Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  The Lost Drum

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

The Lost Drum

From “All’s Well That Ends Well


1st Lord.Nay, good my lord, put him to’t: let him have his way.

2d Lord.If your lordship find him not a hilding, hold me no more in your respect.

1st Lord.On my life, my lord, a bubble.

Ber.Do you think I am so far deceived in him?

1st Lord.Believe it, my lord: in mine own direct knowledge, without any malice, but to speak of him as my kinsman, he’s a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker, the owner of no one good quality worthy your lordship’s entertainment.

2d Lord.It were fit you knew him, lest, reposing too far in his virtue, which he hath not, he might, at some great and trusty business in a main danger, fail you.

Ber.I would I knew in what particular action to try him.

2d Lord.None better than to let him fetch off his drum, which you hear him so confidently undertake to do.

1st Lord.I, with a troop of Florentines, will suddenly surprise him: such I will have whom, I am sure, he knows not from the enemy. We will bind and hoodwink him so, that he shall suppose no other but that he is carried into the leaguer of the adversaries, when we bring him to our own tents. Be but your lordship present at his examination: if he do not, for the promise of his life, and in the highest compulsion of base fear, offer to betray you, and deliver all the intelligence in his power against you, and that with the divine forfeit of his soul upon oath, never trust my judgment in anything.

2d Lord.Oh, for the love of laughter, let him fetch his drum; he says he has a stratagem for’t. When your lordship sees the bottom of his success in’t, and to what metal this counterfeit lump of ore will be melted, if you give him not John Drum’s entertainment, your inclining cannot be removed. Here he comes.

1st Lord.Oh, for the love of laughter, hinder not the honour of his design: let him fetch off his drum in any hand.


Ber.How now, monsieur? This drum sticks sorely in your disposition.

2d Lord.A pox on’t! Let it go: ’tis but a drum.

Par.But a drum! Is’t but a drum? A drum so lost! There was an excellent command, to charge in with our horse upon our own wings, and to rend our own soldiers!

2d Lord.That was not to be blamed in the command of the service: it was a disaster of war that Cæsar himself could not have prevented, if he had been there to command.

Ber.Well, we cannot greatly condemn our success: some dishonour we had in the loss of that drum; but it is not to be recovered.

Par.It might have been recovered.

Ber.It might; but it is not now.

Par.It is to be recovered. But that the merit of service is seldom attributed to the true and exact performer, I would have that drum or another, or hic jacet.

Ber.Why, if you have a stomach to’t, monsieur, if you think your mystery in stratagem can bring this instrument of honour again into his native quarter, be magnanimous in the enterprise, and go on; I will grace the attempt for a worthy exploit. If you speed well in it, the duke shall both speak of it, and extend to you what further becomes his greatness, even to the utmost syllable of your worthiness.

Par.By the hand of a soldier, I will undertake it.

Ber.But you must not now slumber in it.

Par.I’ll about it this evening. And I will presently pen down my dilemmas, encourage myself in my certainty, put myself into my mortal preparation, and by midnight look to hear further from me.

Ber.May I be bold to acquaint his grace you are gone about it?

Par.I know not what the success will be, my lord; but the attempt I vow.

Ber.I know thou art valiant, and, to the possibility of thy soldiership, will subscribe for thee. Farewell.


FRENCH LORD, with SOLDIERS in ambush.

Lord.He can come no other way but by this hedge-corner. When you sally upon him, speak what terrible language you will: though you understand it not yourselves, no matter; for we must not seem to understand him, unless some one among us, whom we must produce for an interpreter.

1st Sold.Good captain, let me be the interpreter.

Lord.Art not acquainted with him? Knows he not thy voice?

1st Sold.No, sir, I warrant you.

Lord.But what linsey-woolsey hast thou to speak to us again?

1st Sold.Even such as you speak to me.

Lord.He must think us some band of strangers i’ the adversary’s entertainment. Now, he hath a smack of all neighbouring languages; therefore we must every one be a man of his own fancy, not to know what we speak one to another; so we seem to know, is to know straight our purpose: chough’s language, gabble enough, and good enough. As for you, interpreter, you must seem very politic. But couch, ho! here he comes, to beguile two hours in a sleep, and then to return and swear the lies he forges.


Par.Ten o’clock: within these three hours ’twill be time enough to go home. What shall I say I have done? It must be a very plausive invention that carries it. They begin to smoke me, and disgraces have of late knocked too often at my door. I find my tongue is too foolhardy; but my heart hath the fear of Mars before it, and of his creatures, not daring the reports of my tongue.

Lord(aside).This is the first truth that e’er thine own tongue was guilty of.

Par.What the devil should move me to undertake the recovery of this drum, being not ignorant of the impossibility, and knowing I had no such purpose? I must give myself some hurts, and say I got them in exploit. Yet slight ones will not carry it: they will say, “Came you off with so little”? and great ones I dare not give. Wherefore? What’s the instance? Tongue, I must put you into a butter-woman’s mouth, and buy myself another of Bajazet’s mule, if you prattle me into these perils.

Lord(aside).Is it possible he should know what he is, and be that he is?

Par.I would the cutting of my garments would serve the turn, or the breaking of my Spanish sword.

Lord(aside).We cannot afford you so.

Par.Or the baring of my beard; and to say it was in stratagem.

Lord(aside).’Twould not do.

Par.Or to drown my clothes, and say I was stripped.

Lord(aside).’Twould hardly serve.

Par.Though I swore I leaped from the window of the citadel—

Lord(aside).How deep?

Par.Thirty fathoms.

Lord(aside).Three great oaths would scarce make that be believed.

Par.I would I had any drum of the enemy’s; I would swear I recovered it.

Lord(aside).You shall hear one anon.

Par.A drum now of the enemy’s!(Alarum within.)

Lord.Throca movousus, cargo, cargo, cargo.

All.Cargo, cargo, villianda par corbo, cargo.

Par.Oh, ransom, ransom! Do not hide mine eyes.(SOLDIERS seize and blindfold him.)

1st Sold.Boskos thromuldo boskos.

Par.I know, you are the Musko’s regiment;

And I shall lose my life for want of language.

If there be here German, or Dane, Low Dutch,

Italian, or French, let him speak to me.

I will discover that which shall undo

The Florentine.
1st Sold.Boskos vauvado.

I understand thee, and can speak thy tongue.


Betake thee to thy faith, for seventeen poniards

Are at thy bosom.
1st Sold.Oh, pray, pray, pray!

Manka revania dulche.
Lord.Oscorbi dulchos volivorco.

1st Sold.The general is content to spare thee yet,

And, hoodwinked as thou art, will lead thee on

To gather from thee. Haply thou may’st inform

Something to save thy life.
Par.Oh, let me live,

And all the secrets of our camp I’ll show,

Their force, their purposes. Nay, I’ll speak that

Which you will wonder at.
1st Sold.But wilt thou faithfully?

Par.If I do not, damn me.
1st Sold.Acordo linta.

Come on, thou art granted space.(Exit, with PAROLLES guarded.)

Lord.Go, tell the Count Rousillon, and my brother,

We have caught the woodcock, and will keep him muffled

Till we do hear from them.
2d Sold.Captain, I will.

Lord.’A will betray us all unto ourselves.

Inform on that.
2d Sold.So I will, sir.

Lord.Till then, I’ll keep him dark, and safely locked.