Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT II. - The Life and Death of King John
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ACT II. - William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King John 
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (The Oxford Shakespeare), ed. with a glossary by W.J. Craig M.A. (Oxford University Press, 1916).
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France. Before the Walls of Angiers.
Enter, on one side, theDuke of Austria,and Forces; on the other,Philip,King of France, and Forces,Lewis, Constance, Arthur,and Attendants.
Before Angiers well met, brave Austria.
Arthur, that great forerunner of thy blood,
Richard, that robb’d the lion of his heart
And fought the holy wars in Palestine,
By this brave duke came early to his grave:
And, for amends to his posterity,
At our importance hither is he come,
To spread his colours, boy, in thy behalf,
And to rebuke the usurpation
Of thy unnatural uncle, English John:
Embrace him, love him, give him welcome hither.
God shall forgive you Cœur-de-Lion’s death
The rather that you give his offspring life,
Shadowing their right under your wings of war.
I give you welcome with a powerless hand,
But with a heart full of unstained love:
Welcome before the gates of Angiers, duke.
A noble boy! Who would not do thee right?
Upon thy cheek lay I this zealous kiss,
As seal to this indenture of my love,
That to my home I will no more return
Till Angiers, and the right thou hast in France,
Together with that pale, that white-fac’d shore,
Whose foot spurns back the ocean’s roaring tides
And coops from other lands her islanders,
Even till that England, hedg’d in with the main,
That water-walled bulwark, still secure
And confident from foreign purposes,
Even till that utmost corner of the west
Salute thee for her king: till then, fair boy,
Will I not think of home, but follow arms.
O! take his mother’s thanks, a widow’s thanks,
Till your strong hand shall help to give him strength
To make a more requital to your love.
The peace of heaven is theirs that lift their swords
In such a just and charitable war.
Well then, to work: our cannon shall be bent
Against the brows of this resisting town.
Call for our chiefest men of discipline,
To cull the plots of best advantages:
We’ll lay before this town our royal bones,
Wade to the market-place in Frenchmen’s blood,
But we will make it subject to this boy.
Stay for an answer to your embassy,
Lest unadvis’d you stain your swords with blood.
My Lord Chatillon may from England bring
That right in peace which here we urge in war;
And then we shall repent each drop of blood
That hot rash haste so indirectly shed.
A wonder, lady! lo, upon thy wish,
Our messenger, Chatillon, is arriv’d!
What England says, say briefly, gentle lord;
We coldly pause for thee; Chatillon, speak.
Then turn your forces from this paltry siege
And stir them up against a mightier task.
England, impatient of your just demands,
Hath put himself in arms: the adverse winds,
Whose leisure I have stay’d, have given him time
To land his legions all as soon as I;
His marches are expedient to this town,
His forces strong, his soldiers confident.
With him along is come the mother-queen,
An Ate, stirring him to blood and strife;
With her her niece, the Lady Blanch of Spain;
With them a bastard of the king’s deceas’d;
And all the unsettled humours of the land,
Rash, inconsiderate, fiery voluntaries,
With ladies’ faces and fierce dragons’ spleens,
Have sold their fortunes at their native homes,
Bearing their birthrights proudly on their backs,
To make a hazard of new fortunes here.
In brief, a braver choice of dauntless spirits
Than now the English bottoms have waft o’er
Did never float upon the swelling tide,
To do offence and scathe in Christendom.
[Drums heard within.
The interruption of their churlish drums
Cuts off more circumstance: they are at hand,
To parley or to fight; therefore prepare.
How much unlook’d for is this expedition!
By how much unexpected, by so much
We must awake endeavour for defence,
For courage mounteth with occasion:
Let them be welcome then, we are prepar’d.
EnterKing John, Elinor, Blanch,theBastard, Lords, and Forces.
Peace be to France, if France in peace permit
Our just and lineal entrance to our own;
If not, bleed France, and peace ascend to heaven,
Whiles we, God’s wrathful agent, do correct
Their proud contempt that beats his peace to heaven.
Peace be to England, if that war return
From France to England, there to live in peace.
England we love; and, for that England’s sake
With burden of our armour here we sweat:
This toil of ours should be a work of thine;
But thou from loving England art so far
That thou hast under-wrought his lawful king,
Cut off the sequence of posterity,
Out-faced infant state, and done a rape
Upon the maiden virtue of the crown.
Look here upon thy brother Geffrey’s face:
These eyes, these brows, were moulded out of his;
This little abstract doth contain that large
Which died in Geffrey, and the hand of time
Shall draw this brief into as huge a volume.
That Geffrey was thy elder brother born,
And this his son; England was Geffrey’s right
And this is Geffrey’s. In the name of God
How comes it then that thou art call’d a king,
When living blood doth in these temples beat,
Which owe the crown that thou o’ermasterest?
From whom hast thou this great commission, France,
To draw my answer from thy articles?
From that supernal judge, that stirs good thoughts
In any breast of strong authority,
To look into the blots and stains of right:
That judge hath made me guardian to this boy:
Under whose warrant I impeach thy wrong,
And by whose help I mean to chastise it.
Alack! thou dost usurp authority.
Excuse; it is to beat usurping down.
Who is it thou dost call usurper, France?
Let me make answer; thy usurping son.
Out, insolent! thy bastard shall be king,
That thou mayst be a queen, and check the world!
My bed was ever to thy son as true
As thine was to thy husband, and this boy
Liker in feature to his father Geffrey
Than thou and John in manners; being as like
As rain to water, or devil to his dam.
My boy a bastard! By my soul I think
His father never was so true begot:
It cannot be an if thou wert his mother.
There’s a good mother, boy, that blots thy father.
There’s a good grandam, boy, that would blot thee.
Hear the crier.
What the devil art thou?
One that will play the devil, sir, with you,
An a’ may catch your hide and you alone.
You are the hare of whom the proverb goes,
Whose valour plucks dead lions by the beard.
I’ll smoke your skin coat, an I catch you right.
Sirrah, look to’t; i’ faith, I will, i’ faith.
O! well did he become that lion’s robe,
That did disrobe the lion of that robe.
It lies as sightly on the back of him
As great Alcides’ shows upon an ass:
But, ass, I’ll take that burden from your back,
Or lay on that shall make your shoulders crack.
What cracker is this same that deafs our ears
With this abundance of superfluous breath?
King,—Lewis, determine what we shall do straight.
Women and fools, break off your conference.
King John, this is the very sum of all:
England and Ireland, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
In right of Arthur do I claim of thee.
Wilt thou resign them and lay down thy arms?
My life as soon: I do defy thee, France.
Arthur of Britaine, yield thee to my hand;
And out of my dear love I’ll give thee more
Than e’er the coward hand of France can win.
Submit thee, boy.
Come to thy grandam, child.
Do, child, go to it grandam, child;
Give grandam kingdom, and it grandam will
Give it a plum, a cherry, and a fig:
There’s a good grandam.
Good my mother, peace!
I would that I were low laid in my grave:
I am not worth this coil that’s made for me.
His mother shames him so, poor boy, he weeps.
Now shame upon you, whe’r she does or no!
His grandam’s wrongs, and not his mother’s shames,
Draw those heaven-moving pearls from his poor eyes,
Which heaven shall take in nature of a fee;
Ay, with these crystal beads heaven shall be brib’d
To do him justice and revenge on you.
Thou monstrous slanderer of heaven and earth!
Thou monstrous injurer of heaven and earth!
Call not me slanderer; thou and thine usurp
The dominations, royalties, and rights
Of this oppressed boy: this is thy eld’st son’s son,
Infortunate in nothing but in thee:
Thy sins are visited in this poor child;
The canon of the law is laid on him,
Being but the second generation
Removed from thy sin-conceiving womb.
Bedlam, have done.
I have but this to say,
That he’s not only plagued for her sin,
But God hath made her sin and her the plague
On this removed issue, plagu’d for her,
And with her plague, her sin; his injury
Her injury, the beadle to her sin,
All punish’d in the person of this child,
And all for her. A plague upon her!
Thou unadvised scold, I can produce
A will that bars the title of thy son.
Ay, who doubts that? a will! a wicked will;
A woman’s will; a canker’d grandam’s will!
Peace, lady! pause, or be more temperate:
It ill beseems this presence to cry aim
To these ill-tuned repetitions.
Some trumpet summon hither to the walls
These men of Angiers: let us hear them speak
Whose title they admit, Arthur’s or John’s.
Trumpet sounds. Enter Citizens upon the Walls.
Who is it that hath warn’d us to the walls?
’Tis France, for England.
England for itself.
You men of Angiers, and my loving subjects,—
You loving men of Angiers, Arthur’s subjects,
Our trumpet call’d you to this gentle parle,—
For our advantage; therefore hear us first.
These flags of France, that are advanced here
Before the eye and prospect of your town,
Have hither march’d to your endamagement:
The cannons have their bowels full of wrath,
And ready mounted are they to spit forth
Their iron indignation ’gainst your walls:
All preparation for a bloody siege
And merciless proceeding by these French
Confronts your city’s eyes, your winking gates;
And but for our approach those sleeping stones,
That as a waist do girdle you about,
By the compulsion of their ordinance
By this time from their fixed beds of lime
Had been dishabited, and wide havoc made
For bloody power to rush upon your peace.
But on the sight of us your lawful king,—
Who painfully with much expedient march
Have brought a countercheck before your gates,
To save unscratch’d your city’s threaten’d cheeks,—
Behold, the French amaz’d vouchsafe a parle;
And now, instead of bullets wrapp’d in fire,
To make a shaking fever in your walls,
They shoot but calm words folded up in smoke,
To make a faithless error in your ears:
Which trust accordingly, kind citizens,
And let us in, your king, whose labour’d spirits,
Forwearied in this action of swift speed,
Crave harbourage within your city walls.
When I have said, make answer to us both.
Lo! in this right hand, whose protection
Is most divinely vow’d upon the right
Of him it holds, stands young Plantagenet,
Son to the elder brother of this man,
And king o’er him and all that he enjoys:
For this down-trodden equity, we tread
In war-like march these greens before your town,
Being no further enemy to you
Than the constraint of hospitable zeal,
In the relief of this oppressed child,
Religiously provokes. Be pleased then
To pay that duty which you truly owe
To him that owes it, namely, this young prince;
And then our arms, like to a muzzled bear,
Save in aspect, have all offence seal’d up;
Our cannons’ malice vainly shall be spent
Against the invulnerable clouds of heaven;
And with a blessed and unvex’d retire,
With unhack’d swords and helmets all unbruis’d,
We will bear home that lusty blood again
Which here we came to spout against your town,
And leave your children, wives, and you, in peace.
But if you fondly pass our proffer’d offer,
’Tis not the roundure of your old-fac’d walls
Can hide you from our messengers of war,
Though all these English and their discipline
Were harbour’d in their rude circumference.
Then tell us, shall your city call us lord,
In that behalf which we have challeng’d it?
Or shall we give the signal to our rage
And stalk in blood to our possession?
In brief, we are the King of England’s subjects:
For him, and in his right, we hold this town.
Acknowledge then the king, and let me in.
That can we not; but he that proves the king,
To him will we prove loyal: till that time
Have we ramm’d up our gates against the world.
Doth not the crown of England prove the king?
And if not that, I bring you witnesses,
Twice fifteen thousand hearts of England’s breed,—
Bastards, and else.
To verify our title with their lives.
As many and as well-born bloods as those,—
Some bastards too.
Stand in his face to contradict his claim.
Till thou compound whose right is worthiest,
We for the worthiest hold the right from both.
Then God forgive the sins of all those souls
That to their everlasting residence,
Before the dew of evening fall, shall fleet,
In dreadful trial of our kingdom’s king!
Amen, Amen! Mount, chevaliers! to arms!
Saint George, that swing’d the dragon, and e’er since
Sits on his horse back at mine hostess’ door,
Teach us some fence! [ToAustria.] Sirrah, were I at home,
At your den, sirrah, with your lioness,
I would set an ox-head to your lion’s hide,
And make a monster of you.
Peace! no more.
O! tremble, for you hear the lion roar.
Up higher to the plain; where we’ll set forth
In best appointment all our regiments.
Speed then, to take advantage of the field.
It shall be so; [ToLewis.] and at the other hill
Command the rest to stand. God, and our right!
Alarums and excursions; then a retreat. Enter a French Herald, with trumpets, to the gates.
You men of Angiers, open wide your gates,
And let young Arthur, Duke of Britaine, in,
Who, by the hand of France this day hath made
Much work for tears in many an English mother,
Whose sons he scatter’d on the bleeding ground;
Many a widow’s husband grovelling lies,
Coldly embracing the discolour’d earth;
And victory, with little loss, doth play
Upon the dancing banners of the French,
Who are at hand, triumphantly display’d,
To enter conquerors and to proclaim
Arthur of Britaine England’s king and yours.
Enter English Herald, with trumpets.
Rejoice, you men of Angiers, ring your bells;
King John, your king and England’s, doth approach,
Commander of this hot malicious day.
Their armours, that march’d hence so silver-bright,
Hither return all gilt with Frenchmen’s blood;
There stuck no plume in any English crest
That is removed by a staff of France;
Our colours do return in those same hands
That did display them when we first march’d forth;
And, like a jolly troop of huntsmen, come
Our lusty English, all with purpled hands
Dy’d in the dying slaughter of their foes.
Open your gates and give the victors way.
Heralds, from off our towers we might behold,
From first to last, the onset and retire
Of both your armies; whose equality
By our best eyes cannot be censured:
Blood hath bought blood, and blows have answer’d blows;
Strength match’d with strength, and power confronted power:
Both are alike; and both alike we like.
One must prove greatest: while they weigh so even,
We hold our town for neither, yet for both.
Re-enter the twoKings,with their powers, severally.
France, hast thou yet more blood to cast away?
Say, shall the current of our right run on?
Whose passage, vex’d with thy impediment,
Shall leave his native channel and o’erswell
With course disturb’d even thy conflning shores,
Unless thou let his silver water keep
A peaceful progress to the ocean.
England, thou hast not sav’d one drop of blood,
In this hot trial, more than we of France;
Rather, lost more: and by this hand I swear,
That sways the earth this climate overlooks,
Before we will lay down our just-borne arms,
We’ll put thee down, ’gainst whom these arms we bear,
Or add a royal number to the dead,
Gracing the scroll that tells of this war’s loss
With slaughter coupled to the name of kings.
Ha, majesty! how high thy glory towers
When the rich blood of kings is set on fire!
O! now doth Death line his dead chaps with steel;
The swords of soldiers are his teeth, his fangs;
And now he feasts, mousing the flesh of men,
In undetermin’d differences of kings.
Why stand these royal fronts amazed thus?
Cry ‘havoc!’ kings; back to the stained field,
You equal-potents, fiery-kindled spirits!
Then let confusion of one part confirm
The other’s peace; till then, blows, blood, and death!
Whose party do the townsmen yet admit?
Speak, citizens, for England; who’s your king?
The King of England, when we know the king.
Know him in us, that here hold up his right.
In us, that are our own great deputy,
And bear possession of our person here,
Lord of our presence, Angiers, and of you.
A greater power than we denies all this;
And, till it be undoubted, we do lock
Our former scruple in our strong-barr’d gates,
Kings of ourselves; until our fears, resolv’d,
Be by some certain king purg’d and depos’d.
By heaven, these scroyles of Angiers flout you, kings,
And stand securely on their battlements
As in a theatre, whence they gape and point
At your industrious scenes and acts of death.
Your royal presences be rul’d by me:
Do like the mutines of Jerusalem,
Be friends awhile and both conjointly bend
Your sharpest deeds of malice on this town.
By east and west let France and England mount
Their battering cannon charged to the mouths,
Till their soul-fearing clamours have brawl’d down
The flinty ribs of this contemptuous city:
I’d play incessantly upon these jades,
Even till unfenced desolation
Leave them as naked as the vulgar air.
That done, dissever your united strengths,
And part your mingled colours once again;
Turn face to face and bloody point to point;
Then, in a moment, Fortune shall cull forth
Out of one side her happy minion,
To whom in favour she shall give the day,
And kiss him with a glorious victory.
How like you this wild counsel, mighty states?
Smacks it not something of the policy?
Now, by the sky that hangs above our heads,
I like it well. France, shall we knit our powers
And lay this Angiers even with the ground;
Then after fight who shall be king of it?
An if thou hast the mettle of a king,
Being wrong’d as we are by this peevish town,
Turn thou the mouth of thy artillery,
As we will ours, against these saucy walls;
And when that we have dash’d them to the ground,
Why then defy each other, and, pell-mell,
Make work upon ourselves, for heaven or hell.
Let it be so. Say, where will you assault?
We from the west will send destruction
Into this city’s bosom.
I from the north.
Our thunder from the south
Shall rain their drift of bullets on this town.
O, prudent discipline! From north to south
Austria and France shoot in each other’s mouth:
I’ll stir them to it. Come, away, away!
Hear us, great kings: vouchsafe a while to stay,
And I shall show you peace and fair-fac’d league;
Win you this city without stroke or wound;
Rescue those breathing lives to die in beds,
That here come sacrifices for the field.
Persever not, but hear me, mighty kings.
Speak on with favour: we are bent to hear.
That daughter there of Spain, the Lady Blanch,
Is near to England: look upon the years
Of Lewis the Dauphin and that lovely maid.
If lusty love should go in quest of beauty,
Where should he find it fairer than in Blanch?
If zealous love should go in search of virtue,
Where should he find it purer than in Blanch?
If love ambitious sought a match of birth,
Whose veins bound richer blood than Lady Blanch?
Such as she is, in beauty, virtue, birth,
Is the young Dauphin every way complete:
If not complete of, say he is not she;
And she again wants nothing, to name want,
If want it be not that she is not he:
He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such a she;
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fulness of perfection lies in him.
O! two such silver currents, when they join,
Do glorify the banks that bound them in;
And two such shores to two such streams made one,
Two such controlling bounds shall you be, kings,
To these two princes, if you marry them.
This union shall do more than battery can
To our fast-closed gates; for at this match,
With swifter spleen than powder can enforce,
The mouth of passage shall we fling wide ope,
And give you entrance; but without this match,
The sea enraged is not half so deaf,
Lions more confident, mountains and rocks
More free from motion, no, not death himself
In mortal fury half so peremptory,
As we to keep this city.
Here’s a stay,
That shakes the rotten carcase of old Death
Out of his rags! Here’s a large mouth, indeed,
That spits forth death and mountains, rocks and seas,
Talks as familiarly of roaring lions
As maids of thirteen do of puppy-dogs.
What cannoneer begot this lusty blood?
He speaks plain cannon fire, and smoke and bounce;
He gives the bastinado with his tongue;
Our ears are cudgell’d; not a word of his
But buffets better than a fist of France.
’Zounds! I was never so bethump’d with words
Since I first call’d my brother’s father dad.
[Aside toKing John.] Son, list to this conjunction, make this match;
Give with our niece a dowry large enough;
For by this knot thou shalt so surely tie
Thy now unsur’d assurance to the crown,
That yon green boy shall have no sun to ripe
The bloom that promiseth a mighty fruit.
I see a yielding in the looks of France;
Mark how they whisper: urge them while their souls
Are capable of this ambition,
Lest zeal, now melted by the windy breath
Of soft petitions, pity and remorse,
Cool and congeal again to what it was.
Why answer not the double majesties
This friendly treaty of our threaten’d town?
Speak England first, that hath been forward first
To speak unto this city: what say you?
If that the Dauphin there, thy princely son,
Can in this book of beauty read ‘I love,’
Her dowry shall weigh equal with a queen:
For Anjou, and fair Touraine, Maine, Poictiers,
And all that we upon this side the sea,—
Except this city now by us besieg’d,—
Find liable to our crown and dignity,
Shall gild her bridal bed and make her rich
In titles, honours, and promotions,
As she in beauty, education, blood,
Holds hand with any princess of the world.
What sayst thou, boy? look in the lady’s face.
I do, my lord; and in her eye I find
A wonder, or a wondrous miracle,
The shadow of myself form’d in her eye;
Which, being but the shadow of your son
Becomes a sun, and makes your son a shadow:
I do protest I never lov’d myself
Till now infixed I beheld myself,
Drawn in the flattering table of her eye.
Drawn in the flattering table of her eye!
Hang’d in the frowning wrinkle of her brow!
And quarter’d in her heart! he doth espy
Himself love’s traitor: this is pity now,
That hang’d and drawn and quarter’d, there should be
In such a love so vile a lout as he.
My uncle’s will in this respect is mine:
If he see aught in you that makes him like,
That anything he sees, which moves his liking,
I can with ease translate it to my will;
Or if you will, to speak more properly,
I will enforce it easily to my love.
Further I will not flatter you, my lord,
That all I see in you is worthy love,
Than this: that nothing do I see in you,
Though churlish thoughts themselves should be your judge,
That I can find should merit any hate.
What say these young ones? What say you, my niece?
That she is bound in honour still to do
What you in wisdom still vouchsafe to say.
Speak then, Prince Dauphin; can you love this lady?
Nay, ask me if I can refrain from love;
For I do love her most unfeignedly.
Then do I give Volquessen, Touraine, Maine,
Poictiers, and Anjou, these five provinces,
With her to thee; and this addition more,
Full thirty thousand marks of English coin.
Philip of France, if thou be pleas’d withal,
Command thy son and daughter to join hands.
It likes us well. Young princes, close your hands.
And your lips too; for I am well assur’d
That I did so when I was first assur’d.
Now, citizens of Angiers, ope your gates,
Let in that amity which you have made;
For at Saint Mary’s chapel presently
The rites of marriage shall be solemniz’d.
Is not the Lady Constance in this troop?
I know she is not; for this match made up
Her presence would have interrupted much:
Where is she and her son? tell me, who knows.
She is sad and passionate at your highness’ tent.
And, by my faith, this league that we have made
Will give her sadness very little cure.
Brother of England, how may we content
This widow lady? In her right we came;
Which we, God knows, have turn’d another way,
To our own vantage.
We will heal up all;
For we’ll create young Arthur Duke of Britaine
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 except theBastard.The Citizens retire from the walls.
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
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,
Who having no external thing to lose
But the word ‘maid,’ cheats the poor maid of that,
That smooth-fac’d gentleman, tickling Commodity,
Commodity, the bias of the world;
The world, who of itself is peized 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.
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!