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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    Not Peer Reviewed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)

    Enter Suffolk, Bishop of Rochester, M. But-
    ler, Sir John the Parson of Wrotham.
    Suf. Now, my Lord Bishop, take free liberty
    To speak your mind; What is your suit to us?
    170Bish. My noble Lord, no more then what you know,
    And have been oftentimes invested with:
    Grievous complaints have past between the lips
    Of envious persons to upbraid the Clergy,
    Some carping at the livings which we have;
    175And others spurning at the Ceremonies
    That are of ancient custome in the Church.
    Amongst the which, Lord Cobham is a chief:
    What inconvenience may proceed hereof,
    Both to the King, and to the Common-wealth,
    180May easily be discern'd, when like a frensie
    This innovation shall possesse their minds.
    These upstarts will have followers to uphold
    Their damn'd opinion, more than Harry shall,
    To undergo his quarrel 'gainst the French.
    185Suf.What proof is there against them to be had,
    That what you say the Law may justifie?
    Bish. They give themselves the names of Protestants,
    And meet in fields and solitary groves.
    S. Joh. Was ever heard (my Lord) the like till now?
    190That thieves and rebels, sbloud hereticks,
    Plain hereticks, I'le stand to't to their teeth,
    Should have to colour their vile practises,
    A Title of such worth, as Protestant?
    Enter one with a Letter.
    195Suf. O but you must not swear, it ill becomes
    One of your coat, to rap out bloudy oaths.
    Bish. Pardon him, good my Lord, it is his zeal,
    An honest country Prelate, who laments
    To see such foul disorder in the Church.
    200S. Joh. There's one they call him Sir John Oldcastle,
    He has not his name for nought: for like a Castle
    Doth he encompasse them wilhin his walls,
    But till that castle be subverted quite,
    We ne're shall be at quiet in the Realme.
    205Bish. This is our suit (my Lord) that he be tane
    And brought in question for his heresie:
    Beside, two Letters brought me out of Wales,
    Wherein my Lord Hertford writes to me,
    What tumult and sedition was begun,
    210About the Lord Cobham, at the Sizes there,
    For they had much adoe to calme the rage,
    And that the valiant Herbert is there slain.
    Suf. A fire that must be quencht. Well, say no more,
    The King anon goes to the Council Chamber,
    215There to debate of matters touching France,
    As he doth passe by, I'le informe his Grace
    Concerning your Petition. Master Butler,
    If I forget, do you remember me.
    But. I will my Lord.
    Offer him a purse.
    220Bish. Not as a Recompence,
    But as a Token of our love to you.
    By me (my Lords) the Clergy doth present
    This purse, and in it full a thousand Angels,
    Praying your Lordship to accept their gift.
    225Suf. I thank them, my Lord Bishop, for their love,
    But will not take their money, if you please
    To give it to this Gentleman, you may.
    Bish. Sir, then we crave your futherance herein.
    But. The best I can, my Lord of Rochester.
    230Bish. Nay, pray take it, trust me you shall.
    S. John. Were ye all three upon New-Market heath,
    You should not need strain curt'sie who should ha't,
    Sir John would quickly rid ye of that care.
    Suf. The King is coming: Fear yea not, my Lord,
    235The very first thing I will break with him
    Shall be about your matter.
    Enter King Harry and Huntington in talk.
    Har. My Lord of Suffolk,
    Was it not said the Clergy did refuse
    240To lend us Money toward our warrs in France?
    Suf. It was my Lord, but very wrognfully.
    Har. I know it was: for Hungtington here tells me
    They have been very bountifull of late.
    Suf. And still they vow, my gracious Lord, to be so,
    245Hoping your Majesty will think on them
    As of your loving Subjects, and suppresse
    All such malicious errors as begin
    To spot their calling, and disturb the Church.
    Har. God else forbid: why,
    250Is there any new rupture to disquiet them?
    Suf. No new my Lord, the old is great enough,
    And so increasing, as if not cut down,
    Will breed a scandal to your Royal State,
    And set your Kingdome quickly in an uproar.
    255The Kentish Knight, Lord Cobham in despight
    Of any Law, or spiritual discipline,
    Maintains this upstart new Religion still,
    And divers great assemblies by his means
    And private quarrels, are commenc'd abroad,
    260As by this letter more at large my Liege, is made apparent.
    Har. We do find it here,
    There was in Wales a certain fray of late
    Between two Noblemen. But what of this?
    Follows it straight Lord Cobham must be he
    265Did cause the same? I dare be sworn (good Knight)
    He never dreamt of any such contention.
    Bish. But in h s name the quarrel did begin,
    About the opinion which he held my Liege.
    Har. What if it did? was either he in place
    270To take part with them? or abet them in it?
    If brabling fellows, whose enkindled bloud
    Seeths in their fiery veins, will needs go fight,
    Making their quarrels of some words that past
    Either if you, or you, amongst their cups,
    275Is the fault yours? or are they guilty of it?
    Suf. With pardon of your Highnesse, my dread Lord,
    Such little sparks neglected, may in time
    Grow to a mighty flame. But that's not all,
    He doth beside maintain a strange Religion,
    280And will not be compell'd to come to Mass.
    Bish. We do beseech you therefore, gracious Prince,
    Without offence unto your Majesty,
    We may be bold to use authority.
    Har. As how?
    285Bish. To summon him unto the Arches,
    Where such offences have their punishment.
    Har.To answer personally, is that your meaning?
    Bish. It is, my Lord.
    Har. How if he appeal?
    290Bish. My Lord, he cannot in such a case as this.
    Suf. Not where Religion is the plea, my Lord.
    Har. I took it alwayes, that our self stood on't
    As a sufficient refuge: unto whom
    Not any but might lawfully appeal.
    295But we'll not argue now upon that point.
    For Sir John Oldcastle whom you accuse,
    Let me intreat you to dispence a while
    With your high Title of preheminence.
    In scorn.
    Report did never yet condemne him so,
    300But he hath alwayes been reputed loyal:
    And in my knowledge I can say thus much,
    That he is vertuous, wise, and honorable.
    If any way his conscience be seduc'd
    To waver in his faith, I'le send for him
    305And schoole him privately: If that serve not,
    Then afterward you may proceed against him.
    Butler, be you the Messenger for us,
    And will him presently repair to Court.
    S. John. How now my Lord? why stand you discontent?
    310Insooth (methinks) the King hath well decreed.
    Bish. I, I, Sir John, if he would keep his word:
    But I perceive he favours him so much
    As this will be to small effect, I fear.
    S. John. Why then I'le tell you what y'are best to do:
    315If you suspect the King will be but cold
    In reprehending him, send you a Process too
    To serve upon him: so ye may be sure
    To make him answer't, howsoere it fall.
    Bish. And well remembred, I will have it so,
    320A Sumner shall be sent about it straight.
    S. John. Yea do so. In the mean space this remains
    For kind Sir John of Wrotham, honest Jack.
    Me thinks the purse of Gold the Bishop gave
    Made a good shew, it had a tempting look:
    325Beshrew me, but my fingers ends do itch
    To be upon those golden ruddocks. Well, 'tis thus;
    I am not as the world doth take me for:
    If ever wolfe were cloathed in sheeps coat,
    Then I am he; old huddle and twang'ifaith:
    330A Priest in shew, but (in plain termes) a Thief:
    Yet let me tell you too, an honest Thief;
    One that will take it where it may be spar'd,
    And spend it freely in good fellowship.
    I have as many shapes as Proteus had,
    335That still when any villany is done,
    There may none suspect it was Sir John.
    Besides, to comfort me (for what's this life,
    Except the crabbed bitternesse thereof
    Be sweetned now and then with Letchery?)
    340I have my Doll, my Concubine as 'twere,
    To frolick with, a lusty bouncing girle.
    But whil'st I loyter here, the Gold may scape,
    And that must not be so: It is mine own.
    Therefore I'le meet him on his way to Court,
    345And shrive him of it, there will be the sport.