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Shakespeare's history of King John online

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On this Ascension-day, remember well,
Upon your oath of service to the Pope,
Go I to make the French lay down their arms. \_Exit

K. 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.

1 Injlamcdnt\z means on fire or /'// conflagration ; as in Chapman's Iliad,
book viii. : " We should have made retreate by light of the iiiflatui-d fleet."

- Counties probably refers not to geographical divisions, but to the peers
or nobles ; county being a common title of nobility.

3 Convertite in its old ecclesiastical sense, for one who, having relapsed,
has been recovered. See As You Like It, page 140, note 31.


Enter the Bastard,

Bast All Kent hath yielded ; nothing there holds out
But Dover Castle : London hath received,
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 nuiuber of your doubtful friends.

K.John. Would not my lords return to me again,
After they heard young Arthur was alive ?

Bast. 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.

K. John. That villain Hubert told me he did live.

Bast. 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 tlireatcner, 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, an<I glister like the god of war,
When he intcndclh to become tiie field :
Show boldness and aspiring confiilence.
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'' further from the doors,
And grapple with him ere he come so nigh.

K. John. The legate of the Pope hath been with me,
And I have made a happy peace with him ;
And he hath jjromised to dismiss the powers
Led by the Dauphin.

Bast. O inglorious league !

Shall we, upon the footing of our land,
Send fair-play offers, 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.

K.John. Have thou the ordering of this present time.

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

< Displeasure, to make it haimonize with the context, must here be taken
as equivalent to enmity or hostility ; the sense of the passage being, " Rush
forth to hunt and dare the foe, as a hungry lion does to seek his prey." See
Critical Notes.

^ "A cocker'd silken wanton" is a pampered, finely-tailored milksop. —
To fiesli, as the word is here used, is to elate, embolden, or rnake eager for
fighting ; just as we use flushed. The Poet XvdCa Jleshment in the same sense.


Scene II. — Near St. Edmutid''s-Bury. The French Camp.

Enter, in arms, Louis, Salisbury, Melun, Pembroke, Bigot,

atid Soldiers.

Lou. 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 wheref6re we took the sacrament.
And keep our faiths firm and inviolable.

Sal. Upon our sides it never shall be broken.
And, noble Dauphin, albeit we swear
A voluntary zeal and unurged faith
To your proceedings ; yet, believe me, Prince,
I am not glad that such a sore of time
Should seek a plaster by condcmn'd revolt.
And heal th' 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. —

' The precedciil is tlic original draft of the treaty. So, in Kins; Richard
III., iii. 6, the Scrivener employed to copy out tlic indictment of Hastings,
says, " Eleven hours I have spent to write it over ; the precedent was full as
long a-doing,"


And is't not pity, O my gricvctl friends,

That we, the sons and children of this isle.

Were born to see so sad an hour as tliis ;

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 enforced- 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 i;ombine

The blood of malice in a vein of league,

And not to-spend ' it so unneighbourly !

Loic. A noble temper dost thou show in this ;
And great affections wrestling in thy bosom
Do make an earthquake of nobility.
O, what a noble combat hast thou fought
Between compulsion and a brave respect 1 ^

- Spot is staiyi, blot, or disgrace. Salisbury thinks it, as he well may, a
foul dishonour thus to side with the invader of his country; and the con-
science of duty, or the sense of right outraged in the person of Arthur, which
compels him to do so, naturally wrings him with grief. A hard alternative
indeed ! — Enforced is enforc'mg ; another instance of the confusion of active
and passive forms. See page 75, note 2.

3 To clip is to encircle or embrace. See Winter's Tale, page 159, note 7.

■* To is here used merely as an intensive prefix. The usage was common,
and Shakespeare has it several times.

'•' Here, as usual, respect is consideration, motive, or inducement. See
page 86, note 22. — Brave is manly, honourable, and so a fitting epithet of
the national feeling which has struggled so hard for the mastery in Salis-
bury's breast. — Compulsion refers to the "enforcing cause" mentioned in
note 2.



Let me wipe off this honorable 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 amazed

Than had I seen the vaulty top of heaven

Figured 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 enraged ;

Nor met with fortune other than at feasts.

Full of warm blood, of mirth, of gossipping.

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, mcthinks, an Angel spake : '

Look, where the holy legate comes apace,

" Shakespeare was guilty, according to cousin Bull, of an unmitigated
Americanism in writing this line." So says Mr. White. But I suspect he
is a liiilc off the track here. Prngresi, I take it, is a substantive, and doth is
used as a principal verb, equivalent to niaketh. So it still remains to be
shown that xxixn^ progrea as a verb was Knglish in Shakespeare's time.

' This is a strange passage. The Cambridge Editors note upon it as
follows : "Surely the close proximity of purse, nobles, and anj,'el, shows that
Shakespeare has here yielded to the fascination of a Jen de mots, which lie
was unable to resist, however unsuitable the occasion might be. The
Dauphin, wc may suppose, speaks aside, with an accent and gesture which
mark his contempt for the mercenary allies whom he intends to get rid
of as soon as may be." It may be needful to add tliat tioble and atigel wcro
names of English coins.


To give us warrant from the hand of Heaven,
And on our actions set the name of riglit
With holy breath.

Enter Pandulpii, attended.

Pafid. Hail, noble Prince of France !

The next is this: King John hath reconciled
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.

Lou. 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 coals of war
Between this chastised 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 ;

8 To be used as a chattel or a piece 0/ property.

9 Such language was not uncommon. So in / Henry IV., iii. 2: "He
hath more worthy interest to the state than thou." And in Dugdale's War-
wickshire : " He hath a release from Rose, and all her interest to the manor
of Pedimore."


And come ye now to tell me John hath made

His peace with Rome ? What is that peace to me ?

I, by the honor 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,

Wliat 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,

Five le rot / as I have bank'd their towns pi"

Have I not here the best cards for the game.

To win this easy match play'd for a crown?

And shall I now give o'er the yielded set ?

No, on my soul, it never shall be said.

Pand. Vou look but on the outside of this work.

Lou. 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 win renown
Even in the jaws of danger and of death. {Trumpet sounds.

'* This is commonly i-xplaincd " sailed along beside their towns upon the
rivers' banks " ; as we speak of coasting or fianking. Hut the cases seem
by no means parallel ; yet I am not sufTicirntly booked in card-t.ible lan-
guage to judge whethrr Staunton's ex|)lan:ili(>n will hold : " Kroin the con-
text it seems more probably an allusion to card-playing; and by bank'd
thtir lirwns is meant, won their towns, put them in bank or rat"

XI To outlook is the same, here, as lo outface, or \o face down.


^Vhat lusty trumpet tlius dt)th summon lis?
Enter the Bastard, attended.

Bast. According to the fair-play of the world,
Let me have audience ; I am sent to speak : —
My holy lord of Milan, from tlie 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.

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

Bast. By all the blood that ever fury breathed.
The youth says well. — Now hear our English King }
For thus his royalty doth speak in me.
He is prepared ; and reason too he should : ^^
This apish and unmannerly approach,
This harness'd masque and unadvised ^^ revel.
This unhair'd '-^ sauciness and boyish troop,
The King doth smile at ; and is well prepared
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 ;

12 To temporize is to comply with the exigencies or the interests of the
time ; hence to yield, to come to terms, to succumb.

18 " And there is reason too w/iy he should ie prepared."

1* Harness'd is armed, or armoured, or both. — Unadvised, again, for rash,
inconsiderate, or thoughtless.

15 Unhair'd is beardless, boy-faced. Spoken in contempt, of course.

i** To take the hatch is to leap tlie hatch. So \vc speak of taking the


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 crowing of your nation's cock,i^

Thinking his 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 eyrie, '^ 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-visaged maids,

Like Amazons, come tripping after drums ;

Their thimbles into armed gauntlets changed,

Their ncelds to lances, and their gentle hearts

To fierce and bloody inclination.

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

Pand. Give me leave to speak.

1' Prolwblyan equivoque was intended here, ^a//us being the name both
of a cock and of a Frrncliman.

" F.yrie \\fxv. is tiesl. I'rop'jrly it means a young brood in tlic nest. —
To tower was a Icrnn in falconry for to soar. In the case supposed, an
eagle mounts in a spiral course; and ^^jwirwas used of the swift and deadly
plunge which he maki-s upon the object of liis aim, after he has thus soared
high above if. Stopp was also used of the same act.

■' Urave is boatf, VMint, or defiance. Su in Troiliis and Creisida, iv. 4 :
" This brave shall oft make thee to hide thy head."


Bast. No, I will speak.

Lou. We will attend to neither. —

Strike up the drums ; and let the tongue of war
Plead for our interest and our being here.

Bast. Indeed, your drums, being beaten, will cry out ;
And so shall you, being beaten : do but start
An echo with the clamour of thy drum.
And even at hand a drum is ready braced
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 used 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.

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

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


Scene III.— The Same. A Field of Battle.

Alarums. Enter King John and Hubert.

K. John. How goes the day with us ? O, tell me, Hubert 1
Hub. Badly, I fear. How fares your Majesty?
K.John. This fever, that hath troubled me so long,
Lies heavy on me : O, my heart is sick !

Enter a Messenger.

Mess. My lord, your valiant kinsman, Falconbridge,


Desires your Majesty to leave the field,

And send him word by me which way you go.

K.John. Tell him, toward Swinstead, to the abbey there.

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

K. John. Ah 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. \_Exeunt.

Scene IV. — TJie Same. Another Part of the Field.
Enter Salisbury, Pembrokk, and Vacot.

Sal. I did not think the King so stored with friends.

Pern. Up once again ; i)ut spirit in the French :
If they miscarry, we miscarry too.

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

Pent. They say King John .sore-sick hath left the field.

Enter Mklun wounded, and led by Soldiers.

Mel. Ixad me to the revolts of England here.
Sal. When we were happy wc had other names.
Pern. It is the Count Mclun.
Sal. Wounded to death.

1 Supply here means reinforcement, supply of troops. Hence, as a col-
Icclive noun, it admits both a singular and a plural verb, was expected and
Are wreck' d.

2 Retire was often thus used transitively, in the sense of withdraw.


Mtl. Fly, noble English, you are bought and sold ;
Unthread the eye of rude rebellion,^
And welcome home again discarded faith.
Seek out King John, and fall before his feet ;
For, if that France be lord 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 Edmund's-Bury ;
Even on that altar where we swore to you
Dear amity and everlasting love.

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

Mel. Have I not hideous death within my view,
Retaining but a quantity of life,
^Vhich bleeds away, even as a form of wax
Resolveth^ from his figure 'gainst the fire?
What in the world should iiiake 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 win the day,
He is forsworn, if e'er those eyes of yours
Behold another day break in the East :

3 Here, if the text be right, the unthreading of a needle is used as a
metaphor for simply undoing what has been done. See Critical Notes. —
" Bought and sold " is an old proverbial phrase, mevinmg played false with.,
or betrayed. ,

* Loud appears to have been sometimes used in the sense of stormy or
boisterous. So in I/amUt, iv. 4 : " My arrows, too slightly timber'd for so
loud a wind," &'c.

5 Resolveth for melteth ; as in Hamlet, i. 2 : " O, that this too-too solid
flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew 1 " See, also, page 65,
note 43.


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.

Sal. 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 damn6d Hight ;
And, like a bated and retired flood,
Leaving our rankness '° and irregular course,

* Rated perhaps in ihc sense of the I,Tlin ratiis ; treason ratified by overt
act. Johnson, however, explains it, " The Dauphin lias rated your treach-
ery, and set upon it a fine v/W\ch your lives must pay," — In the next line,

fine seetns lo mean end, hke the I.alinyf///f.

^ A clear instance of respect for consideration. Sec page 138, note 5.

* With Shakespeare, in lieu of is always equivalent to in return for, or
in consideration of See The Tempest, pag(! 55, note 6.

* Rumour here is loud murmur, or roar. So in Fairfax's Tasso, vii. 106:
" Of breaking spears, of ringing helm and shield, a dreadful rumour roar'd
on every side."

'" Rankness, or rank, applied to a river, means overfiowing or exuberant.


Stoop low within those bounds we have o'erlook'd,^'

And cahiily 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.

\_Exeuni, leading off Melun.

Scene V. — The Same. The F7'ench Camp.

Enter Louis and his Train.

Lou. The Sun of heaven methought was loth to set,
But stay'd, and made the western welkin blush.
When th' English measured 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 tattering ' colours clearly up,
Last in the field, and almost lords of it !

Enter a Messenger.

Mess. Where is my Prince, the Dauphin?

Lou. Here : what news ?

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

11 Oerlook'd for overflown or overpassed.

1 Tattering for tattered ; the active form with the passive sense, as we
have before had this order reversed. See page 91, note 5.


Lou. All, 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?

Mess. Whoever spoke it, it is true, my iord.

Lou. Well ; 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. \_Exeunt.

Scene VI. — An open Place near Swinsiead Abbey.
Enter, severally, the Bastard and Hubert.

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

Bast. A friend. What art thou ?

Hub. Of the part ^ of England.

Bast. Whither dost thou go?

Hub. What's that to thee ?

Bast. Why may not I demand

Of thine affairs, as well as thou of mine?
Hubert, I think?

Hub. lliou hast a perfect thought :

I will, upon all hazards, well believe
'Ihou art my friend, that know'st my tongue so well.
Who art thou ?

Bast. Who thou wilt : an if thou please,

Thou mayst befriend me so much as to think
I come one way of the Plantagenets.

' Shrnod in its old sense of sharp, biting;, or biller. Commonly so In
Shakespeare. Sec As You Like It, paRc 140, note a8.

3 Pail for party : as we have bi:forc had parly for part. Sec page 79,
note 8.



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

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

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

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

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

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

Hub. The King, I fear, is poison 'd by a monk :
I left him almost speechless ; and broke out
T' acquaint you with this evil, that you might
The better arm you to the sudden time.
Than if you had at leisure known of this.^

Bast. How did he take it? who did taste to him?

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

Bast. Who didst thou leave to tend his Majesty?

Hub. Why, know you not the lords are all come back,
And brought Prince Henry in their company?

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