Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bast. Show me the very wound of this ill news; I am no woman; I'll not swoon at it.

Hub. The king, I fear, is poisoned by a monk.'
I left him almost speechless, and broke out
To acquaint you with this evil; that you might
The better arm you to the sudden time,
Than if you had at leisure” known of this

Bast. How did he take it? Who did taste to him? Hub. A monk, I tell you ; a resolved villain, Whose bowels suddenly burst out.

The king Yet speaks, and, peradventure, may recover.

Bast. Who didst thou leave to lend his majesty?
Hub. Why, know you not? The lords are all come

back,
And brought prince Henry in their company;
At whose request the king hath pardoned them,
And they are all about his majesty.

Bast. Withhold thine indignation, mighty Heaven,
And tempt us not to bear above our power!
I'll tell thee, Hubert, half my power this night,
Passing these flats, are taken by the tide;
These Lincoln washes have devoured them;
Myself, well mounted, hardly have escaped.
Away, before ! conduct me to the king;
I doubt he will be dead, or ere I come. [Exeunt.

SCENE VII. The Orchard of Swinstead Abbey.

Enter Prince Henry,' SALISBURY, and Bigot.

P. Hen. It is too late; the life of all his blood Is touched corruptibly; and his pure brain (Which some suppose the soul's frail dwelling-house)

1 Not one of the historians who wrote within sixty years of the event, mentions this improbable story. The tale is, that a monk, to revenge himself on the king for a saying at which he took offence, poisoned a cup of ale, and having brought it to his majesty, drank some of it himself, to induce the king to taste it, and soon afterwards expired. Thomas Wylkes is the first who mentions it in his Chronicle as a report. According to the best accounts, John died at Newark, of a fever.

? i. e. less speedily, after some delay.
3 Prince Henry was only nine years old when his father died.

Doth, by the idle comments that it makes,
Foretell the ending of mortality.

Enter PEMBROKE.
Pem. His highness yet doth speak; and holds belief,
That, being brought into the open air,
It would allay the burning quality
Of that fell poison which assaileth him.

P. Hen. "Let him be brought into the orchard here. Doth he still rage ?

[Exit Bigot. Pem.

He is more patient
Than when you left him; even now he sung.

P. Hen. O vanity of sickness! fierce extremes,
In their continuance, will not feel themselves.
Death, having preyed upon the outward parts,
Leaves them insensible ;2 and his siege is now
Against the mind, the which he pricks and wounds
With many legions of strange fantasies ;
Which, in their throng and press to that last hold,
Confound themselves. 'Tis strange, that death should

sing.
I am the cygnet to this pale, faint swan,
Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death ;
And, from the organ-pipe of frailty, sings
His soul and body to their lasting rest.

Sal. Be of good comfort, prince; for you are born
To set a form upon that indigest
Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.
Re-enter Bigor and Attendants, who bring in King

John in a chair. K. John. Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room; It would not out at windows, nor at doors. There is so hot a summer in my bosom, That all my bowels crumble up to dust. I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen Upon a parchment; and against this fire Do I shrink up.

i Continuance here means continuity. Bacon uses it in that sense also.

2 The old copy reads invisible. Sir T. Hanmer proposed the reading admitted into the text.

a

a

P. Hen. How fares your majesty ?

K. John. Poisoned,-ill fare; dead, forsook, cast off; And none of you will bid the winter come, To thrust his icy fingers in my maw; Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course Through my burned bosom ; nor entreat the north To make his bleak winds kiss my parched lips, And comfort me with cold.-1 do not ask

you

much; I beg cold comfort: and you are so strait, And so ingrateful, you deny me that.

P. Hen. O that there were some virtue in my tears, That might relieve you! K. John.

The salt in them is hot.-
Within me is a hell; and there the poison
Is, as a fiend, confined to tyrannize
On unreprievable, condemned blood.

Enter the Bastard.
Bast. O, I am scalded with my violent emotion,
And spleen of speed to see your majesty.

K. John. 0, cousin, thou art come to set mine eye.
The tackle of my heart is cracked and burned ;
And all the shrouds, wherewith my life should sail,
Are turned to one thread, one little bair :
My heart hath one poor string to stay it by,
Which holds but till thy news be uttered;
And then all this thou seest, is but a clod,
And module of confounded royalty.

Bast. The dauphin is preparing hitherward; Where, Heaven he knows, how we shall answer him; For, in a night, the best part of my power, As I upon advantage did remove, Were in the washes, all unwarily, Devoured by the unexpected flood. [The King dies.

2

1 Narrow, avaricious. 2 Module and model were only different modes of spelling the same word Model signified, not an archetype, after which something was to be formed, but the thing formed after an archetype, a copy. Bullokar, in his Expositor, 1616, explains “ model, the platform, or form of any thing."

3 This untoward accident really happened to king John himself. As he passed from Lynn to Lincolnshire, he lost, by an inundation, all his treasure, carriages, baggage, and regalia.

»

Sal. You breathe these dead news in as dead an ear.My liege! my lord !But now a king-now thus.

P. Hen. Éven so must I run on, and even so stop. What surety of the world, what hope, what stay, When this was now a king, and now is clay!

Bast. Art thou gone so? I do but stay behind, To do the office for thee of revenge ; And then my soul shall wait on thee to heaven, As it on earth hath been thy servant still. Now, now, you stars, that move in your right spheres, Where be your powers? Show now your mended faiths; And instantly return with me again, To push destruction and perpetual shame Out of the weak door of our fainting land. Straight let us seek, or straight we shall be sought; The dauphin rages at our very heels. .

Sal. It seems you know not then so much as we. The cardinal Pandulph is within at rest, Who half an hour since came from the dauphin ; And brings from him such offers of our peace As we with honor and respect may take, With

purpose presently to leave this war.
Bast. He will the rather do it, when he sees
Ourselves well sinewed to our defence.

Sal. Nay, it is in a manner done already;
For many carriages he hath despatched
To the seaside, and put his cause and quarrel
To the disposing of the cardinal;
With whom yourself

, myself, and other lords, If you think meet, this afternoon will post To consummate this business happily.

Bast. Let it be so ;—and you, my noble prince,
With other princes that may best be spared,
Shall wait upon your father's funeral.

P. Hen. At Worcester must his body be interred ; For so he willed it.

1

1 In crastino S. Lucæ Johannes Rex Angliæ in castro de Newark obiit, et sepultus est in ecclesia Wigorniensi inter corpora S. Oswaldi et sancti (Wolstani] Chronic. sive Annal. Prioratus de Dunstable, edit. a T. Heame, E i. p. 173. A stone coffin, containing the body of king John, was discovered in the cathedral church of Worcester, July 17, 1797. VOL. III.

45

Bast.

Thither shall it then.
And happily may your sweet self put on
The lineal state and glory of the land !
To whom, with all submission, on my knee,
I do bequeath my faithful services
And true subjection everlastingly.

Sal. And the like tender of our love we make,
To rest without a spot for evermore.
P. Hen. I have a kind soul, that would give you

thanks, And knows not how to do it, but with tears.

Bast. O, let us pay the time but needful woe, Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs." This England never did (nor never shall) Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, But when it first did help to wound itself. Now these her princes are come home again, Come the three corners of the world in arms, , And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue, If England to itself do rest but true. [Exeunt.

1 " As previously we have found sufficient cause for lamentation, let us not waste the time in superfluous sorrow.”

»

The tragedy of King John, though not written with the utmost power of Shakspeare, is varied with a very pleasing interchange of incidents and characters. The lady's grief is very affecting; and the character of the Bastard contains that mixture of greatness and levity which this author delighted to exhibit.

JOHNSON.

E

To these remarks of Johnson, it may be added, that the grief of Constance for the loss of Arthur is probably indebted for much of its characteristic truth to the calamity which Shakspeare had himself sustained, by the death of his only son, who had attained the age of twelve, and died the year this play was produced.

« PreviousContinue »