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History of King John

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Act IV, Scene 3

Before the castle.


[Enter ARTHUR, on the walls]

  • Arthur. The wall is high, and yet will I leap down:
    Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not!
    There's few or none do know me: if they did,
    This ship-boy's semblance hath disguised me quite.
    I am afraid; and yet I'll venture it. 2020
    If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
    I'll find a thousand shifts to get away:
    As good to die and go, as die and stay.
    [Leaps down]
    O me! my uncle's spirit is in these stones: 2025
    Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!



  • Salisbury. Lords, I will meet him at Saint Edmundsbury:
    It is our safety, and we must embrace 2030
    This gentle offer of the perilous time.
  • Pembroke. Who brought that letter from the cardinal?
  • Salisbury. The Count Melun, a noble lord of France,
    Whose private with me of the Dauphin's love
    Is much more general than these lines import. 2035
  • Lord Bigot. To-morrow morning let us meet him then.
  • Salisbury. Or rather then set forward; for 'twill be
    Two long days' journey, lords, or ere we meet.

[Enter the BASTARD]

  • Philip the Bastard. Once more to-day well met, distemper'd lords! 2040
    The king by me requests your presence straight.
  • Salisbury. The king hath dispossess'd himself of us:
    We will not line his thin bestained cloak
    With our pure honours, nor attend the foot
    That leaves the print of blood where'er it walks. 2045
    Return and tell him so: we know the worst.
  • Salisbury. Our griefs, and not our manners, reason now.
  • Philip the Bastard. But there is little reason in your grief;
    Therefore 'twere reason you had manners now. 2050
  • Pembroke. Sir, sir, impatience hath his privilege.
  • Salisbury. This is the prison. What is he lies here?

[Seeing ARTHUR]

  • Pembroke. O death, made proud with pure and princely beauty! 2055
    The earth had not a hole to hide this deed.
  • Salisbury. Murder, as hating what himself hath done,
    Doth lay it open to urge on revenge.
  • Lord Bigot. Or, when he doom'd this beauty to a grave,
    Found it too precious-princely for a grave. 2060
  • Salisbury. Sir Richard, what think you? have you beheld,
    Or have you read or heard? or could you think?
    Or do you almost think, although you see,
    That you do see? could thought, without this object,
    Form such another? This is the very top, 2065
    The height, the crest, or crest unto the crest,
    Of murder's arms: this is the bloodiest shame,
    The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke,
    That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage
    Presented to the tears of soft remorse. 2070
  • Pembroke. All murders past do stand excused in this:
    And this, so sole and so unmatchable,
    Shall give a holiness, a purity,
    To the yet unbegotten sin of times;
    And prove a deadly bloodshed but a jest, 2075
    Exampled by this heinous spectacle.
  • Philip the Bastard. It is a damned and a bloody work;
    The graceless action of a heavy hand,
    If that it be the work of any hand.
  • Salisbury. If that it be the work of any hand! 2080
    We had a kind of light what would ensue:
    It is the shameful work of Hubert's hand;
    The practise and the purpose of the king:
    From whose obedience I forbid my soul,
    Kneeling before this ruin of sweet life, 2085
    And breathing to his breathless excellence
    The incense of a vow, a holy vow,
    Never to taste the pleasures of the world,
    Never to be infected with delight,
    Nor conversant with ease and idleness, 2090
    Till I have set a glory to this hand,
    By giving it the worship of revenge.
  • Pembroke. [with Bigot] Our souls religiously confirm thy words.

[Enter HUBERT]

  • Hubert de Burgh. Lords, I am hot with haste in seeking you: 2095
    Arthur doth live; the king hath sent for you.
  • Salisbury. O, he is old and blushes not at death.
    Avaunt, thou hateful villain, get thee gone!

[Drawing his sword]

  • Salisbury. Not till I sheathe it in a murderer's skin.
  • Hubert de Burgh. Stand back, Lord Salisbury, stand back, I say;
    By heaven, I think my sword's as sharp as yours: 2105
    I would not have you, lord, forget yourself,
    Nor tempt the danger of my true defence;
    Lest I, by marking of your rage, forget
    Your worth, your greatness and nobility.
  • Lord Bigot. Out, dunghill! darest thou brave a nobleman? 2110
  • Hubert de Burgh. Not for my life: but yet I dare defend
    My innocent life against an emperor.
  • Hubert de Burgh. Do not prove me so;
    Yet I am none: whose tongue soe'er speaks false, 2115
    Not truly speaks; who speaks not truly, lies.
  • Salisbury. Stand by, or I shall gall you, Faulconbridge.
  • Philip the Bastard. Thou wert better gall the devil, Salisbury: 2120
    If thou but frown on me, or stir thy foot,
    Or teach thy hasty spleen to do me shame,
    I'll strike thee dead. Put up thy sword betime;
    Or I'll so maul you and your toasting-iron,
    That you shall think the devil is come from hell. 2125
  • Lord Bigot. What wilt thou do, renowned Faulconbridge?
    Second a villain and a murderer?
  • Hubert de Burgh. 'Tis not an hour since I left him well: 2130
    I honour'd him, I loved him, and will weep
    My date of life out for his sweet life's loss.
  • Salisbury. Trust not those cunning waters of his eyes,
    For villany is not without such rheum;
    And he, long traded in it, makes it seem 2135
    Like rivers of remorse and innocency.
    Away with me, all you whose souls abhor
    The uncleanly savours of a slaughter-house;
    For I am stifled with this smell of sin.
  • Lord Bigot. Away toward Bury, to the Dauphin there! 2140
  • Pembroke. There tell the king he may inquire us out.

[Exeunt Lords]

  • Philip the Bastard. Here's a good world! Knew you of this fair work?
    Beyond the infinite and boundless reach
    Of mercy, if thou didst this deed of death, 2145
    Art thou damn'd, Hubert.
  • Philip the Bastard. Ha! I'll tell thee what;
    Thou'rt damn'd as black—nay, nothing is so black;
    Thou art more deep damn'd than Prince Lucifer: 2150
    There is not yet so ugly a fiend of hell
    As thou shalt be, if thou didst kill this child.
  • Philip the Bastard. If thou didst but consent
    To this most cruel act, do but despair; 2155
    And if thou want'st a cord, the smallest thread
    That ever spider twisted from her womb
    Will serve to strangle thee, a rush will be a beam
    To hang thee on; or wouldst thou drown thyself,
    Put but a little water in a spoon, 2160
    And it shall be as all the ocean,
    Enough to stifle such a villain up.
    I do suspect thee very grievously.
  • Hubert de Burgh. If I in act, consent, or sin of thought,
    Be guilty of the stealing that sweet breath 2165
    Which was embounded in this beauteous clay,
    Let hell want pains enough to torture me.
    I left him well.
  • Philip the Bastard. Go, bear him in thine arms.
    I am amazed, methinks, and lose my way 2170
    Among the thorns and dangers of this world.
    How easy dost thou take all England up!
    From forth this morsel of dead royalty,
    The life, the right and truth of all this realm
    Is fled to heaven; and England now is left 2175
    To tug and scamble and to part by the teeth
    The unowed interest of proud-swelling state.
    Now for the bare-pick'd bone of majesty
    Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest
    And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace: 2180
    Now powers from home and discontents at home
    Meet in one line; and vast confusion waits,
    As doth a raven on a sick-fall'n beast,
    The imminent decay of wrested pomp.
    Now happy he whose cloak and cincture can 2185
    Hold out this tempest. Bear away that child
    And follow me with speed: I'll to the king:
    A thousand businesses are brief in hand,
    And heaven itself doth frown upon the land.