Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT IV. - The Life and Death of King John
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ACT IV. - 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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Northampton. A Room in the Castle.
EnterHubertand Two Attendants.
Heat me these irons hot; and look thou stand
Within the arras: when I strike my foot
Upon the bosom of the ground, rush forth,
And bind the boy which you shall find with me
Fast to the chair: be heedful. Hence, and watch.
I hope your warrant will bear out the deed.
Uncleanly scruples! fear not you: look to’t.
Young lad, come forth; I have to say with you.
Good morrow, Hubert.
Good morrow, little prince.
As little prince,—having so great a title
To be more prince,—as may be. You are sad.
Indeed, I have been merrier.
Mercy on me!
Methinks nobody should be sad but I:
Yet I remember, when I was in France,
Young gentlemen would be as sad as night,
Only for wantonness. By my christendom,
So I were out of prison and kept sheep,
I should be as merry as the day is long;
And so I would be here, but that I doubt
My uncle practises more harm to me:
He is afraid of me, and I of him.
Is it my fault that I was Geffrey’s son?
No, indeed, is’t not; and I would to heaven
I were your son, so you would love me, Hubert.
[Aside.] If I talk to him with his innocent prate
He will awake my mercy which lies dead:
Therefore I will be sudden and dispatch.
Are you sick, Hubert? you look pale to-day:
In sooth, I would you were a little sick,
That I might sit all night and watch with you:
I warrant I love you more than you do me.
[Aside.] His words do take possession of my bosom.
Read here, young Arthur.
[Showing a paper.
[Aside.] How now, foolish rheum!
Turning dispiteous torture out of door!
I must be brief, lest resolution drop
Out at mine eyes in tender womanish tears.
Can you not read it? is it not fair writ?
Too fairly, Hubert, for so foul effect.
Must you with hot irons burn out both mine eyes?
Young boy, I must.
And will you?
And I will.
Have you the heart? When your head did but ache,
I knit my handkercher about your brows,—
The best I had, a princess wrought it me,—
And I did never ask it you again;
And with my hand at midnight held your head,
And like the watchful minutes to the hour,
Still and anon cheer’d up the heavy time,
Saying, ‘What lack you?’ and, ‘Where lies your grief?’
Or, ‘What good love may I perform for you?’
Many a poor man’s son would have lain still,
And ne’er have spoke a loving word to you;
But you at your sick-service had a prince.
Nay, you may think my love was crafty love,
And call it cunning: do an if you will.
If heaven be pleas’d that you must use me ill,
Why then you must. Will you put out mine eyes?
These eyes that never did nor never shall
So much as frown on you?
I have sworn to do it;
And with hot irons must I burn them out.
Ah! none but in this iron age would do it!
The iron of itself, though heat red-hot,
Approaching near these eyes, would drink my tears
And quench this fiery indignation
Even in the matter of mine innocence;
Nay, after that, consume away in rust,
But for containing fire to harm mine eye.
Are you more stubborn-hard than hammer’d iron?
An if an angel should have come to me
And told me Hubert should put out mine eyes,
I would not have believ’d him; no tongue but Hubert’s.
[Stamps.] Come forth.
Re-enter Attendants, with cord, irons, &c.
Do as I bid you do.
O! save me, Hubert, save me! my eyes are out
Even with the fierce looks of these bloody men.
Give me the iron, I say, and bind him here.
Alas! what need you be so boisterousrough?
I will not struggle; I will stand stone-still.
For heaven’s sake, Hubert, let me not be bound!
Nay, hear me, Hubert: drive these men away,
And I will sit as quiet as a lamb;
I will not stir, nor wince, nor speak a word,
Nor look upon the iron angerly.
Thrust but these men away, and I’ll forgive you,
Whatever torment you do put me to.
Go, stand within: let me alone with him.
I am best pleas’d to be from such a deed.
Alas! I then have chid away my friend:
He hath a stern look, but a gentle heart.
Let him come back, that his compassion may
Give life to yours.
Come, boy, prepare yourself.
Is there no remedy?
None, but to lose your eyes.
O heaven! that there were but a mote in yours,
A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair,
Any annoyance in that precious sense;
Then feeling what small things are boisterous there,
Your vile intent must needs seem horrible.
Is this your promise? go to, hold your tongue.
Hubert, the utterance of a brace of tongues
Must needs want pleading for a pair of eyes:
Let me not hold my tongue; let me not, Hubert:
Or Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,
So I may keep mine eyes: O! spare mine eyes,
Though to no use but still to look on you:
Lo! by my troth, the instrument is cold
And would not harm me.
I can heat it, boy.
No, in good sooth; the fire is dead with grief,
Being create for comfort, to be us’d
In undeserv’d extremes: see else yourself;
There is no malice in this burning coal;
The breath of heaven hath blown his spirit out
And strew’d repentant ashes on his head.
But with my breath I can revive it, boy.
An if you do you will but make it blush
And glow with shame of your proceedings, Hubert:
Nay, it perchance will sparkle in your eyes;
And like a dog that is compell’d to fight,
Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on.
All things that you should use to do me wrong
Deny their office: only you do lack
That mercy which fierce fire and iron extends,
Creatures of note for mercy-lacking uses.
Well, see to live; I will not touch thine eyes
For all the treasure that thine uncle owes:
Yet am I sworn and I did purpose, boy,
With this same very iron to burn them out.
O! now you look like Hubert, all this while
You were disguised.
Peace! no more. Adieu.
Your uncle must not know but you are dead;
I’ll fill these dogged spies with false reports:
And, pretty child, sleep doubtless and secure,
That Hubert for the wealth of all the world
Will not offend thee.
O heaven! I thank you, Hubert.
Silence! no more, go closely in with me:
Much danger do I undergo for thee.
The Same. A Room of State in the Palace.
EnterKing John,crowned;Pembroke, Salisbury,and other Lords. TheKingtakes his state.
Here once again we sit, once again crown’d,
And look’d upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes.
This ‘once again,’ but that your highness pleas’d,
Was once superfluous: you were crown’d before,
And that high royalty was ne’er pluck’d off,
The faiths of men ne’er stained with revolt;
Fresh expectation troubled not the land
With any long’d-for change or better state.
Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
But that your royal pleasure must be done,
This act is as an ancient tale new told,
And in the last repeating troublesome,
Being urged at a time unseasonable.
In this the antique and well-noted face
Of plain old form is much disfigured;
And, like a shifted wind unto a sail,
It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about,
Startles and frights consideration,
Makes sound opinion sick and truth suspected,
For putting on so new a fashion’d robe.
When workmen strive to do better than well
They do confound their skill in covetousness;
And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse:
As patches set upon a little breach
Discredit more in hiding of the fault
Than did the fault before it was so patch’d.
To this effect, before you were newcrown’d,
We breath’d our counsel: but it pleas’d your highness
To overbear it, and we are all well pleas’d;
Since all and every part of what we would
Doth make a stand at what your highness will.
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 indue you with: meantime but ask
What you would have reform’d that is not well;
And well shall you perceive how willingly
I will both hear and grant you your requests.
Then I,—as one that am the tongue of these
To sound the purposes of all their hearts,—
Both for myself and them,—but, chief of all,
Your safety, for the which myself and them
Bend their best studies,—heartily request
The enfranchisement of Arthur; whose restraint
Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent
To break into this dangerous argument:
If what in rest you have in right you hold,
Why then your fears,—which, as they say, attend
The steps of wrong,—should move you to mew up
Your tender kinsman, and to choke his days
With barbarous ignorance, and deny his youth
The rich advantage of good exercise?
That the time’s enemies may not have this
To grace occasions, let it be our suit
That you have bid us ask, his liberty;
Which for our goods we do no further ask
Than whereupon our weal, on you depending,
Counts it your weal he have his liberty.
Let it be so: I do commit his youth
To your direction. Hubert, what news with you?
[Taking him apart.
This is the man should do the bloody deed;
He show’d his warrant to a friend of mine:
The image of a wicked hemous fault
Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his
Does show the mood of a much troubled breast;
And I do fearfully believe ’tis done,
What we so fear’d he had a charge to do.
The colour of the king doth come and go
Between his purpose and his conscience,
Like heralds ’twixt two dreadful battles set:
His passion is so ripe it needs must break.
And when it breaks, I fear will issue thence
The foul corruption of a sweet child’s death.
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.
Indeed we fear’d his sickness was past cure.
Indeed we heard how near his death he was
Before the child himself felt he was sick:
This must be answer’d, either here or hence.
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?
It is apparent foul play; and ’tis shame
That greatness should so grossly offer it:
So thrive it in your game! and so, farewell.
Stay yet, Lord Salisbury; I’ll go with thee,
And find the inheritance of this poor child,
His little kingdom of a forced grave.
That blood which ow’d the breadth of all this isle,
Three foot of it doth hold: bad world the while!
This must not be thus borne: this will break out
To all our sorrows, and ere long I doubt.
They burn in indignation. I repent:
There is no sure foundation set on blood,
No certain life achiev’d by others’ death.
Enter a Messenger.
A fearful eye thou hast: where is that 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?
From France to England. Never such a power
For any foreign preparation
Was levied in the body of a land.
The copy of your speed is learn’d by them;
For when you should be told they do prepare,
The tidings come that they are all arriv’d.
O! where hath our intelligence been drunk?
Where hath it slept? Where is my mother’s care
That such an army could be drawn in France,
And she not hear of it?
My liege, her ear
Is stopp’d with dust: the first of April died
Your noble mother; and, as I hear, my lord,
The Lady Constance in a frenzy died
Three days before: but this from rumour’s tongue
I idly heard; if true or false I know not.
Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion!
O! make a league with me, till I have pleas’d
My discontented peers. What! mother dead!
How wildly then walks my estate in France!
Under whose conduct came those powers of France
That thou for truth giv’st out are landed here?
Under the Dauphin.
Thou hast made me giddy
With these ill tidings.
Enter theBastard,andPeter of Pomfret.
Now, what says the world
To your proceedings? do not seek to stuff
My head with more ill news, for it is full.
But if you be afeard to hear the worst,
Then let the worst unheard fall on your head.
Bear with me, cousin, for I was amaz’d
Under the tide; but now I breathe again
Aloft the flood, and can give audience
To any tongue, speak it of what it will.
How I have sped among the clergymen,
The sums I have collected shall express.
But as I travell’d hither through the land,
I find the people strangely fantasied,
Possess’d with rumours, full of idle dreams,
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.
And here’s a prophet that I brought with me
From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found
With many hundreds treading on his heels;
To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rimes,
That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon,
Your highness should deliver up your crown.
Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou so?
Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.
Hubert, away with him; imprison him:
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 must use thee.
O my gentle cousin,
Hear’st thou the news abroad, who are arriv’d?
The French, my lord; men’s mouths are full of it:
Besides, 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, whom they say is kill’d to-night
On your suggestion.
Gentle kinsman, go,
And thrust thyself into their companies.
I have a way to win their loves again;
Bring them before me.
I will seek them out.
Nay, but make haste; the better foot before.
O! let me have no subject enemies
When adverse foreigners affright my towns
With dreadful pomp of stout invasion.
Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels,
And fly like thought from them to me again.
The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.
Spoke like a sprightful noble gentleman.
Go after him; for he perhaps shall need
Some messenger betwixt me and the peers;
And be thou he.
With all my heart, my liege.
My mother dead!
My lord, they say five moons were seen to-night:
Four fixed, and the fifth did whirl about
The other four in wondrous motion.
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
Whilst he that hears makes fearful action,
With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,
The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
With open mouth swallowing a tailor’s news;
Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
Standing on slippers,—which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet,—
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
That were embattailed and rank’d in Kent.
Another lean unwash’d artificer
Cuts off his tale and talks of Arthur’s death.
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 had a mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
No had, my lord! why, did you not provoke me?
It is the curse of kings to be attended
By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
To break within the bloody house of life,
And on the winking of authority
To understand a law, to know the meaning
Of dangerous majesty, when, perchance, it frowns
More upon humour than advis’d respect.
Here is your hand and seal for what I did.
O! 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 ill deeds done! Hadst not thou 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 abhorr’d aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
Apt, liable to be employ’d in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur’s death;
And thou, to be endeared to a king,
Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.
Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause
When I spake darkly what I purposed,
Or turn’d an eye of doubt upon my face,
As 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;
Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
And consequently thy rude hand to act
The deed which both our tongues held vile to name.
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 reigns
Between my conscience and my cousin’s death.
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 a maiden and an innocent hand,
Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.
Within this bosom never enter’d yet
The dreadful motion of a murderous thought;
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.
Doth Arthur live? O! haste thee to the peers,
Throw this report on their incensed rage,
And make them tame to their obedience.
Forgive the comment that my passion made
Upon thy feature; for my rage was blind,
And foul imaginary eyes of blood
Presented thee more hideous than thou art.
O! answer not; but to my closet bring
The angry lords, with all expedient haste.
I conjure thee but slowly; run more fast.
The Same. Before the Castle.
EnterArthur,on the Walls.
The wall is high; and yet will I leap down
Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not!
There’s few or none do know me; if they did,
This ship-boy’s semblance hath disguis’d me quite.
I am afraid; and yet I’ll venture it.
If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
I’ll find a thousand shifts to get away:
As good to die and go, as die and stay.
O me! my uncle’s spirit is in these stones:
Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!
Lords, I will meet him at Saint Edmundsbury.
It is our safety, and we must embrace
This gentle offer of the perilous time.
Who brought that letter from the cardinal?
The Count Melun, a noble lord of France;
Whose private with me of the Dauphin’s love,
Is much more general than these lines import.
To-morrow morning let us meet him then.
Or rather then set forward; for ’twill be
Two long days’ journey, lords, or e’er we meet.
Once more to-day well met, distemper’d lords!
The king by me requests your presence straight.
The king hath dispossess’d himself of us:
We will not line his thin bestained cloak
With our pure honours, nor attend the foot
That leaves the print of blood where’er it walks.
Return and tell him so: we know the worst.
Whate’er you think, good words, I think, were best.
Our griefs, and not our manners, reason now.
But there is little reason in your grief;
Therefore ’twere reason you had manners now.
Sir, sir, impatience hath his privilege.
’Tis true; to hurt his master, no man else.
This is the prison.
What is he lies here?
O death, made proud with pure and princely beauty!
The earth had not a hole to hide this deed.
Murder, as hating what himself hath done,
Doth lay it open to urge on revenge.
Or when he doom’d this beauty to a grave,
Found it too precious-princely for a grave.
Sir Richard, what think you? Have you beheld,
Or have you read, or heard? or could you think?
Or do you almost think, although you see,
That you do see? could thought, without this object,
Form such another? This is the very top,
The height, the crest, or crest unto the crest,
Of murder’s arms: this is the bloodiest shame,
The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke,
That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage
Presented to the tears of soft remorse.
All murders past do stand excus’d in this:
And this, so sole and so unmatchable,
Shall give a holiness, a purity,
To the yet unbegotten sin of times;
And prove a deadly bloodshed but a jest,
Exampled by this heinous spectacle.
It is a damned and a bloody work;
The graceless action of a heavy hand,
If that it be the work of any hand.
If that it be the work of any hand!
We had a kind of light what would ensue:
It is the shameful work of Hubert’s hand;
The practice and the purpose of the king:
From whose obedience I forbid my soul,
Kneeling before this ruin of sweet life,
And breathing to his breathless excellence
The incense of a vow, a holy vow,
Never to taste the pleasures of the world,
Never to be infected with delight,
Nor conversant with ease and idleness,
Till I have set a glory to this hand,
By giving it the worship of revenge.
Our souls religiously confirm thy words.
Our souls religiously confirm thy words.
Lords, I am hot with haste in seeking you:
Arthur doth live: the king hath sent for you.
O! he is bold and blushes not at death.
Avaunt, thou hateful villain! get thee gone.
I am no villain.
[Drawing his sword.] Must I rob the law?
Your sword is bright, sir; put it up again.
Not till I sheathe it in a murderer’s skin.
Stand back, Lord Salisbury, stand back, I say:
By heaven, I think my sword’s as sharp as yours.
I would not have you, lord, forget yourself,
Nor tempt the danger of my true defence;
Lest I, by marking of your rage, forget
Your worth, your greatness, and nobility.
Out, dunghill! dar’st thou brave a nobleman?
Not for my life; but yet I dare defend
My innocent life against an emperor.
Thou art a murderer.
Do not prove me so;
Yet I am none. Whose tongue soe’er speaks false,
Not truly speaks; who speaks not truly, lies.
Cut him to pieces.
Keep the peace, I say.
Stand by, or I shall gall you, Faulconbridge.
Thou wert better gall the devil, Salisbury:
If thou but frown on me, or stir thy foot,
Or teach thy hasty spleen to do me shame,
I’ll strike thee dead. Put up thy sword betime:
Or I’ll so maul you and your toasting-iron,
That you shall think the devil is come from hell.
What wilt thou do, renowned Faulconbridge?
Second a villain and a murderer?
Lord Bigot, I am none.
Who kill’d this prince?
’Tis not an hour since I left him well:
I honour’d him, I lov’d him; and will weep
My date of life out for his sweet life’s loss.
Trust not those cunning waters of his eyes,
For villany is not without such rheum;
And he, long traded in it, makes it seem
Like rivers of remorse and innocency.
Away with me, all you whose souls abhor
The uncleanly savours of a slaughter-house;
For I am stifled with this smell of sin.
Away toward Bury; to the Dauphin there!
There tell the king he may inquire us out.
Here’s a good world! Knew you of this fair work?
Beyond the infinite and boundless reach
Of mercy, if thou didst this deed of death,
Art thou damn’d, Hubert.
Do but hear me, sir.
Ha! I’ll tell thee what;
Thou art damn’d as black—nay, nothing is so black;
Thou art more deep damn’d than Prince Lucifer:
There is not yet so ugly a fiend of hell
As thou shalt be, if thou didst kill this child.
Upon my soul,—
If thou didst but consent
To this most cruel act, do but despair;
And if thou want’st a cord, the smallest thread
That ever spider twisted from her womb
Will serve to strangle thee; a rush will be a beam
To hang thee on; or wouldst thou drown thyself,
Put but a little water in a spoon,
And it shall be as all the ocean,
Enough to stifle such a villain up.
I do suspect thee very grievously.
If I in act, consent, or sin of thought,
Be guilty of the stealing that sweet breath
Which was embounded in this beauteous clay,
Let hell want pains enough to torture me.
I left him well.
Go, bear him in thine arms.
I am amaz’d, methinks, and lose my way
Among the thorns and dangers of this world.
How easy dost thou take all England up!
From forth this morsel of dead royalty,
The life, the right and truth of all this realm
Is fled to heaven; and England now is left
To tug and scamble and to part by the teeth
The unow’d interest of proud swelling state.
Now for the bare-pick’d bone of majesty
Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest,
And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace:
Now powers from home and discontents at home
Meet in one line; and vast confusion waits,—
As doth a raven on a sick-fallen beast,—
The imminent decay of wrested pomp.
Now happy he whose cloak and ceinture can
Hold out this tempest. Bear away that child
And follow me with speed: I’ll to the king:
A thousand businesses are brief in hand,
And heaven itself doth frown upon the land.