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THE DISCONTENT OF THE BARONS ; THE REPORT OP ARTHUR'S

DEATH; CONTRADICTION OF THE REPORT ; NEWS OF THE DEATH
OF ELEANOR; OF THE INVASION BY THE DAUPHIN ; AND OF THE
MURDER OF ARTHUR ; INDICATED BY SCENES SUPPOSED TO OCCUR
AT THE COURT OF KING JOHN.

HISTORICAL MEMORANDA.

The discontent of the Norman barons on the report of Arthur's death, induced Hubert to reveal the secret that he was yet alive. The obscurity of his fate, subsequently left the dramatic chroniclers to deal with it as they pleased : the prevalent belief is, that he was stabbed by John himself in the castle of Rouen, or thrown over the battlements. This was in 1203. John always bore the infamy of the murder, and this was among the causes of the disaffection that spread among the barons : but other and more general causes, scarcely alluded to in the play, led to that great event, also unnoticed, the forced grant of the great charter, which was signed by John at Runnymead near Staines, on the 19th of June, 1215. Queen Eleanor died in 1204. John did homage for his kingdom to the Pope, in the person of Pandulph, the legate, on May 15, 1213. The invasion of England by the dauphin was in 1216. Such of the foregoing facts as are indicated or represented in the play appear nearly contemporaneous ; and as this effect will be increased rather than diminished by the omissions from the play, it is judged proper to furnish the above-given dates.

King John is discovered on his throne : Pembroke and many other barons, with looks of discontent, are in presence: Pembroke is the chief speaker among them. Hubert afterwards enters, and the barons leave the presence

in anger.

[John.] Here once again we sit, once again cro

rown'd; And look'd upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes. [Pembroke] This once again, but that your highness pleas'd,

Was once superflu’ous : you were crown'd before. [John.] Some reasons of this double coronation

I have possess'd you with, and think them strong ;
And more, more strong, (when lesser is my fear,)
I shall endue you with. Meantime but ask
What you

would have reform'd that is not well,
And well you shall perceive how willingly
I will both hear, and grant you your requests.

[Pembroke.] Then I, as one that am the tongue of these,

Both for myself and them, but chief for you,
And for your safety, heartily request
The' enfranchisement of Arthur, whose restraint

Doth move the murmu’ring lips of discontent.
[John.] Let it be so: I do commit his youth
To your

direction.-Hubert what's your news ? [Pembroke.] in an under tone. That is the man should do the bloody deed;

He show'd the warrant to a friend of mine.
I fear the act is done; for, as they speak,
The colour of the king doth come and go.

Now shall we know; the king prepares to speak. [John.] We cannot hold mortality's strong hand :

Good lords, although my will to give is living,
The suit which you demand is gone and dead :

He tells us, Arthur is deceas’d to-night. [Pembroke.] Indeed we fear'd his sickness was past cure,

Aud heard the news how near to death he was,
Before the child himself felt he was sick;

This must be answer'd, either here or hence.
[John.] Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?

Think you I bear the shears of destiny ?

Have I commandment on the pulse of life?
[Pembroke.] It is apparent foul play, and 'tis shame

That greatness should so grossly offer it:
So thrive you

in

your game! and so farewell ! [John.] They burn in indignation : I repent:

There is no sure foundation set on blood;

No certain life achiev'd by others' death. Here a messenger enters with looks of great alarm: John continues :

A fearful eye thou hast. Where is the blood
That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks ?
So foul a sky clears not without a storm :
Pour down thy weather :-how goes all in France ?

[Messenger.] From France to England. Never such a power

Was levied; never power with such a speed :
For when you should be told they do prepare,

The tidings come that they are all arriv’d. [John.] 0, where's my mother's care ? Could any force

Be rais’d in France, and she not hear of it ? [Messenger.] My liege, her ear is stopp’d. Your noble mother

Died on the first of April: Lady Constance,

'Tis said, three days before. [John.] My mother dead!

How wildly, then, walks my estate abroad!

Under whose conduct come these powers from France ? [Messenger.] Under the dauphin's. [John.] Thou hast made me giddy

With these ill tidings. Do not seek to stuff
Mine ear with more ill news: I am amaz'd
Under the tide; stay till I breathe again : [pause.]
Now I 'm aloft the flood, and can give audience

To any tongue, speak it of what it will. [Messenger.] Hitherward as I travell’d through the land,

I found the people strangely fantasied,
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.
Without, there is a prophet, seiz’d and brought
From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom they found
With many

hundreds treading on his heels,
To whom he sung in rude harsh-sounding rhymes,
That ere the next Ascension-day at noon,

Your highness should deliver up your crown. [John.] Hubert, away, and see he be imprison'd;

And on that day at noon, whereon he says
I shall yield up my crown, let him be hang'd :
Deliver him to safety, and return,

For I shall need thee.-Hast thou more to tell ? [Messenger.] But now, I met lord Bigot and lord Salisbury,

With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire,

And others more, going to seek the grave
Of Arthur, who, they said, was kill'd to-night

On your suggestion.
[John.] Are my subjects foes,

When adverse foreigners affright my towns,
With dreadful pomp of stout invasion ?
Go thrust thyself into their companies,
And learn some way to win their loves again.
If messenger be wanted by the peers,

Be thou the man : Away!—My mother dead !
Hubert re-enters: the King and he are alone together :
Hubert takes up the dialogue.
[Hubert.] My lord, they say five moons were seen to-night,

Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about

The other five in wondrous motion.
[John.] Five moons !
(Hubert.] Old men and beldams in the streets

Do prophesy upon it dangerously :
Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths,
And when they talk of him, they shake their heads,
And whisper one another in the ear;
And he that speaks doth gripe the hearer's wrist;
While he that hears makes fearful action,
With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
I saw a smith stand with his hammer thus,
The while his iro'n did on the anvil cool,
With open mouth swallo'wing a tailor's news ;
Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
That were embatteled and rank'd in Kent.
Another lean, unwash'd artificer,

Cuts off his tale, and talks of Arthur's death. [John.] Why seek'st thou to possess me with these fears ?

Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death ?
Thy hand hath murder'd him. I ha'd mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.

[Hubert.] Had none, my lord! why, did you not provoke me? Here is

your

hand and seal for what I did. [John.] 0, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth

Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
Witness against us to damnation!
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Makes deeds ill done! If thou hadst not been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark’d,
Quoted, and sign’d to do a deed of shame,
This murder had not come into

my

mind :
But taking note of thy abhorred aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death ;
And thou, to be endeared to a king,
Mad’st it no conscience to destroy a prince:
Hadst thou but shaken thy head, or made a pause,
When I spake darkly what I purposed,
Or turn’d an eye of doubt upon my face,
Or bid me tell my tale in express words,
Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,
And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:
But thou didst understand me by my signs,
And didst in signs again parley with sin :
Out of my sight, and never see me more!
My nobles leave me, and my state is brav’d,
Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers :
Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
Hostility and civil tumult reign
Between my conscience and my cousin's death.

[Hubert.] Arm you against your other enemies ;

I'll make a peace between your soul and you.
Young Arthur is alive: this hand of mine
Is yet unpainted with the spots of blood;
And
you

have slander'd nature in my form,
Which, howsoever rude exteriorly,
Is yet the cover of a fairer mind
Than to be butcher of an innocent child.

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