Open Source Shakespeare

History of Henry VIII

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Act V, Scene 3

The Council-Chamber.


[Enter Chancellor; places himself at the upper end] [p]of the table on the left hand; a seat being left [p]void above him, as for CRANMER's seat. SUFFOLK, [p]NORFOLK, SURREY, Chamberlain, GARDINER, seat [p]themselves in order on each side. CROMWELL at [p]lower end, as secretary. Keeper at the door]

  • Lord Chancellor. Speak to the business, master-secretary:
    Why are we met in council?
  • Cromwell. Please your honours,
    The chief cause concerns his grace of Canterbury. 3055
  • Gardiner. Has he had knowledge of it?
  • Cromwell. Yes.
  • Duke of Norfolk. Who waits there?
  • Keeper. Without, my noble lords?
  • Gardiner. Yes. 3060
  • Keeper. My lord archbishop;
    And has done half an hour, to know your pleasures.
  • Lord Chancellor. Let him come in.
  • Keeper. Your grace may enter now.

[CRANMER enters and approaches the council-table]

  • Lord Chancellor. My good lord archbishop, I'm very sorry
    To sit here at this present, and behold
    That chair stand empty: but we all are men,
    In our own natures frail, and capable
    Of our flesh; few are angels: out of which frailty 3070
    And want of wisdom, you, that best should teach us,
    Have misdemean'd yourself, and not a little,
    Toward the king first, then his laws, in filling
    The whole realm, by your teaching and your chaplains,
    For so we are inform'd, with new opinions, 3075
    Divers and dangerous; which are heresies,
    And, not reform'd, may prove pernicious.
  • Gardiner. Which reformation must be sudden too,
    My noble lords; for those that tame wild horses
    Pace 'em not in their hands to make 'em gentle, 3080
    But stop their mouths with stubborn bits, and spur 'em,
    Till they obey the manage. If we suffer,
    Out of our easiness and childish pity
    To one man's honour, this contagious sickness,
    Farewell all physic: and what follows then? 3085
    Commotions, uproars, with a general taint
    Of the whole state: as, of late days, our neighbours,
    The upper Germany, can dearly witness,
    Yet freshly pitied in our memories.
  • Archbishop Cranmer. My good lords, hitherto, in all the progress 3090
    Both of my life and office, I have labour'd,
    And with no little study, that my teaching
    And the strong course of my authority
    Might go one way, and safely; and the end
    Was ever, to do well: nor is there living, 3095
    I speak it with a single heart, my lords,
    A man that more detests, more stirs against,
    Both in his private conscience and his place,
    Defacers of a public peace, than I do.
    Pray heaven, the king may never find a heart 3100
    With less allegiance in it! Men that make
    Envy and crooked malice nourishment
    Dare bite the best. I do beseech your lordships,
    That, in this case of justice, my accusers,
    Be what they will, may stand forth face to face, 3105
    And freely urge against me.
  • Duke of Suffolk. Nay, my lord,
    That cannot be: you are a counsellor,
    And, by that virtue, no man dare accuse you.
  • Gardiner. My lord, because we have business of more moment, 3110
    We will be short with you. 'Tis his highness' pleasure,
    And our consent, for better trial of you,
    From hence you be committed to the Tower;
    Where, being but a private man again,
    You shall know many dare accuse you boldly, 3115
    More than, I fear, you are provided for.
  • Archbishop Cranmer. Ah, my good Lord of Winchester, I thank you;
    You are always my good friend; if your will pass,
    I shall both find your lordship judge and juror,
    You are so merciful: I see your end; 3120
    'Tis my undoing: love and meekness, lord,
    Become a churchman better than ambition:
    Win straying souls with modesty again,
    Cast none away. That I shall clear myself,
    Lay all the weight ye can upon my patience, 3125
    I make as little doubt, as you do conscience
    In doing daily wrongs. I could say more,
    But reverence to your calling makes me modest.
  • Gardiner. My lord, my lord, you are a sectary,
    That's the plain truth: your painted gloss discovers, 3130
    To men that understand you, words and weakness.
  • Cromwell. My Lord of Winchester, you are a little,
    By your good favour, too sharp; men so noble,
    However faulty, yet should find respect
    For what they have been: 'tis a cruelty 3135
    To load a falling man.
  • Gardiner. Good master secretary,
    I cry your honour mercy; you may, worst
    Of all this table, say so.
  • Cromwell. Why, my lord? 3140
  • Gardiner. Do not I know you for a favourer
    Of this new sect? ye are not sound.
  • Cromwell. Not sound?
  • Gardiner. Not sound, I say.
  • Cromwell. Would you were half so honest! 3145
    Men's prayers then would seek you, not their fears.
  • Gardiner. I shall remember this bold language.
  • Cromwell. Do.
    Remember your bold life too.
  • Lord Chancellor. This is too much; 3150
    Forbear, for shame, my lords.
  • Gardiner. I have done.
  • Cromwell. And I.
  • Lord Chancellor. Then thus for you, my lord: it stands agreed,
    I take it, by all voices, that forthwith 3155
    You be convey'd to the Tower a prisoner;
    There to remain till the king's further pleasure
    Be known unto us: are you all agreed, lords?
  • All. We are.
  • Archbishop Cranmer. Is there no other way of mercy, 3160
    But I must needs to the Tower, my lords?
  • Gardiner. What other
    Would you expect? you are strangely troublesome.
    Let some o' the guard be ready there.

[Enter Guard]

  • Archbishop Cranmer. For me?
    Must I go like a traitor thither?
  • Gardiner. Receive him,
    And see him safe i' the Tower.
  • Archbishop Cranmer. Stay, good my lords, 3170
    I have a little yet to say. Look there, my lords;
    By virtue of that ring, I take my cause
    Out of the gripes of cruel men, and give it
    To a most noble judge, the king my master.
  • Lord Chamberlain. This is the king's ring. 3175
  • Earl of Surrey. 'Tis no counterfeit.
  • Duke of Suffolk. 'Tis the right ring, by heaven: I told ye all,
    When ye first put this dangerous stone a-rolling,
    'Twould fall upon ourselves.
  • Duke of Norfolk. Do you think, my lords, 3180
    The king will suffer but the little finger
    Of this man to be vex'd?
  • Lord Chancellor. 'Tis now too certain:
    How much more is his life in value with him?
    Would I were fairly out on't! 3185
  • Cromwell. My mind gave me,
    In seeking tales and informations
    Against this man, whose honesty the devil
    And his disciples only envy at,
    Ye blew the fire that burns ye: now have at ye! 3190

[Enter KING, frowning on them; takes his seat]

  • Gardiner. Dread sovereign, how much are we bound to heaven
    In daily thanks, that gave us such a prince;
    Not only good and wise, but most religious:
    One that, in all obedience, makes the church 3195
    The chief aim of his honour; and, to strengthen
    That holy duty, out of dear respect,
    His royal self in judgment comes to hear
    The cause betwixt her and this great offender.
  • Henry VIII. You were ever good at sudden commendations, 3200
    Bishop of Winchester. But know, I come not
    To hear such flattery now, and in my presence;
    They are too thin and bare to hide offences.
    To me you cannot reach, you play the spaniel,
    And think with wagging of your tongue to win me; 3205
    But, whatsoe'er thou takest me for, I'm sure
    Thou hast a cruel nature and a bloody.
    [To CRANMER]
    Good man, sit down. Now let me see the proudest
    He, that dares most, but wag his finger at thee: 3210
    By all that's holy, he had better starve
    Than but once think this place becomes thee not.
  • Earl of Surrey. May it please your grace,—
  • Henry VIII. No, sir, it does not please me.
    I had thought I had had men of some understanding 3215
    And wisdom of my council; but I find none.
    Was it discretion, lords, to let this man,
    This good man,—few of you deserve that title,—
    This honest man, wait like a lousy footboy
    At chamber—door? and one as great as you are? 3220
    Why, what a shame was this! Did my commission
    Bid ye so far forget yourselves? I gave ye
    Power as he was a counsellor to try him,
    Not as a groom: there's some of ye, I see,
    More out of malice than integrity, 3225
    Would try him to the utmost, had ye mean;
    Which ye shall never have while I live.
  • Lord Chancellor. Thus far,
    My most dread sovereign, may it like your grace
    To let my tongue excuse all. What was purposed 3230
    Concerning his imprisonment, was rather,
    If there be faith in men, meant for his trial,
    And fair purgation to the world, than malice,
    I'm sure, in me.
  • Henry VIII. Well, well, my lords, respect him; 3235
    Take him, and use him well, he's worthy of it.
    I will say thus much for him, if a prince
    May be beholding to a subject, I
    Am, for his love and service, so to him.
    Make me no more ado, but all embrace him: 3240
    Be friends, for shame, my lords! My Lord of
    I have a suit which you must not deny me;
    That is, a fair young maid that yet wants baptism,
    You must be godfather, and answer for her. 3245
  • Archbishop Cranmer. The greatest monarch now alive may glory
    In such an honour: how may I deserve it
    That am a poor and humble subject to you?
  • Henry VIII. Come, come, my lord, you'ld spare your spoons: you
    shall have two noble partners with you; the old 3250
    Duchess of Norfolk, and Lady Marquess Dorset: will
    these please you?
    Once more, my Lord of Winchester, I charge you,
    Embrace and love this man.
  • Gardiner. With a true heart 3255
    And brother-love I do it.
  • Archbishop Cranmer. And let heaven
    Witness, how dear I hold this confirmation.
  • Henry VIII. Good man, those joyful tears show thy true heart:
    The common voice, I see, is verified 3260
    Of thee, which says thus, 'Do my Lord of Canterbury
    A shrewd turn, and he is your friend for ever.'
    Come, lords, we trifle time away; I long
    To have this young one made a Christian.
    As I have made ye one, lords, one remain; 3265
    So I grow stronger, you more honour gain.