James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 11

Death of Cardinal Beaufort

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

  • From King Henry VI., Part 2nd, Act III., Scene 3.
  • Cardinal Beaufort was the natural son of John of Gaunt, the fourth son of Edward III. He was president of the court which sentenced Joan of Arc to the stake. During the minority of Henry VI he was involved in a long contest for the ascendancy with his nephew, the Duke of Gloucester. He died on April 11, 1447.

  • Scene—A bedchamber.
    Enter the KING, SALISBURY, WARWICK, to the CARDINAL in bed.

    King.How fares my lord? speak, Beaufort, to thy sovereign.

    Car.If thou be’st death, I’ll give thee England’s treasure,

    Enough to purchase such another island,

    So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain.

    King.Ah, what a sign it is of evil life,

    Where death’s approach is seen so terrible!

    War.Beaufort, it is thy sovereign speaks to thee.

    Car.Bring me unto my trial when you will.

    Died he not in his bed? where should he die?

    Can I make men live, whether they will or no?

    O, torture me no more! I will confess.

    Alive again? then show me where he is:

    I’ll give a thousand pound to look upon him.

    He hath no eyes, the dust hath blinded them.

    Comb down his hair; look, look! it stands upright,

    Like lime-twigs set to catch my winged soul.

    Give me some drink; and bid the apothecary

    Bring the strong poison that I bought of him.

    King.O thou eternal Mover of the heavens,

    Look with a gentle eye upon this wretch!

    O, beat away the busy meddling fiend

    That lays strong siege unto this wretch’s soul

    And from his bosom purge this black despair!

    War.See, how the pangs of death do make him grin!

    Sal.Disturb him not; let him pass peaceably.

    King.Peace to his soul, if God’s good pleasure be!

    Lord cardinal, if thou think’st on heaven’s bliss,

    Hold up thy hand, make signal of thy hope.

    He dies, and makes no sign. O God, forgive him!

    War.So bad a death argues a monstrous life.

    King.Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.

    Close up his eves and draw the curtain close;

    And let us all to meditation.[Exeunt.