Page images

Which we, God knows, have turn'd another way,
To our own vantage.
K. John.

We will heal up all,
For we'll create young Arthur duke of Bretagne,
And earl of Richmond ; and this rich fair town
We make him lord of.-Call the lady Constance;
Some speedy messenger bid her repair
To our solemnity :- I trust we shall,
If not fill up the measure of her will,
Yet in some measure satisfy her so,
That we shall stop her exclamation.
Go we, as well as haste will suffer us,
To this unlook’d-for, unprepared pomp.

[Exeunt all but the Bastard.The Citizens retire from the walls.

Bast. Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!
John, to stop Arthur's title in the whole,
Hath willingly departed with a part:
And France, whose armour conscience buckled on,
Whom zeal and charity brought to the field
As God's own soldier, rounded in the ear 1
With that same purpose-changer, that sly devil;
That broker that still breaks the pate of faith;
That daily break-vow; he that wins of all,
Of kings, of beggars, old men, young men, maids---
That smooth-fac'd gentleman, tickling commodity,
Commodity, the bias of the world;
The world, who of itself is poised well,
Made to run even ; upon even ground;
Till this advantage, this vile drawing bias,
This sway of motion, this commodity,
Makes it take head from all indifferency,
From all direction, purpose, course, intent:
And this same bias, this commodity,
This bawd, this broker, this all-changing word,
Clapp'd on the outward eye of fickle France,
Hath drawn him from his own determin’d aid,
From a resolv'd and honourable war,
To a most base and vile-concluded peace.-
And why rail I on this commodity ?
But for because he hath not woo'd me yet:
Not that I have the power to clutch my hand,
When his fair angels? would salute my palm;
But for my hand, as unattempted yet,
Like a poor beggar, raileth on the rich.

(1) Rounded in the ear, i.e. whispered in the ear.
(2) His fair angels. An angel was an old gold coin.

Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail,
And say,—there is no sin but to be rich;
And being rich, my virtue then shall be,
To say,—there is no vice but beggary :
Since kings break faith upon commodity,
Gain, be my lord ! for I will worship thee!


SCENE 1.The same. The French King's Tent.,

Const. Gone to be married ! gone to swear a peace !
False blood to false blood join'd! Gone to be friends!
Shall Lewis have Blanch? and Blanch those provinces ?
It is not so; thou hast misspoke, misheard;
Be well advis’d, tell o'er thy tale again :
It cannot be; thou dost but say, 'tis so:
I trust I may not trust thee; for thy word
Is but the vain breath of a common man :
Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;
I have a king's oath to the contrary,
Thou shalt be punish'd for thus frighting me,
For I am sick, and capable of fears; 1
Oppress'd with wrongs, and therefore full of fears ;
A widow, husbandless, subject to fears ;
A woman, naturally born to fears;
And though thou now confess thou didst but jest
With my vex'd spirits, I cannot take a truce,
But they will quake and tremble all this day.
What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
Why dost thou look so sadly on my son ?
What means that hand upon that breast of thine ?
Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,
Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds ?
Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
Then speak again; not all thy former tale,
But this one word, whether thy tale be true.

Sal. As true, as, I beliere, you think them false
That give you cause to prove my saying true.

Const. O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow, Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die;

(1) Capable of fears, i. e. quickly alive to all sorts of apprehension.
(2) Lamentable rheum. Rheum is here used for tears.


And let belief and life encounter so,
As doth the fury of two desperate men,
Which, in the very meeting, fall and die.-
Lewis marry Blanch! O, boy, then where art thou ?
France friend with England! what becomes of me?
Fellow, be gone: I cannot brook thy sight;
This news hath made thee a most ugly man.

Sal. What other harm have I, good lady, done,
But spoke the harm that is by others done?

Const. Which harm within itself so heinous is, As it makes harmful all that speak of it.

Arth. I do beseech you, madam, be content.

Const. If thou, that bidd'st me be content, wert grim,
Ugly, and sland'rous to thy mother's womb,
Full of unpleasing blots and sightless : stains,
Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
Patch'd with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
I would not care, I then would be content;
For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou
Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown.
But thou art fair; and at thy birth, dear boy,
Nature and Fortune join'd to make thee great:
Of Nature's gifts thou mays’t with lilies boast,
And with the half-blown rose: 3 but Fortune, O!
She is corrupted, chang'd, and won from thee;
She adulterates hourly with thy uncle John;
And with her golden hand hath pluck'd on France
To tread down fair respect of sovereignty.
Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn ?
Envenom bim with words; or get thee gone,
And leave those woes alone, which I alone
Am bound to under-bear.

Pardon me, madam,
I may

not go without you to the kings. Const. Thou may’st, thou shalt, I will not go with thee: I will instruct my sorrows to be proud : For grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop. To me,

and to the state of my great grief, Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great

(1) Sightless, i. e. unsightly, disagreeable to the eyes.

(2) Prodigivus, that is, so deformed as to be taken for a portent of some coming evil. (3)

With lilies boast,

And with the half-blown rose. Is there not some allusion here to the lily of France and the rose of England?

(4) And makes his owner stoop. This is the common reading; it has been suggested to read stout instead of stoop, which certainly seems to suit the context better.

That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up : here I and sorrows sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.

[She throws herself on the ground. Enter King John, King PHILIP, LEWIS, BLANCH, ELINOR,

Bastard, AUSTRIA, and Attendants.
K. Phi. 'Tis true, sair daughter; and this blessed day
Ever in France shall be kept festival:
To solemnize this day, the glorious sun
Stays in his course, and plays the alchymist;
Turning, with splendour of his precious eye,
The meagre cloddy earth to glittering gold :
The yearly course that brings this day about
Shall never see it but a holiday.

Const. A wicked day, and not a holyday!- [Rising.
What hath this day deserv'd ? what hath it done,
That it in golden letters should be set,
Among the high tides, in the kalendar?
Nay, rather, turn this day out of the week;
This day of shame, oppression, perjury:
Or, if it must stand still, let wives with child
Pray that their burthens may not fall this day,
Lest that their hopes prodigiously be cross'd:
But on this day let seamen fear no wrack ;
No bargains break, that are not this day made :
This day, all things begun come to ill end;
Yea, faith itself to hollow falsehood change!

K. Phi. By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause
To curse the fair proceedings of this day.
Have I not pawn'd to you my majesty?

Const. You have beguil'd me with a counterfeit,
Resembling majesty ; which, being touch'd, and tried,
Proves valueless : You are forsworn, forsworn;
You came in arms to spill mine enemies' blood,
But now in arms you strengthen it with yours :
The grappling vigour and rough frown of war
Is cold, in amity and painted peace,
And our oppression 3 hath made up this league :-
Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perjur'd kings !
A widow cries ; be husband to me, heavens !
Let not the hours of this ungodly day
Wear out the day in peace; but, ere sunset,

(1) Prodigiously be crossed, i. e. be thwarted by the production of a monster. (2) But on. But is here used for except. (3) And our oppression, i. e, our wrongs.

Set armed discord 'twixt these perjur'd kings !
Hear me, (), hear me !

Lady Constance, peace.
Const. War! war! no peace! peace is to me a war.
O Lymoges ! 0 Austria! thou dost shame
That bloody spoil :' Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward;
'Thou little valiant, great in villainy!
Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
Thou Fortune's champion, that dost never fight
But when her humorous ladyship is by
To teach thee safety! thou art perjur'd too,
And sooth'st up greatness. What a fool art thou,
A ramping fool; to brag, and stamp, and swear,
Upon my party! Thou cold-blooded slave,
Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side?
Been sworn my soldier? Bidding me depend
Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength ?
And dost thou now fall over to my foes ?
Thou wear a lion's hide! doff it for shame,
And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs.2

Aust. O, that a man should speak those words to me!
Bast. And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs.
Aust. Thou dar'st not say so, villain, for thy life.
Bast. And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs.
K. John. We like not this; thou dost forget thyself.

K. Phi. Here comes the holy legate of the pope.

Pand. Hail, you anointed deputies of heaven -
To thee, king John, my holy errand is.
I, Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal,
And from pope Innocent the legate here,
Do, in his name, religiously demand,
Why thou against the church, our holy mother,
So wilfully dost spurn; and force perforce,
Keep Stephen Langton, chosen archbishop
Of Canterbury, from that holy see?
This, in our 'foresaid holy father's name,
Pope Innocent, I do demand of thee.

K. John. What earthly name to interrogatories
Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name

(1) That bloody spoil. The lion's hide worn by Austria is here meant.

(2) And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs. A calf's-skin, buttoned down the back, was the dress of a fool or jester. Constance means that Austria had better change his lion's hide, which made him pretend to be a hero, for a calf's skin, which befitted a poor fool.

« PreviousContinue »