Open Source Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew

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Prologue, continued


Enter aloft SLY, with ATTENDANTS; some with apparel, basin and ewer, and other appurtenances; and LORD

  • Christopher Sly. For God's sake, a pot of small ale.
  • First Servant. Will't please your lordship drink a cup of sack?
  • Second Servant. Will't please your honour taste of these conserves? 150
  • Third Servant. What raiment will your honour wear to-day?
  • Christopher Sly. I am Christophero Sly; call not me 'honour' nor 'lordship.' I
    ne'er drank sack in my life; and if you give me any conserves,
    give me conserves of beef. Ne'er ask me what raiment I'll wear,
    for I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than 155
    legs, nor no more shoes than feet- nay, sometime more feet than
    shoes, or such shoes as my toes look through the overleather.
  • Lord. Heaven cease this idle humour in your honour!
    O, that a mighty man of such descent,
    Of such possessions, and so high esteem, 160
    Should be infused with so foul a spirit!
  • Christopher Sly. What, would you make me mad? Am not I Christopher Sly, old
    Sly's son of Burton Heath; by birth a pedlar, by education a
    cardmaker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present
    profession a tinker? Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of 165
    Wincot, if she know me not; if she say I am not fourteen pence on
    the score for sheer ale, score me up for the lying'st knave in
    Christendom. What! I am not bestraught. [Taking a pot of ale]
  • Third Servant. O, this it is that makes your lady mourn! 170
  • Second Servant. O, this is it that makes your servants droop!
  • Lord. Hence comes it that your kindred shuns your house,
    As beaten hence by your strange lunacy.
    O noble lord, bethink thee of thy birth!
    Call home thy ancient thoughts from banishment, 175
    And banish hence these abject lowly dreams.
    Look how thy servants do attend on thee,
    Each in his office ready at thy beck.
    Wilt thou have music? Hark! Apollo plays, [Music]
    And twenty caged nightingales do sing. 180
    Or wilt thou sleep? We'll have thee to a couch
    Softer and sweeter than the lustful bed
    On purpose trimm'd up for Semiramis.
    Say thou wilt walk: we will bestrew the ground.
    Or wilt thou ride? Thy horses shall be trapp'd, 185
    Their harness studded all with gold and pearl.
    Dost thou love hawking? Thou hast hawks will soar
    Above the morning lark. Or wilt thou hunt?
    Thy hounds shall make the welkin answer them
    And fetch shall echoes from the hollow earth. 190
  • First Servant. Say thou wilt course; thy greyhounds are as swift
    As breathed stags; ay, fleeter than the roe.
  • Second Servant. Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee
    Adonis painted by a running brook, 195
    And Cytherea all in sedges hid,
    Which seem to move and wanton with her breath
    Even as the waving sedges play wi' th' wind.
  • Lord. We'll show thee Io as she was a maid
    And how she was beguiled and surpris'd, 200
    As lively painted as the deed was done.
  • Third Servant. Or Daphne roaming through a thorny wood,
    Scratching her legs, that one shall swear she bleeds
    And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep,
    So workmanly the blood and tears are drawn. 205
  • Lord. Thou art a lord, and nothing but a lord.
    Thou hast a lady far more beautiful
    Than any woman in this waning age.
  • First Servant. And, till the tears that she hath shed for thee
    Like envious floods o'er-run her lovely face, 210
    She was the fairest creature in the world;
    And yet she is inferior to none.
  • Christopher Sly. Am I a lord and have I such a lady?
    Or do I dream? Or have I dream'd till now?
    I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak; 215
    I smell sweet savours, and I feel soft things.
    Upon my life, I am a lord indeed,
    And not a tinker, nor Christopher Sly.
    Well, bring our lady hither to our sight;
    And once again, a pot o' th' smallest ale. 220
  • Second Servant. Will't please your Mightiness to wash your hands?
    O, how we joy to see your wit restor'd!
    O, that once more you knew but what you are!
    These fifteen years you have been in a dream;
    Or, when you wak'd, so wak'd as if you slept. 225
  • Christopher Sly. These fifteen years! by my fay, a goodly nap.
    But did I never speak of all that time?
  • First Servant. O, yes, my lord, but very idle words;
    For though you lay here in this goodly chamber,
    Yet would you say ye were beaten out of door; 230
    And rail upon the hostess of the house,
    And say you would present her at the leet,
    Because she brought stone jugs and no seal'd quarts.
    Sometimes you would call out for Cicely Hacket.
  • Christopher Sly. Ay, the woman's maid of the house. 235
  • Third Servant. Why, sir, you know no house nor no such maid,
    Nor no such men as you have reckon'd up,
    As Stephen Sly, and old John Naps of Greece,
    And Peter Turph, and Henry Pimpernell;
    And twenty more such names and men as these, 240
    Which never were, nor no man ever saw.
  • Christopher Sly. Now, Lord be thanked for my good amends!
  • All. Amen.

Enter the PAGE as a lady, with ATTENDANTS

  • Christopher Sly. I thank thee; thou shalt not lose by it. 245
  • Page. How fares my noble lord?
  • Christopher Sly. Marry, I fare well; for here is cheer enough.
    Where is my wife?
  • Page. Here, noble lord; what is thy will with her?
  • Christopher Sly. Are you my wife, and will not call me husband? 250
    My men should call me 'lord'; I am your goodman.
  • Page. My husband and my lord, my lord and husband;
    I am your wife in all obedience.
  • Christopher Sly. I know it well. What must I call her?
  • Lord. Madam. 255
  • Christopher Sly. Al'ce madam, or Joan madam?
  • Lord. Madam, and nothing else; so lords call ladies.
  • Christopher Sly. Madam wife, they say that I have dream'd
    And slept above some fifteen year or more.
  • Page. Ay, and the time seems thirty unto me, 260
    Being all this time abandon'd from your bed.
  • Christopher Sly. 'Tis much. Servants, leave me and her alone.
    [Exeunt SERVANTS]
    Madam, undress you, and come now to bed.
  • Page. Thrice noble lord, let me entreat of you 265
    To pardon me yet for a night or two;
    Or, if not so, until the sun be set.
    For your physicians have expressly charg'd,
    In peril to incur your former malady,
    That I should yet absent me from your bed. 270
    I hope this reason stands for my excuse.
  • Christopher Sly. Ay, it stands so that I may hardly tarry so long. But I would be
    loath to fall into my dreams again. I will therefore tarry in
    despite of the flesh and the blood.


  • Messenger. Your honour's players, hearing your amendment,
    Are come to play a pleasant comedy;
    For so your doctors hold it very meet,
    Seeing too much sadness hath congeal'd your blood,
    And melancholy is the nurse of frenzy. 280
    Therefore they thought it good you hear a play
    And frame your mind to mirth and merriment,
    Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.
  • Christopher Sly. Marry, I will; let them play it. Is not a comonty a
    Christmas gambold or a tumbling-trick? 285
  • Page. No, my good lord, it is more pleasing stuff.
  • Christopher Sly. What, household stuff?
  • Page. It is a kind of history.
  • Christopher Sly. Well, we'll see't. Come, madam wife, sit by my side and let
    the world slip;-we shall ne'er be younger. 290

[They sit down]

A flourish of trumpets announces the play