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    Not Peer Reviewed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)

    Enter Prince Henry, Salisbury, and Bigot.
    2605Prince Henry
    It is too late. The life of all his blood
    Is touched corruptibly, and his pure brain,
    Which some suppose the soul's frail dwelling house,
    Doth by the idle comments that it makes
    Foretell the ending of mortality.
    2610Enter Pembroke.
    His highness yet doth speak and holds belief
    That, being brought into the open air,
    It would allay the burning quality
    Of that fell poison which assaileth him.
    2615Prince Henry
    Let him be brought into the orchard here.
    [Exit Bigot.]
    Doth he still rage?
    He is more patient
    Than when you left him. Even now he sung.
    Prince Henry
    O vanity of sickness! Fierce extremes
    2620In their continuance will not feel themselves.
    Death, having preyed upon the outward parts,
    Leaves them invisible, and his siege is now
    Against the mind, the which he pricks and wounds
    With many legions of strange fantasies,
    2625Which in their throng and press to that last hold
    Confound themselves. 'Tis strange that death should sing.
    I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan,
    Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death,
    And from the organ-pipe of frailty sings
    2630His soul and body to their lasting rest.
    Be of good comfort, Prince, for you are born
    To set a form upon that indigest
    Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.
    [King] John brought in[, attended by Bigot].
    2635King John
    Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room;
    It would not out at windows, nor at doors.
    There is so hot a summer in my bosom
    That all my bowels crumble up to dust.
    I am a scribbled form drawn with a pen
    2640Upon a parchment, and against this fire
    Do I shrink up.
    Prince Henry
    How fares your majesty?
    King John
    Poisoned -- ill fare! Dead, forsook, cast off.
    And none of you will bid the winter come
    2645To thrust his icy fingers in my maw,
    Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course
    Through my burned bosom, nor entreat the North
    To make his bleak winds kiss my parchèd lips
    And comfort me with cold. I do not ask you much.
    2650I beg cold comfort: and you are so strait
    And so ingrateful, you deny me that.
    Prince Henry
    O, that there were some virtue in my tears
    That might relieve you.
    King John
    The salt in them is hot.
    2655Within me is a hell, and there the poison
    Is, as a fiend, confined to tyrannize
    On unreprievable condemnèd blood.
    Enter [the] Bastard.
    O, I am scalded with my violent motion
    2660And spleen of speed to see your majesty.
    King John
    O cousin, thou art come to set mine eye.
    The tackle of my heart is cracked and burnt,
    And all the shrouds wherewith my life should sail
    Are turned to one thread, one little hair.
    2665My heart hath one poor string to stay it by,
    Which holds but till thy news be utterèd,
    And then all this thou seest is but a clod
    And module of confounded royalty.
    The Dauphin is preparing hitherward,
    2670Where God he knows how we shall answer him.
    For in a night the best part of my power,
    As I upon advantage did remove,
    Were in the Washes all unwarily
    Devourèd by the unexpected flood.
    [King John dies.]
    You breathe these dead news in as dead an ear. --
    My liege! my lord! -- But now a king, now thus.
    Prince Henry
    Even so must I run on, and even so stop.
    What surety of the world, what hope, what stay,
    When this was now a king, and now is clay?
    Art thou gone so? I do but stay behind
    To do the office for thee of revenge,
    And then my soul shall wait on thee to heaven,
    As it on earth hath been thy servant still.
    Now, now you stars that move in your right spheres,
    2685Where be your powers? Show now your mended faiths
    And instantly return with me again
    To push destruction and perpetual shame
    Out of the weak door of our fainting land.
    Straight let us seek, or straight we shall be sought.
    2690The Dauphin rages at our very heels.
    It seems you know not then so much as we.
    The Cardinal Pandulph is within at rest,
    Who half an hour since came from the Dauphin,
    And brings from him such offers of our peace
    2695As we with honor and respect may take,
    With purpose presently to leave this war.
    He will the rather do it when he sees
    Our selves well sinewèd to our defense.
    Nay, 'tis in a manner done already,
    2700For many carriages he hath dispatched
    To the seaside, and put his cause and quarrel
    To the disposing of the Cardinal,
    With whom yourself, myself, and other lords,
    If you think meet, this afternoon will post
    2705To consummate this business happily.
    Let it be so. -- And you my noble Prince,
    With other princes that may best be spared,
    Shall wait upon your father's funeral.
    Prince Henry
    At Worcester must his body be interred,
    2710For so he willed it.
    Thither shall it then,
    And happily may your sweet self put on
    The lineal state and glory of the land, [He kneels.]
    To whom with all submission on my knee,
    2715I do bequeath my faithful services
    And true subjection everlastingly.
    [All kneel to Prince Henry.] And the like tender of our love we make
    To rest without a spot for evermore.
    Prince Henry
    I have a kind soul that would give thanks,
    2720And knows not how to do it but with tears.
    [They rise.] Oh let us pay the time but needful woe,
    Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs.
    This England never did, nor never shall
    Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
    2725But when it first did help to wound itself.
    Now these her princes are come home again,
    Come the three corners of the world in arms
    And we shall shock them: naught shall make us rue,
    If England to itself, do rest but true.