Page images
PDF
EPUB

R. John. Here have we war for war, and blood for blood, Controlment for controlment; so answer France. Chat. Then take my king's defiance from my mouth, The furthest limit of my embassy. K. John. Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace. Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France; For ere thou canst report I will be there, The thunder of my cannon shall be heard. So, hence be thou the trumpet of our wrath, And sullen' presage of your own decay.— An honorable conduct let him have ;Pembroke, look to't. Farewell, Chatillon. [Exeunt CHATILLON and PEMBRoKE. Eli. What now, my son P have I not ever said, How that ambitious Constance would not cease, Till she had kindled France, and all the world, Upon the right and party of her son P This might have been prevented and made whole, With very easy arguments of love Which now the manage” of two kingdoms must With fearful, bloody issue arbitrate. K. John. Our strong possession, and our right, for us. Eli. Your strong possession, much more than your right; ; Or else it . go wrong with you, and me. So much my conscience whispers in your ear; Which none but Heaven, and you, and I, shall hear.

Enter the Sheriff of Northamptonshire, who whispers Essex.

Essex. My liege, here is the strangest controversy, Come from the country to be judged by you, That e'er I heard. Shall I produce the men P

K. John. Let them approach.- [Exit Sheriff.

Our abbeys, and our priories, shall pay

1. i. e. gloomy, dismal. 2 i.e. conduct, administration.

Re-enter Sheriff, with Robert FAULCONBRIDGE, and PHILIP, his bastard Brother."

This expedition’s charge.—What men are you ?
Bast. Your faithful subject, I, a gentleman,
Born in Northamptonshire; and eldest son,
As I suppose,to Robert Faulconbridge;
A soldier, by the honor-giving hand
Of Coeur-de-lion knighted in the field.
R. John. What art thou ?
Rob. The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.
K. John. Is that the elder, and art thou the heir P
You came not of one mother then, it seems.
Bast. Most certain of one mother, mighty king;
That is well known ; and, as I think, one father:
But, for the certain knowledge of that truth,
I put you o'er to Heaven, and to my mother;
Of that I doubt, as all men's children may.
Eli. Out on thee, rude man thou dost shame thy
mother,
And wound her honor with this diffidence.
Bast. I, madam P. no, I have no reason for it;
That is my brother’s plea, and none of mine.
The which if he can prove, 'a pops me out
At least from fair five hundred pound a year.
Heaven guard my mother’s honor, and my land!
K. John. A good blunt fellow.—Why, being young-
er born,
Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance 2

1 Shakspeare, in adopting the character of Philip Faulconbridge from the old play, proceeded on the following slight hint:

“Next them a bastard of the king's deceased,
A hardie wild-head, rough and venturous.”

The character is compounded of two distinct personages. “Sub illius temporis curriculo Falcasius de Brente, Neusteriensis, et spurius ex parte matris, atque Bastardus, qui in vili jumento manticato ad Regis paulo ante clientelam descenderat. Mathew Paris.-Holinshed says that “Richard I. had a natural son named Philip, who, in the year following, killed the Wiscount de Limoges to revenge the death of his father.” Perhaps the name of Faulconbridge was suggested by the following passage in the continuation of Harding's Chronicle, 1543, fol. 24, 6:—“One Faulconbridge, th’ erle of Kent his bastarde, a stoute-hearted man.”

Bast. I know not why, except to get the land. But once he slandered me with bastardy : But whe'r'. I be as true begot, or no, That still I lay upon my mother's head; But, that I am as well begot, my liege, g. fall the bones that took the pains for me!) ompare our faces, and be judge yourself. If old sir Robert did beget us both, And were our father, and this son like him ;O, old sir Robert, father, on my knee I give Heaven thanks, I was not like to thee. K. John. Why, what a madcap hath Heaven lent us here ! * . Eli. He hath a trick” of Coeur-de-lion's face; The accent of his tongue affecteth him. Do you not read some tokens of my son In the large composition of this man f R. John. Mine eye hath well examined his parts, And finds them perfect Richard.—Sirrah, speak, What doth move you to claim your brother's land? Bast. Because he hath a half-face, like my father; With that half face would he have all my land. A half-faced groat” five hundred pound a year ! Rob. My gracious liege, when that my father lived, Your brother did employ my father much;Bast. Well, sir, by this you cannot get my land; Your tale must be how he employed my mother. Rob. And once despatched him in an embass To Germany, there, with the emperor, - To treat of high affairs touching that time. The advantage of his absence took the king, And in the mean time sojourned at my father’s ; Where how he did prevail, I shame to speak. But truth is truth; large lengths of seas and shores

1 Whether.

* Shakspeare uses the word trick generally in the sense of “a peculiar air, or cast of countenance or feature.”

3. The Poet makes Faulconbridge allude to the silver groats of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., which had on them a half-face or profile. In the reign of John, there were no groats at all, the first being coined in the reign of Edward III.

Between my father and my mother lay,
(As I have heard my father speak himself)
When this same lusty gentleman was got.
Upon his death-bed he by will bequeathed
His lands to me; and took it, on his death,
That this, my mother's son, was none of his ;
And, if he were, he came into the world
Full fourteen weeks before the course of time.
Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine,
My father's land, as was my father's will.
K. John. Sirrah, your brother is legitimate;
Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him:
And, if she did play false, the fault was hers;
Which fault lies on the hazards of all husbands
That marry wives. Tell me, how if my brother,
Who, as you say, took pains to get this son,
Had of your father claimed this son for his?
In sooth, good friend, your father might have kept
This calf, bred from his cow, from all the world.
In sooth, he might; them, if he were my brother's,
My brother might not claim him; nor your father,
Being none of his, refuse him. . This concludes,'—
My mother's son did get your father's heir ;
Your father's heir must have your father's land.
Rob. Shall then my father's will be of no force,
To dispossess that child which is not his 2
Bast. Of no more force to dispossess me, sir,
Than was his will to get me, as I think. -
Eli. Whether hadst thou rather, be a Faulcon-
bridge, - *
And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land;
Or the reputed son of Coeur-de-lion,
Lord of thy presence,” and no land beside F
Bast. Madam, an if my brother had my shape,
And I had his, sir Robert his,” like him;

l i. e. “this is a decisive argument.”

2 Lord of thy presence means possessor of thy own dignified and manly appearance, resembling thy great progenitor.

3 Sir Robert his, for “Sir Robert's;” his, according to a mistaken notion formerly received, being the sign of the genitive case.

And if my legs were too such riding-rods;
My arms such eel-skins stuffed ; my face so thin,
That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose,
Lest men should say, Look, where three-farthings'
oes
And, to * i. shape, were heir to all this land,
*Would, I might never stir from off this place,
I’d give it every foot to have this face;
I would not be sir Nob” in any case.
Eli. I like thee well. Wilt thou forsake thy
fortune,
Bequeath thy land to him, and follow me?
I am a soldier, and now bound to France.
Bast. Brother, take you my land; I'll take my
chance. -
Your face hath got five hundred pounds a year;
Yet sell your face for five pence, and ’tis dear.—
Madam, I’ll follow you unto the death.
Eli. Nay, I would have you go before me thither.
Bast. Our country manners give our betters way.
K. John. What is thy name P
Bast. Philip, my liege ; so is my name begun;
Philip, good old sir Robert's wife's eldest son.
R. John. From henceforth bear his name whose
form thou bear'st. -
Kneel thou down, Philip, but arise “more great:
Arise, sir Richard, and Plantagenet.”
Bast. Brother, by the mother's side, give me your
hand;
My father gave me honor, yours gave land.

1 Queen Elizabeth coined threepenny, threehalfpenny, and threefarthing pieces; these pieces all had her head on the obverse, and some of them a rose on the reverse. Being of silver, they were extremely thin; and hence the allusion. The roses stuck in the ear, or in a lock near it, were generally of riband; but Burton says that it was once the fashion to stick real flowers in the ear. Some gallants had their ears bored, and wore their mistresses’ silken shoestrings in them. 2 To his shape, i. e. in addition to it. 3 Robert. 4 The old copy reads rise. 5 Plantagenet was not a family name, but a nickname, by which a grandson of Geoffrey, the first earl of Anjou, was distinguished, from his wearing a broomstalk in his bonnet.

« PreviousContinue »