthday, cursed ten times the womb
That yielded me alive into the world.
Art thou there, villain? Furies haunt thee still,
For killing him whom all the world laments.
Why here’s my lord your Highness’ hand and seal,
Charging on live’s regard to do the deed.
Ah dull conceited peasant, know’st thou not
It was a damned execrable deed.
Show’st me a seal? Oh villain, both our souls
Have sold their freedom to the thrall of hell,
Under the warrant of that cursed seal.
Hence villain, hang thyself, and say in hell
That I am coming for a kingdom there.
My lord, attend the happy tale I tell,
For heaven’s health send Satan packing hence
That instigates your Highness to despair.
If Arthur’s death be dismal to be heard,
Bandy the news for rumors of untruth:
He lives, my lord, the sweetest youth alive,
In health, with eyesight, not a hair amiss.
This heart took vigor from this forward hand,
Making it weak to execute your charge.
What, lives he? Then sweet hope come home again.
Chase hence despair, the purveyor for hell.
Hie Hubert, tell these tidings to my lords
That throb in passions for young Arthur’s death;
Hence Hubert, stay not till thou hast revealed
The wished news of Arthur’s happy health.
I go myself, the joyfull’st man alive
To story out this new supposed crime.
Enter young ARTHUR on the walls.
Now help good hap to further mine intent,
Cross not my youth with any more extremes;
I venture life to gain my liberty,
And if I die, world’s troubles have an end.
Fear ‘gins dissuade the strength of my resolve—
My hold will fail, and then alas I fall,
And if I fall, no question death is next.
Better desist, and live in prison still.
Prison said I? Nay, rather death than so;
Comfort and courage come again to me.
I’ll venture sure—‘tis but a leap for life.
He leaps, and bruising his bones, after he was from his trance, speaks thus:
Ho, who is nigh? Somebody take me up.
Where is my mother? Let me speak with her.
Who hurts me thus? Speak ho—where are you gone?
Aye me, poor Arthur; I am here alone.
Why called I mother? How did I forget?
My fall, my fall, hath killed my mother’s son.
How will she weep at tidings of my death?
My death indeed; O God my bones are burst.
Sweet Jesu save my soul, forgive my rash attempt.
Comfort my mother, shield her from despair,
When she shall hear my tragic overthrow.
My heart controls the office of my tongue,
My vital powers forsake my bruised trunk,
I die, I die, heaven take my fleeting soul,
And lady mother all good hap to thee.
Enter PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, ESSEX.
My lords of Pembroke and of Salisbury,
We must be careful in our policy
To undermine the keepers of this place,
Else shall we never find the prince’s grave.
My lord of Essex, take no care for that,
I warrant you it was not closely done.
But who is this? Lo, lords, the withered flower
Who in his life shined like the morning’s blush,
Cast out a door, denied his burial right,
A prey for birds and beasts to gorge upon.
O ruthful spectacle! O damned deed!
My sinews shake; my very heart doth bleed.
Leave childish tears, brave lords of England,
If water-floods could fetch his life again,
My eyes should conduit forth a sea of tears;
If sobs would help, or sorrows serve the turn,
My heart should volley out deep-piercing plaints.
But bootless wer’t to breathe as many sighs
As might eclipse the brightest summer’s sun;
Here rests the help, a service to his ghost.
Let not the tyrant, causer of this dole,
Live to triumph in ruthful massacres.
Give hand and heart, and Englishmen to arms,
‘Tis God’s decree to wreak us of these harms.
The best advice—but who comes posting here?
Right noble lords, I speak unto you all:
The king entreats your soonest speed
To visit him, who on your present want
Did band and curse his birth, himself, and me,
For executing of his strict command.
I saw his passion, and at fittest time
Assured him of his cousin’s being safe,
Whom pity would not let me do to death.
He craves your company my lords in haste,
To whom I will conduct young Arthur straight,
Who is in health under my custody.
In health, base villain? Wer’t not I leave thy crime
To God’s revenge, to whom revenge belongs,
Here shouldst thou perish on my rapier’s point.
Call’st thou this health? Such health betide thy friends,
And all that are of thy condition.
My lords, but hear me speak, and kill me then,
If here I left not this young prince alive,
Maugre the hasty edict of the king,
Who gave me charge to put out both his eyes,
That God that gave me living to this hour,
Thunder revenge upon me in this place:
And as I tendered him with earnest love,
So God love me, and then I shall be well.
Hence traitor, hence; thy counsel is herein.
Some in this place appointed by the king
Have thrown him from this lodging here above,
And sure the murder hath been newly done,
For yet the body is not fully cold.
How say you lords, shall we with speed dispatch
Under our hands a packet into France
To bid the dolphin enter with his force
To claim the kingdom for his proper right?
His title maketh lawful strength thereto.
Besides, the pope, on peril of his curse,
Hath barred us of obedience unto John.
This hateful murder, Lewis his true descent,
The holy charge that we received from Rome,
Are weighty reasons if you like my rede,
To make us all persevere in this deed.
My lord of Essex, well have you advised,
I will accord to further you in this.
And Salisbury will not gainsay the same,
But aid that course set forth as he can.
Then each of us send straight to his allies,
To win them to this famous enterprise,
And let us all yclad in palmer’s weed,
The tenth of April at Saint Edmondsbury
Meet to confer, and on the altar there
Swear secrecy and aid to this advice.
Meanwhile let us convey this body hence,
And give him burial as befits his state,
Keeping his month’s mind and his obsequies
With solemn intercession for his soul.
How say you lordings; are you all agreed?
The tenth of April at Saint Edmondsbury,
God letting not, I will not fail the time.
Then let us convey the body hence.
Enter KING JOHN with two or three and the PROPHET.
Disturbed thoughts, foredoomers of mine ill,
Distracted passions, signs of growing harms,
Strange prophecies of imminent mishaps,
Confound my wits, and dull my senses so,
That every object these mine eyes behold
Seem instruments to bring me to my end.
Ascension day is come, John fear not then
The prodigies this prattling prophet threats.
‘Tis come, indeed; ah were it fully past,
Then were I careless of a thousand fears.
The dial tells me, it is twelve at noon.
Were twelve at midnight past, then might I vaunt
False seer’s prophecies of no import.
Could I as well wish this right hand of mine
Remove the sun from our meridian,
Unto the moonsted circle of th’ antipodes,
As turn this steel from twelve to twelve again.
Then John the date of fatal prophecies
Should with the prophet’s life together end.
But multa cadunt inter calicem supremaque labra.
Peter, unsay thy foolish doting dream,
And by the crown of England here, I swear,
To make thee great, and greatest of thy kin.
King John, although the time I have prescribed
Be but twelve hours remaining yet behind,
Yet do I know by inspiration,
Ere that fixed time be fully come about,
King John shall not be king as heretofore.
Vain buzzard, what mischance can chance so soon
To set a king beside his regal seat?
My heart is good, my body passing strong,
My land in peace, my enemies subdued;
Only my enemies storm at Arthur’s death—
But Arthur lives. Aye, there the challenge grows.
Were he dispatched unto his longest home,
Then were the king secure of thousand foes.
Hubert, what news with thee; where are my lords?
Hard news, my lord: Arthur the lovely prince
Seeking to escape over the castle walls,
Fell headlong down, and in the cursed fall
He brake his bones, and there before the gate
Your barons found him dead, and breathless quite.
Is Arthur dead?
Then Hubert without more words hang the prophet.
Away with peter, villain out of my sight,
I am deaf, begone, let him not speak a word.
Now John, thy fears are vanished into smoke;
Arthur is dead, thou guiltless of his death.
Sweet youth, but that I strived for a crown,
I could have well afforded to thine age
Long life, and happiness to thy content.
Enter the BASTARD.
Philip, what news with thee?
The news I heard was Peter’s prayers,
Who wished like fortune to befall us all:
And with that word, the rope his latest friend,
Kept him from falling headlong to the ground.
There let him hang, and be the ravens’ food,
While John triumphs in spite of prophecies.
But what’s the tidings from the popelings now?
What say the monks and priests to our proceedings?
Or where’s the barons that so suddenly
Did leave the king upon a false surmise?
The prelates storm and thirst for sharp revenge,
But please your Majesty, were that the worst,
It little skilled: a greater danger grows,
Which must be weeded out by careful speed,
Or all is lost, for all is leveled at.
More frights and fears, whate’er thy tidings be,
I am prepared: then Philip, quickly say,
Mean they to murder, or imprison me,
To give my crown away to Rome or France?
Or will they each of them become a king?
Worse than I think it is, it cannot be.
Not worse my lord, but every whit as bad.
The nobles have elected Lewis king,
In right of Lady Blanche your niece, his wife.
His landing is expected every hour.
The nobles, commons, clergy, all estates,
Incited chiefly by the cardinal,
Pandulph that lies here legate for the pope,
Thinks long to see their new-elected king.
And for undoubted proof, see here my liege
Letters to me from your nobility,
To be a party in this action;
Who under show of feigned holiness,
Appoint their meeting at Saint Edmondsbury,
There to consult, conspire, and conclude
The overthrow and downfall of your state.
Why so it must be: one hour of content
Matched with a month of passionate effects.
Why shines the sun to favor this consort?
Why do the winds not break their brazen gates,
And scatter all these perjured complices,
With all their counsels and their damned drifts?
But see the welkin rolleth gently on,
There’s not a low’ring cloud to frown on them;
The heaven, the earth, the sun, the moon and all
Conspire with those confederates my decay.
Then hell for me if any power be there,
Forsake that place, and guide me step by step
To poison, strangle, murder in their steps
These traitors—oh, that name is too good for them,
And death is easy! Is there nothing worse
To wreak me on this proud peace-breaking crew?
What say’st thou, Philip? Why assists thou not?
These curses, good my lord, fit not the season:
Help must descend from heaven against this treason.
Nay, thou wilt prove a traitor with the rest,
Go get thee to them, shame come to you all.
I would be loath to leave your Highness thus,
Yet you command, and I though grieved will go.
Ah Philip, whither goest thou? Come again.
My lord, these motions are as passions of a madman.
A madman, Philip; I am mad indeed—
My heart is mazed, my senses all foredone.
And John of England now is quite undone.
Was ever king as I oppressed with cares?
Dame Eleanor, my noble mother queen,
My only hope and comfort in distress,
Is dead, and England excommunicate,
And I am interdicted by the pope,
All churches cursed, their doors are sealed up,
And for the pleasure of the Romish priest,
The service of the Highest is neglected;
The multitude—a beast of many heads—
Do wish confusion to their sovereign;
The nobles, blinded with ambition’s fumes,
Assemble powers to beat mine empire down,
And more than this, elect a foreign king.
O England, wert thou ever miserable;
King John of England sees thee miserable,
John, ‘tis thy sins that makes it miserable,
Quicquid delirunt reges, plectuntur achivi.
Philip, as thou hast ever loved thy king,
So show it now; post to Saint Edmondsbury,
Dissemble with the nobles, know their drifts,
Confound their devilish plots, and damned devices.
Though John be faulty, yet let subjects bear,
He will amend and right the people’s wrongs.
A mother though she were unnatural,
Is better than the kindest stepdame is:
Let never Englishman trust foreign rule.
Then, Philip, show thy fealty to thy king,
And ‘mongst the nobles plead thou for the king.
I go my lord. See how he is distraught,
This is the cursed priest of Italy
Hath heaped these mischiefs on this hapless land.
Now Philip, hadst thou Tully’s eloquence,
Then might’st thou hope to plead with good success.
And art thou gone? Success may follow thee;
Thus hast thou showed thy kindness to thy king.
Sirrah, in haste go greet the cardinal,
Pandulph I mean, the legate from the pope.
Say that the king desires to speak with him.
Now John, bethink thee how thou may’st resolve,
And if thou wilt continue England’s king,
Then cast about to keep thy diadem,
For life and land, and all is leveled at.
The pope of Rome, ‘tis he that is the cause,
He curseth thee, he sets thy subjects free
From due obedience to their sovereign;
He animates the nobles in their wars,
He gives away the crown to Philip’s son,
And pardons all that seek to murder thee—
And thus blind zeal is still predominant.
Then John, there is no way to keep thy crown,
But finely to dissemble with the pope;
That hand that gave the wound must give the salve
To cure the hurt, else quite incurable.
Thy sins are far too great to be the man
T’ abolish pope, and popery from thy realm,
But in thy seat, if I may guess at all,
A king shall reign that shall suppress them all.
Peace John, here comes the legate of the pope;
Dissemble thou, and whatsoe’er thou say’st,
Yet with thy heart wish their confusion.
Now John, unworthy man to breathe on earth,
That dost oppugn against thy mother church,
Why am I sent for to thy cursed self?
Thou man of God, vicegerent for the pope,
The holy vicar of Saint Peter’s church,
Upon my knees, I pardon crave of thee,
And do submit me to the see of Rome,
And vow for penance of my high offence,
To take on me the holy cross of Christ,
And carry arms in holy Christian wars.
No John, thy crouching and dissembling thus
Cannot deceive the legate of the pope.
Say what thou wilt, I will not credit thee:
Thy crown and kingdom both are ta’en away,
And thou art cursed without redemption.
Accursed indeed to kneel to such a drudge,
And get no help with thy submission.
Unsheath thy sword, and stay the misproud priest
That thus triumphs o’er thee, a mighty king.
No John, submit again, dissemble yet,
For priests and women must be flattered.
Yet holy father, thou thyself dost know
No time too late for sinners to repent,
Absolve me then, and John doth swear to do
The uttermost whatever thou demand’st.
John, now I see thy hearty penitence,
I rue and pity thy distressed estate,
One way is left to reconcile thyself,
And only one which I shall show to thee.
Thou must surrender to the see of Rome
Thy crown and diadem, then shall the pope
Defend thee from th’ invasion of thy foes.
And where his Holiness hath kindled France,
And set thy subjects hearts at war with thee,
Then shall he curse thy foes, and beat them down,
That seek the discontentment of the king.
From bad to worse! Or I must lose my realm,
Or give my crown for penance unto Rome!
A misery more piercing than the darts
That break from burning exhalation’s power.
What? Shall I give my crown with this right hand?
No! With this hand defend thy crown and thee.
What news with thee?
Please it your Majesty, there is descried on the coast of Kent an hundred sail of ships, which of all men is thought to be the French fleet, under the conduct of the dolphin, so that it puts the country in a mutiny, so they send to your grace for succor.
How now Lord Cardinal, what’s your best advice?
These mutinies must be allayed in time
By policy or headstrong rage at least.
O John, these troubles tire thy wearied soul,
And like to Luna in a sad eclipse,
So are thy thoughts and passions for this news.
Well may it be when kings are grieved so,
The vulgar sort work princes overthrow.
King John, for not effecting of thy plighted vow,
This strange annoyance happens to thy land;
But yet be reconciled unto the church,
And nothing shall be grievous to thy state.
Oh Pandulph, be it as thou hast decreed,
John will not spurn against thy sound advice.
Come let’s away, and with thy help I trow
My realm shall flourish and my crown in peace.
enter the nobles, PEMBROKE, ESSEX, CHESTER, BEAUCHAMP, CLARE, with others.
Now sweet Saint Edmond, holy saint in heaven,
Whose shrine is sacred, high esteemed on earth,
Infuse a constant zeal in all our hearts
To prosecute this act of mickel weight,
Lord Beauchamp say, what friends have you procured.
The Lord Fitzwater, Lord Percy and Lord Ross,
Vowed meeting here this day the ‘leventh hour.
Under the cloak of holy pilgrimage,
By that same hour on warrant of their faith,
Philip Plantagent, a bird of swiftest wing,
Lord Eustace, Vesey, Lord Cressy, and Lord Mowbray,
Appointed meeting at Saint Edmond’s shrine.
Until their presence I’ll conceal my tale,
Sweet complices in holy Christian acts,
That venture for the purchase of renown,
Thrice welcome to the league of high resolve,
That pawn their bodies for their souls’ regard.
Now wanteth but the rest to end this work,
In pilgrim’s habit comes our holy troop
A furlong hence with swift unwonted pace,
Maybe they are the persons you expect.
With swift unwonted gait, see what a thing is zeal,
That spurs them on with fervence to this shrine,
Now joy come to them for their true intent
And in good time here come the war-men all
That sweat in body by the mind’s disease
Hap and heart’s-ease brave lordings be your lot.
Enter the BASTARD philip, etc.
Amen my lords, the like betide your luck,
And all that travel in a Christian cause.
Cheerly replied, brave branch of kingly stock,
A right Plantagenet should reason so.
But silence lords, attend our coming’s cause;
The servile yoke that pained us with toil,
On strong instinct hath framed this conventicle
To ease our necks of servitude’s contempt.
Should I not name the foeman of our rest,
Which of you all so barren in conceit,
As cannot level at the man I mean?
But lest enigmas shadow shining truth
Plainly to paint as truth requires no art.
Th’ effect of this resort importeth this,
To root and clean extirpate tyrant John,
Tyrant I say, appealing to the man,
If any here that loves him, and I ask
What kindship, lenity, or Christian reign
Rules in the man, to bar this foul impeach?
First I infer the Chesters’ banishment,
For reprehending him in most unchristian crimes,
Was special notice of a tyrant’s will.
But were this all, the devil should be saved,
But this the least of many thousand faults,
That circumstance with leisure might display.
Our private wrongs, no parcel of my tale
Which now in presence, but for some great cause
Might wish to him as to a mortal foe.
But shall I close the period with an act
Abhorring in the ears of Christian men,
His cousin’s death, that sweet unguilty child,
Untimely butchered by the tyrant’s means.
Here is my proofs, as clear as gravel brook,
And on the same I further must infer,
That who upholds a tyrant in is course,
Is culpable of all his damned guilt.
To show the which, is yet to be described.
My lord of Pembroke, show what is behind,
Only I say, that were there nothing else
To move us but the pope’s most dreadful curse,
Whereof we are assured if we fail,
It were enough to instigate us all
With earnestness of spirit to seek a mean
To dispossess John of his regiment.
Well hath my lord of Essex told his tale,
Which I aver for most substantial truth,
And more to make the matter to our mind,
I say that Lewis in challenge of his wife,
Hath title of an uncontrolled plea
To all that ‘longeth to an English crown.
Short tale to make, the see apostolic
Hath offered dispensation for the fault.
If any be, as trust me none I know
By planting Lewis in the usurper’s room:
This is the cause of all our presence here,
That on the holy altar we protest
To aid the right of Lewis with goods and life,
Who on our knowledge is in arms for England.
What say you, lords?
As Pembroke say’th, affirmeth Salisbury:
Fair Lewis of France that ‘spoused Lady Blanche,
Hath title of an uncontrolled strength
To England, and what ‘longeth to the crown:
In right whereof, as we are true informed,
The prince is marching hitherward in arms.
Our purpose, to conclude that with a word,
Is to invest him as we may devise
King of our country in the tyrant’s stead;
And so the warrant on the altar sworn,
And so the intent for which we hither came.
My lord of Salisbury, I cannot couch
My speeches with the needful words of art,
As doth beseem in such a weighty work,
But what my conscience and my duty will
I purpose to impart.
For Chester’s exile, blame his busy wit,
That meddled where his duty quite forbade;
For any private causes that you have,
Methinks they should not mount to such a height,
As to depose a king in their revenge.
For Arthur’s death King John was innocent,
He, desperate, was the deathsman to himself,
Which you to make a color to your crime
Injustly do impute to his default,
But where fell traitorism hath residence,
There want no words to set despite on work.
I say ‘tis shame, and worthy all reproof,
To wrest such petty wrongs in terms of right,
Against a king anointed by the Lord.
Why Salisbury, admit the wrongs are true,
Yet subjects may not take in hand revenge,
And rob the heavens of their proper power,
Where sitteth he to whom revenge belongs.
And doth a pope, a priest, a man of pride
Give charters for the lives of lawful kings?
What can he bless, or who regards his curse,
But such as give to man, and takes from God?
I speak it in the sight of God above,
There’s not a man that dies in your belief,
But sells his soul perpetually to pain.
Aid Lewis, leave God, kill John, please hell,
Make havoc of the welfare of your souls,
For here I leave you in the sight of heaven,
A troop of traitors, food for hellish fiends.
If you desist, then follow me as friends,
If not, then do your worst as hateful traitors.
For Lewis his right, alas, ‘tis too too lame,
A senseless claim, if truth be title’s friend.
In brief, if this be cause of our resort,
Our pilgrimage is to the devil’s shrine.
I came not lords to troop as traitors do,
Nor will I counsel in so bad a cause.
Please you return, we go again as friends,
If not, I to my king, and you where traitors please.
A hot young man, and so, my lords, proceed,
Aye let him go, and better lost than found.
What say you lords, will all the rest proceed,
Will you all with me swear upon the altar
That you will to the death be aid to Lewis and enemy to John?
Every man lay his hand by mine, in witness of his heart’s accord.
Well then, every man to arms to meet the king
Who is already before London.
What news, herald?
The right Christian prince my master, Lewis of France, is at hand, coming to visit your honors, directed hither by the right honorable Richard Earl of Bigot, to confer with your honors.
Fair lords of England, Lewis salutes you all
As friends and firm wellwishers of his weal,
At whose request from plenty flowing France
Crossing the ocean with a southern gale,
He is in person come at your commands
To undertake and gratify withal
The fullness of your favors proffered him.
But world’s brave men, omitting promises,
Till time be minister of more amends,
I must acquaint you with our fortune’s course.
The heavens dewing favors on my head,
Have in their conduct safe with victory,
Brought me along your well manured bounds,
With small repulse, and little cross of chance.
Your city Rochester with great applause
By some divine instinct laid arms aside;
And from the hollow holes of Thamesis
Echo apace replied, Vive le roi.
From thence, along the wanton rowling glade
To Troynovant, your fair metropolis,
With luck came Lewis to show his troops of France,
Waving our ensigns with the dallying winds,
The fearful object of fell frowning war;
Where after some assault, and small defence,
Heavens, may I say, and not my warlike troop,
Tempered their hearts to take a friendly foe
Within the compass of their high built walls,
Giving me title as it seemed they wish.
Thus fortune, lords, acts to your forwardness
Means of content in lieu of former grief;
And may I live but to requite you all,
World’s wish were mine in dying noted yours.
Welcome the balm that closeth up our wounds,
The sovereign med’cine for our quick recure,
The anchor of our hope, the only prop,
Whereon depends our lives, our lands, our weal,
Without the which, as sheep without their herd,
(Except a shepherd winking at the wolf)
We stray, we pine, we run to thousand harms.
No marvel then, though with unwonted joy,
We welcome him that beateth woes away.
Thanks to you all of this religious league,
A holy knot of catholic consent.
I cannot name you, lordings, man by man,
But like a stranger unacquainted yet,
In general I promise faithful love.
Lord Bigot brought me to Saint Edmond’s shrine,
Giving me warrant of a Christian oath,
That this assembly came devoted here,
To swear according as your packets showed,
Homage and loyal service to ourself.
I need not doubt the surety of your wills;
Since well I know for many of your sakes
The towns have yielded on their own accords;
Yet for a fashion, not for misbelief,
My eyes must witness, and these ears must hear
Your oath upon the holy altar sworn,
And after march to end our coming’s cause.
That we intend no other than good truth,
All that are present of this holy league,
For confirmation of our better trust,
In presence of his Highness swear with me,
The sequel that myself shall utter here.
I Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Salisbury, swear upon the altar, and by the holy army of saints, homage and allegiance to the right Christian prince, Lewis of France, as true and rightful king to England, Cornwall and Wales, and to their territories, in the defense whereof I upon the holy altar swear all forwardness.
All the English lords swear.
Lords. as the noble earl hath sworn, so swear we all.
I rest assured on your holy oath,
And on this altar in like sort I swear
Love to you all, and princely recompense
To guerdon your good wills unto the full.
And since I am at this religious shrine,
My good wellwishers, give us leave awhile
To use some orisons ourselves apart
To all the holy company of heaven,
That they will smile upon our purposes,
And bring them to a fortunate event.
We leave your Highness to your good intent.
Exeunt LORDS of England.
Now Viscount Meloun, what remains behind?
Trust me these traitors to their sovereign state
Are not to be believed in any sort.
Indeed my lord, they that infringe their oaths,
And play the rebels ‘gainst their native king,
Will for as little cause revolt from you,
If ever opportunity incite them so;
For once forsworn, and never after sound,
There’s no affiance after perjury.
Well Meloun well, let’s smooth with them awhile,
Until we have as much as they can do;
And when their virtue is exhaled dry,
I’ll hang them for the guerdon of their help.
Meanwhile we’ll use them as a precious poison
To undertake the issue of our hope.
‘Tis policy, my lord, to bait our hooks
With merry smiles, and promise of much weight;
But when your Highness needeth them no more,
‘Tis good make sure work with them, lest indeed
They prove to you as to their natural king.
Trust me my lord, right well have you advised,
Venom for use, but never for a sport
Is to be dallied with, lest it infect.
Were you installed, as soon I hope you shall,
Be free from traitors, and dispatch them all.
That so I mean, I swear before you all
On this same altar, and by heaven’s power,
There’s not an English traitor of them all,
John once dispatched, and I fair England’s king,
Shall on his shoulders bear his head one day,
But I will crop it for their guilt’s desert.
Nor shall their heirs enjoy their signories,
But perish by their parents’ foul amiss.
This have I sworn, and this will I perform,
If e’er I come unto the height I hope.
Lay down your hands, and swear the same with me.
The French LORDS swear.
Why so, now call them in, and speak them fair;
A smile of France will feed an English fool.
Bear them in hand as friends, for so they be;
But in the heart like traitors as they are.
Enter the English LORDS.
Now famous followers, chieftains of the world,
Have we solicited with hearty prayer
The heaven in favor of our high attempt.
Leave we this place, and march we with our power
To rouse the tyrant from his chiefest hold;
And when our labors have a prosp’rous end,
Each man shall reap the fruit of his desert.
And so resolved, brave followers, let us hence.
Enter KING JOHN, BASTARD, PANDULPH, and a many priests with them.
Thus, John, thou art absolved from all thy sins,
And freed by order from our father’s curse.
Receive thy crown again, with this proviso,
That thou remain true liegeman to the pope,
And carry arms in right of holy Rome.
I hold the same as tenant to the pope,
And thank your Holiness for your kindness shown.
A proper jest, when kings must stoop to friars;
Need hath no law, when friars must be kings.
Enter a MESSENGER.
Please it your Majesty, the prince of France
With all the nobles of your grace’s land,
Are marching hitherward in good array.
Where e’er they set their foot, all places yield;
Thy land is theirs, and not a foot holds out
But Dover Castle, which is hard besieged.
Fear not, King John, thy kingdom is the pope’s,
And they shall know his Holiness hath power
To beat them soon from whence he hath to do.
Drums and trumpets. Enter LEWIS, MELUN, SALISBURY, ESSEX, PEMBROKE, and all the nobles from France, and England.
Pandulph, as gave his Holiness in charge,
So hath the Dolphin mustered up his troops
And won the greatest part of all this land.
But ill becomes your grace, Lord Cardinal,
Thus to converse with John that is accursed.
Lewis of France, victorious conqueror,
Whose sword hath made this island quake for fear:
Thy forwardness to fight for holy Rome,
Shall be remunerated to the full.
But know, my lord, King John is now absolved;
The pope is pleased, the land is blessed again,
And thou hast brought each thing to good effect.
It resteth then that thou withdraw thy powers
And quietly return to France again,
For all is done the pope would wish thee do.
But all’s not done that Lewis came to do.
Why, Pandulph, hath King Philip sent his son
And been at such excessive charge in wars,
To be dismissed with words? King John shall know
England is mine, and he usurps my right.
Lewis, I charge thee and thy complices,
Upon the pain of Pandulph’s holy curse,
That thou withdraw thy powers to France again
And yield up London and the neighbor towns
That thou has ta’en in England by the sword.
Lord Cardinal, by Lewis’ princely leave,
It can be nought but usurpation
In thee, the pope, and all the church of Rome,
Thus to insult on kings of Christendom,
Now with a word to make them carry arms,
Then with a word to make them leave their arms.
This must not be: prince Lewis, keep thine own,
Let pope and popelings curse their bellies’ full.
My lord of Meloun, what title had the prince
To England and the crown of Albion,
But such a title as the pope confirmed?
The prelate now lets fall his feigned claim:
Lewis is but the agent for the pope,
Then must the dolphin cease, sith he hath ceased;
But cease or no, it greatly matters not,
If you, my lords and barons of the land
Will leave the French, and cleave unto your king.
For shame, ye peers of England, suffer not
Yourselves, your honors, and your land to fall:
But with resolved thoughts beat back the French,
And free the land from yoke of servitude.
Philip, not so, Lord Lewis is our king,
And we will follow him unto the death.
Then in the name of Innocent the pope,
I curse the prince and all that take his part,
And excommunicate the rebel peers
As traitors to the king, and to the pope.
Pandulph, our swords shall bless ourselves again;
Prepare thee, John; lords, follow me your king.
Accursed John, the devil owes thee shame,
Resisting Rome, or yielding to the pope, all’s one.
The devil take the pope, the peers, and France!
Shame be my share for yielding to the priest.
Comfort thyself, King John, the cardinal goes
Upon his curse to make them leave their arms.
Comfort, my lord, and curse the cardinal,
Betake yourself to arms, my troops are pressed
To answer Lewis with a lusty shock;
The English archers have their quivers full,
Their bows are bent, the pikes are pressed to push.
God cheer my lord, King Richard’s fortune hangs
Upon the plume of warlike Philip’s helm.
Then let them know his brother and his son
Are leaders of the Englishmen at arms.
Philip, I know not how to answer thee;
But let us hence, to answer Lewis’ pride.
Excursions; enter MELOUN with English lords.
O, I am slain, nobles, Salisbury, Pembroke,
My soul is charged, hear me; for what I say
Concerns the peers of England, and their state.
Listen, brave lords, a fearful mourning tale
To be delivered by a man of death.
Behold these scars, the dole of bloody Mars,
Are harbingers from nature’s common foe,
Citing this trunk to Tellus’ prison house.
Life’s charter, lordings, lasteth not an hour:
And fearful thoughts, forerunners of my end,
Bids me give physic to a sickly soul.
O peers of England, know you what you do?
There’s but a hair that sunders you from harm,
The hook is baited, and the train is made,
And simply you run doting to your deaths.
But lest I die, and leave my tale untold,
With silence slaughtering so brave a crew,
This I aver, if Lewis win the day,
There’s not an Englishman that lifts his hand
Against King John to plant the heir of France,
But is already damned to cruel death.
I heard it vowed; myself amongst the rest
Swore on the altar aid to this edict.
Two causes, lords, make me display this drift,
The greatest for the freedom of my soul,
That longs to leave this mansion free from guilt;
The other on a natural instinct,
For that my grandsire was an Englishman.
Misdoubt not lords the truth of my discourse,
No frenzy, nor no brainsick idle fit,
But well advised, and wotting what I say.
Pronounce I here before the face of heaven,
That nothing is discovered but a truth.
‘Tis time to fly, submit yourselves to John,
The smiles of France shade in the frowns of death.
Lift up your swords, turn face against the French,
Expel the yoke that’s framed for your necks.
Back war-men, back, embowel not the clime,
Your seat, your nurse, your birthday’s breathing place,
That bred you, bears you, brought you up in arms.
Ah, be not so ingrate to dig your mother’s grave,
Preserve your lambs and beat away the wolf.
My soul hath said, contrition’s penitence
Lays hold on man’s redemption for my sin.
Farewell my lords; witness my faith when we are met in heaven
And for my kindness give me grave room here.
My soul doth fleet; world’s vanities farewell.
Now joy betide thy soul well-meaning man.
How now my lords, what cooling card is this?
A greater grief grows now than erst hath been.
What counsel give you, shall we stay and die?
Or shall we home, and kneel unto the king.
My heart misgave this sad accursed news:
What have we done? Fie lords, what frenzy moved
Our hearts to yield unto the pride of France?
If we persever, we are sure to die;
If we desist, small hope again of life.
Bear hence the body of this wretched man,
That made us wretched with his dying tale,
And stand not wailing on our present harms,
As women wont: but seek our harms’ redress.
As for myself, I will in haste be gone,
And kneel for pardon to our sovereign John.
Aye, there’s the way, let’s rather kneel to him,
Than to the French that would confound us all.
Enter KING JOHN carried between 2 lords.
Set down, set down the load not worth your pain,
For done I am with deadly wounding grief;
Sickly and succorless, hopeless of any good,
The world hath wearied me, and I have wearied it.
It loathes I live, I live and loathe myself.
Who pities me? To whom have I been kind?
But to a few; a few will pity me.
Why die I not? Death scorns so vile a prey.
Why live I not? Life hates so sad a prize.
I sue to both to be retained of either,
But both are deaf, I can be heard of neither.
Nor death nor life, yet life and ne’er the near,
Ymixt with death, biding I wot not where.
How fares my lord, that he is carried thus?
Not all the awkward fortunes yet befall’n,
Made such impression of lament in me.
Nor ever did my eye attaint my heart
With any object moving more remorse,
Than now beholding of a mighty king,
Born by his lords in such distressed state.
What news with thee? If bad, report it straight;
If good, be mute, it doth but flatter me.
Such as it is, and heavy though it be
To glut the world with tragic elegies,
Once will I breathe to aggravate the rest,
Another moan to make the measure full.
The bravest bowman had not yet sent forth
Two arrows from the quiver at his side,
But that a rumor went throughout our camp,
That John was fled, the king had left the field.
At last the rumor scaled these ears of mine,
Who rather chose as sacrifice for Mars,
Than ignominious scandal by retire.
I cheered the troops as did the prince of Troy
His weary followers ‘gainst the Myrmidons,
Crying aloud, “Saint George, the day is ours!”
But fear had captivated courage quite,
And like the lamb before the greedy wolf,
So heartless fled our war-men from the field.
Short tale to make, myself amongst the rest,
Was fain to fly before the eager foe.
By this time night had shadowed all the earth,
With sable curtains of the blackest hue,
And fenced us from the fury of the French,
As Io from the jealous Juno’s eye,
When in the morning our troops did gather head,
Passing the washes with our carriages,
The impartial tide deadly and inexorable,
Came raging in with billows threat’ning death,
And swallowed up the most of all our men.
Myself upon a Galloway right free, well paced,
Outstripped the floods that followed wave by wave,
I so escaped to tell this tragic tale.
Grief upon grief, yet none so great a grief,
To end this life, and thereby rid my grief.
Was ever any so infortunate,
The right idea of a cursed man,
As I, poor I, a triumph for despite.
My fever grows, what ague shakes me so?
How far to Swinstead, tell me do you know?
Present unto the abbot word of my repair.
My sickness rages, to tyrannize upon me,
I cannot live unless this fever leave me.
Good cheer my lord, the abbey is at hand.
Behold my lord, the churchmen come to meet you.
Enter the ABBOT and certain MONKS.
All health and happiness to our sovereign lord the king.
No health nor happiness hath John at all.
Say abbot, am I welcome to thy house?
Such welcome as our abbey can afford,
Your Majesty shall be assured of.
The king thou seest is weak and very faint;
What victuals hast thou to refresh his grace?
Good store my lord, of that you need not fear,
For Lincolnshire, and these our abbey grounds
Were never fatter, nor in better plight.
Philip, thou never need’st to doubt of cates,
Nor king nor lord is seated half so well,
As are the abbeys throughout all the land.
If any plot of ground do pass another,
The friars fasten on it straight.
But let us in to taste of their repast,
It goes against my heart to feed with them,
Or be beholding to such abbey grooms.
Manet the MONK.
Is this the king that never loved a friar?
Is this the man that doth contemn the pope?
Is this the man that robbed the holy church,
And yet will fly unto a friary?
Is this the king that aims at abbeys’ lands?
Is this the man whom all the world abhors,
And yet will fly unto a friary?
Accursed be Swinstead Abbey, abbot, friars,
Monks, nuns, and clerks, and all that dwells therein,
If wicked John escape alive away.
Now if that thou wilt look to merit heaven,
And be canonized for a holy saint,
To please the world with a deserving work,
Be thou the man to set thy country free,
And murder him that seeks to murder thee.
Enter the ABBOT.
Why are not you within to cheer the king?
He now begins to mend, and will to meat.
What if I say to strangle him in his sleep?
What, at thy mumpsimus? away,
And seek some means for to pastime the king.
I’ll set a dudgeon dagger at his heart,
And with a mallet knock him on the head.
Alas, what means this monk, to murder me?
Dare lay my life he’ll kill me for my place.
I’ll poison him, and it shall ne’er be known,
And then shall I be chiefest of my house.
If I were dead, indeed he is the next,
But I’ll away, for why the monk is mad,
And in his madness he will murder me.
My lord, I cry your lordship mercy, I saw you not.
Alas, good Thomas, do not murder me, and thou shalt have my place with thousand thanks.
I murder you? God shield from such a thought.
If thou wilt needs, yet let me say my prayers.
I will not hurt your lordship, good my lord,
But if you please, I will impart a thing
That shall be beneficial to us all.
Wilt thou not hurt me, holy monk? say on.
You know, my lord, the king is in our house.
You know likewise the king abhors a friar.
And he that loves not a friar is our enemy.
Thou say’st true.
Then the king is our enemy.
Why then should we not kill our enemy, and the king being our enemy, why then should we not kill the king?
O blessed monk, I see God moves thy mind
To free this land from tyrant’s slavery.
But who dare venture for to do this deed?
Who dare? Why I my lord dare do the deed;
I’ll free my country and the church from foes,
And merit heaven by killing of a king.
Thomas, kneel down, and if thou art resolved,
I will absolve thee here from all thy sins,
For why the deed is meritorious.
Forward and fear not, man, for every month
Our friars shall sing a mass for Thomas’ soul.
God and Saint Francis prosper my attempt,
For now my lord I go about my work.
Enter LEWIS and his army.
Thus victory in bloody laurel clad,
Follows the fortune of young Lodowick,
The Englishmen as daunted at our sight,
Fall as the fowl before the eagle’s eyes.
Only two crosses of contrary change
Do nip my heart, and vex me with unrest.
Lord Meloun’s death, the one part of my soul,
A braver man did never live in France.
The other grief, aye, that’s a gall indeed
To think that Dover Castle should hold out
Gainst all assaults, and rest impregnable.
Yee warlike race of Francus, Hector’s son,
Triumph in conquest of that tyrant John.
The better half of England is our own,
And towards the conquest of the other part,
We have the face of all the English lords,
What then remains but overrun the land?
Be resolute, my warlike followers,
And if good fortune serve as she begins,
The poorest peasant of the realm of France
Shall be a master o’er an English lord.
Enter a MESSENGER.
Fellow, what news?
Pleaseth your grace, the earl of Salisbury, Pembroke, Essex, Clare, and Arundel, with all the barons that did fight for thee, are on a sudden fled with all their powers, to join with John, to drive thee back again.
Enter another MESSENGER.
Lewis, my lord, why stand’st thou in a maze?
Gather thy troops, hope not of help from France,
For all thy forces being fifty sail,
Containing twenty thousand soldiers,
With victual and munition for the war,
Putting from Calais in unlucky time,
Did cross the seas, and on the Goodwin sands,
The men, munition, and the ships are lost.
Enter another MESSENGER.
More news? Say on.
John, my lord, with all his scattered troops,
Flying the fury of your conquering sword,
As Pharaoh erst within the bloody sea,
So he and his environed with the tide,
On Lincoln washes all were overwhelmed,
The barons fled, our forces cast away.
Was ever heard such unexpected news?
Yet Lodowick, revive thy dying heart;
King John and all his forces are consumed.
The less thou need’st the aid of English earls,
The less thou need’st to grieve thy navy’s wrack,
And follow time’s advantage with success.
Brave Frenchmen, armed with magnanimity,
March after Lewis who will lead you on
To chase the barons’ power that wants a head,
For John is drowned, and I am England’s king.
Though our munition and our men be lost,
Philip of France will send us fresh supplies.
Enter two FRIARS laying a cloth.
Dispatch, dispatch, the king desires to eat. Would a might eat his last for the love he bears to churchmen.
I am of thy mind too, and so it should be and we might be our own carvers. I marvel why they dine here in the orchard.
I know not, nor I care not. The king comes.
Come on, Lord Abbot, shall we sit together?
Pleaseth your grace sit down.
Take your places, sirs, no pomp in penury, all beggars and friends may come; where necessity keeps the house, courtesy is barred the table. Sit down, Philip.
My lord, I am loath to allude so much to the proverb, “honors change manners”; a king is a king, though fortune do her worst, and we as dutiful in despite of her frown, as if your highness were now in the highest type of dignity.
Come, no more ado, and you tell me much of dignity, you’ll mar my appetite in a surfeit of sorrow. What cheer, Lord Abbot? Methinks you frown like an host that knows his guest hath no money to pay the reckoning?
No, my liege; if I frown at all, it is for I fear this cheer too homely to entertain so mighty a guest as your Majesty.
I think rather, my Lord Abbot, you remember my last being here, when I went in progress for pouches—and the rancor of his heart breaks out in his countenance, to show he hath not forgot me.
Not so, my lord; you—and the meanest follower of his Majesty—are heartily welcome to me.
Wassail, my liege, and as a poor monk may say, welcome to Swinstead.
Begin, monk, and report hereafter thou wast taster to a king.
As much health to your Highness as to my own heart.
I pledge thee, kind monk.
The merriest draught that ever was drunk in England. Am I not too bold with your Highness?
Not a whit; all friends and fellows for a time.
If the inwards of a toad be a compound of any proof—why so it works.
Stay Philip, where’s the monk?
He is dead, my lord.
Then drink not Philip for a world of wealth.
What cheer, my liege? Your color ‘gins to change.
So doth my life! O Philip, I am poisoned.
The monk, the devil, the poison ‘gins to rage;
It will depose myself a king from reign.
This abbot hath an interest in this act—
At all adventures take thou that from me.
There lie the abbot, abbey, lubber, devil.
March with the monk unto the gates of hell.
How fares my lord?
Philip, some drink! Oh for the frozen Alps
To tumble on and cool this inward heat
That rageth as the furnace sevenfold hot
To burn the holy three in Babylon.
Power after power forsake their proper power;
Only the heart impugns with faint resist
The fierce invade of him that conquers kings.
Help, God! O pain! Die John—O plague
Inflicted on thee for thy grievous sins.
Philip, a chair, and by and by a grave,
My legs disdain the carriage of a king.
Ah, good my liege, with patience conquer grief,
And bear this pain with kingly fortitude.
Methinks I see a catalogue of sin
Wrote by a fiend in marble characters,
The least enough to lose my part in heaven.
Methinks the devil whispers in mine ears
And tells me ‘tis in vain to hope for grace,
I must be damned for Arthur’s sudden death.
I see—I see a thousand thousand men
Come to accuse me for my wrong on earth,
And there is none so mercifull a god
That will forgive the number of my sins.
How have I lived, but by another’s loss?
What have I loved but wrack of other’s weal?
When have I vowed, and not infringed mine oath?
Where have I done a deed deserving well?
Who, what, when, and where, have I bestowed a day
That tended not to some notorious ill?
My life replete with rage and tyranny,
Craves little pity for so strange a death.
Or who will say that John deceased too soon,
Who will not say he rather lived too long?
Dishonor did attaint me in my life,
And shame attendeth John unto his death.
Why did I scape the fury of the French,
And died not by the temper of their swords?
Shameless my life, and shamefully it ends,
Scorned by my foes, disdained of my friends.
Forgive the world and all your earthly foes,
And call on Christ, who is your latest friend.
My tongue doth falter; Philip, I tell thee man,
Since John did yield unto the priest of Rome,
Nor he nor his have prospered on the earth.
Cursed are his blessings, and his curse is bliss.
But in the spirit I cry unto my God,
AS did the kingly prophet David cry,
(Whose hands, as mine, with murder were attaint)
I am not he shall build the lord a house,
Or root these locusts from the face of earth;
But if my dying heart deceive me not,
From out these loins shall spring a kingly branch
Whose arms shall reach unto the gates of Rome,
And with his feet treads down the strumpet’s pride,
That sits upon the chair of Babylon.
Philip, my heart strings break, the poison’s flame
Hath overcome in me weak nature’s power,
And in the faith of Jesu John doth die.
See how he strives for life, unhappy lord,
Whose bowels are divided in themselves.
This is the fruit of popery, when true kings
Are slain and shouldered out by monks and friars.
Enter a MESSENGER.
Please it your grace, the barons of the land,
Which all this while bare arms against the king,
Conducted by the legate of the pope,
Together with the prince his Highness’ son,
Do crave to be admitted to the presence of the king.
Your son, my lord, young Henry craves to see
Your Majesty, and brings with him beside
The barons that revolted from your grace.
O piercing sight, he fumbleth in the mouth,
His speech doth fail; lift up yourself, my lord,
And see the prince to comfort you in death.
Enter PANDULPH, young HENRY, the BARONS with daggers in their hands.
O let me see my father ere he die—
O uncle, were you here, and suffered him
To be thus poisoned by a damned monk?
Ah he is dead—father, sweet father, speak!
His speech doth fail; he hasteth to his end.
Lords, give me leave to joy the dying king
With sight of these his nobles kneeling here
With daggers in their hands, who offer up
Their lives for ransom of their foul offence.
Then good my lord, if you forgive them all,
Lift up your hand in token you forgive.
We humbly thank your royal Majesty,
And vow to fight for England and her king;
And in the sight of John our sovereign lord,
In spite of Lewis and the power of France,
Who hitherward are marching in all haste,
We crown young Henry in his father’s stead.
Help, help, he dies! Ah, father, look on me.
King John, farewell; in token of thy faith,
And sign thou diest the servant of the lord,
Lift up thy hand, that we may witness here
Thou died’st the servant of our savior Christ.
Now joy betide thy soul—what noise is this?
Enter a MESSENGER.
Help lords, the dolphin maketh hitherward
With ensigns of defiance in the wind,
And all our army standeth at a gaze,
Expecting what their leaders will command.
Let’s arm ourselves in young King Henry’s right,
And beat the power of France to sea again.
Philip, not so, but I will to the prince,
And bring him face to face to parley with you.
Lord Salisbury, yourself shall march with me,
So shall we bring these troubles to an end.
Sweet uncle, if thou love thy sovereign,
Let not a stone of Swinstead Abbey stand,
But pull the house about the friars’ ears:
For thy have killed my father and my king.
A parley sounded: LEWIS, PANDULPH, SALISBURY, etc.
Lewis of France, young Henry, England’s king
Requires to know the reason of the claim
That thou canst make to anything of his.
King John that did offend is dead and gone—
See where his breathless trunk in presence lies—
And he as heir apparent to the crown
Is now succeeded in his father’s room.
Lewis, what law of arms doth lead thee thus
To keep possession of my lawful right?
Answer in fine if thou wilt take a peace,
And make surrender of my right again,
Or try thy title with the dint of sword.
I tell thee, Dolphin, Henry fears thee not,
For now the barons cleave unto their king,
And what thou hast in England they did get.
Henry of England, now that John is dead,
That was the chiefest enemy to France,
I may the rather be induced to peace.
But Salisbury, and you, barons of the realm,
This strange revolt agrees not with the oath
That you on Bury altar lately sware.
Nor did the oath your Highness there did take
Agree with honor of the prince of France.
My lord, what answer make you to the king?
Faith, Philip, this I say: it boots not me,
Nor any prince, nor power of Christendom
To seek to win this island Albion,
Unless he have a party in the realm
By treason for to help him in his wars.
The peers which were the party on my side
Are fled from me; then boots not me to fight,
But on conditions, as mine honor wills,
I am contented to depart the realm.
On what conditions will your Highness yield?
That shall we think upon by more advice.
Then kings and princes, let these broils have end,
And at more leisure talk upon the league.
Meanwhile to Worster let us bear the king,
And there inter his body, as beseems.
But first, in sight of Lewis, heir of France,
Lords, take the crown and set it on his head,
That by succession is our lawful king.
They crown young HENRY.
Thus England’s peace begins in Henry’s reign,
And bloody wars are closed with happy league.
Let England live but true within itself,
And all the world can never wrong her state.
Lewis, thou shalt be bravely shipped to France,
For never Frenchman got of English ground
The twentieth part that thou hast conquered.
Dolphin, thy hand; to Worster we will march.
Lords all lay hands to bear your sovereign
With obsequies of honor to his grave.
If England’s peers and people join in one,
Nor Pope, nor France, nor Spain can do them wrong.