Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Michael Best
Peer Reviewed

King John (Folio 1, 1623)

The life and death of King John.
I haue a way to winne their loues againe:
1890Bring them before me.
Bast. I will seeke them out.
Iohn. Nay, but make haste: the better foote before.
O, let me haue no subiect enemies,
When aduerse Forreyners affright my Townes
1895With dreadfull pompe of stout inuasion.
Be Mercurie, set feathers to thy heeles,
And flye (like thought) from them, to me againe.
Bast. The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.
Iohn. Spoke like a sprightfull Noble Gentleman.
1900Go after him: for he perhaps shall neede
Some Messenger betwixt me, and the Peeres,
And be thou hee.
Mes. With all my heart, my Liege.
Iohn. My mother dead?
Enter Hubert.
Hub. My Lord, they say fiue Moones were seene to
Foure fixed, and the fift did whirle about
The other foure, in wondrous motion.
Ioh. Fiue Moones?
1910Hub. Old men, and Beldames,in the streets
Do prophesie vpon it dangerously:
Yong Arthurs death is common in their mouths,
And when they talke of him, they shake their heads,
And whisper one another in the eare.
1915And he that speakes, doth gripe the hearers wrist,
Whilst he that heares, makes fearefull action
With wrinkled browes, with nods, with rolling eyes.
I saw a Smith stand with his hammer (thus)
The whilst his Iron did on the Anuile coole,
1920With open mouth swallowing a Taylors newes,
Who with his Sheeres, and Measure in his hand,
Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust vpon contrary feete,
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
1925That were embattailed, and rank'd in Kent.
Another leane, vnwash'd Artificer,
Cuts off his tale, and talkes of Arthurs death.
Io. Why seek'st thou to possesse me with these feares?
Why vrgest thou so oft yong Arthurs death?
1930Thy hand hath murdred him: I had a mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
H.No had (my Lord?)why, did you not prouoke me?
Iohn. It is the curse of Kings, to be attended
By slaues, that take their humors for a warrant,
1935To breake within the bloody house of life,
And on the winking of Authoritie
To vnderstand a Law; to know the meaning
Of dangerous Maiesty, when perchance it frownes
More vpon humor, then aduis'd respect.
1940Hub.Heere is your hand and Seale for what I did.
Ioh. Oh, when the last accompt twixt heauen & earth
Is to be made, then shall this hand and Seale
Witnesse against vs to damnation.
How oft the sight of meanes to do ill deeds,
1945Make deeds ill done? Had'st not thou beene by,
A fellow by the hand of Nature mark'd,
Quoted, and sign'd to do a deede of shame,
This murther had not come into my minde.
But taking note of thy abhorr'd Aspect,
1950Finding thee fit for bloody villanie:
Apt, liable to be employ'd in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthurs death:
And thou, to be endeered to a King,
Made it no conscience to destroy a Prince.
1955Hub. My Lord.
Ioh.Had'st thou but shooke thy head, or made a pause
When I spake darkely, what I purposed:
Or turn'd an eye of doubt vpon my face;
As bid me tell my tale in expresse words:
1960Deepe shame had struck me dumbe,made me break off,
And those thy feares, might haue wrought feares in me.
But, thou didst vnderstand me by my signes,
And didst in signes againe parley with sinne,
Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
1965And consequently, thy rude hand to acte
The deed, which both our tongues held vilde to name.
Out of my sight, and neuer see me more:
My Nobles leaue me, and my State is braued,
Euen at my gates, with rankes of forraigne powres;
1970Nay, in the body of this fleshly Land,
This kingdome, this Confine of blood, and breathe
Hostilitie, and ciuill tumult reignes
Betweene my conscience, and my Cosins death.
Hub. Arme you against your other enemies:
1975Ile make a peace betweene your soule, and you.
Yong Arthur is aliue: This hand of mine
Isyet a maiden, and an innocent hand.
Not painted with the Crimson spots of blood,
Within this bosome, neuer entred yet
1980The dreadfull motion of a murderous thought,
And you haue slander'd Nature in my forme,
Which howsoeuer rude exteriorly,
Is yet the couer of a fayrer minde,
Then to be butcher of an innocent childe.
1985Iohn. Doth Arthur liue? O hast thee to the Peeres,
Throw this report on their incensed rage,
And make them tame to their obedience.
Forgiue the Comment that my passion made
Vpon thy feature, for my rage was blinde,
1990And foule immaginarie eyes of blood
Presented thee more hideous then thou art.
Oh, answer not; but to my Closset bring
The angry Lords, with all expedient hast,
I coniure thee but slowly: run more fast.

Scœna Tertia.

Enter Arthur on the walles.
Ar. The Wall is high, and yet will I leape downe.
Good ground be pittifull, and hurt me not:
There's few or none do know me, if they did,
2000This Ship-boyes semblance hath disguis'd me quite.
I am afraide, and yet Ile venture it.
If I get downe, and do not breake my limbes,
Ile finde a thousand shifts to get away;
As good to dye, and go; as dye, and stay.
2005Oh me, my Vnckles spirit is in these stones,
Heauen take my soule, and England keep my bones.

Enter Pembroke,Salisbury,& Bigot.
Sal. Lords, I will meet him at S. Edmondsbury,
It is our safetie, and we must embrace
2010This gentle offer of the perillous time.
Pem. Who brought that Letter from the Cardinall?
Sal. The Count Meloone, a Noble Lord of France,
Whose priuate with me of the Dolphines loue,
Is much more generall, then these lines import.