William Shakespeare.

The dramatic works of William Shakspeare... embracing a life of the poet, and notes, original and selected (Volume 4) online

. (page 9 of 38)
Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe dramatic works of William Shakspeare... embracing a life of the poet, and notes, original and selected (Volume 4) → online text (page 9 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

imperfectly taken down during the representation,

VOL. IV. 15


There is a play called Sir John Oldcastle, published in IfiOO, with the
name of William Shakspeare prefixed to it. The prologue serves to show
that a former piece, in which the character of Oldcastle was introduced,
had given great offence :

" The doubtful title (gentlemen) prefixt
Upon the argument we have in hand,
May breed suspense, and wrongfully disturbe
The peaceful quiet of your settled thoughts.
To stop which scruple, let this breefe suffice :
It is no pampered glutton we present,
Nor aged councellour to youthful sinne ;
But one whose vertue shone above the rest,
A valiant martyr and a vertuous peere ;
In whose true faith and loyalty exprest
Unto his soveraigne, and his countries weale,
We strive to pay that tribute of our love
Your favours merit : let faire truth be graced,
Since forged invention former time defaced."

Shakspearc s play, according to Malone, seems to have been written in
the middle of the year ] 599. There were three quarto editions in the
Poet s lifetime 1GOO, 3602, and 1008. In all of them the choruses are
omitted, and the play commences with the fourth speech of the second

" King Henry the Fifth is visibly the favorite hero of Shakspeare in
English history. lie portrays him endowed with every chivalrous and
kingly virtue ; open, sincere, affable, yet still disposed to innocent raillery,
as a sort of reminiscence of his youth, in the intervals between his dan
gerous and renowned achievements. To bring his life, after his ascent to
the crown, on the stage was, however, attended with great difficulty. The
conquests in France were the only distinguished events of his reign ; and
war is much more an epic than a dramatic object. If we would have
dramatic interest, war must only be the means by which something else is
accomplished, and not the last aim and substance of the whole." Jn King
Henry the Fifth, no opportunity was afforded Shakspeare of rendering the
issue of the war dramatic ; but he has availed himself of other circumstances
attending it, with peculiar care. " Before the battle of Agincourt, he
paints in the most lively colors the light-minded impatience of the French
leaders for the moment of battle, which to them seemed infallibly the mo
ment of victory ; on the other hand, he paints the uneasiness of the Eng
lish king and his army, from their desperate situation, coupled with the
firm determination, if they are to fall, at least to fall with honor. He ap
plies this as a general contrast between the French and English national
characters ; a contrast which betrays a partiality for his own nation, cer
tainly excusable in a poet, especially when he is backed with such a glo
rious document as that of the memorable battle in question. He has
surrounded the general events of the Avar Avith a fulness of individual
characteristic, and even sometimes comic features. A heavy Scotchman,
a hot Irishman, a well-meaning, honorable, pedantic Welshman, all
speaking in their peculiar dialects. But all this variety still seemed to
the Poet insufficient to animate a play of Avhich the object Avas a conquest,
and nothing but a conquest. He has, therefore, tacked a prologue (in the
technical language of that day, a chorus) to the beginning of each act.
These prologues, Avhich unite epic pomp and solemnity with lyrical sub
limity, and among Avhich the description of the two camps before the
battle of Agincourt forms a most admirable night-piece, are intended to


keep the spectators constantly in mind that the peculiar grandeur of the
actions there described cannot be developed on a narrow stage ; and that
they must supply the deficiencies of the representation from their own
imaginations. As the subject was not properly dramatic, in the form, also,
Shakspeare chose rather to wander beyond the bounds of the species, and
to sing as a poetic herald, what he could not represent to the eye, than to
cripple the progress of the action by putting long speeches in the mouths
of the persons of the drama.

" However much Shakspeare celebrates the French conquest of king
Henry, still he has not omitted to hint to us, after his way, the secret
springs of this undertaking. Henry was in want of foreign wars to secure
himself on the throne ; the clergy also wished to keep him employed
abroad, and made an offer of rich contributions to prevent the passing of
a law which would have deprived them of the half of their revenues. His
learned bishops are consequently as ready to prove to him his undisputed
right to the crown of France, as he is to allow his conscience to be tran
quillized by them. They prove that the Salic law is not, and never was,
applicable to France ; and the matter is treated in a more succinct and
convincing manner than such subjects usually are in manifestoes. After
his renowned battles, Henry wished to secure his conquests by marriage
with a French princess ; all that has reference to this is intended for
irony in the play. The fruit of this union, from which two nations prom
ised to themselves such happiness in future, was that very feeble Henry
the Sixth, under whom every thing was so miserably lost. It must not.
therefore, be imagined that it was without the knowledge and will of the
Poet that an heroic drama turns out a comedy in his hands ; and ends, in
the manner of comedy, with a marriage of convenience." *

* Schlegel.




Duke of Exeter, Uncle to the King.

Duke q/* York, Cousin to the King.

Earls of Salisbury, Westmoreland, and Warwick.

Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop 0jf Ely.

Earl of Cambridge, \

LORD SCROOP, > Conspirators against the King.



, f Oncers in King Henry s





COURT, > Soldiers in the same.


^ YM> I formerly Servants to Falstaff, now Soldiers



Boy, Servant to them.

A Herald. Chorus.

CHARLES THE SIXTH, King of France.
LEWIS, the Dauphin.

Dukes of Burgundy, Orleans, and Bourbon.
The Constable of France.

RAMBURES, ) r, 7 T -,
} French Lords.


Governor ofHarfleur.
MONTJOY, a French Herald.
Ambassadors to the King of England.

ISABEL, Q,uecn of France.
KATHARINE, Daughter of Charles and Isabel.
ALICE, a Lady attending on the Princess Katharine.
QUICKLY, Pistol s Wife, an Hostess.

Lords, Ladies, Officers, French and English Soldiers,
Messengers, and Attendants.

The SCENE, at the beginning of the Play, lies in Eng
land ; but afterwards wholly in France.




O, FOR a muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention !

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene !

Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,

Assume the port of Mars ; and, at his heels,

Leashed in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire,

Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,

The flat, unraised spirit, that hath dared,

On this unworthy scaffold, to bring forth

So great an object. Can this cockpit hold

The vasty fields of France ? or may we cram

Within this wooden O, 1 the very casques,

That did affright the air at Agincourt ?

O, pardon ! since a crooked figure may

Attest, in little place, a million ;

And let us, ciphers to this great accornpt,

On your imaginary forces 2 work.

Suppose, within the girdle of these walls

Are now confined two mighty monarchies,

Whose high, upreared and abutting fronts

The perilous, narrow ocean parts asunder.

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts ;

Into a thousand parts divide one man,

And make imaginary puissance ;

Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them

1 O, for circle, alluding to the circular form of the theatre.

2 " Imaginary forces." Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of


Printing their proud hoofs i the receiving earth ;
For tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there ; jumping o er times ;
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass. For the which supply,
Admit me chorus to this history ;
Who, prologue like, your humble patience pray
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.


SCENE I. London. 1 An Antechamber in the
King s Palace.

Enter the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishop

of Ely. 2

Canterbury. My lord, I ll tell you, that self bill is


Which in the eleventh year o the last king s reign
Was like, and had indeed against us passed,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of further question.

Ely. But how, my lord, shall we resist it now ?

Cant. It must be thought on. If it pass against us,
We lose the better half of our possession ;
For all the temporal lands, which men devout
By testament have given to the church,
Would they strip from us : being valued thus,

1 This first scene was added in the folio, together with the choruses and
other amplifications. It appears from Hall and Holinshed, that the events
passed at Leicester, where king Henry V. held a parliament in the second
year of his reign. But the chorus at the beginning of the second act
shows that the Poet intended to make London the place of his first scene.

2 " Canterbury and Ely." Henry Chicheley, a Carthusian monk, re
cently promoted to the see of Canterbury John Fordham, bishop of Ely
consecrated 1388, died 1426.


As much as would maintain, to the king s honor,

Full fifteen earls, and fifteen hundred knights ;

Six thousand and two hundred good esquires ;

And, to relief of lazars, and weak age,

Of indigent, faint souls, past corporal toil,

A hundred alms-houses, right well supplied ;

And to the coffers of the king beside,

A thousand pounds by the year. Thus runs the bill.

Ely. This would drink deep.

Cant. Twould drink the cup and all

Ely. But what prevention ?

Cant. The king is full of grace, and fair regard.

Ely. And a true lover of the holy church.

Cant. The courses of his youth promised it not.
The breath no sooner left his father s body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seemed to die too ; * yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came,
And whipped the offending Adam out of him ;
Leaving his body as a paradise,
To envelop and contain celestial spirits.
Never was such a sudden scholar made ;
Never came reformation in a flood,
With such a heady current, scouring faults ;
Nor never hydra-headed wilfulness
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
As in this kino;.


Ely. We are blessed in the change.

Cant. Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire, the king were made a prelate :
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs.
You would say, it hath been all in all his study:
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rendered you in music :
Turn him to any cause of policy,

i The same thought occurs in the preceding play, where king Henry
V. says :

" My father is gone wild into his grave,
For in his tomb lie my affections."


The Gordian knot of it lie will unloose,

Familiar as his garter ; that, when he speaks,

The air, a chartered libertine, is still,

And the mute wonder lurketh in men s ears,

To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences ;

So that the art and practic part of life

Must be the mistress to his theoric ; l

Which is a wonder, how his grace should glean it,

Since his addiction was to courses vain ;

His companies unlettered, rude, and shallow ;

His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports ;

And never noted in him any study,

Any retirement, any sequestration

From open haunts and popularity.

Ely. The strawberry grows underneath the nettle ,
And \vholesome berries thrive and ripen best,
Neighbored by fruit of baser quality.
And so the prince obscured his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness ; which, no doubt,
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crcscive 2 in his faculty.

Cant. It must be so ; for miracles are ceased ;
And therefore we must needs admit the means,
How tilings are perfected.

Ely. But, my good lord,

How now for mitigation of this bill


Urged by the commons ? Doth his majesty
Incline to it, or no ?

Cant. He seems indifferent ;

Or, rather, swaying more upon our part,
Than cherishing the exhibiters against us.
For I have made an offer to his majesty,
Upon our spiritual convocation ;
And in regard of causes now in hand,
Which I have opened to his grace at large,

1 He discourses with so much skill on all subjects, " that his theory
must have been taught by art and practice. 1 Practic and theoric, or rather
practique and theorique, was the old orthography of practice and theory.

2 This expressive word is used by Drant, in his Translation of Horace s
Art of Poetry, 1567.


As touching France, to give a greater sum
Than ever at one time the clergy yet
Did to his predecessors part withal.

Ely. How did this offer seem received, my lord ?

Cant. With good acceptance of his majesty ;
Save, that there was not time enough to hear
(As, I perceived, his grace would fain have done)
The severals, and unhidden passages *
Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms;
And, generally, to the crown and seat of France,
Derived from Edward his great grandfather.

Ely. What was the impediment that broke this off?

Cant. The French ambassador upon that instant
Craved audience ; and the hour I think is come,
To give him hearing. Is it four o clock ?

Ely. It is.

Cant. Then go we in, to know his embassy ;
Which I could, with a ready guess, declare,
Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.

Ely. I ll wait upon you ; and I long to hear it.


SCENE II. The same. A Room of State in the



K. Hen. Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury?

Exe. Not here in presence.

K. Hen. Send for him, good uncle. 2

West. Shall we call in the ambassador, my liege ?

K. Hen. Not yet, my cousin; we would be resolved,

1 " The severals and unhidden passages" The particulars and dear, un
concealed circumstances of his true titles, &c.

2 Send for him, good uncle." The person here addressed was Thomas
Beaufort, half brother to kins 1 Henry IV., being one of the sons of John
of Gaunt by Katharine Swynford. He was not made duke of Exeter till
the year after the battle of Agincourt, 1416. He was properly now only
earl of Dorset. Shakspeare may have confounded this character with John
Holland, duke of Exeter, who married Elizabeth, the king s aunt. He was
executed at Plashey, in 1400. The old play began with the next speech.

VOL. IV. 16


Before we hear him, of some things of weight,
That task our thoughts, concerning us and France.

Enter the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishop of


Cant. God, and his angels, guard your sacred throne,
And make you long become it!

K. Hen. Sure, we thank you.

My learned lord, we pray you to proceed ;
And justly and religiously unfold,
Why the law Saliquc, that they have in France,
Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim.
And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading,
Or nicely charge your understanding soul
With opening titles miscreate, 1 whose right
Suits not in native colors with the truth ;
For God doth know, how many, now in health,
Shall drop their blood in approbation
Of what your reverence, shall incite us to.
Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
How you awake the sleeping sword of war.
We charge you in the name of God, take heed ;
For never two such kingdoms did contend,
Without much fall of blood ; whose guiltless drops
Are every one a woe, a sore comphint,
Gainst him, whose wrongs give edge unto the swords
That make such waste in brief mortality.
Under this conjuration, speak, my lord ;
And we will hear, note, and believe in heart,
That what you speak is in your conscience washed
As pure as sin with baptism.

Cant. Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you

That owe your lives, your faith, and services,

1 Or burden your knowing or conscious soul with displaying false titles
in a specious manner or opening pretensions, which, if shown in their
native colors, would appear to be false.


To this imperial throne. There is no bar l

To make against your highness claim to France,

But this, which they produce from Pharamond,

In terrain Salicam mulieres ne succedant,

No woman shall succeed in Salique land ;

Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze,

To be the realm of France, and Pharamond

The founder of this law and female bar.

Yet their own authors faithfully affirm,

That the land Salique lies in Germany,

Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe ;

Where Charles the Great, having subdued the Saxons

There left behind and settled certain French ;

Who, holding in disdain the German women,

For some dishonest manners of their life,

Established there this law, to wit, no female

Should be inheritrix in Salique land ;

Which Salique, as I said, twixt Elbe and Sala,

Is at this day in Germany called Meisen.

Thus doth it well appear, the Salique law

Was not devised for the realm of France ;

Nor did the French possess the Salique land

Until four hundred one-and-twenty years

After def unction of king Pharamond,

Idly supposed the founder of this law ;

Who died within the year of our redemption

Four hundred twenty-six ; and Charles the Great

Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French

Beyond the river Sala, in the year

Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,

King Pepin, which deposed Childerick,

Did, as heir general, being descended

Of Blithild, which was daughter to king Clothair,

Make claim and title to the crown of France.

Hugh Capet also, that usurped the crown

Of Charles the duke of Lorain, sole heir male

Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,

i "There is no bar," &c. The whole speech is taken from Ho-


To fine 1 his title with some show of truth,

(Though, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,)

Conveyed 2 himself as heir to the lady Lingare,

Daughter to Charlcmain, who was the son

To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son

Of Charles the Great. Also king Lewis the Tenth, 3

Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,

Could not keep quiet in his conscience,

Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied

That fair queen Isabel, his grandmother,

Was lineal of the lady Ermengare,

Daughter to Charles the foresaid duke of Lorain :

By the which marriage, the line of Charles the Great

Was reunited to the crown of France.

So that, as clear as is the summer s sun,

King Pepin s title, and Hugh Capet s claim,

King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear

To hold in right and title of the female.

So do the kings of France unto this day ;

Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law,

To bar your highness claiming from the female ;

And rather choose to hide them in a net,

Than amply to imbare 4 their crooked titles

Usurped from you and your progenitors.

K. Hen. May I, with right and conscience, make
this claim ?

Cant. The sin upon my head, dread sovereign!
For in the book of Numbers is it writ,
When the son dies, let the inheritance
Descend unto the daughter. Gracious lord,
Stand for your own; unwind your bloody flag;
Look back unto your mighty ancestors ;
Go, my dread lord, to your great grandsire s tomb,

1 Tofne is to embellish, to trim, to make showy or specious : Limare.
The folio reads///.

2 Shakspeare found this expression in Holinshed ; and, though it sounds
odd to modern ears, it is classical.

3 This should be Lewis the Ninth, as it stands in Hall s Chronicle.
Shakspeare has been led into the error by Holinshed, whose Chronicle he

4 The folio reads imbarre ; the quarto imbace.


From whom you claim ; invoke his warlike spirit,

And your great uncle s, Edward the Black Prince ;

Who on the French ground played a tragedy,

Making defeat on the full power of France ;

Whiles his most mighty father on a hill

Stood smiling, to behold his lion s whelp

Forage in blood of French nobility. 1

O, noble English, that could entertain

With half their forces the full pride of France;

And let another half stand laughing by,

All out of work, and cold for action !

Ely. Awake remembrance of these valiant dead,
And with your puissant arm renew their feats.
You are their heir ; you sit upon their throne ;
The blood and courage that renowned them,
Runs in your veins ; and my thrice-puissant liege
Is in the very May-morn of his youth,
Ripe for exploits and mighty enterprises.

Exe. Your brother kings and monarchs of the earth
Do all expect that you should rouse yourself,
As did the former lions of your blood.

West. They know your grace hath cause, and

means, and might ;

So hath your highness ; 2 never king of England
Had nobles richer, and more loyal subjects ;
Whose hearts have left their bodies here in England,
And lie pavilioned in the fields of France.

Cant. O, let their bodies follow, my dear liege,
With blood, and sword, and fire, to win your right.
In aid whereof, we of the spirituality
Will raise your highness such a mighty sum,
As never did the clergy at one time
Bring in to any of your ancestors.

K. Hen. We must not only arm to invade the

But lay down our proportions to defend

1 This alludes to the battle of Cressy, as described by Holinshed, voL
ii. p. 372.

2 i. e. your highness hath indeed what they think and know you have.


Against the Scot, who will make road upon us
With all advantages.

Cant. They of those marches, 1 gracious sovereign,
Shall be a wall sufficient to defend
Our inland from the pilfering borderers.

K. Hen. We do not mean the coursing snatchers


But fear the main intendment 2 of the Scot,
Who hath been still a giddy neighbor to us.
For you shall read, that my great grandfather
Never went with his forces into France,
But that the Scot on his unfurnished kingdom
Came pouring, like the tide into a breach,
With ample and brimfulness of his force ;
Galling the gleaned land with hot essays ;
Girding, with grievous siege, castles and towns ;
That England, being empty of defence,
Hath shook and trembled at the ill neighborhood. 3

Cant. She hath been then more feared than harmed,

my liege.

For hear her but exam pled by herself,
When all her chivalry hath been in France,
And she a mourning widow of her nobles,
She hath herself not only well defended,
But taken, and impounded as a stray,
The king of Scots ; whom she did send to France,
To fill king Edward s fame with prisoner kings ;
And make her chronicle as rich with praise,
As is the ooze and bottom of the sea
With sunken wreck and sumless treasuries.

West. But there s a saying, very old and true,

If that you will France win,
Then with Scotland first begin.

For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot


1 The marches are the borders.

2 The main intendment is the principal purpose, that he will bend his
whole force against us ; the Bellum in aliquem intendere of Livy.

3 The quarto reads, " at the bruit thereof."


Comes sneaking, and so sucks her princely eggs ;
Playing the mouse, in absence of the cat,
To spoil and havock more than she can eat.

Exe. It follows, then, the cat must stay at home.
Yet that is but a crushed necessity ; 1
Since we have locks to safeguard necessaries,
And pretty traps to catch the petty thieves.
While that the armed hand doth fight abroad,
The advised head defends itself at home ;
For government, though high, and low, and lower,
Put into parts, doth keep in one concent ; 2
Congruing in a full and natural close,
Like music.

Cant. True ; therefore doth Heaven divide

The state of man in divers functions,
Setting endeavor in continual motion ;
To which is fixed, as an aim or butt,
Obedience ; for so work the honey bees ;
Creatures, that, by a rule in nature, teach
The act 3 of order to a peopled kingdom.
They have a king, and officers of sorts ; 4
Where some, like magistrates, correct at home ;
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad ;

Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe dramatic works of William Shakspeare... embracing a life of the poet, and notes, original and selected (Volume 4) → online text (page 9 of 38)