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

Act III. Scene II.

The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth

London.A Room in the Palace.


K. Edw.Brother of Gloucester, at Saint Alban’s field

This lady’s husband, Sir John Grey, was slain,

His lands then seiz’d on by the conqueror:

Her suit is now, to repossess those lands;

Which we in justice cannot well deny,

Because in quarrel of the house of York

The worthy gentleman did lose his life.

Glo.Your highness shall do well to grant her suit;

It were dishonour to deny it her.

K. Edw.It were no less: but yet I’ll make a pause.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]Yea; is it so?

I see the lady hath a thing to grant

Before the king will grant her humble suit.

Clar.[Aside to GLOUCESTER.]He knows the game: how true he keeps the wind!

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]Silence!

K. Edw.Widow, we will consider of your suit,

And come some other time to know our mind.

L. Grey.Right gracious lord, I cannot brook delay:

May it please your highness to resolve me now,

And what your pleasure is shall satisfy me.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]Ay, widow? then I’ll warrant you all your lands,

An if what pleases him shall pleasure you,

Fight closer, or, good faith, you’ll catch a blow.

Clar.[Aside to GLOUCESTER.]I fear her not, unless she chance to fall.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]God forbid that! for he’ll take vantages.

K. Edw.How many children hast thou, widow? tell me.

Clar.[Aside to GLOUCESTER.]I think he means to beg a child of her.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]Nay, whip me, then; he’ll rather give her two.

L. Grey.Three, my most gracious lord.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]You shall have four, if you’ll be rul’d by him.

K. Edw.’Twere pity they should lose their father’s lands.

L. Grey.Be pitiful, dread lord, and grant it then.

K. Edw.Lords, give us leave: I’ll try this widow’s wit.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]Ay, good leave have you; for you will have leave,

Till youth take leave and leave you to the crutch.[Retiring with CLARENCE.

K. Edw.Now, tell me, madam, do you love your children?

L. Grey.Ay, full as dearly as I love myself.

K. Edw.And would you not do much to do them good?

L. Grey.To do them good I would sustain some harm.

K. Edw.Then get your husband’s lands, to do them good.

L. Grey.Therefore I came unto your majesty.

K. Edw.I’ll tell you how these lands are to be got.

L. Grey.So shall you bind me to your highness’ service.

K. Edw.What service wilt thou do me, if I give them?

L. Grey.What you command, that rests in me to do.

K. Edw.But you will take exceptions to my boon.

L. Grey.No, gracious lord, except I cannot do it.

K. Edw.Ay, but thou canst do what I mean to ask.

L. Grey.Why, then I will do what your Grace commands.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]He plies her hard; and much rain wears the marble.

Clar.[Aside to GLOUCESTER.]As red as fire! nay, then her wax must melt.

L. Grey.Why stops my lord? shall I not hear my task?

K. Edw.An easy task: ’tis but to love a king.

L. Grey.That’s soon perform’d, because I am a subject.

K. Edw.Why then, thy husband’s lands I freely give thee.

L. Grey.I take my leave with many thousand thanks.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]The match is made; she seals it with a curtsy.

K. Edw.But stay thee; ’tis the fruits of love I mean.

L. Grey.The fruits of love I mean, my loving liege.

K. Edw.Ay, but, I fear me, in another sense.

What love think’st thou I sue so much to get?

L. Grey.My love till death, my humble thanks, my prayers:

That love which virtue begs and virtue grants.

K. Edw.No, by my troth, I did not mean such love.

L. Grey.Why, then you mean not as I thought you did.

K. Edw.But now you partly may perceive my mind.

L. Grey.My mind will never grant what I perceive

Your highness aims at, if I aim aright.

K. Edw.To tell thee plain, I aim to lie with thee.

L. Grey.To tell you plain, I had rather lie in prison.

K. Edw.Why, then thou shalt not have thy husband’s lands.

L. Grey.Why, then mine honesty shall be my dower;

For by that loss I will not purchase them.

K. Edw.Therein thou wrong’st thy children mightily.

L. Grey.Herein your highness wrongs both them and me.

But, mighty lord, this merry inclination

Accords not with the sadness of my suit:

Please you dismiss me, either with ‘ay,’ or ‘no.’

K. Edw.Ay, if thou wilt say ‘ay’ to my request;

No, if thou dost say ‘no’ to my demand.

L. Grey.Then, no, my lord. My suit is at an end.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]The widow likes him not, she knits her brows.

Clar.[Aside to GLOUCESTER.]He is the bluntest wooer in Christendom.

K. Edw.[Aside.]Her looks do argue her replete with modesty;

Her words do show her wit incomparable;

All her perfections challenge sovereignty:

One way or other, she is for a king;

And she shall be my love, or else my queen.

Say that King Edward take thee for his queen?

L. Grey.’Tis better said than done, my gracious lord:

I am a subject fit to jest withal,

But far unfit to be a sovereign.

K. Edw.Sweet widow, by my state I swear to thee,

I speak no more than what my soul intends;

And that is, to enjoy thee for my love.

L. Grey.And that is more than I will yield unto.

I know I am too mean to be your queen,

And yet too good to be your concubine.

K. Edw.You cavil, widow: I did mean, my queen.

L. Grey.’Twill grieve your Grace my sons should call you father.

K. Edw.No more than when my daughters call thee mother.

Thou art a widow, and thou hast some children;

And, by God’s mother, I, being but a bachelor,

Have other some: why, ’tis a happy thing

To be the father unto many sons.

Answer no more, for thou shalt be my queen.

Glo.[Aside to CLARENCE.]The ghostly father now hath done his shrift.

Clar.[Aside to GLOUCESTER.]When he was made a shriver, ’twas for shift.

K. Edw.Brothers, you muse what chat we two have had.

Glo.The widow likes it not, for she looks very sad.

K. Edw.You’d think it strange if I should marry her.

Clar.To whom, my lord?

K. Edw.Why, Clarence, to myself.

Glo.That would be ten days’ wonder at the least.

Clar.That’s a day longer than a wonder lasts.

Glo.By so much is the wonder in extremes.

K. Edw.Well, jest on, brothers: I can tell you both

Her suit is granted for her husband’s lands.

Enter a Nobleman.

Nob.My gracious lord, Henry your foe is taken,

And brought as prisoner to your palace gate.

K. Edw.See that he be convey’d unto the Tower:

And go we, brothers, to the man that took him,

To question of his apprehension.

Widow, go you along. Lords, use her honourably.[Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER.

Glo.Ay, Edward will use women honourably.

Would he were wasted, marrow, bones, and all,

That from his loins no hopeful branch may spring,

To cross me from the golden time I look for!

And yet, between my soul’s desire and me—

The lustful Edward’s title buried,—

Is Clarence, Henry, and his son young Edward,

And all the unlook’d for issue of their bodies,

To take their rooms, ere I can place myself:

A cold premeditation for my purpose!

Why then, I do but dream on sovereignty;

Like one that stands upon a promontory,

And spies a far-off shore where he would tread,

Wishing his foot were equal with his eye;

And chides the sea that sunders him from thence,

Saying, he’ll lade it dry to have his way:

So do I wish the crown, being so far off,

And so I chide the means that keep me from it,

And so I say I’ll cut the causes off,

Flattering me with impossibilities.

My eye’s too quick, my heart o’erweens too much,

Unless my hand and strength could equal them.

Well, say there is no kingdom then for Richard;

What other pleasure can the world afford?

I’ll make my heaven in a lady’s lap,

And deck my body in gay ornaments,

And witch sweet ladies with my words and looks.

O miserable thought! and more unlikely

Than to accomplish twenty golden crowns.

Why, love forswore me in my mother’s womb:

And, for I should not deal in her soft laws,

She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,

To shrink mine arm up like a wither’d shrub;

To make an envious mountain on my back,

Where sits deformity to mock my body;

To shape my legs of an unequal size;

To disproportion me in every part,

Like to a chaos, or an unlick’d bear-whelp

That carries no impression like the dam.

And am I then a man to be belov’d?

O monstrous fault! to harbour such a thought.

Then, since this earth affords no joy to me

But to command, to check, to o’erbear such

As are of better person than myself,

I’ll make my heaven to dream upon the crown;

And, whiles I live, to account this world but hell,

Until my mis-shap’d trunk that bears this head

Be round impaled with a glorious crown.

And yet I know not how to get the crown,

For many lives stand between me and home:

And I, like one lost in a thorny wood,

That rents the thorns and is rent with the thorns,

Seeking a way and straying from the way;

Not knowing how to find the open air,

But toiling desperately to find it out,

Torment myself to catch the English crown:

And from that torment I will free myself,

Or hew my way out with a bloody axe.

Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile,

And cry, ‘Content,’ to that which grieves my heart,

And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,

And frame my face to all occasions.

I’ll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;

I’ll slay more gazers than the basilisk;

I’ll play the orator as well as Nestor,

Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,

And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.

I can add colours to the chameleon,

Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,

And set the murd’rous Machiavel to school.

Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?

Tut! were it further off, I’ll pluck it down.[Exit.