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    Not Peer Reviewed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)

    2250Enter, in arms, Lewis, Salisbury, Melun, Pembroke, Bigot [and] soldiers.
    [Handing a paper to Melun] My Lord Melun, let this be copied out
    And keep it safe for our remembrance.
    Return the precedent to these lords again,
    2255That, having our fair order written down,
    Both they and we, perusing o'er these notes,
    May know wherefore we took the sacrament,
    And keep our fates firm and inviolable.
    Upon our sides it never shall be broken.
    2260And noble Dauphin, albeit we swear
    A voluntary zeal and unurged faith
    To your proceedings, yet believe me, Prince,
    I am not glad that such a sore of time
    Should seek a plaster by contemned revolt
    2265And heal the inveterate canker of one wound
    By making many. O, it grieves my soul
    That I must draw this metal from my side
    To be a widow-maker. O, and there
    Where honorable rescue and defense
    2270Cries out upon the name of Salisbury.
    But such is the infection of the time
    That, for the health and physic of our right,
    We cannot deal but with the very hand
    Of stern injustice, and confusèd wrong.
    2275And is't not pity, oh my grievèd friends,
    That we, the sons and children of this isle,
    Were born to see so sad an hour as this,
    Wherein we step after a stranger, march
    Upon her gentle bosom, and fill up
    2280Her enemy's ranks? I must withdraw and weep
    Upon the spot of this enforcèd cause,
    To grace the gentry of a land remote,
    And follow unacquainted colors here.
    What here? O nation, that thou couldst remove,
    2285That Neptune's arms, who clippeth thee about,
    Would bear thee from the knowledge of thyself,
    And grapple thee unto a pagan shore,
    Where these two Christian armies might combine
    The blood of malice in a vein of league,
    2290And not to spend it so unneighborly!
    A noble temper dost thou show in this,
    And great affections wrestling in thy bosom
    Doth make an earthquake of nobility.
    O, what a noble combat hast thou fought
    2295Between compulsion and a brave respect!
    Let me wipe off this honorable dew
    That silverly doth progress on thy cheeks.
    My heart hath melted at a lady's tears,
    Being an ordinary inundation,
    2300But this effusion of such manly drops,
    This shower, blown up by tempest of the soul,
    Startles mine eyes and makes me more amazed
    Than had I seen the vaulty top of heaven
    Figured quite o'er with burning meteors.
    2305Lift up thy brow, renownèd Salisbury,
    And with a great heart heave away this storm.
    Commend these waters to those baby eyes
    That never saw the giant world enraged,
    Nor met with fortune other than at feasts
    2310Full warm of blood, of mirth, of gossiping.
    Come, come; for thou shalt thrust thy hand as deep
    Into the purse of rich prosperity
    As Lewis himself -- So, nobles, shall you all,
    That knit your sinews to the strength of mine.
    2315Enter Pandulph.
    And even there, methinks an angel spake.
    Look where the holy legate comes apace
    To give us warrant from the hand of god,
    And on our actions set the name of right
    2320With holy breath.
    Hail noble prince of France!
    The next is this: King John hath reconciled
    Himself to Rome; his spirit is come in,
    That so stood out against the holy Church,
    2325The great metropolis and See of Rome.
    Therefore thy threat'ning colors now wind up
    And tame the savage spirit of wild war,
    That, like a lion fostered up at hand,
    It may lie gently at the foot of peace
    2330And be no further harmful than in show.
    Your Grace shall pardon me, I will not back.
    I am too high born to be propertied
    To be a secondary at control,
    Or useful serving-man and instrument
    2335To any sovereign state throughout the world.
    Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars
    Between this chastised kingdom and myself,
    And brought in matter that should feed this fire,
    And now 'tis far too huge to be blown out
    2340With that same weak wind which enkindled it.
    You taught me how to know the face of right,
    Acquainted me with interest to this land,
    Yea, thrust this enterprise into my heart.
    And come ye now to tell me John hath made
    2345His peace with Rome? What is that peace to me?
    I, by the honor of my marriage-bed,
    After young Arthur claim this land for mine.
    And now it is half-conquered, must I back,
    Because that John hath made his peace with Rome?
    2350Am I Rome's slave? What penny hath Rome borne?
    What men provided? What munition sent
    To under-prop this action? Is't not I
    That undergo this charge? Who else but I,
    And such as to my claim are liable,
    2355Sweat in this business and maintain this war?
    Have I not heard these islanders shout out
    "Vive le Roi," as I have banked their towns?
    Have I not here the best cards for the game
    To win this easy match played for a crown?
    2360And shall I now give o'er the yielded set?
    No, no, on my soul it never shall be said.
    You look but on the outside of this work.
    Outside or inside, I will not return
    Till my attempt so much be glorified
    2365As to my ample hope was promisèd
    Before I drew this gallant head of war
    And culled these fiery spirits from the world
    To outlook conquest and to win renown
    Even in the jaws of danger and of death.
    [A trumpet sounds.]
    2370What lusty trumpet thus doth summon us?
    Enter [the] Bastard.
    According to the fair play of the world,
    Let me have audience. I am sent to speak,
    My holy lord of Milan, from the King.
    2375I come to learn how you have dealt for him,
    And, as you answer, I do know the scope
    And warrant limited unto my tongue.
    The Dauphin is too wilful-opposite
    And will not temporize with my entreaties.
    2380He flatly says he'll not lay down his arms.
    By all the blood that ever fury breathed,
    The youth says well. Now hear our English king,
    For thus his royalty doth speak in me:
    He is prepared -- and reason too he should.
    2385This apish and unmannerly approach,
    This harnessed mask and unadvisèd revel,
    This unheard sauciness and boyish troops,
    The King doth smile at, and is well prepared
    To whip this dwarfish war, these pigmy arms
    2390From out the circle of his territories.
    That hand which had the strength, even at your door,
    To cudgel you and make you take the hatch,
    To dive like buckets in concealèd wells,
    To crouch in litter of your stable planks,
    2395To lie like pawns, locked up in chests and trunks,
    To hug with swine, to seek sweet safety out
    In vaults and prisons, and to thrill and shake,
    Even at the crying of your nation's crow,
    Thinking this voice an armèd Englishman --
    2400Shall that victorious hand be feebled here,
    That in your chambers gave you chastisement?
    No! Know the gallant monarch is in arms,
    And like an eagle o'er his aerie towers
    To souse annoyance that comes near his nest. --
    2405And you degenerate, you ingrate revolts,
    You bloody Neroes, ripping up the womb
    Of your dear mother England, blush for shame,
    For your own ladies and pale-visaged maids,
    Like Amazons, come tripping after drums,
    2410Their thimbles into armèd gauntlets change,
    Their needles to lances, and their gentle hearts
    To fierce and bloody inclination.
    There end thy brave, and turn thy face in peace.
    We grant thou canst outscold us. Fare thee well.
    2415We hold our time too precious to be spent
    with such a brabbler.
    Give me leave to speak.
    No, I will speak.
    We will attend to neither.
    2420Strike up the drums, and let the tongue of war
    Plead for our interest, and our being here.
    Indeed, your drums, being beaten, will cry out,
    And so shall you, being beaten. Do but start
    An echo with the clamor of thy drum,
    2425And even at hand a drum is ready braced
    That shall reverberate all as loud as thine.
    Sound but another, and another shall,
    As loud as thine, rattle the welkin's ear
    And mock the deep-mouthed thunder. For at hand --
    2430Not trusting to this halting legate here,
    Whom he hath used rather for sport than need --
    Is warlike John, and in his forehead sits
    A bare-ribbed Death, whose office is this day
    To feast upon whole thousands of the French.
    Strike up our drums, to find this danger out.
    And thou shalt find it, Dauphin, do not doubt
    [Drums beat.] Exeunt [separately].