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History of Henry VI, Part II

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Act II, Scene 4

A street.


[Enter GLOUCESTER and his Servingmen, in] [p]mourning cloaks]

  • Duke of Gloucester. Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
    And after summer evermore succeeds
    Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:
    So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet. 1160
    Sirs, what's o'clock?
  • Duke of Gloucester. Ten is the hour that was appointed me
    To watch the coming of my punish'd duchess:
    Uneath may she endure the flinty streets, 1165
    To tread them with her tender-feeling feet.
    Sweet Nell, ill can thy noble mind abrook
    The abject people gazing on thy face,
    With envious looks, laughing at thy shame,
    That erst did follow thy proud chariot-wheels 1170
    When thou didst ride in triumph through the streets.
    But, soft! I think she comes; and I'll prepare
    My tear-stain'd eyes to see her miseries.
    [Enter the DUCHESS in a white sheet, and a taper]
    burning in her hand; with STANLEY, the Sheriff, 1175
    and Officers]
  • Servant. So please your grace, we'll take her from the sheriff.
  • Eleanor. Come you, my lord, to see my open shame?
    Now thou dost penance too. Look how they gaze! 1180
    See how the giddy multitude do point,
    And nod their heads, and throw their eyes on thee!
    Ah, Gloucester, hide thee from their hateful looks,
    And, in thy closet pent up, rue my shame,
    And ban thine enemies, both mine and thine! 1185
  • Eleanor. Ah, Gloucester, teach me to forget myself!
    For whilst I think I am thy married wife
    And thou a prince, protector of this land,
    Methinks I should not thus be led along, 1190
    Mail'd up in shame, with papers on my back,
    And followed with a rabble that rejoice
    To see my tears and hear my deep-fet groans.
    The ruthless flint doth cut my tender feet,
    And when I start, the envious people laugh 1195
    And bid me be advised how I tread.
    Ah, Humphrey, can I bear this shameful yoke?
    Trow'st thou that e'er I'll look upon the world,
    Or count them happy that enjoy the sun?
    No; dark shall be my light and night my day; 1200
    To think upon my pomp shall be my hell.
    Sometime I'll say, I am Duke Humphrey's wife,
    And he a prince and ruler of the land:
    Yet so he ruled and such a prince he was
    As he stood by whilst I, his forlorn duchess, 1205
    Was made a wonder and a pointing-stock
    To every idle rascal follower.
    But be thou mild and blush not at my shame,
    Nor stir at nothing till the axe of death
    Hang over thee, as, sure, it shortly will; 1210
    For Suffolk, he that can do all in all
    With her that hateth thee and hates us all,
    And York and impious Beaufort, that false priest,
    Have all limed bushes to betray thy wings,
    And, fly thou how thou canst, they'll tangle thee: 1215
    But fear not thou, until thy foot be snared,
    Nor never seek prevention of thy foes.
  • Duke of Gloucester. Ah, Nell, forbear! thou aimest all awry;
    I must offend before I be attainted;
    And had I twenty times so many foes, 1220
    And each of them had twenty times their power,
    All these could not procure me any scathe,
    So long as I am loyal, true and crimeless.
    Wouldst have me rescue thee from this reproach?
    Why, yet thy scandal were not wiped away 1225
    But I in danger for the breach of law.
    Thy greatest help is quiet, gentle Nell:
    I pray thee, sort thy heart to patience;
    These few days' wonder will be quickly worn.

[Enter a Herald]

  • Herald. I summon your grace to his majesty's parliament,
    Holden at Bury the first of this next month.
  • Duke of Gloucester. And my consent ne'er ask'd herein before!
    This is close dealing. Well, I will be there.
    [Exit Herald] 1235
    My Nell, I take my leave: and, master sheriff,
    Let not her penance exceed the king's commission.
  • Sheriff. An't please your grace, here my commission stays,
    And Sir John Stanley is appointed now
    To take her with him to the Isle of Man. 1240
  • Duke of Gloucester. Entreat her not the worse in that I pray
    You use her well: the world may laugh again;
    And I may live to do you kindness if 1245
    You do it her: and so, Sir John, farewell!
  • Eleanor. What, gone, my lord, and bid me not farewell!

[Exeunt GLOUCESTER and Servingmen]

  • Eleanor. Art thou gone too? all comfort go with thee! 1250
    For none abides with me: my joy is death;
    Death, at whose name I oft have been afear'd,
    Because I wish'd this world's eternity.
    Stanley, I prithee, go, and take me hence;
    I care not whither, for I beg no favour, 1255
    Only convey me where thou art commanded.
  • Sir John Stanley. Why, madam, that is to the Isle of Man;
    There to be used according to your state.
  • Eleanor. That's bad enough, for I am but reproach:
    And shall I then be used reproachfully? 1260
  • Sir John Stanley. Like to a duchess, and Duke Humphrey's lady;
    According to that state you shall be used.
  • Eleanor. Sheriff, farewell, and better than I fare,
    Although thou hast been conduct of my shame.
  • Sheriff. It is my office; and, madam, pardon me. 1265
  • Eleanor. Ay, ay, farewell; thy office is discharged.
    Come, Stanley, shall we go?
  • Sir John Stanley. Madam, your penance done, throw off this sheet,
    And go we to attire you for our journey.
  • Eleanor. My shame will not be shifted with my sheet: 1270
    No, it will hang upon my richest robes
    And show itself, attire me how I can.
    Go, lead the way; I long to see my prison.