Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: King John (Modern)
  • Editor: Michael Best
  • General textual editor: Eric Rasmussen
  • Coordinating 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
    Not Peer Reviewed

    King John (Modern)

    1570Enter Hubert and executioners [with a rope and irons].
    Heat me these irons hot, and look thou stand
    Within the arras. When I strike my foot
    Upon the bosom of the ground, rush forth
    And bind the boy which you shall find with me
    1575Fast to the chair. Be heedful. Hence, and watch.
    I hope your warrant will bear out the deed.
    Uncleanly scruples! Fear not you. Look too't.
    [The executioners withdraw.]
    Young lad come forth. I have to say with you.
    Enter Arthur.
    Good morrow Hubert.
    Good morrow little prince.
    As little prince, having so great a title
    To be more prince, as may be. You are sad.
    Indeed I have been merrier.
    Mercy on me!
    Methinks nobody should be sad but I.
    Yet I remember, when I was in France,
    Young gentlemen would be as sad as night
    Only for wantonness. By my christendom,
    1590So I were out of prison and kept sheep,
    I should be as merry as the day is long;
    And so I would be here but that I doubt
    My uncle practices more harm to me.
    He is afraid of me, and I of him.
    1595Is it my fault that I was Geoffrey's son?
    No indeed is't not; and I would to heaven
    I were your son, so you would love me, Hubert.
    [Aside] If I talk to him, with his innocent prate
    He will awake my mercy, which lies dead.
    1600Therefore I will be sudden and dispatch.
    Are you sick Hubert? You look pale today.
    In sooth I would you were a little sick
    That I might sit all night and watch with you.
    I warrant I love you more than you do me.
    [Aside] His words do take possession of my bosom.
    [To Arthur, showing him a paper]
    Read here young Arthur. [Aside] How now, foolish rheum?
    Turning dispiteous torture out of door?
    I must be brief, lest resolution drop
    Out at mine eyes in tender womanish tears.
    1610Can you not read it? Is it not fair writ?
    Too fairly Hubert, for so foul effect.
    Must you with hot irons, burn out both mine eyes?
    Young boy, I must.
    And will you?
    And I will.
    Have you the heart? When your head did but ache,
    I knit my handkerchief about your brows --
    The best I had, a princess wrought it me --
    1620And I did never ask it you again.
    And with my hand at midnight held your head,
    And like the watchful minutes to the hour
    Still and anon cheered up the heavy time,
    Saying, "What lack you?" and "Where lies your grief?"
    1625Or "What good love may I perform for you?"
    Many a poor man's son would have lain still
    And ne'er have spoke a loving word to you,
    But you at your sick service had a prince.
    Nay, you may think my love was crafty love,
    1630And call it cunning. Do, an if you will,
    If heaven be pleased that you must use me ill,
    Why then you must. Will you put out mine eyes?
    These eyes that never did, nor never shall,
    So much as frown on you?
    I have sworn to do it,
    And with hot irons must I burn them out.
    Ah, none but in this iron age would do it.
    The iron of itself, though heat red hot,
    Approaching near these eyes, would drink my tears,
    1640And quench his fiery indignation,
    Even in the matter of mine innocence;
    Nay, after that, consume away in rust,
    But for containing fire to harm mine eye.
    Are you more stubborn-hard, than hammered iron?
    1645An if an angel should have come to me
    And told me Hubert should put out mine eyes
    I would not have believed him. No tongue
    But Hubert's.
    [Stamps his foot] Come forth!
    [Executioners come forward with a cord, a heated iron, and a brazier.]
    Do as I bid you do.
    O, save me Hubert, save me! My eyes are out
    1650Even with the fierce looks of these bloody men.
    Give me the iron, I say, and bind him here.
    Alas, what need you be so boisterous-rough?
    I will not struggle, I will stand stone-still.
    For [god's] sake Hubert, let me not be bound.
    1655Nay, hear me Hubert! Drive these men away,
    And I will sit as quiet as a lamb.
    I will not stir, nor wince, nor speak a word,
    Nor look upon the iron angrily.
    Thrust but these men away, and I'll forgive you
    1660Whatever torment you do put me to.
    Go stand within. Let me alone with him.
    I am best pleased to be from such a deed.
    [Exeunt executioners.]
    Alas, I then have chid away my friend.
    He hath a stern look, but a gentle heart.
    1665Let him come back, that his compassion may
    Give life to yours.
    Come, boy, prepare your self.
    Is there no remedy?
    None but to lose your eyes.
    O heaven, that there were but a mote in yours,
    A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair,
    Any annoyance in that precious sense:
    Then, feeling what small things are boisterous there,
    Your vile intent must needs seem horrible.
    Is this your promise? Go to, hold your tongue.
    Hubert, the utterance of a brace of tongues
    Must needs want pleading for a pair of eyes.
    Let me not hold my tongue, let me not Hubert;
    Or Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,
    1680So I may keep mine eyes. O spare mine eyes,
    Though to no use, but still to look on you.
    Lo, by my troth, the instrument is cold,
    And would not harm me.
    I can heat it, boy.
    No, in good sooth. The fire is dead with grief,
    Being create for comfort, to be used
    In undeserved extremes. See else yourself;
    There is no malice in this burning coal.
    The breath of heaven hath blown his spirit out
    1690And strewed repentant ashes on his head.
    But with my breath I can revive it, boy.
    An if you do, you will but make it blush
    And glow with shame of your proceedings, Hubert.
    Nay, it perchance will sparkle in your eyes,
    1695And, like a dog that is compelled to fight,
    Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on.
    All things that you should use to do me wrong
    Deny their office: only you do lack
    That mercy which fierce fire and iron extends,
    1700Creatures of note for mercy-lacking uses.
    Well, see to live. I will not touch thine eye
    For all the treasure that thine uncle owes.
    Yet am I sworn, and I did purpose, boy,
    With this same very iron to burn them out.
    O, now you look like Hubert. All this while
    You were disguisèd.
    Peace, no more. Adieu.
    Your uncle must not know but you are dead.
    I'll fill these doggèd spies with false reports;
    1710And, pretty child, sleep doubtless and secure,
    That Hubert, for the wealth of all the world,
    Will not offend thee.
    O heaven! I thank you Hubert.
    Silence, no more. Go closely in with me.
    1715Much danger do I undergo for thee.