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

July 12

Death of Jack Cade

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

  • From Henry VI, Part 2nd, Act IV, Scene 10.
  • Jack Cade was the leader in a rising of Kentishmen in 1450. At first the rebels had some success, but they were finally defeated and Cade was killed on July 12, 1450.

  • Cade.Fie on ambition! fie on myself, that have a sword, and yet am ready to famish! These five days have I hid me in these woods and durst not peep out for all the country is laid for me; but now am I so hungry that if I might have a lease of my life for a thousand years I could stay no longer. Wherefore, on a brick wall have I climbed into this garden, to see if I can eat grass, or pick a sallet another while, which is not amiss to cool a man’s stomach this hot weather. And I think this word ‘sallet’ was born to do me good: for many a time, but for a sallet, my brain-pan had been cleft with a brown bill; and many a time, when I have been dry and bravely marching, it hath served me instead of a quart pot to drink in; and now the word ‘sallet’ must serve me to feed on.

    Enter IDEN.
    Iden.Lord, who would live turmoiled in the court,

    And may enjoy such quiet walks as these?

    This small inheritance my father left me

    Contenteth me, and worth a monarchy.

    I seek not to wax great by other’s waning,

    Or gather wealth, I care not, with what envy;

    Sufficeth that I have maintains my state

    And sends the poor well pleased from my gate.

    Cade.Here’s the lord of the soil come to seize me for a stray, for entering his fee-simple without leave. Ah, villain, thou wilt betray me, and get a thousand crowns of the king by carrying my head to him: but I’ll make thee eat iron like an ostrich, and swallow my sword like a great pin, ere thou and I part.

    Iden.Why, rude companion, whatsoe’er thou be,

    I know thee not; why, then, should I betray thee?

    Is’t not enough to break into my garden,

    And, like a thief, to come to rob my grounds,

    Climbing my walls in spite of me the owner,

    But thou wilt brave me with these saucy terms?

    Cade.Brave thee! ay, by the best blood that ever was broached, and beard thee too. Look on me well: I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead as a door-nail, I pray God I may never eat grass more.

    Iden.Nay, it shall ne’er be said, while England stands,

    That Alexander Iden, an esquire of Kent,

    Took odds to combat a poor famish’d man.

    Oppose thy steadfast-gazing eyes to mine,

    See if thou canst outface me with thy looks:

    Set limb to limb, and thou art far the lesser;

    Thy hand is but a finger to my fist,

    Thy leg a stick compared with this truncheon;

    My foot shall fight with all the strength thou hast;

    And if mine arm be heaved in the air,

    Thy grave is digg’d already in the earth.

    As for words, whose greatness answers words,

    Let this my sword report what speech forbears.

    Cade.By my valour, the most complete champion that ever I heard! Steel, if thou turn the edge, or cut not out the burly-boned clown in chines of beef ere thou sleep in thy sheath, I beseech God on my knees thou mayst be turned to hobnails.[Here they fight. Cade falls.

    O, I am slain! famine and no other hath slain me: let ten thousand devils come against me, and give me but the ten meals I have lost, and I’ld defy them all. Wither, garden; and be henceforth a burying-place to all that do dwell in this house, because the unconquered soul of Cade is fled.

    Iden.Is’t Cade that I have slain, that monstrous traitor?

    Sword, I will hallow thee for this thy deed,

    And hang thee o’er my tomb when I am dead:

    Ne’er shall this blood be wiped from thy point;

    But thou shalt wear it as a herald’s coat,

    To emblaze the honour that thy master got.

    Cade.Iden, farewell, and be proud of thy victory. Tell Kent from me, she hath lost her best man, and exhort all the world to be cowards; for I, that never feared any, am vanquished by famine, not by valour.[Dies.