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THE DISCONTENT OF THE BARONS ; THE REPORT OP ARTHUR'S
DEATH; CONTRADICTION OF THE REPORT ; NEWS OF THE DEATH
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
[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 ;
would have reform'd that is not well,
[Pembroke.] Then I, as one that am the tongue of these,
Both for myself and them, but chief for you,
Doth move the murmu’ring lips of discontent.
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.
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,
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,
This must be answer'd, either here or hence.
Think you I bear the shears of destiny ?
Have I commandment on the pulse of life?
That greatness should so grossly offer it:
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
[Messenger.] From France to England. Never such a power
Was levied; never power with such a speed :
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
To any tongue, speak it of what it will. [Messenger.] Hitherward as I travell’d through the land,
I found the people strangely fantasied,
hundreds treading on his heels,
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
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
On your suggestion.
When adverse foreigners affright my towns,
Be thou the man : Away!—My mother dead !
Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about
The other five in wondrous motion.
Do prophesy upon it dangerously :
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 ?
[Hubert.] Had none, my lord! why, did you not provoke me? Here is
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
[Hubert.] Arm you against your other enemies ;
I'll make a peace between your soul and you.
have slander'd nature in my form,