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

Act I. Scene II.

The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth

The Council Chamber.

Enter the KING, leaning on the CARDINAL’S shoulder, the Lords of the Council, SIR THOMAS LOVELL, Officers, and Attendants.The CARDINAL places himself under the KING’S feet on the right side.

K. Hen.My life itself, and the best heart of it,

Thanks you for this great care: I stood i’ the level

Of a full-charg’d confederacy, and give thanks

To you that chok’d it. Let be call’d before us

That gentleman of Buckingham’s; in person

I’ll hear him his confessions justify;

And point by point the treasons of his master

He shall again relate.

A noise within, crying, ‘Room for the Queen!’Enter QUEEN KATHARINE, ushered by the DUKES OF NORFOLK and SUFFOLK: she kneels.The KING riseth from his state, takes her up, kisses, and placeth her by him.

Q. Kath.Nay, we must longer kneel: I am a suitor.

K. Hen.Arise, and take place by us: half your suit

Never name to us; you have half our power:

The other moiety, ere you ask, is given;

Repeat your will, and take it.

Q. Kath.Thank your majesty.

That you would love yourself, and in that love

Not unconsider’d leave your honour, nor

The dignity of your office, is the point

Of my petition.

K. Hen.Lady mine, proceed.

Q. Kath.I am solicited, not by a few,

And those of true condition, that your subjects

Are in great grievance: there have been commissions

Sent down among ’em, which hath flaw’d the heart

Of all their loyalties: wherein, although,

My good Lord Cardinal, they vent reproaches

Most bitterly on you, as putter-on

Of these exactions, yet the king our master,—

Whose honour heaven shield from soil!—even he escapes not

Language unmannerly; yea, such which breaks

The sides of loyalty, and almost appears

In loud rebellion.

Nor.Not almost appears,

It doth appear; for, upon these taxations,

The clothiers all, not able to maintain

The many to them ’longing, have put off

The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who,

Unfit for other life, compell’d by hunger

And lack of other means, in desperate manner

Daring the event to the teeth, are all in uproar,

And danger serves among them.

K. Hen.Taxation!

Wherein? and what taxation? My Lord Cardinal,

You that are blam’d for it alike with us,

Know you of this taxation?

Wol.Please you, sir,

I know but of a single part in aught

Pertains to the state; and front but in that file

Where others tell steps with me.

Q. Kath.No, my lord,

You know no more than others; but you frame

Things that are known alike; which are not wholesome

To those which would not know them, and yet must

Perforce be their acquaintance. These exactions,

Whereof my sov’reign would have note, they are,

Most pestilent to the hearing; and to bear ’em,

The back is sacrifice to the load. They say

They are devis’d by you, or else you suffer

Too hard an exclamation.

K. Hen.Still exaction!

The nature of it? In what kind, let’s know,

Is this exaction?

Q. Kath.I am much too venturous

In tempting of your patience; but am bolden’d

Under your promis’d pardon. The subjects’ grief

Comes through commissions, which compel from each

The sixth part of his substance, to be levied

Without delay; and the pretence for this

Is nam’d, your wars in France. This makes bold mouths:

Tongues spit their duties out, and cold hearts freeze

Allegiance in them; their curses now

Live where their prayers did; and it’s come to pass,

This tractable obedience is a slave

To each incensed will. I would your highness

Would give it quick consideration, for

There is no primer business.

K. Hen.By my life,

This is against our pleasure.

Wol.And for me,

I have no further gone in this than by

A single voice, and that not pass’d me but

By learned approbation of the judges. If I am

Traduc’d by ignorant tongues, which neither know

My faculties nor person, yet will be

The chronicles of my doing, let me say

’Tis but the fate of place, and the rough brake

That virtue must go through. We must not stint

Our necessary actions, in the fear

To cope malicious censurers; which ever,

As rav’nous fishes, do a vessel follow

That is new-trimm’d, but benefit no further

Than vainly longing. What we oft do best,

By sick interpreters, once weak ones, is

Not ours, or not allow’d; what worst, as oft,

Hitting a grosser quality, is cried up

For our best act. If we shall stand still,

In fear our motion will be mock’d or carp’d at,

We should take root here where we sit, or sit

State-statues only.

K. Hen.Things done well,

And with a care, exempt themselves from fear;

Things done without example, in their issue

Are to be fear’d. Have you a precedent

Of this commission? I believe, not any.

We must not rend our subjects from our laws,

And stick them in our will. Sixth part of each?

A trembling contribution! Why, we take

From every tree, lop, bark, and part o’ the timber;

And, though we leave it with a root, thus hack’d,

The air will drink the sap. To every county

Where this is question’d, send our letters, with

Free pardon to each man that has denied

The force of this commission. Pray, look to ’t;

I put it to your care.

Wol.[To the Secretary.]A word with you.

Let there be letters writ to every shire,

Of the king’s grace and pardon. The griev’d commons

Hardly conceive of me; let it be nois’d

That through our intercession this revokement

And pardon comes: I shall anon advise you

Further in the proceeding.[Exit Secretary.

Enter Surveyor.

Q. Kath.I am sorry that the Duke of Buckingham

Is run in your displeasure.

K. Hen.It grieves many:

The gentleman is learn’d, and a most rare speaker,

To nature none more bound; his training such

That he may furnish and instruct great teachers,

And never seek for aid out of himself. Yet see,

When these so noble benefits shall prove

Not well dispos’d, the mind growing once corrupt,

They turn to vicious forms, ten times more ugly

Than ever they were fair. This man so complete,

Who was enroll’d ’mongst wonders, and when we,

Almost with ravish’d listening, could not find

His hour of speech a minute; he, my lady,

Hath into monstrous habits put the graces

That once were his, and is become as black

As if besmear’d in hell. Sit by us; you shall hear—

This was his gentleman in trust—of him

Things to strike honour sad. Bid him recount

The fore-recited practices; whereof

We cannot feel too little, hear too much.

Wol.Stand forth; and with bold spirit relate what you,

Most like a careful subject, have collected

Out of the Duke of Buckingham.

K. Hen.Speak freely.

Surv.First, it was usual with him, every day

It would infect his speech, that if the king

Should without issue die, he’d carry it so

To make the sceptre his. These very words

I’ve heard him utter to his son-in-law,

Lord Abergavenny, to whom by oath he menac’d

Revenge upon the cardinal.

Wol.Please your highness, note

This dangerous conception in this point.

Not friended by his wish, to your high person

His will is most malignant; and it stretches

Beyond you, to your friends.

Q. Kath.My learn’d Lord Cardinal,

Deliver all with charity.

K. Hen.Speak on:

How grounded he his title to the crown

Upon our fail? to this point hast thou heard him

At any time speak aught?

Surv.He was brought to this

By a vain prophecy of Nicholas Hopkins.

K. Hen.What was that Hopkins?

Surv.Sir, a Chartreux friar,

His confessor, who fed him every minute

With words of sovereignty.

K. Hen.How know’st thou this?

Surv.Not long before your highness sped to France,

The duke being at the Rose, within the parish

Saint Lawrence Poultney, did of me demand

What was the speech among the Londoners

Concerning the French journey: I replied,

Men fear’d the French would prove perfidious,

To the king’s danger. Presently the duke

Said, ’twas the fear, indeed; and that he doubted

’Twould prove the verity of certain words

Spoke by a holy monk; ‘that oft,’ says he,

‘Hath sent to me, wishing me to permit

John de la Car, my chaplain, a choice hour

To hear from him a matter of some moment:

Whom after under the confession’s seal

He solemnly had sworn, that what he spoke,

My chaplain to no creature living but

To me should utter, with demure confidence

This pausingly ensu’d: neither the king nor ’s heirs—

Tell you the duke—shall prosper: bid him strive

To gain the love o’ the commonalty: the duke

Shall govern England.’

Q. Kath.If I know you well,

You were the duke’s surveyor, and lost your office

On the complaint o’ the tenants: take good heed

You charge not in your spleen a noble person,

And spoil your nobler soul. I say, take heed;

Yes, heartily beseech you.

K. Hen.Let him on.

Go forward.

Surv.On my soul, I’ll speak but truth.

I told my lord the duke, by the devil’s illusions

The monk might be deceiv’d; and that ’twas dangerous for him

To ruminate on this so far, until

It forg’d him some design, which, being believ’d,

It was much like to do. He answer’d, ‘Tush!

It can do me no damage;’ adding further,

That had the king in his last sickness fail’d,

The cardinal’s and Sir Thomas Lovell’s heads

Should have gone off.

K. Hen.Ha! what, so rank? Ah, ha!

There’s mischief in this man. Canst thou say further?

Surv.I can, my liege.

K. Hen.Proceed.

Surv.Being at Greenwich,

After your highness had reprov’d the duke

About Sir William Blomer,—

K. Hen.I remember

Of such a time: being my sworn servant,

The duke retain’d him his. But on; what hence?

Surv.‘If,’ quoth he, ‘I for this had been committed,

As, to the Tower, I thought, I would have play’d

The part my father meant to act upon

The usurper Richard; who, being at Salisbury,

Made suit to come in ’s presence; which if granted,

As he made semblance of his duty, would

Have put his knife into him.’

K. HenA giant traitor!

Wol.Now, madam, may his highness live in freedom,

And this man out of prison?

Q. Kath.God mend all!

K. Hen.There’s something more would out of thee? what sayst?

Surv.After ‘the duke his father,’ with ‘the knife,’

He stretch’d him, and, with one hand on his dagger,

Another spread on ’s breast, mounting his eyes,

He did discharge a horrible oath; whose tenour

Was, were he evil us’d, he would outgo

His father by as much as a performance

Does an irresolute purpose.

K. Hen.There’s his period;

To sheathe his knife in us. He is attach’d;

Call him to present trial: if he may

Find mercy in the law, ’tis his; if none,

Let him not seek ’t of us: by day and night!

He’s traitor to the height.[Exeunt.