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History of King John

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Act IV, Scene 1

A room in a castle.


[Enter HUBERT and Executioners]

  • Hubert de Burgh. Heat me these irons hot; and look thou stand
    Within the arras: when I strike my foot 1575
    Upon the bosom of the ground, rush forth,
    And bind the boy which you shall find with me
    Fast to the chair: be heedful: hence, and watch.
  • Hubert de Burgh. Uncleanly scruples! fear not you: look to't. 1580
    [Exeunt Executioners]
    Young lad, come forth; I have to say with you.

[Enter ARTHUR]

  • Arthur. As little prince, having so great a title
    To be more prince, as may be. You are sad.
  • Arthur. Mercy on me!
    Methinks no body should be sad but I: 1590
    Yet, I remember, when I was in France,
    Young gentlemen would be as sad as night,
    Only for wantonness. By my christendom,
    So I were out of prison and kept sheep,
    I should be as merry as the day is long; 1595
    And so I would be here, but that I doubt
    My uncle practises more harm to me:
    He is afraid of me and I of him:
    Is it my fault that I was Geffrey's son?
    No, indeed, is't not; and I would to heaven 1600
    I were your son, so you would love me, Hubert.
  • Hubert de Burgh. [Aside] If I talk to him, with his innocent prate
    He will awake my mercy which lies dead:
    Therefore I will be sudden and dispatch.
  • Arthur. Are you sick, Hubert? you look pale to-day: 1605
    In sooth, I would you were a little sick,
    That I might sit all night and watch with you:
    I warrant I love you more than you do me.
  • Hubert de Burgh. [Aside] His words do take possession of my bosom.
    Read here, young Arthur. 1610
    [Showing a paper]
    How now, foolish rheum!
    Turning dispiteous torture out of door!
    I must be brief, lest resolution drop 1615
    Out at mine eyes in tender womanish tears.
    Can you not read it? Is it not fair writ?
  • Arthur. Too fairly, Hubert, for so foul effect:
    Must you with hot irons burn out both mine eyes?
  • Arthur. Have you the heart? When your head did but ache,
    I knit my handercher about your brows,
    The best I had, a princess wrought it me, 1625
    And I did never ask it you again;
    And with my hand at midnight held your head,
    And like the watchful minutes to the hour,
    Still and anon cheer'd up the heavy time,
    Saying, 'What lack you?' and 'Where lies your grief?' 1630
    Or 'What good love may I perform for you?'
    Many a poor man's son would have lien still
    And ne'er have spoke a loving word to you;
    But you at your sick service had a prince.
    Nay, you may think my love was crafty love 1635
    And call it cunning: do, an if you will:
    If heaven be pleased that you must use me ill,
    Why then you must. Will you put out mine eyes?
    These eyes that never did nor never shall
    So much as frown on you. 1640
  • Hubert de Burgh. I have sworn to do it;
    And with hot irons must I burn them out.
  • Arthur. Ah, none but in this iron age would do it!
    The iron of itself, though heat red-hot,
    Approaching near these eyes, would drink my tears 1645
    And quench his fiery indignation
    Even in the matter of mine innocence;
    Nay, after that, consume away in rust
    But for containing fire to harm mine eye.
    Are you more stubborn-hard than hammer'd iron? 1650
    An if an angel should have come to me
    And told me Hubert should put out mine eyes,
    I would not have believed him,—no tongue but Hubert's.
  • Hubert de Burgh. Come forth.
    [Stamps] 1655
    [Re-enter Executioners, with a cord, irons, &c]
    Do as I bid you do.
  • Arthur. O, save me, Hubert, save me! my eyes are out
    Even with the fierce looks of these bloody men.
  • Arthur. Alas, what need you be so boisterous-rough?
    I will not struggle, I will stand stone-still.
    For heaven sake, Hubert, let me not be bound!
    Nay, hear me, Hubert, drive these men away,
    And I will sit as quiet as a lamb; 1665
    I will not stir, nor wince, nor speak a word,
    Nor look upon the iron angerly:
    Thrust but these men away, and I'll forgive you,
    Whatever torment you do put me to.

[Exeunt Executioners]

  • Arthur. Alas, I then have chid away my friend!
    He hath a stern look, but a gentle heart:
    Let him come back, that his compassion may 1675
    Give life to yours.
  • Arthur. O heaven, that there were but a mote in yours, 1680
    A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair,
    Any annoyance in that precious sense!
    Then feeling what small things are boisterous there,
    Your vile intent must needs seem horrible.
  • Arthur. Hubert, the utterance of a brace of tongues
    Must needs want pleading for a pair of eyes:
    Let me not hold my tongue, let me not, Hubert;
    Or, Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,
    So I may keep mine eyes: O, spare mine eyes. 1690
    Though to no use but still to look on you!
    Lo, by my truth, the instrument is cold
    And would not harm me.
  • Arthur. No, in good sooth: the fire is dead with grief, 1695
    Being create for comfort, to be used
    In undeserved extremes: see else yourself;
    There is no malice in this burning coal;
    The breath of heaven has blown his spirit out
    And strew'd repentent ashes on his head. 1700
  • Arthur. An if you do, you will but make it blush
    And glow with shame of your proceedings, Hubert:
    Nay, it perchance will sparkle in your eyes;
    And like a dog that is compell'd to fight, 1705
    Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on.
    All things that you should use to do me wrong
    Deny their office: only you do lack
    That mercy which fierce fire and iron extends,
    Creatures of note for mercy-lacking uses. 1710
  • Hubert de Burgh. Well, see to live; I will not touch thine eye
    For all the treasure that thine uncle owes:
    Yet am I sworn and I did purpose, boy,
    With this same very iron to burn them out.
  • Arthur. O, now you look like Hubert! all this while 1715
    You were disguised.
  • Hubert de Burgh. Peace; no more. Adieu.
    Your uncle must not know but you are dead;
    I'll fill these dogged spies with false reports:
    And, pretty child, sleep doubtless and secure, 1720
    That Hubert, for the wealth of all the world,
    Will not offend thee.
  • Arthur. O heaven! I thank you, Hubert.
  • Hubert de Burgh. Silence; no more: go closely in with me:
    Much danger do I undergo for thee. 1725