King John
by William Shakespeare [Collins edition]
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SALISBURY. Trust not those cunning waters of his eyes, For villainy 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 Th' uncleanly savours of a slaughter-house; For I am stifled with this smell of sin.

BIGOT. Away toward Bury, to the Dauphin there!

PEMBROKE. There tell the king he may inquire us out.

[Exeunt LORDS.]

BASTARD. 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.

HUBERT. Do but hear me, sir.

BASTARD. Ha! I'll tell thee what; Thou'rt 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.

HUBERT. Upon my soul,—

BASTARD. 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.

HUBERT. 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.

BASTARD. 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 cincture 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.



SCENE 1. Northampton. A Room in the Palace.

[Enter KING JOHN, PANDULPH with the crown, and Attendants.]

KING JOHN. Thus have I yielded up into your hand The circle of my glory.

PANDULPH. [Give KING JOHN the crown.] Take again From this my hand, as holding of the pope, Your sovereign greatness and authority.

KING JOHN. Now keep your holy word: go meet the French; And from his holiness use all your power To stop their marches 'fore we are inflam'd. Our discontented counties do revolt; Our people quarrel with obedience; Swearing allegiance and the love of soul To stranger blood, to foreign royalty. This inundation of mistemper'd humour Rests by you only to be qualified. Then pause not; for the present time's so sick That present medicine must be ministr'd Or overthrow incurable ensues.

PANDULPH. It was my breath that blew this tempest up, Upon your stubborn usage of the pope: But since you are a gentle convertite, My tongue shall hush again this storm of war And make fair weather in your blustering land. On this Ascension-day, remember well, Upon your oath of service to the pope, Go I to make the French lay down their arms.


KING JOHN. Is this Ascension-day? Did not the prophet Say that before Ascension-day at noon My crown I should give off? Even so I have: I did suppose it should be on constraint; But, heaven be thank'd, it is but voluntary.

[Enter the BASTARD.]

BASTARD. All Kent hath yielded; nothing there holds out But Dover Castle: London hath receiv'd, Like a kind host, the Dauphin and his powers: Your nobles will not hear you, but are gone To offer service to your enemy; And wild amazement hurries up and down The little number of your doubtful friends.

KING JOHN. Would not my lords return to me again After they heard young Arthur was alive?

BASTARD. They found him dead, and cast into the streets; An empty casket, where the jewel of life By some damn'd hand was robb'd and ta'en away.

KING JOHN. That villain Hubert told me he did live.

BASTARD. So, on my soul, he did, for aught he knew. But wherefore do you droop? why look you sad? Be great in act, as you have been in thought; Let not the world see fear and sad distrust Govern the motion of a kingly eye: Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire; Threaten the threatener, and outface the brow Of bragging horror: so shall inferior eyes, That borrow their behaviours from the great, Grow great by your example, and put on The dauntless spirit of resolution. Away, and glister like the god of war When he intendeth to become the field: Show boldness and aspiring confidence. What, shall they seek the lion in his den, And fright him there? and make him tremble there? O, let it not be said!—Forage, and run To meet displeasure farther from the doors, And grapple with him ere he come so nigh.

KING JOHN. The legate of the pope hath been with me, And I have made a happy peace with him; And he hath promis'd to dismiss the powers Led by the Dauphin.

BASTARD. O inglorious league! Shall we, upon the footing of our land, Send fair-play orders, and make compromise, Insinuation, parley, and base truce, To arms invasive? shall a beardless boy, A cocker'd silken wanton, brave our fields, And flesh his spirit in a warlike soil, Mocking the air with colours idly spread, And find no check? Let us, my liege, to arms; Perchance the cardinal cannot make your peace; Or, if he do, let it at least be said They saw we had a purpose of defence.

KING JOHN. Have thou the ordering of this present time.

BASTARD. Away, then, with good courage! yet, I know Our party may well meet a prouder foe.


SCENE 2. Near Saint Edmunds-bury. The French Camp.

[Enter, in arms, LOUIS, SALISBURY, MELUN, PEMBROKE, BIGOT, and soldiers.]

LOUIS. My Lord Melun, let this be copied out And keep it safe for our remembrance: Return the precedent to these lords again; That, having our fair order written down, Both they and we, perusing o'er these notes, May know wherefore we took the sacrament, And keep our faiths firm and inviolable.

SALISBURY. Upon our sides it never shall be broken. And, noble Dauphin, albeit we swear A voluntary zeal and an unurg'd faith To your proceedings; yet, believe me, prince, I am not glad that such a sore of time Should seek a plaster by contemn'd revolt, And heal the inveterate canker of one wound By making many. O, it grieves my soul That I must draw this metal from my side To be a widow-maker! O, and there Where honourable rescue and defence Cries out upon the name of Salisbury! But such is the infection of the time, That, for the health and physic of our right, We cannot deal but with the very hand Of stern injustice and confused wrong.— And is't not pity, O my grieved friends! That we, the sons and children of this isle, Were born to see so sad an hour as this; Wherein we step after a stranger-march Upon her gentle bosom, and fill up Her enemies' ranks—I must withdraw and weep Upon the spot of this enforc'd cause— To grace the gentry of a land remote, And follow unacquainted colours here? What, here?—O nation, that thou couldst remove! That Neptune's arms, who clippeth thee about, Would bear thee from the knowledge of thyself, And grapple thee unto a pagan shore, Where these two Christian armies might combine The blood of malice in a vein of league, And not to spend it so unneighbourly!

LOUIS. A noble temper dost thou show in this; And great affections wrestling in thy bosom Doth make an earthquake of nobility. O, what a noble combat hast thou fought Between compulsion and a brave respect! Let me wipe off this honourable dew That silverly doth progress on thy cheeks: My heart hath melted at a lady's tears, Being an ordinary inundation; But this effusion of such manly drops, This shower, blown up by tempest of the soul, Startles mine eyes and makes me more amaz'd Than had I seen the vaulty top of heaven Figur'd quite o'er with burning meteors. Lift up thy brow, renowned Salisbury, And with a great heart heave away this storm: Commend these waters to those baby eyes That never saw the giant world enrag'd, Nor met with fortune other than at feasts, Full of warm blood, of mirth, of gossiping. Come, come; for thou shalt thrust thy hand as deep Into the purse of rich prosperity As Louis himself:—so, nobles, shall you all, That knit your sinews to the strength of mine.— And even there, methinks, an angel spake: Look, where the holy legate comes apace, To give us warrant from the hand of heaven And on our actions set the name of right With holy breath.

[Enter PANDULPH, attended.]

PANDULPH. Hail, noble prince of France! The next is this,—King John hath reconcil'd Himself to Rome; his spirit is come in, That so stood out against the holy church, The great metropolis and see of Rome: Therefore thy threatening colours now wind up, And tame the savage spirit of wild war, That, like a lion foster'd up at hand, It may lie gently at the foot of peace And be no further harmful than in show.

LOUIS. Your grace shall pardon me, I will not back: I am too high-born to be propertied, To be a secondary at control, Or useful serving-man and instrument To any sovereign state throughout the world. Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars Between this chastis'd kingdom and myself, And brought in matter that should feed this fire; And now 'tis far too huge to be blown out With that same weak wind which enkindled it. You taught me how to know the face of right, Acquainted me with interest to this land, Yea, thrust this enterprise into my heart; And come ye now to tell me John hath made His peace with Rome? What is that peace to me? I, by the honour of my marriage-bed, After young Arthur, claim this land for mine; And, now it is half-conquer'd, must I back Because that John hath made his peace with Rome? Am I Rome's slave? What penny hath Rome borne, What men provided, what munition sent, To underprop this action? Is't not I That undergo this charge? Who else but I, And such as to my claim are liable, Sweat in this business and maintain this war? Have I not heard these islanders shout out, 'Vive le roi!' as I have bank'd their towns? Have I not here the best cards for the game, To will this easy match, play'd for a crown? And shall I now give o'er the yielded set? No, no, on my soul, it never shall be said.

PANDULPH. You look but on the outside of this work.

LOUIS. Outside or inside, I will not return Till my attempt so much be glorified As to my ample hope was promised Before I drew this gallant head of war, And cull'd these fiery spirits from the world, To outlook conquest, and to will renown Even in the jaws of danger and of death.—

[Trumpet sounds.]

What lusty trumpet thus doth summon us?

[Enter the BASTARD, attended.]

BASTARD. According to the fair play of the world, Let me have audience; I am sent to speak:— My holy lord of Milan, from the king I come, to learn how you have dealt for him; And, as you answer, I do know the scope And warrant limited unto my tongue.

PANDULPH. The Dauphin is too wilful-opposite, And will not temporize with my entreaties; He flatly says he'll not lay down his arms.

BASTARD. By all the blood that ever fury breath'd, The youth says well.—Now hear our English king; For thus his royalty doth speak in me. He is prepar'd; and reason too he should: This apish and unmannerly approach, This harness'd masque and unadvised revel This unhair'd sauciness and boyish troops, The king doth smile at; and is well prepar'd To whip this dwarfish war, these pigmy arms, From out the circle of his territories. That hand which had the strength, even at your door, To cudgel you, and make you take the hatch; To dive, like buckets, in concealed wells; To crouch in litter of your stable planks; To lie, like pawns, lock'd up in chests and trunks; To hug with swine; to seek sweet safety out In vaults and prisons; and to thrill and shake Even at the crying of your nation's crow, Thinking this voice an armed Englishman;— Shall that victorious hand be feebled here That in your chambers gave you chastisement? No: know the gallant monarch is in arms And like an eagle o'er his aery towers To souse annoyance that comes near his nest.— And you degenerate, you ingrate revolts, You bloody Neroes, ripping up the womb Of your dear mother England, blush for shame; For your own ladies and pale-visag'd maids, Like Amazons, come tripping after drums,— Their thimbles into armed gauntlets chang'd, Their needles to lances, and their gentle hearts To fierce and bloody inclination.

LOUIS. There end thy brave, and turn thy face in peace; We grant thou canst outscold us: fare thee well; We hold our time too precious to be spent With such a brabbler.

PANDULPH. Give me leave to speak.

BASTARD. No, I will speak.

LOUIS. We will attend to neither.— Strike up the drums; and let the tongue of war, Plead for our interest and our being here.

BASTARD. Indeed, your drums, being beaten, will cry out; And so shall you, being beaten: do but start And echo with the clamour of thy drum, And even at hand a drum is ready brac'd That shall reverberate all as loud as thine: Sound but another, and another shall, As loud as thine, rattle the welkin's ear, And mock the deep-mouth'd thunder: for at hand,— Not trusting to this halting legate here, Whom he hath us'd rather for sport than need,— Is warlike John; and in his forehead sits A bare-ribb'd death, whose office is this day To feast upon whole thousands of the French.

LOUIS. Strike up our drums, to find this danger out.

BASTARD. And thou shalt find it, Dauphin, do not doubt.


SCENE 3. The same. The Field of Battle.

[Alarums. Enter KING JOHN and HUBERT.]

KING JOHN. How goes the day with us? O, tell me, Hubert.

HUBERT. Badly, I fear. How fares your majesty?

KING JOHN. This fever that hath troubled me so long Lies heavy on me;—O, my heart is sick!

[Enter a MESSENGER.]

MESSENGER. My lord, your valiant kinsman, Falconbridge, Desires your majesty to leave the field And send him word by me which way you go.

KING JOHN. Tell him, toward Swinstead, to the abbey there.

MESSENGER. Be of good comfort; for the great supply That was expected by the Dauphin here Are wreck'd three nights ago on Goodwin Sands. This news was brought to Richard but even now: The French fight coldly, and retire themselves.

KING JOHN. Ay me! this tyrant fever burns me up And will not let me welcome this good news.— Set on toward Swinstead: to my litter straight; Weakness possesseth me, and I am faint.


SCENE 4. The same. Another part of the same.

[Enter SALISBURY, PEMBROKE, and others.]

SALISBURY. I did not think the king so stor'd with friends.

PEMBROKE. Up once again; put spirit in the French; If they miscarry, we miscarry too.

SALISBURY. That misbegotten devil, Falconbridge, In spite of spite, alone upholds the day.

PEMBROKE. They say King John, sore sick, hath left the field.

[Enter MELUN wounded, and led by Soldiers.]

MELUN. Lead me to the revolts of England here.

SALISBURY. When we were happy we had other names.

PEMBROKE. It is the Count Melun.

SALISBURY. Wounded to death.

MELUN. Fly, noble English, you are bought and sold; Unthread the rude eye of rebellion, And welcome home again discarded faith. Seek out King John, and fall before his feet; For if the French be lords of this loud day, He means to recompense the pains you take By cutting off your heads: thus hath he sworn, And I with him, and many more with me, Upon the altar at Saint Edmunds-bury; Even on that altar where we swore to you Dear amity and everlasting love.

SALISBURY. May this be possible? may this be true?

MELUN. Have I not hideous death within my view, Retaining but a quantity of life, Which bleeds away even as a form of wax Resolveth from his figure 'gainst the fire? What in the world should make me now deceive, Since I must lose the use of all deceit? Why should I then be false, since it is true That I must die here, and live hence by truth? I say again, if Louis do will the day, He is forsworn if e'er those eyes of yours Behold another day break in the east: But even this night,—whose black contagious breath Already smokes about the burning crest Of the old, feeble, and day-wearied sun,— Even this ill night, your breathing shall expire; Paying the fine of rated treachery Even with a treacherous fine of all your lives, If Louis by your assistance win the day. Commend me to one Hubert, with your king; The love of him,—and this respect besides, For that my grandsire was an Englishman,— Awakes my conscience to confess all this. In lieu whereof, I pray you, bear me hence From forth the noise and rumour of the field, Where I may think the remnant of my thoughts In peace, and part this body and my soul With contemplation and devout desires.

SALISBURY. We do believe thee:—and beshrew my soul But I do love the favour and the form Of this most fair occasion, by the which We will untread the steps of damned flight; And like a bated and retired flood, Leaving our rankness and irregular course, Stoop low within those bounds we have o'erlook'd, And calmly run on in obedience Even to our ocean, to our great King John.— My arm shall give thee help to bear thee hence; For I do see the cruel pangs of death Right in thine eye.—Away, my friends! New flight, And happy newness, that intends old right.

[Exeunt, leading off MELUN.]

SCENE 5. The same. The French camp.

[Enter LEWIS and his train.]

LOUIS. The sun of heaven, methought, was loath to set, But stay'd, and made the western welkin blush, When the English measur'd backward their own ground In faint retire. O, bravely came we off, When with a volley of our needless shot, After such bloody toil, we bid good night; And wound our tattrring colours clearly up, Last in the field, and almost lords of it!

[Enter a MESSENGER.]

MESSENGER. Where is my prince, the Dauphin?

LOUIS. Here:—what news?

MESSENGER. The Count Melun is slain; the English lords By his persuasion are again falln off: And your supply, which you have wish'd so long, Are cast away and sunk on Goodwin Sands.

LOUIS. Ah, foul shrewd news!—beshrew thy very heart!— I did not think to be so sad to-night As this hath made me.—Who was he that said King John did fly an hour or two before The stumbling night did part our weary powers?

MESSENGER. Whoever spoke it, it is true, my lord.

LOUIS. Keep good quarter and good care to-night; The day shall not be up so soon as I, To try the fair adventure of to-morrow.


SCENE 6. An open place in the neighborhood of Swinstead Abbey.

[Enter the BASTARD and HUBERT, meeting.]

HUBERT. Who's there? speak, ho! speak quickly, or I shoot.

BASTARD. A friend.—What art thou?

HUBERT. Of the part of England.

BASTARD. Whither dost thou go?

HUBERT. What's that to thee? Why may I not demand Of thine affairs, as well as thou of mine?

BASTARD. Hubert, I think.

HUBERT. Thou hast a perfect thought: I will, upon all hazards, well believe Thou art my friend that know'st my tongue so well. Who art thou?

BASTARD. Who thou wilt: and if thou please, Thou mayst befriend me so much as to think I come one way of the Plantagenets.

HUBERT. Unkind remembrance! thou and eyeless night Have done me shame:—brave soldier, pardon me, That any accent breaking from thy tongue Should scape the true acquaintance of mine ear.

BASTARD. Come, come; sans compliment, what news abroad?

HUBERT. Why, here walk I, in the black brow of night, To find you out.

BASTARD. Brief, then; and what's the news?

HUBERT. O, my sweet sir, news fitting to the night, Black, fearful, comfortless, and horrible.

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

HUBERT. The king, I fear, is poison'd 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.

BASTARD. How did he take it; who did taste to him?

HUBERT. A monk, I tell you; a resolved villain, Whose bowels suddenly burst out: the king Yet speaks, and peradventure may recover.

BASTARD. Who didst thou leave to tend his majesty?

HUBERT. Why, know you not? The lords are all come back, And brought Prince Henry in their company; At whose request the king hath pardon'd them, And they are all about his majesty.

BASTARD. 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 escap'd. Away, before! conduct me to the king; I doubt he will be dead or ere I come.


SCENE 7. The orchard of Swinstead Abbey.


PRINCE HENRY. It is too late: the life of all his blood Is touch'd corruptibly, and his pure brain,— Which some suppose the soul's frail dwelling-house,— Doth, by the idle comments that it makes, Foretell the ending of mortality.


PEMBROKE. 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.

PRINCE HENRY. Let him be brought into the orchard here.— Doth he still rage?

[Exit BIGOT.]

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

PRINCE HENRY. O vanity of sickness! fierce extremes In their continuance will not feel themselves. Death, having prey'd upon the outward parts, Leaves them invisible; 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.

SALISBURY. 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 BIGOT and Attendants, who bring in KING JOHN in a chair.]

KING 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.

PRINCE HENRY. How fares your majesty?

KING JOHN. Poison'd,—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 burn'd bosom; nor entreat the north To make his bleak winds kiss my parched lips, And comfort me with cold:—I do not ask you much; I beg cold comfort; and you are so strait, And so ingrateful, you deny me that.

PRINCE HENRY. O, that there were some virtue in my tears, That might relieve you!

KING JOHN. The salt in them is hot.— Within me is a hell; and there the poison Is, as a fiend, confin'd to tyrannize On unreprievable condemned blood.

[Enter the BASTARD.]

BASTARD. O, I am scalded with my violent motion And spleen of speed to see your majesty!

KING JOHN. O cousin, thou art come to set mine eye: The tackle of my heart is crack'd and burn'd; And all the shrouds, wherewith my life should sail, Are turned to one thread, one little hair: 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.

BASTARD. 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.]

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

PRINCE HENRY. Even 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?

BASTARD. 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.

SALISBURY. 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 honour and respect may take, With purpose presently to leave this war.

BASTARD. He will the rather do it when he sees Ourselves well sinewed to our defence.

SALISBURY. Nay, 'tis in a manner done already; For many carriages he hath despatch'd To the sea-side, 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.

BASTARD. Let it be so:—And you, my noble prince, With other princes that may best be spar'd, Shall wait upon your father's funeral.

PRINCE HENRY. At Worcester must his body be interr'd; For so he will'd it.

BASTARD. 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.

SALISBURY. And the like tender of our love we make, To rest without a spot for evermore.

PRINCE HENRY. I have a kind soul that would give you thanks, And knows not how to do it but with tears.

BASTARD. 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.



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