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History of Henry VI, Part III

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Act II, Scene 2

Before York.


[Flourish. Enter KING HENRY VI, QUEEN MARGARET,] [p]PRINCE EDWARD, CLIFFORD, and NORTHUMBERLAND, with [p]drum and trumpets]

  • Queen Margaret. Welcome, my lord, to this brave town of York.
    Yonder's the head of that arch-enemy
    That sought to be encompass'd with your crown: 845
    Doth not the object cheer your heart, my lord?
  • Henry VI. Ay, as the rocks cheer them that fear their wreck:
    To see this sight, it irks my very soul.
    Withhold revenge, dear God! 'tis not my fault,
    Nor wittingly have I infringed my vow. 850
  • Lord Clifford. My gracious liege, this too much lenity
    And harmful pity must be laid aside.
    To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
    Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
    Whose hand is that the forest bear doth lick? 855
    Not his that spoils her young before her face.
    Who 'scapes the lurking serpent's mortal sting?
    Not he that sets his foot upon her back.
    The smallest worm will turn being trodden on,
    And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood. 860
    Ambitious York doth level at thy crown,
    Thou smiling while he knit his angry brows:
    He, but a duke, would have his son a king,
    And raise his issue, like a loving sire;
    Thou, being a king, blest with a goodly son, 865
    Didst yield consent to disinherit him,
    Which argued thee a most unloving father.
    Unreasonable creatures feed their young;
    And though man's face be fearful to their eyes,
    Yet, in protection of their tender ones, 870
    Who hath not seen them, even with those wings
    Which sometime they have used with fearful flight,
    Make war with him that climb'd unto their nest,
    Offer their own lives in their young's defence?
    For shame, my liege, make them your precedent! 875
    Were it not pity that this goodly boy
    Should lose his birthright by his father's fault,
    And long hereafter say unto his child,
    'What my great-grandfather and his grandsire got
    My careless father fondly gave away'? 880
    Ah, what a shame were this! Look on the boy;
    And let his manly face, which promiseth
    Successful fortune, steel thy melting heart
    To hold thine own and leave thine own with him.
  • Henry VI. Full well hath Clifford play'd the orator, 885
    Inferring arguments of mighty force.
    But, Clifford, tell me, didst thou never hear
    That things ill-got had ever bad success?
    And happy always was it for that son
    Whose father for his hoarding went to hell? 890
    I'll leave my son my virtuous deeds behind;
    And would my father had left me no more!
    For all the rest is held at such a rate
    As brings a thousand-fold more care to keep
    Than in possession and jot of pleasure. 895
    Ah, cousin York! would thy best friends did know
    How it doth grieve me that thy head is here!
  • Queen Margaret. My lord, cheer up your spirits: our foes are nigh,
    And this soft courage makes your followers faint.
    You promised knighthood to our forward son: 900
    Unsheathe your sword, and dub him presently.
    Edward, kneel down.
  • Henry VI. Edward Plantagenet, arise a knight;
    And learn this lesson, draw thy sword in right.
  • Prince Edward. My gracious father, by your kingly leave, 905
    I'll draw it as apparent to the crown,
    And in that quarrel use it to the death.

[Enter a Messenger]

  • Messenger. Royal commanders, be in readiness: 910
    For with a band of thirty thousand men
    Comes Warwick, backing of the Duke of York;
    And in the towns, as they do march along,
    Proclaims him king, and many fly to him:
    Darraign your battle, for they are at hand. 915
  • Lord Clifford. I would your highness would depart the field:
    The queen hath best success when you are absent.
  • Henry VI. Why, that's my fortune too; therefore I'll stay.
  • Prince Edward. My royal father, cheer these noble lords
    And hearten those that fight in your defence:
    Unsheathe your sword, good father; cry 'Saint George!'
    NORFOLK, MONTAGUE, and Soldiers] 925
  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). Now, perjured Henry! wilt thou kneel for grace,
    And set thy diadem upon my head;
    Or bide the mortal fortune of the field?
  • Queen Margaret. Go, rate thy minions, proud insulting boy!
    Becomes it thee to be thus bold in terms 930
    Before thy sovereign and thy lawful king?
  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). I am his king, and he should bow his knee;
    I was adopted heir by his consent:
    Since when, his oath is broke; for, as I hear,
    You, that are king, though he do wear the crown, 935
    Have caused him, by new act of parliament,
    To blot out me, and put his own son in.
  • Lord Clifford. And reason too:
    Who should succeed the father but the son?
  • Lord Clifford. Ay, crook-back, here I stand to answer thee,
    Or any he the proudest of thy sort.
  • Queen Margaret. Why, how now, long-tongued Warwick! dare you speak?
    When you and I met at Saint Alban's last,
    Your legs did better service than your hands.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Northumberland, I hold thee reverently.
    Break off the parley; for scarce I can refrain 955
    The execution of my big-swoln heart
    Upon that Clifford, that cruel child-killer.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Ay, like a dastard and a treacherous coward,
    As thou didst kill our tender brother Rutland; 960
    But ere sunset I'll make thee curse the deed.
  • Henry VI. Have done with words, my lords, and hear me speak.
  • Henry VI. I prithee, give no limits to my tongue:
    I am a king, and privileged to speak. 965
  • Lord Clifford. My liege, the wound that bred this meeting here
    Cannot be cured by words; therefore be still.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Then, executioner, unsheathe thy sword:
    By him that made us all, I am resolved
    that Clifford's manhood lies upon his tongue. 970
  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). Say, Henry, shall I have my right, or no?
    A thousand men have broke their fasts to-day,
    That ne'er shall dine unless thou yield the crown.
  • Earl of Warwick. If thou deny, their blood upon thy head;
    For York in justice puts his armour on. 975
  • Prince Edward. If that be right which Warwick says is right,
    There is no wrong, but every thing is right.
  • Queen Margaret. But thou art neither like thy sire nor dam; 980
    But like a foul mis-shapen stigmatic,
    Mark'd by the destinies to be avoided,
    As venom toads, or lizards' dreadful stings.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Iron of Naples hid with English gilt,
    Whose father bears the title of a king,— 985
    As if a channel should be call'd the sea,—
    Shamest thou not, knowing whence thou art extraught,
    To let thy tongue detect thy base-born heart?
  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). A wisp of straw were worth a thousand crowns,
    To make this shameless callet know herself. 990
    Helen of Greece was fairer far than thou,
    Although thy husband may be Menelaus;
    And ne'er was Agamemnon's brother wrong'd
    By that false woman, as this king by thee.
    His father revell'd in the heart of France, 995
    And tamed the king, and made the dauphin stoop;
    And had he match'd according to his state,
    He might have kept that glory to this day;
    But when he took a beggar to his bed,
    And graced thy poor sire with his bridal-day, 1000
    Even then that sunshine brew'd a shower for him,
    That wash'd his father's fortunes forth of France,
    And heap'd sedition on his crown at home.
    For what hath broach'd this tumult but thy pride?
    Hadst thou been meek, our title still had slept; 1005
    And we, in pity of the gentle king,
    Had slipp'd our claim until another age.
  • George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence). But when we saw our sunshine made thy spring,
    And that thy summer bred us no increase,
    We set the axe to thy usurping root; 1010
    And though the edge hath something hit ourselves,
    Yet, know thou, since we have begun to strike,
    We'll never leave till we have hewn thee down,
    Or bathed thy growing with our heated bloods.
  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). And, in this resolution, I defy thee; 1015
    Not willing any longer conference,
    Since thou deniest the gentle king to speak.
    Sound trumpets! let our bloody colours wave!
    And either victory, or else a grave.