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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Scenes from the Comedies and Histories: Henry’s Wooing of Katharine

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

From ‘King Henry V.’

Scene: An Apartment in the French King’s Palace.

KING HENRY—Fair Katharine, and most fair!

Will you vouchsafe to teach a soldier terms,

Such as will enter at a lady’s ear,

And plead his love-suit to her gentle heart?

Katharine—Your Majesty shall mock at me: I cannot speak your England.

King Henry—O fair Katharine! if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue. Do you like me, Kate?

KatharinePardonnez moi, I cannot tell vat is—like me.

King Henry—An angel is like you, Kate; and you are like an angel.

KatharineQue dit-il? que je suis semblable à les anges?

AliceOuy, vraiment, sauf vostre Grace, ainsi dit il.

King Henry—I said so, dear Katharine, and I must not blush to affirm it.

KatharineO bon Dieu! les langues des hommes sont pleines de tromperies.

King Henry—What says she, fair one? that the tongues of men are full of deceits?

AliceOuy; dat de tongues of de mans is be full of deceits: dat is de princess.

King Henry—The princess is the better Englishwoman. I’ faith, Kate, my wooing is fit for thy understanding. I am glad thou canst speak no better English; for if thou couldst, thou wouldst find me such a plain king, that thou wouldst think I had sold my farm to buy my crown. I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say—I love you: then, if you urge me farther than to say—Do you, in faith? I wear out my suit. Give me your answer; i’ faith, do, and so clap hands, and a bargain. How say you, lady?

KatharineSauf vostre Honneur, me understand well.

King Henry—Marry, if you would put me to verses, or to dance for your sake, Kate, why you undid me: for the one, I have neither words nor measure; and for the other, I have no strength in measure, yet a reasonable measure in strength. If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armor on my back, under the correction of bragging be it spoken, I should quickly leap into a wife; or if I might buffet for my love, or bound my horse for her favors, I could lay on like a butcher, and sit like a jackanapes, never off: but before God, Kate, I cannot look greenly, nor gasp out my eloquence, nor I have no cunning in protestation; only downright oaths which I never use till urged, nor never break for urging. If thou canst love a fellow of this temper, Kate, whose face is not worth sunburning, that never looks in his glass for love of anything he sees there, let thine eye be thy cook. I speak to thee plain soldier: if thou canst love me for this, take me: if not, to say to thee that I shall die, is true; but for thy love, by the Lord, no: yet I love thee too. And while thou livest, dear Kate, take a fellow of plain and uncoined constancy: for he perforce must do thee right, because he hath not the gift to woo in other places; for these fellows of infinite tongue, that can rhyme themselves into ladies’ favors, they do always reason themselves out again. What! a speaker is but a prater; a rhyme is but a ballad. A good leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black beard will turn white, a curled pate will grow bald, a fair face will wither, a full eye will wax hollow: but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon; or rather the sun and not the moon, for it shines bright, and never changes, but keeps his course truly. If thou would have such a one, take me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier, take a king: and what sayest thou then to my love? Speak, my fair, and fairly, I pray thee.

Katharine—Is it possible dat I should love de enemy of France?

King Henry—No; it is not possible you should love the enemy of France, Kate: but in loving me you should love the friend of France, for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine: and, Kate, when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France, and you are mine.

Katharine—I cannot tell vat is dat.

King Henry—No, Kate? I will tell thee in French, which I am sure will hang upon my tongue like a new-married wife about her husband’s neck, hardly to be shook off.—Quand j’ai la possession de France, et quand vous avez la possession de moi (let me see, what then? St. Dennis be my speed!)—donc vostre est France, et vous êtes mienne. It is as easy for me, Kate, to conquer the kingdom, as to speak so much more French. I shall never move thee in French, unless it be to laugh at me.

KatharineSauf vostre Honneur, le François que vous parlez, est meilleur que l’Anglois leguel je parle.

King Henry—No, faith, is ’t not, Kate; but thy speaking of my tongue, and I thine, most truly falsely, must needs be granted to be much at one. But Kate, dost thou understand thus much English? Canst thou love me?

Katharine—I cannot tell.

King Henry—Can any of your neighbors tell, Kate? I’ll ask them. Come, I know thou lovest me: and at night when you come into your closet, you’ll question this gentlewoman about me; and I know, Kate, you will, to her, dispraise those parts in me that you love with your heart: but, good Kate, mock me mercifully,—the rather, gentle princess, because I love thee cruelly. If ever thou be’st mine, Kate (as I have a saving faith within me tells me thou shalt), I get thee with scambling, and thou must therefore needs prove a good soldier-breeder. Shall not thou and I, between St. Dennis and St. George, compound a boy, half French, half English, that shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard? shall we not? what sayest thou, my fair flower-de-luce?

Katharine—I do not know dat.

King Henry—No: ’tis hereafter to know, but now to promise; do but now promise, Kate, you will endeavor for your French part of such a boy, and for my English moiety take the word of a king and a bachelor. How answer you, la plus belle Katharine du monde, mon très chère et divine déesse?

Katharine—Your Majesté have fausse French enough to deceive de most sage damoiselle dat is en France.

King Henry—Now, fie upon my false French! By mine honor, in true English, I love thee, Kate: by which honor I dare not swear thou lovest me; yet my blood begins to flatter me that thou dost, notwithstanding the poor and untempting effect of my visage. Now beshrew my father’s ambition! he was thinking of civil wars when he got me; therefore was I created with a stubborn outside, with an aspect of iron, that when I come to woo ladies, I fright them. But in faith, Kate, the elder I wax, the better I shall appear; my comfort is, that old age, that ill layer-up of beauty, can do no more spoil upon my face: thou hast me, if thou hast me, at the worst; and thou shalt wear me, if thou wear me, better and better. And therefore tell me, most fair Katharine, will you have me? Put off your maiden blushes; avouch the thoughts of your heart with the looks of an empress; take me by the hand, and say—Harry of England, I am thine: which word thou shalt no sooner bless mine ear withal, but I will tell thee aloud—England is thine, Ireland is thine, France is thine, and Henry Plantagenet is thine; who, though I speak it before his face, if he be not fellow with the best king, thou shalt find the best king of good fellows. Come, your answer in broken music,—for thy voice is music, and thy English broken; therefore, queen of all, Katharine, break thy mind to me in broken English: wilt thou have me?

Katharine—Dat is as it shall please de roi mon père.

King Henry—Nay, it will please him well, Kate; it shall please him, Kate.

Katharine—Den it shall also content me.

King Henry—Upon that I kiss your hand, and I call you my queen.

KatharineLaissez, mon seigneur, laissez, laissez! Ma foi, je ne veux point que vous abbaissez vostre grandeur, en baisant la main d’une vostre indigne serviteure: excusez moi, je vous supplie, mon très puissant seigneur.

King Henry—Then I will kiss your lips, Kate.

KatharineLes dames, et damoiselles, pour estre baisées devant leur noces il n’est pas la coutume de France.

King Henry—Madam, my interpreter, what says she?

Alice—Dat it is not be de fashion pour les ladies of France—I cannot tell what is baiser in English—

King Henry—To kiss.

Alice—Your Majesty entend bettre que moi.

King Henry—It is not a fashion for the maids in France to kiss before they are married, would she say?

AliceOuy, vraiment.

King Henry—O Kate! nice customs curtsey to great kings. Dear Kate, you and I cannot be confined within the weak list of a country’s fashion: we are the makers of manners, Kate; and the liberty that follows our places stops the mouths of all find-faults, as I will do yours, for upholding the nice fashion of your country in denying me a kiss: therefore, patiently and yielding.[Kissing her.]You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate: there is more eloquence in a sugar touch of them, than in the tongues of the French council; and they should sooner persuade Harry of England, than a general petition of monarchs. Here comes your father.