George Peele.

The works of George Peele (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryGeorge PeeleThe works of George Peele (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









Zhe English ^Dramatists



OSaflaiUpae -press





i v





















Seven hundred and fifty copies of this Edition have been
printed and the type distributed ; viz. — Four hundred copies
for the English Market, and three hundred and fifty for
America. No more will be published.




The Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe. With the Tragedie of
Absalon. As it hath ben diners times plaied on the stage. Written
by George Peele. London, Printed by Adam Isiip. 1599. 4to.



Amnon, son of David by Ahinoam.

Chileab, son of David by Abigail.

Absalon, son of David by Maacah.

Adonia, son of David by Haggith.

Salomon, son (/David by Bethsabe.

Joab, captain of the host to David, ) nephews of David and sons of

Abisai, \ his sister Zeruiah.

Amasa, nephew of David and son of his sister Abigail ; captain

of the host to ABSALON.
Jonadab, nephew of David and son of his brother Shimeah ;

friend to Amnon.
Urias, husband of Bethsabe, and a warrior in David's army.
Nathan, a prophet.
Sadoc, high-priest.
Ahimaas, his son.
Abiathar, a priest.
Jonathan, his son.

Achitophel, chief-counsellor to Absalon.

Hanon, Kins, of Amnion.
Machaas, King of Gath.
Messenger, Soldiers, Shepherds, and Attendants.

Thamar, daughter of David by Maacah.
Bethsabe, wife of Urias.
Widow o/Theoca.
Concubines to David.
Maid to Bethsabe.


1 There is no list of persons in old ed.



Of Israel's sweetest singer now I sins:,

His holy style and happy victories ;

Whose Muse was dipt in that inspiring dew

Archangels stilled from the breath of Jove,

Decking her temples with the glorious flowers

Heavens rained on tops of Sion and Mount Sinai.

Upon the bosom of his ivory lute

The cherubins and angels laid their breasts ;

And, when his consecrated fingers struck

The golden wires of his ravishing harp, IO

He gave alarum to the host of heaven,

That, winged with lightning, brake the clouds, and cast

Their crystal armour at his conquering feet.

Of this sweet poet, Jove's musician,

And of his beauteous son, I prease " to sing.

Then help, divine Adonai, to conduct

Upon the wings of my well-tempered verse

1 So the name is frequently spelt throughout the play.
2 Press.

( 6 )

The hearers' minds above the towers of heaven,

And guide them so in this thrice-haughty flight,

Their mounting feathers scorch not with the fire 20

That none can temper but thy holy hand :

To thee for succour flies my feeble Muse,

And at thy feet her iron pen doth use.



The 1 Prologue-speaker draws a curtain and discovers
Bethsabe, with her Maid, bathing over a spring:
she sings, and David sits above viewing her.


Hot sun, cool fire, tempered with sweet air,
Black shade, fair nurse, shadow my white hair :
Shine, sun ; burn, fire ; breathe, air, and ease me ;
Black shade, fair nurse, shroud me, and please me:
Shadow, my sweet nurse, keep me from burning,
Make not my glad cause cause of [my] mourning.

Let not my beauty's fire

Inflame unstaid desire,

Nor pierce any bright eye

That wandereth lightly. 10

Beth. Come, gentle Zephyr, tricked with those per-

1 Old ed. " He drawes a curtaine," &c.

8 David and BetJisabe. [scene i.

That erst in Eden sweetened Adam's love,

And stroke my bosom with thy 1 silken fan :

This shade, sun-proof, is yet no proof for thee ;

Thy body, smoother than this waveless spring,

And purer than the substance of the same,

Can creep through that his lances cannot pierce :

Thou, and thy sister, soft and sacred Air,

Goddess of life, and governess of health,

Keeps every fountain fresh and arbour sweet ; 20

No brazen gate her passage can repulse,

Nor bushy 2 thicket bar thy subtle breath ;

Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,

And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes,

To play the wantons with us through the leaves.

Dav. What tunes, what words, what looks, what
wonders pierce
My soul, incensed with a sudden fire ?
What tree, what shade, what spring, what paradise,
Enjoys the beauty of so fair a dame ?
Fair Eva, placed in perfect happiness, 30

Lending her praise-notes to the liberal heavens,
Struck with the accents of archangels' tunes,
Wrought not more pleasure to her husband's thoughts
Than this fair woman's words and notes to mine.
May that sweet plain that bears her pleasant weight
Be still enamelled with discoloured 3 flowers ;

1 So Dyce.— Old ed. "the."

2 Old ed. "bushly."

3 A Latinism. — Discolor= variegated ; of different colours.

scene i.] David and Bethsabe. 9

That precious fount bear sand of purest gold ;

And, for the pebble, let the silver streams

That pierce earth's bowels to maintain the source,

Play upon rubies, sapphires, chrysolites ; 40

The brims let be embraced with golden curls

Of moss that sleeps with sound the waters make

For joy to feed the fount with their recourse ;

Let all the grass that beautifies her bower

Bear manna every morn instead of dew,

Or let the dew be sweeter far than that

That hangs, like chains of pearl, on Hermon hill,

Or balm which trickled from old Aaron's beard. —

Cusay, come up, and serve thy lord the king.

Enter Cusay.

Cu. What service doth my lord the king command ?

Dav. See, Cusay, see the flower of Israel, 51

The fairest daughter that obeys the king
In all the land the Lord subdu'd to me ;
Fairer than Isaac's lover at the well,
Brighter than inside-bark of new-hewn cedar,
Sweeter than flames of fine-perfumed x myrrh,
And comelier than the silver clouds that dance
On Zephyr's wings before the King of Heaven.

Cu. Is it not Bethsabe the Hethite's wife,
Urias, now at Rabbah 2 siege with Joab ? 60

1 Dyce points out that in England. 's Parnassus (p. 397) the reading
is "yf/r-perfumed."

2 Here and elsewhere the old ed. reads " Rabath."

io David and Bethsabe. [scene i.

Dav. Go now, and bring her quickly to the king ;
Tell her, her graces have found grace with him.

Cu. I will, my lord. [Exit Cusay to Bethsabe.

Dav. Bright Bethsabe shall wash, in David's bower,
In water mixed with purest almond-flower,
And bathe her beauty in the milk of kids :
Bright Bethsabe gives earth l to my desires ;
Verdure to earth ; and to that verdure flowers ;
To flowers sweet odours ; and to odours wings
That carry pleasures to the hearts of kings. 70

Cusay to Bethsabe, she starting as something affright.

Cu. Fair Bethsabe, the King of Israel
From forth his princely tower hath seen thee bathe ;
And thy sweet graces have found grace with him :
Come, then, and kneel unto him where he stands ;
The king is gracious, and hath liberal hands.

Beth. Ah, what is Bethsabe to please the king ?
Or what is David, that he should desire,
For fickle beauty's sake, his servant's wife ?

Cu. David, thou know'st, fair dame, is wise and
Elected to the heart of Israel's God ; 80

Then do not thou expostulate with him
For any action that contents his soul.

1 This word is suspicious ; but, Collier's proposed correction " birth '
is not happy.

scene i.] David and Beth sabe. n

Beth. My lord the king, elect to God's own heart,
Should not His gracious jealousy incense
Whose thoughts are chaste : I x hate incontinence.

Cu. Woman, thou wrong'st the king, and doubt'st his
Whose truth maintains the crown of Israel,
Making him stay that bade me bring thee straight.

Beth. The king's poor handmaid will obey my lord.

Cu. Then come, and do thy duty to his grace ; 90
And do what seemeth favour in his sight. [Exeunt.

Dav. Now comes my lover tripping like the roe,
And brings my longings tangled in her hair.
To joy her love I'll build a kingly bower,
Seated in hearing of a hundred streams,
That, for their homage to her sovereign joys, 2
Shall, as the serpents fold into their nests
In oblique turnings, wind the 3 nimble waves
About the circles of her curious walks;
And with their murmur summon easeful sleep 100

To lay his golden sceptre on her brows. —
Open the doors, and entertain my love ;
Open, I say, and, as you open, sing,
Welcome fair, Bethsabe, King David's darling.

1 " Qy. ' Whose thoughts are chaste and hate ' &c. ? " — P. A. Daniel.

2 Dyce suggests that this is an error, originating in the word "joy,"
1. 94. He suggests that the sense requires "charms." I see no harm
in the repetition ; but if any alteration is required, I would read " eyes,"
which is nearer the reading of old ed. (I notice, as these sheets are pass-
ing through the press, that the correction "eyes" afterwards occurred
to Dyce. It is mentioned in the Addenda to his edition of Greene
and Peele.)

3 Dyce adopts Sydney Walker's correction " their."

1 2 David and Bethsabe. [scene i.

Enter Cusay with Bethsabe.

Welcome, fair Bethsabe, King David's darling.

Thy bones' fair covering, erst discovered fair,

And all x mine eyes with all thy beauties pierced.

As heaven's bright eye burns most when most he climbs

The crooked zodiac with his fiery sphere,

And shineth furthest from this earthly globe; no

So, since thy beauty scorched my conquered soul,

I called thee nearer for my nearer cure.

Beth. Too near, my lord, was your unarmed heart
When furthest off my hapless beauty pierced ;
And would this dreary 2 day had turned to night,
Or that some pitchy cloud had cloaked the sun,
Before their lights had caused my lord to see
His name disparaged and my chastity !

Dav. My love, if want of love have left thy soul
A sharper sense of honour than thy king, 120

(For love leads princes sometimes from their seats,)
As erst my heart was hurt, displeasing thee,
So come and taste thy ease with easing me.

Beth. One medicine cannot heal our different harms ;
But rather make both rankle at the bone :
Then let the king be cunning in his cure,
Lest flattering both, both perish in his hand.

Dav. Leave it to me, my dearest Bethsabe,
Whose skill is conversant in deeper cures. —

1 By reading " Enthrall'd mine eyes," we could make some sense of
this corrupt passage.

2 A doubtful word. — Qy. " garish " ?

scene a.] David and Bethsabe. 1 3

And, Cusay, haste thou to my servant Joab, 130

Commanding him to send Urias home
With all the speed can possibly be used.
Cu. Cusay will fly about the king's desire.



Enter Joab, Abisai, Urias, and others, with drum
and ensign.

Joab. Courage, ye mighty men of Israel,
And charge your fatal instruments of war
Upon the bosoms of proud Amnion's sons,
That have disguised your king's ambassadors,
Cut half their beards and half their garments off,
In spite of Israel and his daughters' sons !
Ye fight the holy battles of Jehovah,
King David's God, and ours, and Jacob's God,
That guides your weapons to their conquering strokes,
Orders your footsteps, and directs your thoughts 10

To stratagems that harbour victory :
He casts his sacred eyesight from on high,
And sees your foes run seeking for their deaths,
Laughing their labours and their hopes to scorn •
While 'twixt your bodies and their blunted swords
He puts on armour of his honour's proof,
And makes their weapons wound the senseless winds. 1

1 Cf. Marlowe's Tamburlaine, First Part, iii. 3 :

" And make your strokes to wound the senseless lure (?)."

J 4 David and Bethsabe. [scene n.

Abis. Before this city Rabbah we will lie,
And shoot forth shafts as thick and dangerous
As was the hail that Moses mixed with fire, 20

And threw with fury round about the fields,
Devouring Pharaoh's friends and Egypt's fruits.

Ur. First, mighty captains, Joab and Abisai,
Let us assault, and scale this kingly tower,
Where all their conduits and their fountains are ;
Then we may easily take the city too.

Joab. Well hath Urias counselled our attempts ;
And as he spake us, so assault the tower :
Let Hanon now, the king of Amnion's sons, 1
Repulse our conquering passage if he dare. 30

Hanon with King Machaas, and others, tipon the walls.

Ha. What would the shepherd's-dogs of Israel
Snatch from the mighty issue of King Ammon,
The valiant Ammonites and haughty Syrians ?
'Tis not your late successive victories
Can make us yield, or quail our courages ;
But if ye dare assay to scale this tower,
Our angry swords shall smite ye to the ground,
And venge our losses on your hateful lives.

Joab. Hanon, thy father Nahas gave relief
To holy David in his hapless exile, 4 o

Lived his fixed date, and died in peace :
But thou, instead of reaping his reward,
Hast trod it under foot, and scorned our king ;

1 So Dyce (who compares 1. 3). — Old ed. " sonne."

scene ii.] David and Bethsabe. i ^

Therefore thy days shall end with violence,
And to our swords thy vital blood shall cleave.

Mack. Hence, thou that bear'st poor Israel's shep-
The proud lieutenant of that base-born king,
And keep within the compass of his fold ;
For, if ye seek to feed on Amnion's fruits,
And stray into the Syrian's fruitful meads, 50

The mastives of our land shall worry l ye,
And pull the weesels 2 from your greedy throats.

Abis. Who can endure these pagans' blasphemies ?

Ur. My soul repines at this disparagement.

Joab. Assault, ye valiant men of David's host,
And beat these railing dastards from their doors.

Assault, and they win the tower ; and Joab speaks


Thus have we won the tower, which we will keep,
Maugre the sons of Ammon and of Syria.

Enter Cusay beneath.

Cu. Where is Lord Joab, leader of the host ?
Joab. Here is Lord Joab, leader of the host. 60

Cusay, come up, for we have won the hold. [He comes.
Cu. In happy hour, 3 then, is Cusay come.

1 Old cd. " werry."

2 "I.e., weasands. (This word is spelt by some of our old writers
' wesils. ').' ' — Dyce.

3 Equivalent to a dissyllable. (Old ed. "bower.")

1 6 David and BetJisabe. [scene h.

Joab. What news, then, brings Lord Cusay from the

Cu. His majesty commands thee out of hand
To send him home Urias from the wars,
For matter of some service he should do.

Ur. 'Tis for no choler hath surprised the king,
I hope, Lord Cusay, 'gainst his servant's truth ?
Cu. No ; rather to prefer Urias' truth.
Joab. Here, take him with thee, then, and go in peace ;
And tell my lord the king that I have fought 71

Against the city Rabbah with success,
And scaled where 1 the royal palace is,
The conduit-heads and all their sweetest springs :
Then let him come in person to these walls,
With all the soldiers he can bring besides,
And take the city as his own exploit,
Lest I surprise it, and the people give
The glory of the conquest to my name.

Cu. We will, Lord Joab ; and great Israel's God 80
Bless in thy hands the battles of our king !
Joab. Farwell, Urias ; haste away the king.
Ur. As sure as Joab breathes a victor here,
Urias will haste him and his own return.

\_Exeufit [Cusay and Urias].
Abis. Let us descend, and ope the palace' gate,
Taking our soldiers in to keep the hold.

Joab. Let us, Abisai : — and, ye sons of Judah,
Be valiant, and maintain your victory. [Exeunt.

1 Qy. " sealed, where " ?

scene in.] David and Bcthsabe. 1 7

Amnon, 1 Jonadab, and Jethray, Amnon's Page.

Jonad. What means my lord, the king's beloved son,
That wears upon his right triumphant arm
The power of Israel for a royal favour,
That holds upon the tables of his hands
Banquets of honour and all thought's content,
To suffer pale and grisly abstinence
To sit and feed upon his fainting cheeks,
And suck away the blood that cheers his looks ?

Am. Ah, Jonadab, it is my sister's looks,
On whose sweet beauty I bestow my blood, 10

That make me look so amorously lean ;
Her beauty having seized upon my heart,
So merely 2 consecrate to her content,
Sets now such guard about his vital blood,
And views the passage with such piercing eyes,
That none can scape to cheer my pining cheeks,
But all is thought too little for her love.

Jonad. Then from her heart thy looks shall be relieved,
And thou shalt joy her as thy soul desires.

Am. How can it be, my sweet friend Jonadab, 20

Since Thamar is a virgin and my sister?

Jonad. Thus it shall be : lie down upon thy bed,
Feigning thee fever-sick and ill-at-ease ;

1 Old ed. gives throughout " Amnion."

" So I Jycc— Old ed. " merrily." (" Merely" = wholly, absolutely.)

1 8 David and Bcthsabe. [scene hi.

And when the king shall come to visit thee,

Desire thy sister Thamar may be sent

To dress some dainties for thy malady :

Then when thou hast her solely with thyself,

Enforce some favour to thy manly love.

See where she comes : entreat her in with thee.

Enter Thamar.

Tha. What aileth Amnon, with such sickly looks 30
To daunt the favour 1 of his lovely face ?

Am. Sweet Thamar, sick, and wish some wholesome
Dressed with the cunning of thy dainty hands.

Tha. That hath the king commanded at my hands :
Then come and rest thee, while I make thee ready
Some dainties easeful to thy crazed soul.

Am. I go, sweet sister, eased with thy sight. \Exeunt.

Restet Jonadab.

Jonad. Why should a prince, whose power may
Obey the rebel passions of his love,
When they contend but 'gainst his conscience, 4 o

And may be governed or suppressed by will ?
Now, Amnon, loose those loving knots of blood,
That sucked the courage from thy kingly heart,
And give it passage to thy withered cheeks.

1 Beauty.

scene in.] David and Bethsabe. 1 9

Now, Thamar, rifled 1 are the holy fruits

That grew on plants of thy virginity ;

And rotten is thy name in Israel :

Poor Thamar, little did thy lovely hands

Foretell an action of such violence

As to contend with Amnon's lusty arms 50

Sinewed with vigour of his kindless 2 love :

Fair Thamar, now dishonour hunts thy foot,

And follows thee through every covert shade,

Discovering thy shame and nakedness,

Even from the valleys of Jehosaphat

Up to the lofty mounts of Lebanon ;

Where cedars, stirred with anger of the winds,

Sounding in storms the tale of thy disgrace,

Tremble with fury, and with murmur shake

Earth with their feet and with their heads the heavens,

Beating the clouds into their swiftest rack, 3 61

To bear this wonder round about the world. [Exit.

[Re-enter] Amnon thrusting out Thamar. [Jethray.1

Am. Hence from my bed, whose sight offends my
As doth the parbreak of disgorged bears !

Tha. Unkind, unprincely, and unmanly Amnon,

1 My own correction. — Old ed. " ripened."

- Unnatural,

:; " I.e., moving masses of vapour. 'The winds in the upper region
which move the clouds above (which we call the rack),' &c— Bacon's
Sylva Sylvarum, or A Naturall Historic § 115, p. 32, ed. 1658."—

20 David and Bethsabe. [scene hi.

To force, and then refuse thy sister's love,

Adding unto the fright of thy offence

The baneful torment of my published shame !

O, do not this dishonour to thy love,

Nor clog thy soul with such increasing sin ! 7°

This second evil far exceeds the first.

Am. Jethray, come thrust this woman from my sight,
And bolt the door upon her if she strive. [Exit. 1

Jeth. Go, madam, go ; away ; you must be gone ;
My lord hath done with you : I pray, depart.

[He shuts her out. — Exit. 1

Tha. Whither, alas, ah, whither shall I fly,
With folded arms and all amazed soul ?
Cast as was Eva from that glorious soil,
(Where all delights sat bating, winged with thoughts,
Ready to nestle in her naked breasts,) So

To bare and barren vales with floods made waste,
To desert woods, and hills with lightning scorched,
With death, with shame, with hell, with horror rife ! 2
There will I wander from my father's face ;
There Absalon, my brother Absalon,
Sweet Absalon, shall hear his sister mourn ;
There will I lure 3 with my windy sighs
Night-ravens and owls to rend my bloody side,
Which with a rusty weapon I will wound,
And make them passage to my panting heart. 9°

1 " Exit" — not marked in old ed.

2 My own emendation. — Old ed. "sit."

3 So Dyce. — Old ed. " liue." (" Lure " is of course a dissyllable.)

scene in.] David and Bethsabe. 2 1

Why talk'st thou, wretch, and leav'st the deed undone ?

Rend hair and garments, as thy heart is rent

With inward fury of a thousand griefs,

And scatter them by these unhallowed doors,

To figure Amnon's resting 1 cruelty,

And tragic spoil of Thamar's chastity.

Enter Absalon.

Abs. What causeth Thamar to exclaim so much?

Tha. The cause that Thamar shameth to disclose.

Abs. Say ; I thy brother will revenge that cause.

Tha. Amnon, our father's son, hath forced me, 100
And thrusts me from him as the scorn of Israel.

Abs. Hath Amnon forced thee ? by David's hand,
And by the covenant God hath made with him,
Amnon shall bear his violence to hell ;
Traitor to heaven, traitor to David's throne,
Traitor to Absalon and Israel.
This fact 2 hath Jacob's ruler seen from heaven,
And through a cloud of smoke and tower of fire,
As he rides vaunting him upon the greens,
Shall tear his chariot-wheels with violent winds, "o

And throw his body in the bloody sea ;
At him the thunder shall discharge his bolt;
And his fair spouse, 3 with bright and fiery wings,

1 There seems to be some corruption here; but "resting" may bo
used in the sense of " lasting." (Qy. " wresting " ?)

2 Crime.

3 This metaphor was vastly admired by Hawkins, who in the preface
to The Origin of the English Drama (i. xi.), declared it to be " worthy
of ^ischylus." " Worthy of the poet Bays," he should have said.

22 David and Bethsabe. [scene m.

Sit ever burning on his hateful bones :

Myself, as swift as thunder or his spouse,

Will hunt occasion with a secret hate,

To work false Amnon an ungracious end. —

Go in, my sister ; rest thee in my house ;

And God in time shall take this shame from thee.

Tha. Nor God nor time will do that good for me. I2 °

[Exit Thamar : restat Absalon.

Enter David with his train.

Dav. My Absalon, what mak'st thou here alone,
And bear'st such discontentment in thy brows ?

Abs. Great cause hath Absalon to be displeased,
And in his heart to shroud the wounds of wrath.

Dav. 'Gainst whom should Absalon be thus dis-

Abs. 'Gainst wicked Amnon, thy ungracious son,
My brother and fair Thamar's by the king,
My step-brother by mother and by kind :
He hath dishonoured David's holiness,
And fixed a blot of lightness on his throne, 13°

Forcing my sister Thamar when he feigned
A sickness, sprung from root of heinous lust.

Dav. Hath Amnon brought this evil on my house,
And suffered sin to smite his father's bones ?
Smite, David, deadlier than the voice of heaven,
And let hate's fire be kindled in thy heart :
Frame in the arches of thy angry brows,
Making thy forehead, like a comet, shine,
To force false Amnon tremble at thy looks.

scene in.] David and Bethsabe. 2


Sin, with his sevenfold crown and purple robe, 140

Begins his triumphs in my guilty throne;

There sits he watching with his hundred eyes

Our idle minutes and our wanton thoughts ;

And with his baits, made of our frail desires,

Gives us the hook that hales our souls to hell :

But with the spirit of my kingdom's God

I'll thrust the flattering tyran " from his throne,

And scourge his bondslaves from my hallowed court

With rods of iron and thorns of sharpened steel.

Then, Absalon, revenge not thou this sin; '5°

Leave it to me, and I will chasten him.

Abs. I am content : then grant, my lord the king,
Himself with all his other lords would come
Up to my sheep-feast on the plain of Hazor.

Dav. Nay, my fair son, myself with all my lords
Will bring thee too much charge ; yet some shall go.

Abs. But let my lord the king himself take pains ;

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryGeorge PeeleThe works of George Peele (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 23)