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History of Henry VIII

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Act III, Scene 1

London. QUEEN KATHARINE’s apartments.


[Enter QUEEN KATHARINE and her Women, as at work]

  • Queen Katharine. Take thy lute, wench: my soul grows sad with troubles; 1620
    Sing, and disperse 'em, if thou canst: leave working.
    Orpheus with his lute made trees,
    And the mountain tops that freeze,
    Bow themselves when he did sing: 1625
    To his music plants and flowers
    Ever sprung; as sun and showers
    There had made a lasting spring.
    Every thing that heard him play,
    Even the billows of the sea, 1630
    Hung their heads, and then lay by.
    In sweet music is such art,
    Killing care and grief of heart
    Fall asleep, or hearing, die.

[Enter a Gentleman]

  • Gentleman. An't please your grace, the two great cardinals
    Wait in the presence.
  • Gentleman. They will'd me say so, madam. 1640
  • Queen Katharine. Pray their graces
    To come near.
    [Exit Gentleman]
    What can be their business
    With me, a poor weak woman, fall'n from favour? 1645
    I do not like their coming. Now I think on't,
    They should be good men; their affairs as righteous:
    But all hoods make not monks.


  • Queen Katharine. Your graces find me here part of a housewife,
    I would be all, against the worst may happen.
    What are your pleasures with me, reverend lords?
  • Cardinal Wolsey. May it please you noble madam, to withdraw
    Into your private chamber, we shall give you 1655
    The full cause of our coming.
  • Queen Katharine. Speak it here:
    There's nothing I have done yet, o' my conscience,
    Deserves a corner: would all other women
    Could speak this with as free a soul as I do! 1660
    My lords, I care not, so much I am happy
    Above a number, if my actions
    Were tried by every tongue, every eye saw 'em,
    Envy and base opinion set against 'em,
    I know my life so even. If your business 1665
    Seek me out, and that way I am wife in,
    Out with it boldly: truth loves open dealing.
  • Cardinal Wolsey. Tanta est erga te mentis integritas, regina
  • Queen Katharine. O, good my lord, no Latin; 1670
    I am not such a truant since my coming,
    As not to know the language I have lived in:
    A strange tongue makes my cause more strange,
    Pray, speak in English: here are some will thank you, 1675
    If you speak truth, for their poor mistress' sake;
    Believe me, she has had much wrong: lord cardinal,
    The willing'st sin I ever yet committed
    May be absolved in English.
  • Cardinal Wolsey. Noble lady, 1680
    I am sorry my integrity should breed,
    And service to his majesty and you,
    So deep suspicion, where all faith was meant.
    We come not by the way of accusation,
    To taint that honour every good tongue blesses, 1685
    Nor to betray you any way to sorrow,
    You have too much, good lady; but to know
    How you stand minded in the weighty difference
    Between the king and you; and to deliver,
    Like free and honest men, our just opinions 1690
    And comforts to your cause.
  • Cardinal Campeius. Most honour'd madam,
    My Lord of York, out of his noble nature,
    Zeal and obedience he still bore your grace,
    Forgetting, like a good man your late censure 1695
    Both of his truth and him, which was too far,
    Offers, as I do, in a sign of peace,
    His service and his counsel.
  • Queen Katharine. [Aside]. To betray me.—
    My lords, I thank you both for your good wills; 1700
    Ye speak like honest men; pray God, ye prove so!
    But how to make ye suddenly an answer,
    In such a point of weight, so near mine honour,—
    More near my life, I fear,—with my weak wit,
    And to such men of gravity and learning, 1705
    In truth, I know not. I was set at work
    Among my maids: full little, God knows, looking
    Either for such men or such business.
    For her sake that I have been,—for I feel
    The last fit of my greatness,—good your graces, 1710
    Let me have time and counsel for my cause:
    Alas, I am a woman, friendless, hopeless!
  • Cardinal Wolsey. Madam, you wrong the king's love with these fears:
    Your hopes and friends are infinite.
  • Queen Katharine. In England 1715
    But little for my profit: can you think, lords,
    That any Englishman dare give me counsel?
    Or be a known friend, 'gainst his highness' pleasure,
    Though he be grown so desperate to be honest,
    And live a subject? Nay, forsooth, my friends, 1720
    They that must weigh out my afflictions,
    They that my trust must grow to, live not here:
    They are, as all my other comforts, far hence
    In mine own country, lords.
  • Cardinal Campeius. I would your grace 1725
    Would leave your griefs, and take my counsel.
  • Cardinal Campeius. Put your main cause into the king's protection;
    He's loving and most gracious: 'twill be much
    Both for your honour better and your cause; 1730
    For if the trial of the law o'ertake ye,
    You'll part away disgraced.
  • Queen Katharine. Ye tell me what ye wish for both,—my ruin:
    Is this your Christian counsel? out upon ye! 1735
    Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge
    That no king can corrupt.
  • Queen Katharine. The more shame for ye: holy men I thought ye,
    Upon my soul, two reverend cardinal virtues; 1740
    But cardinal sins and hollow hearts I fear ye:
    Mend 'em, for shame, my lords. Is this your comfort?
    The cordial that ye bring a wretched lady,
    A woman lost among ye, laugh'd at, scorn'd?
    I will not wish ye half my miseries; 1745
    I have more charity: but say, I warn'd ye;
    Take heed, for heaven's sake, take heed, lest at once
    The burthen of my sorrows fall upon ye.
  • Cardinal Wolsey. Madam, this is a mere distraction;
    You turn the good we offer into envy. 1750
  • Queen Katharine. Ye turn me into nothing: woe upon ye
    And all such false professors! would you have me—
    If you have any justice, any pity;
    If ye be any thing but churchmen's habits—
    Put my sick cause into his hands that hates me? 1755
    Alas, has banish'd me his bed already,
    His love, too long ago! I am old, my lords,
    And all the fellowship I hold now with him
    Is only my obedience. What can happen
    To me above this wretchedness? all your studies 1760
    Make me a curse like this.
  • Queen Katharine. Have I lived thus long—let me speak myself,
    Since virtue finds no friends—a wife, a true one?
    A woman, I dare say without vain-glory, 1765
    Never yet branded with suspicion?
    Have I with all my full affections
    Still met the king? loved him next heaven?
    obey'd him?
    Been, out of fondness, superstitious to him? 1770
    Almost forgot my prayers to content him?
    And am I thus rewarded? 'tis not well, lords.
    Bring me a constant woman to her husband,
    One that ne'er dream'd a joy beyond his pleasure;
    And to that woman, when she has done most, 1775
    Yet will I add an honour, a great patience.
  • Queen Katharine. My lord, I dare not make myself so guilty,
    To give up willingly that noble title
    Your master wed me to: nothing but death 1780
    Shall e'er divorce my dignities.
  • Queen Katharine. Would I had never trod this English earth,
    Or felt the flatteries that grow upon it!
    Ye have angels' faces, but heaven knows your hearts. 1785
    What will become of me now, wretched lady!
    I am the most unhappy woman living.
    Alas, poor wenches, where are now your fortunes!
    Shipwreck'd upon a kingdom, where no pity,
    No friend, no hope; no kindred weep for me; 1790
    Almost no grave allow'd me: like the lily,
    That once was mistress of the field and flourish'd,
    I'll hang my head and perish.
  • Cardinal Wolsey. If your grace
    Could but be brought to know our ends are honest, 1795
    You'ld feel more comfort: why should we, good lady,
    Upon what cause, wrong you? alas, our places,
    The way of our profession is against it:
    We are to cure such sorrows, not to sow 'em.
    For goodness' sake, consider what you do; 1800
    How you may hurt yourself, ay, utterly
    Grow from the king's acquaintance, by this carriage.
    The hearts of princes kiss obedience,
    So much they love it; but to stubborn spirits
    They swell, and grow as terrible as storms. 1805
    I know you have a gentle, noble temper,
    A soul as even as a calm: pray, think us
    Those we profess, peace-makers, friends, and servants.
  • Cardinal Campeius. Madam, you'll find it so. You wrong your virtues
    With these weak women's fears: a noble spirit, 1810
    As yours was put into you, ever casts
    Such doubts, as false coin, from it. The king loves you;
    Beware you lose it not: for us, if you please
    To trust us in your business, we are ready
    To use our utmost studies in your service. 1815
  • Queen Katharine. Do what ye will, my lords: and, pray, forgive me,
    If I have used myself unmannerly;
    You know I am a woman, lacking wit
    To make a seemly answer to such persons.
    Pray, do my service to his majesty: 1820
    He has my heart yet; and shall have my prayers
    While I shall have my life. Come, reverend fathers,
    Bestow your counsels on me: she now begs,
    That little thought, when she set footing here,
    She should have bought her dignities so dear. 1825