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  • Title: The History of Sir John Oldcastle (Folio 3, 1664)
  • Editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Authors: Anonymous, Michael Drayton, Richard Hathway, Antony Munday, William Shakespeare, Robert Wilson
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The History of Sir John Oldcastle (Folio 3, 1664)

    the good Lord Cobham.
    Enter four poor people, some soldiers, some old men.

    1. God help, God help, there's law for punishing,
    But there's no law for our necessity:
    There be more stocks to set poor soldiers in,
    350Than there be houses to relieve them at.
    Old Man. I, house-keeping decayes in every place,
    Even as S. Peter writ, still worse and worse.
    2. Master Mayor of Rochester has given command,
    That none shall go abroad out of the parish, and has set
    355down an Order forsooth, what every poor housholder
    must give for our relief: where there be some ceased (I
    may say to you) had almost as much need to beg as we.
    1. It is a hard world the while.
    Old. If a poor man ask at door for God's sake, they
    360ask him for a licence or a certificate from a Justice.
    2. Faith we have none, but what we bear upon our
    bodies, our maim'd limbs, God help us.
    4. And yet as lame as I am, I'le with the King into
    France, if I can but crawl a ship-board, I had rather be
    365slain in France, than starve in England.
    Old. Ha, were I but as lusty as I was at Shrewsbury
    battle, I would not do as I do: but we are now come to
    the good Lord Cobham's house, the best man to the poor
    in all Kent.
    3704. God bless him, there be but few such.
    Enter Lord Cobham with Harpool.
    Cob. Thou peevish froward man, what would'st thou
    Har. This pride, this pride, brings all to beggery,
    I serv'd your Father, and your Grandfather,
    375Shew me such two men now: No, no,
    Your backs, your backs; the devil and pride
    Has cut the throat of all good house-keeping,
    They were the best Yeomens Masters that
    Ever were in England.
    380Cob. Yea, except thou have a crew of filthy knaves
    And sturdy Rogues still feeding at my Gate,
    There is no hospitality with thee.
    HarpThey may sit at the gate well enough, but the
    devil of anything you give them, except they'll eat stones.
    385Cob. 'Tis long then of such hungry knaves as you:
    Yea sir, here's your retinue, your guests be come,
    They know their hours, I warrant you.
    Old. God bless your honour, God save the good Lord
    Cobham, and all his house.
    390Soul. Good your honour, bestow your blessed almes
    Upon poor men.
    Cob. Now sir, here be your almes Knights:
    Now are you as safe as the Emperour.
    Harp. My almes Knights? Nay th'are yours:
    395It is a shame for you, and I'le stand to't,
    Your foolish almes maintains more vagabonds
    Then all the Noblemen in Kent beside.
    Out you rogues, you knaves, work for your livings.
    Alas poor men, they may beg their hearts out,
    400There's no more charity among men
    Then amongst so many Mastive dogs,
    What make you here, you needy knaves?
    Away, away, you villains.
    2. Soul. I beseech you sir, be good.
    405Cob. Nay, nay, they know thee well enough, I
    think that all the beggers in this land are thy acquain-
    tance: go bestow your almes, none will controll you, sir.
    Harp. What should I give them? you are grown so
    beggarly, that you can scarce give a bit of bread at your
    410door: you talk of your Religion so long, that you have
    banished charity from you: a man may make a Flax-shop
    in your Kitching chimnies, for any fire there is stirring.
    Cob. If thou wilt give them nothing, send them hence:
    Let them not stand here starving in the cold.
    415Har. Who, I drive them hence? If I drive poor men
    from the door, I'le be hang'd: I know not what I may
    come to my self: God help ye poor knaves, ye see the
    world. Well, you had a mother: O God be with thee
    good Lady, thy soul's at rest; she gave more in shirts and
    420smocks to poor children, then you spend in your house,
    and yet you live a beggar too.
    Cob. Even the worst deed that ever my mother did,
    was in relieving such a fool as thou.
    Har. I, I am a fool still: with all your wit you'll die
    425a beggar, go too.
    Cob. Go, you old fool, give thee poor people some-
    thing: Go in poor men into the inner Court, and take
    such almes as there is to be had,
    Soul. God blesse your Honour.
    430Har. Hang you rogues, hang you, there's nothing but
    misery amongst you, you fear no Law, you.
    Oldm. God blesse you good Master Rafe, God save
    your life, you are good to thee poor still.
    Enter the Lord Powis disguised.
    435Cob. What fellow's yonder comes along the Grove?
    Few passengers there be that know this way:
    Me thinks he stops as though he staid for me,
    And meant to shrow'd himself amongst the bushes.
    I know the Clergy hates me to the death,
    440And my Religion gets me many foes:
    And this may be some desperate rogue
    Suborn'd to work me mischief: as it pleaseth God.
    If he come toward me, sure I'le stay his coming,
    Be he but one man, what soere he be.
    L. Powis comes on.
    445I have been well acquainted with that face.
    Pow. Well met, my honorable Lord and friend.
    Cob. You are welcome, sir, what ere you be;
    But of this sudden, sir, I do not know you.
    Pow. I am one that wisheth well unto your Honour,
    450My name is Powis, an old friend of yours.
    Cob. My honorable Lord, and worthy friend,
    What makes your Lordship thus alone in Kent,
    And thus disguised in this strange attire?
    Pow. My Lord, an unexpected accident
    455Hath at this time enforc'd me to these parts,
    And thus it hapt. Not yet full five dayes since,
    Now at the last assize at Hereford,
    It chanc'd that the Lord Herbert and my self,
    'Mongst other things discoursing at the Table,
    460To fall in speech about some certain points
    Of Wickliff's doctrine 'gainst the Papacie,
    And the Religion Catholick maintain'd
    Through the most part of Europe at this day.
    This wilfull testy Lord stuck not to say,
    465That Wickliff was a knave, a schismatick,
    His Doctrine develish and Heretical:
    And whatsoere he was maintain'd the same,
    Was Traitor both to God, and to his Countrey.
    Being moved at his peremptory speech,
    470I told him, some maintain'd those opinions,
    Men, and truer subjects then Lord Herbert was:
    And he replying in comparisons,
    Your name was urg'd, my Lord, against this challenge,
    To be a perfect favorour of the truth.
    475And to be short, from words we fell to blows,
    Our servants, and our Tenants taking parts.