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History of King John

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Act III, Scene 4

The same. KING PHILIP’S tent.



  • King Phillip. So, by a roaring tempest on the flood,
    A whole armado of convicted sail 1385
    Is scatter'd and disjoin'd from fellowship.
  • King Phillip. What can go well, when we have run so ill?
    Are we not beaten? Is not Angiers lost?
    Arthur ta'en prisoner? divers dear friends slain? 1390
    And bloody England into England gone,
    O'erbearing interruption, spite of France?
  • Lewis. What he hath won, that hath he fortified:
    So hot a speed with such advice disposed,
    Such temperate order in so fierce a cause, 1395
    Doth want example: who hath read or heard
    Of any kindred action like to this?
  • King Phillip. Well could I bear that England had this praise,
    So we could find some pattern of our shame.
    [Enter CONSTANCE] 1400
    Look, who comes here! a grave unto a soul;
    Holding the eternal spirit against her will,
    In the vile prison of afflicted breath.
    I prithee, lady, go away with me.
  • Constance. Lo, now I now see the issue of your peace. 1405
  • King Phillip. Patience, good lady! comfort, gentle Constance!
  • Constance. No, I defy all counsel, all redress,
    But that which ends all counsel, true redress,
    Death, death; O amiable lovely death!
    Thou odouriferous stench! sound rottenness! 1410
    Arise forth from the couch of lasting night,
    Thou hate and terror to prosperity,
    And I will kiss thy detestable bones
    And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows
    And ring these fingers with thy household worms 1415
    And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust
    And be a carrion monster like thyself:
    Come, grin on me, and I will think thou smilest
    And buss thee as thy wife. Misery's love,
    O, come to me! 1420
  • Constance. No, no, I will not, having breath to cry:
    O, that my tongue were in the thunder's mouth!
    Then with a passion would I shake the world;
    And rouse from sleep that fell anatomy 1425
    Which cannot hear a lady's feeble voice,
    Which scorns a modern invocation.
  • Constance. Thou art not holy to belie me so;
    I am not mad: this hair I tear is mine; 1430
    My name is Constance; I was Geffrey's wife;
    Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost:
    I am not mad: I would to heaven I were!
    For then, 'tis like I should forget myself:
    O, if I could, what grief should I forget! 1435
    Preach some philosophy to make me mad,
    And thou shalt be canonized, cardinal;
    For being not mad but sensible of grief,
    My reasonable part produces reason
    How I may be deliver'd of these woes, 1440
    And teaches me to kill or hang myself:
    If I were mad, I should forget my son,
    Or madly think a babe of clouts were he:
    I am not mad; too well, too well I feel
    The different plague of each calamity. 1445
  • King Phillip. Bind up those tresses. O, what love I note
    In the fair multitude of those her hairs!
    Where but by chance a silver drop hath fallen,
    Even to that drop ten thousand wiry friends
    Do glue themselves in sociable grief, 1450
    Like true, inseparable, faithful loves,
    Sticking together in calamity.
  • Constance. Yes, that I will; and wherefore will I do it? 1455
    I tore them from their bonds and cried aloud
    'O that these hands could so redeem my son,
    As they have given these hairs their liberty!'
    But now I envy at their liberty,
    And will again commit them to their bonds, 1460
    Because my poor child is a prisoner.
    And, father cardinal, I have heard you say
    That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
    If that be true, I shall see my boy again;
    For since the birth of Cain, the first male child, 1465
    To him that did but yesterday suspire,
    There was not such a gracious creature born.
    But now will canker-sorrow eat my bud
    And chase the native beauty from his cheek
    And he will look as hollow as a ghost, 1470
    As dim and meagre as an ague's fit,
    And so he'll die; and, rising so again,
    When I shall meet him in the court of heaven
    I shall not know him: therefore never, never
    Must I behold my pretty Arthur more. 1475
  • Constance. He talks to me that never had a son.
  • Constance. Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
    Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me, 1480
    Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
    Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
    Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
    Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
    Fare you well: had you such a loss as I, 1485
    I could give better comfort than you do.
    I will not keep this form upon my head,
    When there is such disorder in my wit.
    O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
    My life, my joy, my food, my all the world! 1490
    My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!



  • Lewis. There's nothing in this world can make me joy: 1495
    Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
    Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
    And bitter shame hath spoil'd the sweet world's taste
    That it yields nought but shame and bitterness.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. Before the curing of a strong disease, 1500
    Even in the instant of repair and health,
    The fit is strongest; evils that take leave,
    On their departure most of all show evil:
    What have you lost by losing of this day?
  • Lewis. All days of glory, joy and happiness. 1505
  • Cardinal Pandulph. If you had won it, certainly you had.
    No, no; when Fortune means to men most good,
    She looks upon them with a threatening eye.
    'Tis strange to think how much King John hath lost
    In this which he accounts so clearly won: 1510
    Are not you grieved that Arthur is his prisoner?
  • Lewis. As heartily as he is glad he hath him.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. Your mind is all as youthful as your blood.
    Now hear me speak with a prophetic spirit;
    For even the breath of what I mean to speak 1515
    Shall blow each dust, each straw, each little rub,
    Out of the path which shall directly lead
    Thy foot to England's throne; and therefore mark.
    John hath seized Arthur; and it cannot be
    That, whiles warm life plays in that infant's veins, 1520
    The misplaced John should entertain an hour,
    One minute, nay, one quiet breath of rest.
    A sceptre snatch'd with an unruly hand
    Must be as boisterously maintain'd as gain'd;
    And he that stands upon a slippery place 1525
    Makes nice of no vile hold to stay him up:
    That John may stand, then Arthur needs must fall;
    So be it, for it cannot be but so.
  • Lewis. But what shall I gain by young Arthur's fall?
  • Cardinal Pandulph. You, in the right of Lady Blanch your wife, 1530
    May then make all the claim that Arthur did.
  • Lewis. And lose it, life and all, as Arthur did.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. How green you are and fresh in this old world!
    John lays you plots; the times conspire with you;
    For he that steeps his safety in true blood 1535
    Shall find but bloody safety and untrue.
    This act so evilly born shall cool the hearts
    Of all his people and freeze up their zeal,
    That none so small advantage shall step forth
    To cheque his reign, but they will cherish it; 1540
    No natural exhalation in the sky,
    No scope of nature, no distemper'd day,
    No common wind, no customed event,
    But they will pluck away his natural cause
    And call them meteors, prodigies and signs, 1545
    Abortives, presages and tongues of heaven,
    Plainly denouncing vengeance upon John.
  • Lewis. May be he will not touch young Arthur's life,
    But hold himself safe in his prisonment.
  • Cardinal Pandulph. O, sir, when he shall hear of your approach, 1550
    If that young Arthur be not gone already,
    Even at that news he dies; and then the hearts
    Of all his people shall revolt from him
    And kiss the lips of unacquainted change
    And pick strong matter of revolt and wrath 1555
    Out of the bloody fingers' ends of John.
    Methinks I see this hurly all on foot:
    And, O, what better matter breeds for you
    Than I have named! The bastard Faulconbridge
    Is now in England, ransacking the church, 1560
    Offending charity: if but a dozen French
    Were there in arms, they would be as a call
    To train ten thousand English to their side,
    Or as a little snow, tumbled about,
    Anon becomes a mountain. O noble Dauphin, 1565
    Go with me to the king: 'tis wonderful
    What may be wrought out of their discontent,
    Now that their souls are topful of offence.
    For England go: I will whet on the king.
  • Lewis. Strong reasons make strong actions: let us go: 1570
    If you say ay, the king will not say no.