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  • Title: King John (Folio 1, 1623)
  • Editor: Michael Best
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-410-3

    Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Michael Best
    Peer Reviewed

    King John (Folio 1, 1623)

    Scena Secunda.
    Enter Iohn, Pembroke, Salisbury, and other Lordes.
    Iohn. Heere once againe we sit: once against crown'd
    And look'd vpon, I hope, with chearefull eyes.
    1720Pem. This once again (but that your Highnes pleas'd)
    Was once superfluous: you were Crown'd before,
    And that high Royalty was nere pluck'd off:
    The faiths of men, nere stained with reuolt:
    Fresh expectation troubled not the Land
    1725With any long'd-for-change, or better State.
    Sal. Therefore, to be possess'd with double pompe,
    To guard a Title, that was rich before;
    To gilde refined Gold, to paint the Lilly;
    To throw a perfume on the Violet,
    1730To smooth the yce, or adde another hew
    Vnto the Raine-bow; or with Taper-light
    To seeke the beauteous eye of heauen to garnish,
    Is wastefull, and ridiculous excesse.
    Pem. But that your Royall pleasure must be done,
    1735This acte, is as an ancient tale new told,
    And, in the last repeating, troublesome,
    Being vrged at a time vnseasonable.
    Sal. In this the Anticke, and well noted face
    Of plaine old forme, is much disfigured,
    1740And like a shifted winde vnto a saile,
    It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about,
    Startles, and frights consideration :
    Makes sound opinion sicke, and truth suspected,
    For putting on so new a fashion'd robe.
    1745Pem. When Workemen striue to do better then wel,
    They do confound their skill in couetousnesse,
    And oftentimes excusing of a fault,
    Doth make the fault the worse by th'excuse:
    As patches set vpon a little breach,
    1750Discredite more in hiding of the fault,
    Then did the fault before it was so patch'd.
    Sal. To this effect, before you were new crown'd
    We breath'd our Councell: but it pleas'd your Highnes
    To ouer-beare it, and we are all well pleas'd,
    1755Since all, and euery part of what we would
    Doth make a stand, at what your Highnesse will.
    Ioh. Some reasons of this double Corronation
    I haue possest you with, and thinke them strong.
    And more, more strong, then lesser is my feare
    1760I shall indue you with: Meane time, but aske
    What you would haue reform'd. that is not well,
    And well shall you perceiue, how willingly
    I will both heare, and grant you your requests.
    Pem. Then I, as one that am the tongue of these
    1765To sound the purposes of all their hearts,
    Both for my selfe, and them: but chiefe of all
    Your safety: for the which, my selfe and them
    Bend their best studies, heartily request
    Th'infranchisement of Arthur, whose restraint
    1770Doth moue the murmuring lips of discontent
    To breake into this dangerous argument.
    If what in rest you haue, in right you hold,
    Why then your feares, which (as they say) attend
    The steppes of wrong, should moue you to mew vp
    1775Your tender kinsman, and to choake his dayes
    With barbarous ignorance, and deny his youth
    The rich aduantage of good exercise,
    That the times enemies may not haue this
    To grace occasions: let it be our suite,
    1780That you haue bid vs aske his libertie,
    Which for our goods, we do no further aske,
    Then, whereupon our weale on you depending,
    Counts it your weale: he haue his liberty.
    Enter Hubert.
    1785Iohn, Let it be so: I do commit his youth
    To your direction: Hubert, what newes with you?
    Pem. This is the man should do the bloody deed:
    He shew'd his warrant to a friend of mine,
    The image of a wicked heynous fault
    1790Liues in his eye: that close aspect of his,
    Do shew the mood of a much troubled brest,
    And I do fearefully beleeue 'tis done,
    What we so fear'd he had a charge to do.
    Sal. The colour of the King doth come, and go
    1795Betweene his purpose and his conscience,
    Like Heralds 'twixt two dreadfull battailes set:
    His passion is so ripe, it needs must breake.
    Pem. And when it breakes, I feare will issue thence
    The foule corruption of a sweet childes death.
    1800Iohn. We cannot hold mortalities strong hand.
    Good Lords, although my will to giue, is liuing,
    The suite which you demand is gone, and dead.
    He tels vs Arthur is deceas'd to night.
    Sal. Indeed we fear'd his sicknesse was past cure.
    1805Pem. Indeed we heard how neere his death he was,
    Before the childe himselfe felt he was sicke:
    This must be answer'd either heere, or hence.
    Ioh. Why do you bend such solemne browes on me?
    Thinke you I beare the Sheeres of destiny?
    1810Haue I commandement on the pulse of life?
    Sal. It is apparant foule-play, and 'tis shame
    That Greatnesse should so grossely offer it;
    So thriue it in your game, and so farewell.
    Pem. Stay yet (Lord Salisbury) Ile go with thee,
    1815And finde th'inheritance of this poore childe,
    His little kingdome of a forced graue.
    That blood which ow'd the bredth of all this Ile,
    Three foot of it doth hold; bad world the while:
    This must not be thus borne, this will breake out
    1820To all our sorrowes, and ere long I doubt. Exeunt
    Io. They burn in indignation: I repent: Enter Mes.
    There is no sure foundation set on blood:
    No certaine life atchieu'd by others death:
    A fearefull eye thou hast. Where is that blood,
    1825That I haue seene inhabite in those cheekes?
    So foule a skie, cleeres not without a storme,
    Poure downe thy weather: how goes all in France?
    Mes. From France to England, neuer such a powre
    For any forraigne preparation,
    1830Was leuied in the body of a land.
    The Copie of your speede is learn'd by them:
    For when you should be told they do prepare,
    The tydings comes, that they are all arriu'd.
    Ioh. Oh where hath our Intelligence bin drunke?
    1835Where hath it slept? Where is my Mothers care?
    That such an Army could be drawne in France,
    And she not heare of it?
    Mes. My Liege, her eare
    Is stopt with dust: the first of Aprill di'de
    1840Your noble mother; and as I heare, my Lord,
    The Lady Constance in a frenzie di'de
    Three dayes before: but this from Rumors tongue
    I idely heard: if true, or false I know not.
    Iohn. With-hold thy speed, dreadfull Occasion:
    1845O make a league with me, 'till I haue pleas'd
    My discontented Peeres. What? Mother dead?
    How wildely then walkes my Estate in France?
    Vnder whose conduct came those powres of France,
    That thou for truth giu'st out are landed heere?
    1850Mes. Vnder the Dolphin.
    Enter Bastard and Peter of Pomfret.
    Ioh. Thou hast made me giddy
    With these ill tydings: Now? What sayes the world
    To your proceedings? Do not seeke to stuffe
    1855My head with more ill newes: for it is full.
    Bast. But if you be a-feard to heare the worst,
    Then let the worst vn-heard, fall on your head.
    Iohn. Beare with me Cosen, for I was amaz'd
    Vnder the tide; but now I breath againe
    1860Aloft the flood, and can giue audience
    To any tongue, speake it of what it will.
    Bast. How I haue sped among the Clergy men,
    The summes I haue collected shall expresse:
    But as I trauail'd hither through the land,
    1865I finde the people strangely fantasied,
    Possest with rumors, full of idle dreames,
    Not knowing what they feare, but full of feare.
    And here's a Prophet that I brought with me
    From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found
    1870With many hundreds treading on his heeles:
    To whom he sung in rude harsh sounding rimes,
    That ere the next Ascension day at noone,
    Your Highnes should deliuer vp your Crowne.
    Iohn. Thou idle Dreamer, wherefore didst thou so?
    1875Pet. Fore-knowing that the truth will fall out so.
    Iohn. Hubert, away with him: imprison him,
    And on that day at noone, whereon he sayes
    I shall yeeld vp my Crowne, let him be hang'd.
    Deliuer him to safety, and returne,
    1880For I must vse thee. O my gentle Cosen,
    Hear'st thou the newes abroad, who are arriu'd?
    Bast. The French (my Lord) mens mouths are ful of it:
    Besides I met Lord Bigot, and Lord Salisburie
    With eyes as red as new enkindled fire,
    1885And others more, going to seeke the graue
    Of Arthur, whom they say is kill'd to night, on your (suggestion.
    Iohn. Gentle kinsman, go
    And thrust thy selfe into their Companies,
    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. Exit
    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?
    1905Enter Hubert.
    Hub. My Lord, they say fiue Moones were seene to (night:
    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
    Is yet 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. Exeunt.