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History of Henry VIII

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Act II, Scene 3

An ante-chamber of the QUEEN’S apartments.


[Enter ANNE and an Old Lady]

  • Anne Bullen. Not for that neither: here's the pang that pinches:
    His highness having lived so long with her, and she
    So good a lady that no tongue could ever
    Pronounce dishonour of her; by my life,
    She never knew harm-doing: O, now, after 1205
    So many courses of the sun enthroned,
    Still growing in a majesty and pomp, the which
    To leave a thousand-fold more bitter than
    'Tis sweet at first to acquire,—after this process,
    To give her the avaunt! it is a pity 1210
    Would move a monster.
  • Old Lady. Hearts of most hard temper
    Melt and lament for her.
  • Anne Bullen. O, God's will! much better
    She ne'er had known pomp: though't be temporal, 1215
    Yet, if that quarrel, fortune, do divorce
    It from the bearer, 'tis a sufferance panging
    As soul and body's severing.
  • Old Lady. Alas, poor lady!
    She's a stranger now again. 1220
  • Anne Bullen. So much the more
    Must pity drop upon her. Verily,
    I swear, 'tis better to be lowly born,
    And range with humble livers in content,
    Than to be perk'd up in a glistering grief, 1225
    And wear a golden sorrow.
  • Old Lady. Our content
    Is our best having.
  • Anne Bullen. By my troth and maidenhead,
    I would not be a queen. 1230
  • Old Lady. Beshrew me, I would,
    And venture maidenhead for't; and so would you,
    For all this spice of your hypocrisy:
    You, that have so fair parts of woman on you,
    Have too a woman's heart; which ever yet 1235
    Affected eminence, wealth, sovereignty;
    Which, to say sooth, are blessings; and which gifts,
    Saving your mincing, the capacity
    Of your soft cheveril conscience would receive,
    If you might please to stretch it. 1240
  • Old Lady. Yes, troth, and troth; you would not be a queen?
  • Anne Bullen. No, not for all the riches under heaven.
    Old as I am, to queen it: but, I pray you,
    What think you of a duchess? have you limbs 1245
    To bear that load of title?
  • Old Lady. Then you are weakly made: pluck off a little;
    I would not be a young count in your way, 1250
    For more than blushing comes to: if your back
    Cannot vouchsafe this burthen,'tis too weak
    Ever to get a boy.
  • Anne Bullen. How you do talk!
    I swear again, I would not be a queen 1255
    For all the world.
  • Old Lady. In faith, for little England
    You'ld venture an emballing: I myself
    Would for Carnarvonshire, although there long'd
    No more to the crown but that. Lo, who comes here? 1260

[Enter Chamberlain]

  • Lord Chamberlain. Good morrow, ladies. What were't worth to know
    The secret of your conference?
  • Anne Bullen. My good lord,
    Not your demand; it values not your asking: 1265
    Our mistress' sorrows we were pitying.
  • Lord Chamberlain. It was a gentle business, and becoming
    The action of good women: there is hope
    All will be well.
  • Lord Chamberlain. You bear a gentle mind, and heavenly blessings
    Follow such creatures. That you may, fair lady,
    Perceive I speak sincerely, and high note's
    Ta'en of your many virtues, the king's majesty
    Commends his good opinion of you, and 1275
    Does purpose honour to you no less flowing
    Than Marchioness of Pembroke: to which title
    A thousand pound a year, annual support,
    Out of his grace he adds.
  • Anne Bullen. I do not know 1280
    What kind of my obedience I should tender;
    More than my all is nothing: nor my prayers
    Are not words duly hallow'd, nor my wishes
    More worth than empty vanities; yet prayers and wishes
    Are all I can return. Beseech your lordship, 1285
    Vouchsafe to speak my thanks and my obedience,
    As from a blushing handmaid, to his highness;
    Whose health and royalty I pray for.
  • Lord Chamberlain. Lady,
    I shall not fail to approve the fair conceit 1290
    The king hath of you.
    I have perused her well;
    Beauty and honour in her are so mingled
    That they have caught the king: and who knows yet 1295
    But from this lady may proceed a gem
    To lighten all this isle? I'll to the king,
    And say I spoke with you.

[Exit Chamberlain]

  • Old Lady. Why, this it is; see, see!
    I have been begging sixteen years in court,
    Am yet a courtier beggarly, nor could
    Come pat betwixt too early and too late
    For any suit of pounds; and you, O fate! 1305
    A very fresh-fish here—fie, fie, fie upon
    This compell'd fortune!—have your mouth fill'd up
    Before you open it.
  • Old Lady. How tastes it? is it bitter? forty pence, no. 1310
    There was a lady once, 'tis an old story,
    That would not be a queen, that would she not,
    For all the mud in Egypt: have you heard it?
  • Old Lady. With your theme, I could 1315
    O'ermount the lark. The Marchioness of Pembroke!
    A thousand pounds a year for pure respect!
    No other obligation! By my life,
    That promises moe thousands: honour's train
    Is longer than his foreskirt. By this time 1320
    I know your back will bear a duchess: say,
    Are you not stronger than you were?
  • Anne Bullen. Good lady,
    Make yourself mirth with your particular fancy,
    And leave me out on't. Would I had no being, 1325
    If this salute my blood a jot: it faints me,
    To think what follows.
    The queen is comfortless, and we forgetful
    In our long absence: pray, do not deliver
    What here you've heard to her. 1330