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Navigate this workKing John
Act 4, scene 2
The nobles express their disapproval of John’s second coronation and urge that he set Arthur free. When Hubert brings word that Arthur is dead, the nobles turn against John and go in search of Arthur’s body. A messenger tells John that the French, under the Dauphin, have landed in England and that Eleanor and Constance have both died. After sending the Bastard to try to bring the nobles back, John attacks Hubert for having killed Arthur. When Hubert discloses that Arthur is unharmed, John sends the happy news to the nobles.Enter ⌜King⌝ John, Pembroke, Salisbury, and other
Lords. ⌜King John ascends the throne.⌝
1701 Here once again we sit, once ⌜again⌝ crowned
1702 And looked upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes.
1703 This “once again,” but that your Highness pleased,
p. 1371704 Was once superfluous. You were crowned before,
1705 5 And that high royalty was ne’er plucked off,
1706 The faiths of men ne’er stainèd with revolt;
1707 Fresh expectation troubled not the land
1708 With any longed-for change or better state.
1709 Therefore, to be possessed with double pomp,
1710 10 To guard a title that was rich before,
1711 To gild refinèd gold, to paint the lily,
1712 To throw a perfume on the violet,
1713 To smooth the ice or add another hue
1714 Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
1715 15 To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
1716 Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
1717 But that your royal pleasure must be done,
1718 This act is as an ancient tale new told,
1719 And, in the last repeating, troublesome,
1720 20 Being urgèd at a time unseasonable.
1721 In this the antique and well-noted face
1722 Of plain old form is much disfigurèd,
1723 And like a shifted wind unto a sail,
1724 It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about,
1725 25 Startles and frights consideration,
1726 Makes sound opinion sick and truth suspected
1727 For putting on so new a fashioned robe.
1728 When workmen strive to do better than well,
1729 They do confound their skill in covetousness,
1730 30 And oftentimes excusing of a fault
1731 Doth make the fault the worse by th’ excuse,
1732 As patches set upon a little breach
1733 Discredit more in hiding of the fault
1734 Than did the fault before it was so patched.
1735 35 To this effect, before you were new-crowned,
1736 We breathed our counsel; but it pleased your
1738 To overbear it, and we are all well pleased,
1739 Since all and every part of what we would
1740 40 Doth make a stand at what your Highness will.
1741 Some reasons of this double coronation
1742 I have possessed you with, and think them strong;
1743 And more, more strong, ⌜when⌝ lesser is my fear,
1744 I shall endue you with. Meantime, but ask
1745 45 What you would have reformed that is not well,
1746 And well shall you perceive how willingly
1747 I will both hear and grant you your requests.
1748 Then I, as one that am the tongue of these
1749 To sound the purposes of all their hearts,
1750 50 Both for myself and them, but chief of all
1751 Your safety, for the which myself and them
1752 Bend their best studies, heartily request
1753 Th’ enfranchisement of Arthur, whose restraint
1754 Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent
1755 55 To break into this dangerous argument:
1756 If what in rest you have in right you hold,
1757 Why then your fears, which, as they say, attend
1758 The steps of wrong, should move you to mew up
1759 Your tender kinsman and to choke his days
1760 60 With barbarous ignorance and deny his youth
1761 The rich advantage of good exercise.
1762 That the time’s enemies may not have this
1763 To grace occasions, let it be our suit
1764 That you have bid us ask, his liberty,
1765 65 Which for our goods we do no further ask
1766 Than whereupon our weal, on you depending,
1767 Counts it your weal he have his liberty.
p. 141KING JOHN
1768 Let it be so. I do commit his youth
1769 To your direction.
1770 70 Hubert, what news with you?
⌜King John and Hubert talk aside.⌝
1771 This is the man should do the bloody deed.
1772 He showed his warrant to a friend of mine.
1773 The image of a wicked heinous fault
1774 Lives in his eye. That close aspect of his
1775 75 ⌜Doth⌝ show the mood of a much troubled breast,
1776 And I do fearfully believe ’tis done
1777 What we so feared he had a charge to do.
1778 The color of the King doth come and go
1779 Between his purpose and his conscience,
1780 80 Like heralds ’twixt two dreadful battles set.
1781 His passion is so ripe it needs must break.
1782 And when it breaks, I fear will issue thence
1783 The foul corruption of a sweet child’s death.
KING JOHN, ⌜coming forward with Hubert⌝
1784 We cannot hold mortality’s strong hand.—
1785 85 Good lords, although my will to give is living,
1786 The suit which you demand is gone and dead.
1787 He tells us Arthur is deceased tonight.
1788 Indeed, we feared his sickness was past cure.
1789 Indeed, we heard how near his death he was
1790 90 Before the child himself felt he was sick.
1791 This must be answered either here or hence.
1792 Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?
p. 1431793 Think you I bear the shears of destiny?
1794 Have I commandment on the pulse of life?
1795 95 It is apparent foul play, and ’tis shame
1796 That greatness should so grossly offer it.
1797 So thrive it in your game, and so farewell.
1798 Stay yet, Lord Salisbury. I’ll go with thee
1799 And find th’ inheritance of this poor child,
1800 100 His little kingdom of a forcèd grave.
1801 That blood which owed the breadth of all this isle,
1802 Three foot of it doth hold. Bad world the while!
1803 This must not be thus borne; this will break out
1804 To all our sorrows, and ere long, I doubt.
⌜Pembroke, Salisbury, and other Lords⌝ exit.
1805 105 They burn in indignation. I repent.
1806 There is no sure foundation set on blood,
1807 No certain life achieved by others’ death.
1808 A fearful eye thou hast. Where is that blood
1809 That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks?
1810 110 So foul a sky clears not without a storm.
1811 Pour down thy weather: how goes all in France?
1812 From France to England. Never such a power
1813 For any foreign preparation
1814 Was levied in the body of a land.
1815 115 The copy of your speed is learned by them,
1816 For when you should be told they do prepare,
1817 The tidings comes that they are all arrived.
1818 O, where hath our intelligence been drunk?
1819 Where hath it slept? Where is my mother’s care,
p. 1451820 120 That such an army could be drawn in France
1821 And she not hear of it?
MESSENGER 1822 My liege, her ear
1823 Is stopped with dust. The first of April died
1824 Your noble mother. And as I hear, my lord,
1825 125 The Lady Constance in a frenzy died
1826 Three days before. But this from rumor’s tongue
1827 I idly heard. If true or false, I know not.
KING JOHN, ⌜aside⌝
1828 Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion!
1829 O, make a league with me till I have pleased
1830 130 My discontented peers. What? Mother dead?
1831 How wildly then walks my estate in France!—
1832 Under whose conduct came those powers of France
1833 That thou for truth giv’st out are landed here?
1834 Under the Dauphin.
KING JOHN 1835 135 Thou hast made me giddy
1836 With these ill tidings.
Enter Bastard and Peter of Pomfret.
⌜To Bastard.⌝ 1837 Now, what says the world
1838 To your proceedings? Do not seek to stuff
1839 My head with more ill news, for it is full.
1840 140 But if you be afeard to hear the worst,
1841 Then let the worst, unheard, fall on your head.
1842 Bear with me, cousin, for I was amazed
1843 Under the tide, but now I breathe again
1844 Aloft the flood and can give audience
1845 145 To any tongue, speak it of what it will.
1846 How I have sped among the clergymen
1847 The sums I have collected shall express.
p. 1471848 But as I traveled hither through the land,
1849 I find the people strangely fantasied,
1850 150 Possessed with rumors, full of idle dreams,
1851 Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.
1852 And here’s a prophet that I brought with me
1853 From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found
1854 With many hundreds treading on his heels,
1855 155 To whom he sung in rude harsh-sounding rhymes
1856 That ere the next Ascension Day at noon,
1857 Your Highness should deliver up your crown.
KING JOHN, ⌜to Peter⌝
1858 Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou so?
1859 Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.
1860 160 Hubert, away with him! Imprison him.
1861 And on that day at noon, whereon he says
1862 I shall yield up my crown, let him be hanged.
1863 Deliver him to safety and return,
1864 For I must use thee.⌜Hubert and Peter exit.⌝
1865 165 O my gentle cousin,
1866 Hear’st thou the news abroad, who are arrived?
1867 The French, my lord. Men’s mouths are full of it.
1868 Besides, I met Lord Bigot and Lord Salisbury
1869 With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire,
1870 170 And others more, going to seek the grave
1871 Of Arthur, whom they say is killed tonight
1872 On your suggestion.
KING JOHN 1873 Gentle kinsman, go
1874 And thrust thyself into their companies.
1875 175 I have a way to win their loves again.
1876 Bring them before me.
BASTARD 1877 I will seek them out.
1878 Nay, but make haste, the better foot before!
p. 1491879 O, let me have no subject enemies
1880 180 When adverse foreigners affright my towns
1881 With dreadful pomp of stout invasion.
1882 Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels,
1883 And fly like thought from them to me again.
1884 The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.
1885 185 Spoke like a sprightful noble gentleman.
1886 ⌜To Messenger.⌝ Go after him, for he perhaps shall
1888 Some messenger betwixt me and the peers,
1889 And be thou he.
MESSENGER 1890 190 With all my heart, my liege.
KING JOHN 1891 My mother dead!
1892 My lord, they say five moons were seen tonight—
1893 Four fixèd, and the fifth did whirl about
1894 The other four in wondrous motion.
1895 195 Five moons!
HUBERT 1896 Old men and beldams in the streets
1897 Do prophesy upon it dangerously.
1898 Young Arthur’s death is common in their mouths,
1899 And when they talk of him, they shake their heads
1900 200 And whisper one another in the ear,
1901 And he that speaks doth grip the hearer’s wrist,
1902 Whilst he that hears makes fearful action
1903 With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
1904 I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,
1905 205 The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
p. 1511906 With open mouth swallowing a tailor’s news,
1907 Who with his shears and measure in his hand,
1908 Standing on slippers which his nimble haste
1909 Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet,
1910 210 Told of a many thousand warlike French
1911 That were embattlèd and ranked in Kent.
1912 Another lean, unwashed artificer
1913 Cuts off his tale and talks of Arthur’s death.
1914 Why seek’st thou to possess me with these fears?
1915 215 Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur’s death?
1916 Thy hand hath murdered him. I had a mighty cause
1917 To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
1918 No had, my lord! Why, did you not provoke me?
1919 It is the curse of kings to be attended
1920 220 By slaves that take their humors for a warrant
1921 To break within the bloody house of life,
1922 And on the winking of authority
1923 To understand a law, to know the meaning
1924 Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
1925 225 More upon humor than advised respect.
HUBERT, ⌜showing a paper⌝
1926 Here is your hand and seal for what I did.
1927 O, when the last accompt twixt heaven and Earth
1928 Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
1929 Witness against us to damnation!
1930 230 How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
1931 Make deeds ill done! Hadst not thou been by,
1932 A fellow by the hand of nature marked,
1933 Quoted, and signed to do a deed of shame,
1934 This murder had not come into my mind.
1935 235 But taking note of thy abhorred aspect,
p. 1531936 Finding thee fit for bloody villainy,
1937 Apt, liable to be employed in danger,
1938 I faintly broke with thee of Arthur’s death;
1939 And thou, to be endearèd to a king,
1940 240 Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.
HUBERT 1941 My lord—
1942 Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause
1943 When I spake darkly what I purposèd,
1944 Or turned an eye of doubt upon my face,
1945 245 As bid me tell my tale in express words,
1946 Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break
1948 And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me.
1949 But thou didst understand me by my signs
1950 250 And didst in signs again parley with sin,
1951 Yea, without stop didst let thy heart consent
1952 And consequently thy rude hand to act
1953 The deed which both our tongues held vile to name.
1954 Out of my sight, and never see me more.
1955 255 My nobles leave me, and my state is braved,
1956 Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers.
1957 Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
1958 This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
1959 Hostility and civil tumult reigns
1960 260 Between my conscience and my cousin’s death.
1961 Arm you against your other enemies.
1962 I’ll make a peace between your soul and you.
1963 Young Arthur is alive. This hand of mine
1964 Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand,
1965 265 Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.
1966 Within this bosom never entered yet
1967 The dreadful motion of a murderous thought,
1968 And you have slandered nature in my form,
p. 1551969 Which, howsoever rude exteriorly,
1970 270 Is yet the cover of a fairer mind
1971 Than to be butcher of an innocent child.
1972 Doth Arthur live? O, haste thee to the peers,
1973 Throw this report on their incensèd rage,
1974 And make them tame to their obedience.
1975 275 Forgive the comment that my passion made
1976 Upon thy feature, for my rage was blind,
1977 And foul imaginary eyes of blood
1978 Presented thee more hideous than thou art.
1979 O, answer not, but to my closet bring
1980 280 The angry lords with all expedient haste.
1981 I conjure thee but slowly; run more fast.