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

Act I. Scene II.

The Life of King Henry the Fifth

The Same.The Presence Chamber.


K. Hen.Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury?

Exe.Not here in presence.

K. Hen.Send for him, good uncle.

West.Shall we call in the ambassador, my liege?

K. Hen.Not yet, my cousin: we would be resolv’d,

Before we hear him, of some things of weight

That task our thoughts, concerning us and France.


Cant.God and his angels guard your sacred throne,

And make you long become it!

K. Hen.Sure, we thank you.

My learned lord, we pray you to proceed,

And justly and religiously unfold

Why the law Salique that they have in France

Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim.

And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,

That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading,

Or nicely charge your understanding soul

With opening titles miscreate, whose right

Suits not in native colours with the truth;

For God doth know how many now in health

Shall drop their blood in approbation

Of what your reverence shall incite us to.

Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,

How you awake the sleeping sword of war:

We charge you in the name of God, take heed;

For never two such kingdoms did contend

Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops

Are every one a woe, a sore complaint,

’Gainst him whose wrongs give edge unto the swords

That make such waste in brief mortality.

Under this conjuration speak, my lord,

And we will hear, note, and believe in heart,

That what you speak is in your conscience wash’d

As pure as sin with baptism.

Cant.Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers,

That owe yourselves, your lives, and services

To this imperial throne. There is no bar

To make against your highness’ claim to France

But this, which they produce from Pharamond,

In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant,

‘No woman shall succeed in Salique land:’

Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze

To be the realm of France, and Pharamond

The founder of this law and female bar.

Yet their own authors faithfully affirm

That the land Salique is in Germany,

Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe;

Where Charles the Great, having subdu’d the Saxons,

There left behind and settled certain French;

Who, holding in disdain the German women

For some dishonest manners of their life,

Establish’d then this law; to wit, no female

Should be inheritrix in Salique land:

Which Salique, as I said, ’twixt Elbe and Sala,

Is at this day in Germany call’d Meisen.

Then doth it well appear the Salique law

Was not devised for the realm of France;

Nor did the French possess the Salique land

Until four hundred one-and-twenty years

After defunction of King Pharamond,

Idly suppos’d the founder of this law;

Who died within the year of our redemption

Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great

Subdu’d the Saxons, and did seat the French

Beyond the river Sala, in the year

Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,

King Pepin, which deposed Childeric,

Did, as heir general, being descended

Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,

Make claim and title to the crown of France.

Hugh Capet also, who usurp’d the crown

Of Charles the Duke of Loraine, sole heir male

Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,

To find his title with some shows of truth,—

Though in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,—

Convey’d himself as heir to the Lady Lingare,

Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son

To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son

Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,

Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,

Could not keep quiet in his conscience,

Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied

That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,

Was lineal of the Lady Ermengare,

Daughter to Charles the aforesaid Duke of Loraine:

By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great

Was re-united to the crown of France.

So that, as clear as is the summer’s sun,

King Pepin’s title, and Hugh Capet’s claim,

King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear

To hold in right and title of the female:

So do the kings of France unto this day;

Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law

To bar your highness claiming from the female;

And rather choose to hide them in a net

Than amply to imbar their crooked titles

Usurp’d from you and your progenitors.

K. Hen.May I with right and conscience make this claim?

Cant.The sin upon my head, dread sovereign!

For in the book of Numbers is it writ:

‘When the son dies, let the inheritance

Descend unto the daughter.’ Gracious lord,

Stand for your own; unwind your bloody flag;

Look back into your mighty ancestors:

Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire’s tomb,

From whom you claim; invoke his war-like spirit,

And your great-uncle’s, Edward the Black Prince,

Who on the French ground play’d a tragedy,

Making defeat on the full power of France;

Whiles his most mighty father on a hill

Stood smiling to behold his lion’s whelp

Forage in blood of French nobility.

O noble English! that could entertain

With half their forces the full pride of France,

And let another half stand laughing by,

All out of work, and cold for action.

Ely.Awake remembrance of these valiant dead,

And with your puissant arm renew their feats:

You are their heir, you sit upon their throne,

The blood and courage that renowned them

Runs in your veins; and my thrice-puissant liege

Is in the very May-morn of his youth,

Ripe for exploits and mighty enterprises.

Exe.Your brother kings and monarchs of the earth

Do all expect that you should rouse yourself,

As did the former lions of your blood.

West.They know your Grace hath cause and means and might;

So hath your highness; never King of England

Had nobles richer, and more loyal subjects,

Whose hearts have left their bodies here in England

And lie pavilion’d in the fields of France.

Cant.O! let their bodies follow, my dear liege,

With blood and sword and fire to win your right;

In aid whereof we of the spiritualty

Will raise your highness such a mighty sum

As never did the clergy at one time

Bring in to any of your ancestors.

K. Hen.We must not only arm to invade the French,

But lay down our proportions to defend

Against the Scot, who will make road upon us

With all advantages.

Cant.They of those marches, gracious sovereign,

Shall be a wall sufficient to defend

Our inland from the pilfering borderers.

K. Hen.We do not mean the coursing snatchers only,

But fear the main intendment of the Scot,

Who hath been still a giddy neighbour to us;

For you shall read that my great-grandfather

Never went with his forces into France

But that the Scot on his unfurnish’d kingdom

Came pouring, like the tide into a breach,

With ample and brim fulness of his force,

Galling the gleaned land with hot essays,

Girding with grievous siege castles and towns;

That England, being empty of defence,

Hath shook and trembled at the ill neighbourhood.

Cant.She hath been then more fear’d than harm’d, my liege;

For hear her but exampled by herself:

When all her chivalry hath been in France

And she a mourning widow of her nobles,

She hath herself not only well defended,

But taken and impounded as a stray

The King of Scots; whom she did send to France,

To fill King Edward’s fame with prisoner kings,

And make your chronicle as rich with praise

As is the owse and bottom of the sea

With sunken wrack and sumless treasuries.

West.But there’s a saying very old and true;

If that you will France win,

Then with Scotland first begin:

For once the eagle England being in prey,

To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot

Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,

Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,

To tear and havoc more than she can eat.

Exe.It follows then the cat must stay at home:

Yet that is but a crush’d necessity;

Since we have locks to safeguard necessaries

And pretty traps to catch the petty thieves.

While that the armed hand doth fight abroad

The advised head defends itself at home:

For government, though high and low and lower,

Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,

Congreeing in a full and natural close,

Like music.

Cant.Therefore doth heaven divide

The state of man in divers functions,

Setting endeavour in continual motion;

To which is fixed, as an aim or butt,

Obedience: for so work the honey-bees,

Creatures that by a rule in nature teach

The act of order to a peopled kingdom.

They have a king and officers of sorts;

Where some, like magistrates, correct at home,

Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,

Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,

Make boot upon the summer’s velvet buds;

Which pillage they with merry march bring home

To the tent-royal of their emperor:

Who, busied in his majesty, surveys

The singing masons building roofs of gold,

The civil citizens kneading up the honey,

The poor mechanic porters crowding in

Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,

The sad-ey’d justice, with his surly hum,

Delivering o’er to executors pale

The lazy yawning drone. I this infer,

That many things, having full reference

To one consent, may work contrariously;

As many arrows, loosed several ways,

Fly to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;

As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea;

As many lines close in the dial’s centre;

So may a thousand actions, once afoot,

End in one purpose, and be all well borne

Without defeat. Therefore to France, my liege.

Divide your happy England into four;

Whereof take you one quarter into France,

And you withal shall make all Gallia shake.

If we, with thrice such powers left at home,

Cannot defend our own doors from the dog,

Let us be worried and our nation lose

The name of hardiness and policy.

K. Hen.Call in the messengers sent from the Dauphin.[Exit an Attendant.

Now are we well resolv’d; and by God’s help,

And yours, the noble sinews of our power,

France being ours, we’ll bend it to our awe

Or break it all to pieces: or there we’ll sit,

Ruling in large and ample empery

O’er France and all her almost kingly dukedoms,

Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn,

Tombless, with no remembrance over them:

Either our history shall with full mouth

Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave,

Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,

Not worshipp’d with a waxen epitaph.

Enter Ambassadors of France.

Now are we well prepar’d to know the pleasure

Of our fair cousin Dauphin; for we hear

Your greeting is from him, not from the king.

First Amb.May ’t please your majesty to give us leave

Freely to render what we have in charge;

Or shall we sparingly show you far off

The Dauphin’s meaning and our embassy?

K. Hen.We are no tyrant, but a Christian king;

Unto whose grace our passion is as subject

As are our wretches fetter’d in our prisons:

Therefore with frank and with uncurbed plainness

Tell us the Dauphin’s mind.

First Amb.Thus then, in few.

Your highness, lately sending into France,

Did claim some certain dukedoms, in the right

Of your great predecessor, King Edward the Third.

In answer of which claim, the prince our master

Says that you savour too much of your youth,

And bids you be advis’d there’s nought in France

That can be with a nimble galliard won;

You cannot revel into dukedoms there.

He therefore sends you, meeter for your spirit,

This tun of treasure; and, in lieu of this,

Desires you let the dukedoms that you claim

Hear no more of you. This the Dauphin speaks.

K. Hen.What treasure, uncle?

Exe.Tennis-balls, my liege.

K. Hen.We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us:

His present and your pains we thank you for:

When we have match’d our rackets to these balls,

We will in France, by God’s grace, play a set

Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard.

Tell him he hath made a match with such a wrangler

That all the courts of France will be disturb’d

With chaces. And we understand him well,

How he comes o’er us with our wilder days,

Not measuring what use we made of them.

We never valu’d this poor seat of England;

And therefore, living hence, did give ourself

To barbarous licence; as ’tis ever common

That men are merriest when they are from home.

But tell the Dauphin I will keep my state,

Be like a king and show my sail of greatness

When I do rouse me in my throne of France:

For that I have laid by my majesty

And plodded like a man for working-days,

But I will rise there with so full a glory

That I will dazzle all the eyes of France,

Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us.

And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his

Hath turn’d his balls to gun-stones; and his soul

Shall stand sore-charged for the wasteful vengeance

That shall fly with them: for many a thousand widows

Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands;

Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;

And some are yet ungotten and unborn

That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin’s scorn.

But this lies all within the will of God,

To whom I do appeal; and in whose name

Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,

To venge me as I may and to put forth

My rightful hand in a well-hallow’d cause.

So get you hence in peace; and tell the Dauphin

His jest will savour but of shallow wit

When thousands weep more than did laugh at it.

Convey them with safe conduct. Fare you well.[Exeunt Ambassadors.

Exe.This was a merry message.

K. Hen.We hope to make the sender blush at it.

Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour

That may give furtherance to our expedition;

For we have now no thought in us but France,

Save those to God, that run before our business.

Therefore let our proportions for these wars

Be soon collected, and all things thought upon

That may with reasonable swiftness add

More feathers to our wings; for, God before,

We’ll chide this Dauphin at his father’s door.

Therefore let every man now task his thought,

That this fair action may on foot be brought.[Exeunt.Flourish.