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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act II. Scene IV.

The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth

A Hall in Black-Friars.

Trumpets, sennet, and cornets.Enter two Vergers, with short silver wands; next them, two Scribes, in the habit of doctors; after them, the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, alone; after him, the BISHOPS OF LINCOLN, ELY, ROCHESTER, and SAINT ASAPH; next them, at some small distance, follows a Gentleman bearing the purse, with the great seal, and a cardinal’s hat; then two Priests, bearing each a silver cross; then a Gentleman-Usher bare-headed, accompanied with a Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing a silver mace; then two Gentlemen, bearing two great silver pillars; after them, side by side, the two CARDINALS; two Noblemen with the sword and mace.Then enter the KING and QUEEN, and their Trains.The KING takes place under the cloth of state; the two CARDINALS sit under him as judges.The QUEEN takes place at some distance from the KING.The BISHOPS place themselves on each side the court, in manner of a consistory; below them, the Scribes.The Lords sit next the BISHOPS.The Crier and the rest of the Attendants stand in convenient order about the Stage.

Wol.Whilst our commission from Rome is read,

Let silence be commanded.

K. Hen.What’s the need?

It hath already publicly been read,

And on all sides the authority allow’d;

You may then spare that time.

Wol.Be ’t so. Proceed.

Scribe.Say, Henry King of England, come into the court.

Crier.Henry King of England, come into the court.

K. Hen.Here.

Scribe.Say, Katharine Queen of England, come into the court.

Crier.Katharine Queen of England, come into the court.[The QUEEN makes no answer, rises out of her chair, goes about the court, comes to the KING, and kneels at his feet; then speaks.

Q. Kath.Sir, I desire you do me right and justice;

And to bestow your pity on me; for

I am a most poor woman, and a stranger,

Born out of your dominions; having here

No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance

Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas! sir,

In what have I offended you? what cause

Hath my behaviour given to your displeasure,

That thus you should proceed to put me off

And take your good grace from me? Heaven witness,

I have been to you a true and humble wife,

At all times to your will conformable;

Ever in fear to kindle your dislike,

Yea, subject to your countenance, glad or sorry

As I saw it inclin’d. When was the hour

I ever contradicted your desire,

Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends

Have I not strove to love, although I knew

He were mine enemy? what friend of mine

That had to him deriv’d your anger, did I

Continue in my liking? nay, gave notice

He was from thence discharg’d. Sir, call to mind

That I have been your wife, in this obedience

Upward of twenty years, and have been blest

With many children by you: if, in the course

And process of this time, you can report,

And prove it too, against mine honour aught,

My bond to wedlock, or my love and duty,

Against your sacred person, in God’s name

Turn me away; and let the foul’st contempt

Shut door upon me, and so give me up

To the sharp’st kind of justice. Please you, sir,

The king, your father, was reputed for

A prince most prudent, of an excellent

And unmatch’d wit and judgment: Ferdinand,

My father, King of Spain, was reckon’d one

The wisest prince that there had reign’d by many

A year before: it is not to be question’d

That they had gather’d a wise council to them

Of every realm, that did debate this business,

Who deem’d our marriage lawful. Wherefore I humbly

Beseech you, sir, to spare me, till I may

Be by my friends in Spain advis’d, whose counsel

I will implore: if not, i’ the name of God,

Your pleasure be fulfill’d!

Wol.You have here, lady,—

And of your choice,—these reverend fathers; men

Of singular integrity and learning,

Yea, the elect o’ the land, who are assembled

To plead your cause. It shall be therefore bootless

That longer you desire the court, as well

For your own quiet, as to rectify

What is unsettled in the king.

Cam.His Grace

Hath spoken well and justly: therefore, madam,

It’s fit this royal session do proceed,

And that, without delay, their arguments

Be now produc’d and heard.

Q. Kath.Lord Cardinal,

To you I speak.

Wol.Your pleasure, madam?

Q. Kath.Sir,

I am about to weep; but, thinking that

We are a queen,—or long have dream’d so,—certain

The daughter of a king, my drops of tears

I’ll turn to sparks of fire.

Wol.Be patient yet.

Q. Kath.I will, when you are humble; nay, before,

Or God will punish me. I do believe,

Induc’d by potent circumstances, that

You are mine enemy; and make my challenge

You shall not be my judge; for it is you

Have blown this coal betwixt my lord and me,

Which God’s dew quench! Therefore I say again,

I utterly abhor, yea, from my soul

Refuse you for my judge, whom, yet once more,

I hold my most malicious foe, and think not

At all a friend to truth.

Wol.I do profess

You speak not like yourself; who ever yet

Have stood to charity, and display’d the effects

Of disposition gentle, and of wisdom

O’ertopping woman’s power. Madam, you do me wrong:

I have no spleen against you; nor injustice

For you or any: how far I have proceeded,

Or how far further shall, is warranted

By a commission from the consistory,

Yea, the whole consistory of Rome. You charge me

That I have blown this coal: I do deny it.

The king is present: if it be known to him

That I gainsay my deed, how may he wound,

And worthily, my falsehood; yea, as much

As you have done my truth. If he know

That I am free of your report, he knows

I am not of your wrong. Therefore in him

It lies to cure me; and the cure is, to

Remove these thoughts from you: the which before

His highness shall speak in, I do beseech

You, gracious madam, to unthink your speaking,

And to say so no more.

Q. Kath.My lord, my lord,

I am a simple woman, much too weak

To oppose your cunning. You’re meek and humble-mouth’d;

You sign your place and calling, in full seeming,

With meekness and humility; but your heart

Is cramm’d with arrogancy, spleen, and pride.

You have, by fortune and his highness’ favours,

Gone slightly o’er low steps, and now are mounted

Where powers are your retainers, and your words,

Domestics to you, serve your will as ’t please

Yourself pronounce their office. I must tell you,

You tender more your person’s honour than

Your high profession spiritual; that again

I do refuse you for my judge; and here,

Before you all, appeal unto the pope,

To bring my whole cause ’fore his holiness,

And to be judg’d by him.[She curtsies to the KING, and offers to depart.

Cam.The queen is obstinate,

Stubborn to justice, apt to accuse it, and

Disdainful to be tried by ’t: ’tis not well.

She’s going away.

K. Hen.Call her again.

Crier.Katharine Queen of England, come into the court.

Grif.Madam, you are call’d back.

Q. Kath.What need you note it? pray you, keep your way:

When you are call’d, return. Now, the Lord help!

They vex me past my patience. Pray you, pass on:

I will not tarry; no, nor ever more

Upon this business my appearance make

In any of their courts.[Exeunt QUEEN, and her Attendants.

K. Hen.Go thy ways, Kate:

That man i’ the world who shall report he has

A better wife, let him in nought be trusted,

For speaking false in that: thou art, alone,—

If thy rare qualities, sweet gentleness,

Thy meekness saint-like, wife-like government,

Obeying in commanding, and thy parts

Sovereign and pious else, could speak thee out,—

The queen of earthly queens. She’s noble born;

And, like her true nobility, she has

Carried herself towards me.

Wol.Most gracious sir,

In humblest manner I require your highness,

That it shall please you to declare, in hearing

Of all these ears,—for where I am robb’d and bound

There must I be unloos’d, although not there

At once, and fully satisfied,—whether ever I

Did broach this business to your highness, or

Laid any scruple in your way, which might

Induce you to the question on ’t? or ever

Have to you, but with thanks to God for such

A royal lady, spake one the least word that might

Be to the prejudice of her present state,

Or touch of her good person?

K. Hen.My Lord Cardinal,

I do excuse you; yea, upon mine honour,

I free you from ’t. You are not to be taught

That you have many enemies, that know not

Why they are so, but, like to village curs,

Bark when their fellows do: by some of these

The queen is put in anger. You’re excus’d:

But will you be more justified? you ever

Have wish’d the sleeping of this business; never

Desir’d it to be stirr’d; but oft have hinder’d, oft,

The passages made toward it. On my honour,

I speak my good Lord Cardinal to this point,

And thus far clear him. Now, what mov’d me to ’t,

I will be bold with time and your attention:

Then mark the inducement. Thus it came; give heed to ’t:

My conscience first receiv’d a tenderness,

Scruple, and prick, on certain speeches utter’d

By the Bishop of Bayonne, then French ambassador,

Who had been hither sent on the debating

A marriage ’twixt the Duke of Orleans and

Our daughter Mary. I’ the progress of this business,

Ere a determinate resolution, he—

I mean, the bishop—did require a respite;

Wherein he might the king his lord advertise

Whether our daughter were legitimate,

Respecting this our marriage with the dowager,

Sometimes our brother’s wife. This respite shook

The bosom of my conscience, enter’d me,

Yea, with a splitting power, and made to tremble

The region of my breast; which forc’d such way,

That many maz’d considerings did throng,

And press’d in with this caution. First, methought

I stood not in the smile of heaven, who had

Commanded nature, that my lady’s womb,

If it conceiv’d a male child by me, should

Do no more offices of life to ’t than

The grave does to the dead; for her male issue

Or died where they were made, or shortly after

This world had air’d them. Hence I took a thought

This was a judgment on me; that my kingdom,

Well worthy the best heir o’ the world, should not

Be gladded in ’t by me. Then follows that

I weigh’d the danger which my realms stood in

By this my issue’s fail; and that gave to me

Many a groaning throe. Thus hulling in

The wild sea of my conscience, I did steer

Toward this remedy, whereupon we are

Now present here together; that ’s to say,

I meant to rectify my conscience, which

I then did feel full sick, and yet not well,

By all the rev’rend fathers of the land

And doctors learn’d. First, I began in private

With you, my Lord of Lincoln; you remember

How under my oppression I did reek,

When I first mov’d you.

Lin.Very well, my liege.

K. Hen.I have spoke long: be pleas’d yourself to say

How far you satisfied me.

Lin.So please your highness,

The question did at first so stagger me,

Bearing a state of mighty moment in ’t,

And consequence of dread, that I committed

The daring’st counsel that I had to doubt;

And did entreat your highness to this course

Which you are running here.

K. Hen.Then I mov’d you,

My Lord of Canterbury, and got your leave

To make this present summons. Unsolicited

I left no reverend person in this court;

But by particular consent proceeded

Under your hands and seals: therefore, go on;

For no dislike i’ the world against the person

Of the good queen, but the sharp thorny points

Of my alleged reasons drive this forward.

Prove but our marriage lawful, by my life

And kingly dignity, we are contented

To wear our mortal state to come with her,

Katharine our queen, before the primest creature

That’s paragon’d o’ the world.

Cam.So please your highness,

The queen being absent, ’tis a needful fitness

That we adjourn this court till further day:

Meanwhile must be an earnest motion

Made to the queen, to call back her appeal

She intends unto his holiness.[They rise to depart.

K. Hen.[Aside.]I may perceive

These cardinals trifle with me: I abhor

This dilatory sloth and tricks of Rome.

My learn’d and well-beloved servant Cranmer,

Prithee, return: with thy approach, I know,

My comfort comes along. Break up the court:

I say, set on.[Exeunt, in manner as they entered.