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History of King John

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Act III, Scene 1

The French King’s pavilion.



  • Constance. Gone to be married! gone to swear a peace!
    False blood to false blood join'd! gone to be friends!
    Shall Lewis have Blanch, and Blanch those provinces?
    It is not so; thou hast misspoke, misheard:
    Be well advised, tell o'er thy tale again: 920
    It cannot be; thou dost but say 'tis so:
    I trust I may not trust thee; for thy word
    Is but the vain breath of a common man:
    Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;
    I have a king's oath to the contrary. 925
    Thou shalt be punish'd for thus frighting me,
    For I am sick and capable of fears,
    Oppress'd with wrongs and therefore full of fears,
    A widow, husbandless, subject to fears,
    A woman, naturally born to fears; 930
    And though thou now confess thou didst but jest,
    With my vex'd spirits I cannot take a truce,
    But they will quake and tremble all this day.
    What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
    Why dost thou look so sadly on my son? 935
    What means that hand upon that breast of thine?
    Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,
    Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds?
    Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
    Then speak again; not all thy former tale, 940
    But this one word, whether thy tale be true.
  • Salisbury. As true as I believe you think them false
    That give you cause to prove my saying true.
  • Constance. O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow,
    Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die, 945
    And let belief and life encounter so
    As doth the fury of two desperate men
    Which in the very meeting fall and die.
    Lewis marry Blanch! O boy, then where art thou?
    France friend with England, what becomes of me? 950
    Fellow, be gone: I cannot brook thy sight:
    This news hath made thee a most ugly man.
  • Salisbury. What other harm have I, good lady, done,
    But spoke the harm that is by others done?
  • Constance. Which harm within itself so heinous is 955
    As it makes harmful all that speak of it.
  • Arthur. I do beseech you, madam, be content.
  • Constance. If thou, that bid'st me be content, wert grim,
    Ugly and slanderous to thy mother's womb,
    Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains, 960
    Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
    Patch'd with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
    I would not care, I then would be content,
    For then I should not love thee, no, nor thou
    Become thy great birth nor deserve a crown. 965
    But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy,
    Nature and Fortune join'd to make thee great:
    Of Nature's gifts thou mayst with lilies boast,
    And with the half-blown rose. But Fortune, O,
    She is corrupted, changed and won from thee; 970
    She adulterates hourly with thine uncle John,
    And with her golden hand hath pluck'd on France
    To tread down fair respect of sovereignty,
    And made his majesty the bawd to theirs.
    France is a bawd to Fortune and King John, 975
    That strumpet Fortune, that usurping John!
    Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn?
    Envenom him with words, or get thee gone
    And leave those woes alone which I alone
    Am bound to under-bear. 980
  • Salisbury. Pardon me, madam,
    I may not go without you to the kings.
  • Constance. Thou mayst, thou shalt; I will not go with thee:
    I will instruct my sorrows to be proud;
    For grief is proud and makes his owner stoop. 985
    To me and to the state of my great grief
    Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great
    That no supporter but the huge firm earth
    Can hold it up: here I and sorrows sit;
    Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it. 990
    [Seats herself on the ground]
    QUEEN ELINOR, the BASTARD, AUSTRIA, and Attendants]
  • King Phillip. 'Tis true, fair daughter; and this blessed day
    Ever in France shall be kept festival: 995
    To solemnize this day the glorious sun
    Stays in his course and plays the alchemist,
    Turning with splendor of his precious eye
    The meagre cloddy earth to glittering gold:
    The yearly course that brings this day about 1000
    Shall never see it but a holiday.
  • Constance. A wicked day, and not a holy day!
    What hath this day deserved? what hath it done,
    That it in golden letters should be set 1005
    Among the high tides in the calendar?
    Nay, rather turn this day out of the week,
    This day of shame, oppression, perjury.
    Or, if it must stand still, let wives with child
    Pray that their burthens may not fall this day, 1010
    Lest that their hopes prodigiously be cross'd:
    But on this day let seamen fear no wreck;
    No bargains break that are not this day made:
    This day, all things begun come to ill end,
    Yea, faith itself to hollow falsehood change! 1015
  • King Phillip. By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause
    To curse the fair proceedings of this day:
    Have I not pawn'd to you my majesty?
  • Constance. You have beguiled me with a counterfeit
    Resembling majesty, which, being touch'd and tried, 1020
    Proves valueless: you are forsworn, forsworn;
    You came in arms to spill mine enemies' blood,
    But now in arms you strengthen it with yours:
    The grappling vigour and rough frown of war
    Is cold in amity and painted peace, 1025
    And our oppression hath made up this league.
    Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perjured kings!
    A widow cries; be husband to me, heavens!
    Let not the hours of this ungodly day
    Wear out the day in peace; but, ere sunset, 1030
    Set armed discord 'twixt these perjured kings!
    Hear me, O, hear me!
  • Constance. War! war! no peace! peace is to me a war
    O Lymoges! O Austria! thou dost shame 1035
    That bloody spoil: thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward!
    Thou little valiant, great in villany!
    Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
    Thou Fortune's champion that dost never fight
    But when her humorous ladyship is by 1040
    To teach thee safety! thou art perjured too,
    And soothest up greatness. What a fool art thou,
    A ramping fool, to brag and stamp and swear
    Upon my party! Thou cold-blooded slave,
    Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side, 1045
    Been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend
    Upon thy stars, thy fortune and thy strength,
    And dost thou now fall over to my fores?
    Thou wear a lion's hide! doff it for shame,
    And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs. 1050
  • Lymoges. O, that a man should speak those words to me!
  • Lymoges. Thou darest not say so, villain, for thy life.
  • King John. We like not this; thou dost forget thyself. 1055


  • Cardinal Pandulph. Hail, you anointed deputies of heaven!
    To thee, King John, my holy errand is.
    I Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal, 1060
    And from Pope Innocent the legate here,
    Do in his name religiously demand
    Why thou against the church, our holy mother,
    So wilfully dost spurn; and force perforce
    Keep Stephen Langton, chosen archbishop 1065
    Of Canterbury, from that holy see?
    This, in our foresaid holy father's name,
    Pope Innocent, I do demand of thee.
  • King John. What earthy name to interrogatories
    Can task the free breath of a sacred king? 1070
    Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name
    So slight, unworthy and ridiculous,
    To charge me to an answer, as the pope.
    Tell him this tale; and from the mouth of England
    Add thus much more, that no Italian priest 1075
    Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
    But as we, under heaven, are supreme head,
    So under Him that great supremacy,
    Where we do reign, we will alone uphold,
    Without the assistance of a mortal hand: 1080
    So tell the pope, all reverence set apart
    To him and his usurp'd authority.
  • King John. Though you and all the kings of Christendom
    Are led so grossly by this meddling priest, 1085
    Dreading the curse that money may buy out;
    And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,
    Purchase corrupted pardon of a man,
    Who in that sale sells pardon from himself,
    Though you and all the rest so grossly led 1090
    This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish,
    Yet I alone, alone do me oppose
    Against the pope and count his friends my foes.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. Then, by the lawful power that I have,
    Thou shalt stand cursed and excommunicate. 1095
    And blessed shall he be that doth revolt
    From his allegiance to an heretic;
    And meritorious shall that hand be call'd,
    Canonized and worshipped as a saint,
    That takes away by any secret course 1100
    Thy hateful life.
  • Constance. O, lawful let it be
    That I have room with Rome to curse awhile!
    Good father cardinal, cry thou amen
    To my keen curses; for without my wrong 1105
    There is no tongue hath power to curse him right.
  • Constance. And for mine too: when law can do no right,
    Let it be lawful that law bar no wrong:
    Law cannot give my child his kingdom here, 1110
    For he that holds his kingdom holds the law;
    Therefore, since law itself is perfect wrong,
    How can the law forbid my tongue to curse?
  • Cardinal Pandulph. Philip of France, on peril of a curse,
    Let go the hand of that arch-heretic; 1115
    And raise the power of France upon his head,
    Unless he do submit himself to Rome.
  • Queen Elinor. Look'st thou pale, France? do not let go thy hand.
  • Constance. Look to that, devil; lest that France repent,
    And by disjoining hands, hell lose a soul. 1120
  • Lymoges. King Philip, listen to the cardinal.
  • Lymoges. Well, ruffian, I must pocket up these wrongs, Because—
  • King John. Philip, what say'st thou to the cardinal? 1125
  • Constance. What should he say, but as the cardinal?
  • Lewis. Bethink you, father; for the difference
    Is purchase of a heavy curse from Rome,
    Or the light loss of England for a friend:
    Forego the easier. 1130
  • Blanch. That's the curse of Rome.
  • Constance. O Lewis, stand fast! the devil tempts thee here
    In likeness of a new untrimmed bride.
  • Blanch. The Lady Constance speaks not from her faith,
    But from her need. 1135
  • Constance. O, if thou grant my need,
    Which only lives but by the death of faith,
    That need must needs infer this principle,
    That faith would live again by death of need.
    O then, tread down my need, and faith mounts up; 1140
    Keep my need up, and faith is trodden down!
  • King John. The king is moved, and answers not to this.
  • Constance. O, be removed from him, and answer well!
  • Lymoges. Do so, King Philip; hang no more in doubt.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. What canst thou say but will perplex thee more,
    If thou stand excommunicate and cursed?
  • King Phillip. Good reverend father, make my person yours,
    And tell me how you would bestow yourself. 1150
    This royal hand and mine are newly knit,
    And the conjunction of our inward souls
    Married in league, coupled and linked together
    With all religious strength of sacred vows;
    The latest breath that gave the sound of words 1155
    Was deep-sworn faith, peace, amity, true love
    Between our kingdoms and our royal selves,
    And even before this truce, but new before,
    No longer than we well could wash our hands
    To clap this royal bargain up of peace, 1160
    Heaven knows, they were besmear'd and over-stain'd
    With slaughter's pencil, where revenge did paint
    The fearful difference of incensed kings:
    And shall these hands, so lately purged of blood,
    So newly join'd in love, so strong in both, 1165
    Unyoke this seizure and this kind regreet?
    Play fast and loose with faith? so jest with heaven,
    Make such unconstant children of ourselves,
    As now again to snatch our palm from palm,
    Unswear faith sworn, and on the marriage-bed 1170
    Of smiling peace to march a bloody host,
    And make a riot on the gentle brow
    Of true sincerity? O, holy sir,
    My reverend father, let it not be so!
    Out of your grace, devise, ordain, impose 1175
    Some gentle order; and then we shall be blest
    To do your pleasure and continue friends.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. All form is formless, order orderless,
    Save what is opposite to England's love.
    Therefore to arms! be champion of our church, 1180
    Or let the church, our mother, breathe her curse,
    A mother's curse, on her revolting son.
    France, thou mayst hold a serpent by the tongue,
    A chafed lion by the mortal paw,
    A fasting tiger safer by the tooth, 1185
    Than keep in peace that hand which thou dost hold.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. So makest thou faith an enemy to faith;
    And like a civil war set'st oath to oath,
    Thy tongue against thy tongue. O, let thy vow 1190
    First made to heaven, first be to heaven perform'd,
    That is, to be the champion of our church!
    What since thou sworest is sworn against thyself
    And may not be performed by thyself,
    For that which thou hast sworn to do amiss 1195
    Is not amiss when it is truly done,
    And being not done, where doing tends to ill,
    The truth is then most done not doing it:
    The better act of purposes mistook
    Is to mistake again; though indirect, 1200
    Yet indirection thereby grows direct,
    And falsehood falsehood cures, as fire cools fire
    Within the scorched veins of one new-burn'd.
    It is religion that doth make vows kept;
    But thou hast sworn against religion, 1205
    By what thou swear'st against the thing thou swear'st,
    And makest an oath the surety for thy truth
    Against an oath: the truth thou art unsure
    To swear, swears only not to be forsworn;
    Else what a mockery should it be to swear! 1210
    But thou dost swear only to be forsworn;
    And most forsworn, to keep what thou dost swear.
    Therefore thy later vows against thy first
    Is in thyself rebellion to thyself;
    And better conquest never canst thou make 1215
    Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts
    Against these giddy loose suggestions:
    Upon which better part our prayers come in,
    If thou vouchsafe them. But if not, then know
    The peril of our curses light on thee 1220
    So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,
    But in despair die under their black weight.
  • Lymoges. Rebellion, flat rebellion!
  • Blanch. Upon thy wedding-day?
    Against the blood that thou hast married?
    What, shall our feast be kept with slaughter'd men?
    Shall braying trumpets and loud churlish drums, 1230
    Clamours of hell, be measures to our pomp?
    O husband, hear me! ay, alack, how new
    Is husband in my mouth! even for that name,
    Which till this time my tongue did ne'er pronounce,
    Upon my knee I beg, go not to arms 1235
    Against mine uncle.
  • Constance. O, upon my knee,
    Made hard with kneeling, I do pray to thee,
    Thou virtuous Dauphin, alter not the doom
    Forethought by heaven! 1240
  • Blanch. Now shall I see thy love: what motive may
    Be stronger with thee than the name of wife?
  • Constance. That which upholdeth him that thee upholds,
    His honour: O, thine honour, Lewis, thine honour!
  • Lewis. I muse your majesty doth seem so cold, 1245
    When such profound respects do pull you on.
  • King Phillip. Thou shalt not need. England, I will fall from thee.
  • Constance. O fair return of banish'd majesty!
  • King John. France, thou shalt rue this hour within this hour.
  • Philip the Bastard. Old Time the clock-setter, that bald sexton Time,
    Is it as he will? well then, France shall rue.
  • Blanch. The sun's o'ercast with blood: fair day, adieu!
    Which is the side that I must go withal? 1255
    I am with both: each army hath a hand;
    And in their rage, I having hold of both,
    They swirl asunder and dismember me.
    Husband, I cannot pray that thou mayst win;
    Uncle, I needs must pray that thou mayst lose; 1260
    Father, I may not wish the fortune thine;
    Grandam, I will not wish thy fortunes thrive:
    Whoever wins, on that side shall I lose
    Assured loss before the match be play'd.
  • Lewis. Lady, with me, with me thy fortune lies. 1265
  • Blanch. There where my fortune lives, there my life dies.
  • King John. Cousin, go draw our puissance together.
    [Exit BASTARD]
    France, I am burn'd up with inflaming wrath;
    A rage whose heat hath this condition, 1270
    That nothing can allay, nothing but blood,
    The blood, and dearest-valued blood, of France.
  • King Phillip. Thy rage sham burn thee up, and thou shalt turn
    To ashes, ere our blood shall quench that fire:
    Look to thyself, thou art in jeopardy. 1275
  • King John. No more than he that threats. To arms let's hie!