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King John

KING JOHNNow, say, Chatillon, what would France with us?
CHATILLONThus, after greeting, speaks the King of France
In my behavior to the majesty,
The borrow’d majesty, of England here. 5
QUEEN ELINORA strange beginning: ‘borrow’d majesty!’
KING JOHNSilence, good mother; hear the embassy.
CHATILLONPhilip of France, in right and true behalf
Of thy deceased brother Geffrey’s son,
Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim 10
To this fair island and the territories,
To Ireland, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
Desiring thee to lay aside the sword
Which sways usurpingly these several titles,
And put these same into young Arthur’s hand, 15
Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.
KING JOHNWhat follows if we disallow of this?
CHATILLONThe proud control of fierce and bloody war,
To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld.
KING JOHNHere have we war for war and blood for blood, 20
Controlment for controlment: so answer France.
CHATILLONThen take my king’s defiance from my mouth,
The farthest limit of my embassy.
KING JOHNBear mine to him, and so depart in peace:
Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France; 25
For ere thou canst report I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be heard:
So hence! Be thou the trumpet of our wrath
And sullen presage of your own decay.
An honourable conduct let him have: 30
Pembroke, look to ‘t. Farewell, Chatillon.
QUEEN ELINORWhat now, my son! have I not ever said
How that ambitious Constance would not cease
Till she had kindled France and all the world,
Upon the right and party of her son? 35
This might have been prevented and made whole
With very easy arguments of love,
Which now the manage of two kingdoms must
With fearful bloody issue arbitrate.
KING JOHNOur strong possession and our right for us. 40
QUEEN ELINORYour strong possession much more than your right,
Or else it must go wrong with you and me:
So much my conscience whispers in your ear,
Which none but heaven and you and I shall hear.
Enter a Sheriff
ESSEXMy liege, here is the strangest controversy 45
Come from country to be judged by you,
That e’er I heard: shall I produce the men?
KING JOHNLet them approach.
Our abbeys and our priories shall pay
This expedition’s charge. 50
Enter ROBERT and the BASTARD
What men are you?
BASTARDYour faithful subject I, a gentleman
Born in Northamptonshire and eldest son,
As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
A soldier, by the honour-giving hand 55
Of Coeur-de-lion knighted in the field.
KING JOHNWhat art thou?
ROBERTThe son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.
KING JOHNIs that the elder, and art thou the heir?
You came not of one mother then, it seems. 60
BASTARDMost certain of one mother, mighty king;
That is well known; and, as I think, one father:
But for the certain knowledge of that truth
I put you o’er to heaven and to my mother:
Of that I doubt, as all men’s children may. 65
QUEEN ELINOROut on thee, rude man! thou dost shame thy mother
And wound her honour with this diffidence.
BASTARDI, madam? no, I have no reason for it;
That is my brother’s plea and none of mine;
The which if he can prove, a’ pops me out 70
At least from fair five hundred pound a year:
Heaven guard my mother’s honour and my land!
KING JOHNA good blunt fellow. Why, being younger born,
Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance?
BASTARDI know not why, except to get the land. 75
But once he slander’d me with bastardy:
But whether I be as true begot or no,
That still I lay upon my mother’s head,
But that I am as well begot, my liege,–
Fair fall the bones that took the pains for me!– 80
Compare our faces and be judge yourself.
If old sir Robert did beget us both
And were our father and this son like him,
O old sir Robert, father, on my knee
I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee! 85
KING JOHNWhy, what a madcap hath heaven lent us here!
QUEEN ELINORHe hath a trick of Coeur-de-lion’s face;
The accent of his tongue affecteth him.
Do you not read some tokens of my son
In the large composition of this man? 90
KING JOHNMine eye hath well examined his parts
And finds them perfect Richard. Sirrah, speak,
What doth move you to claim your brother’s land?
BASTARDBecause he hath a half-face, like my father.
With half that face would he have all my land: 95
A half-faced groat five hundred pound a year!
ROBERTMy gracious liege, when that my father lived,
Your brother did employ my father much,–
BASTARDWell, sir, by this you cannot get my land:
Your tale must be how he employ’d my mother. 100
ROBERTAnd once dispatch’d him in an embassy
To Germany, there with the emperor
To treat of high affairs touching that time.
The advantage of his absence took the king
And in the mean time sojourn’d at my father’s; 105
Where how he did prevail I shame to speak,
But truth is truth: large lengths of seas and shores
Between my father and my mother lay,
As I have heard my father speak himself,
When this same lusty gentleman was got. 110
Upon his death-bed he by will bequeath’d
His lands to me, and took it on his death
That this my mother’s son was none of his;
And if he were, he came into the world
Full fourteen weeks before the course of time. 115
Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine,
My father’s land, as was my father’s will.
KING JOHNSirrah, your brother is legitimate;
Your father’s wife did after wedlock bear him,
And if she did play false, the fault was hers; 120
Which fault lies on the hazards of all husbands
That marry wives. Tell me, how if my brother,
Who, as you say, took pains to get this son,
Had of your father claim’d this son for his?
In sooth, good friend, your father might have kept 125
This calf bred from his cow from all the world;
In sooth he might; then, if he were my brother’s,
My brother might not claim him; nor your father,
Being none of his, refuse him: this concludes;
My mother’s son did get your father’s heir; 130
Your father’s heir must have your father’s land.
ROBERTShall then my father’s will be of no force
To dispossess that child which is not his?
BASTARDOf no more force to dispossess me, sir,
Than was his will to get me, as I think. 135
QUEEN ELINORWhether hadst thou rather be a Faulconbridge
And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land,
Or the reputed son of Coeur-de-lion,
Lord of thy presence and no land beside?
BASTARDMadam, an if my brother had my shape, 140
And I had his, sir Robert’s his, like him;
And if my legs were two such riding-rods,
My arms such eel-skins stuff’d, my face so thin
That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose
Lest men should say ‘Look, where three-farthings goes!’ 145
And, to his shape, were heir to all this land,
Would I might never stir from off this place,
I would give it every foot to have this face;
I would not be sir Nob in any case.
QUEEN ELINORI like thee well: wilt thou forsake thy fortune, 150
Bequeath thy land to him and follow me?
I am a soldier and now bound to France.
BASTARDBrother, take you my land, I’ll take my chance.
Your face hath got five hundred pound a year,
Yet sell your face for five pence and ’tis dear. 155
Madam, I’ll follow you unto the death.
QUEEN ELINORNay, I would have you go before me thither.
BASTARDOur country manners give our betters way.
KING JOHNWhat is thy name?
BASTARDPhilip, my liege, so is my name begun, 160
Philip, good old sir Robert’s wife’s eldest son.
KING JOHNFrom henceforth bear his name whose form thou bear’st:
Kneel thou down Philip, but rise more great,
Arise sir Richard and Plantagenet.
BASTARDBrother by the mother’s side, give me your hand: 165
My father gave me honour, yours gave land.
Now blessed by the hour, by night or day,
When I was got, sir Robert was away!
QUEEN ELINORThe very spirit of Plantagenet!
I am thy grandam, Richard; call me so. 170
BASTARDMadam, by chance but not by truth; what though?
Something about, a little from the right,
In at the window, or else o’er the hatch:
Who dares not stir by day must walk by night,
And have is have, however men do catch: 175
Near or far off, well won is still well shot,
And I am I, howe’er I was begot.
KING JOHNGo, Faulconbridge: now hast thou thy desire;
A landless knight makes thee a landed squire.
Come, madam, and come, Richard, we must speed 180
For France, for France, for it is more than need.
BASTARDBrother, adieu: good fortune come to thee!
For thou wast got i’ the way of honesty.
Exeunt all but BASTARD
A foot of honour better than I was;
But many a many foot of land the worse. 185
Well, now can I make any Joan a lady.
‘Good den, sir Richard!’–‘God-a-mercy, fellow!’–
And if his name be George, I’ll call him Peter;
For new-made honour doth forget men’s names;
‘Tis too respective and too sociable 190
For your conversion. Now your traveller,
He and his toothpick at my worship’s mess,
And when my knightly stomach is sufficed,
Why then I suck my teeth and catechise
My picked man of countries: ‘My dear sir,’ 195
Thus, leaning on mine elbow, I begin,
‘I shall beseech you’–that is question now;
And then comes answer like an Absey book:
‘O sir,’ says answer, ‘at your best command;
At your employment; at your service, sir;’ 200
‘No, sir,’ says question, ‘I, sweet sir, at yours:’
And so, ere answer knows what question would,
Saving in dialogue of compliment,
And talking of the Alps and Apennines,
The Pyrenean and the river Po, 205
It draws toward supper in conclusion so.
But this is worshipful society
And fits the mounting spirit like myself,
For he is but a bastard to the time
That doth not smack of observation; 210
And so am I, whether I smack or no;
And not alone in habit and device,
Exterior form, outward accoutrement,
But from the inward motion to deliver
Sweet, sweet, sweet poison for the age’s tooth: 215
Which, though I will not practise to deceive,
Yet, to avoid deceit, I mean to learn;
For it shall strew the footsteps of my rising.
But who comes in such haste in riding-robes?
What woman-post is this? hath she no husband 220
That will take pains to blow a horn before her?
O me! it is my mother. How now, good lady!
What brings you here to court so hastily?
LADY FAULCONBRIDGEWhere is that slave, thy brother? where is he,
That holds in chase mine honour up and down? 225
BASTARDMy brother Robert? old sir Robert’s son?
Colbrand the giant, that same mighty man?
Is it sir Robert’s son that you seek so?
LADY FAULCONBRIDGESir Robert’s son! Ay, thou unreverend boy,
Sir Robert’s son: why scorn’st thou at sir Robert? 230
He is sir Robert’s son, and so art thou.
BASTARDJames Gurney, wilt thou give us leave awhile?
GURNEYGood leave, good Philip.
BASTARDPhilip! sparrow: James,
There’s toys abroad: anon I’ll tell thee more. 235
Madam, I was not old sir Robert’s son:
Sir Robert might have eat his part in me
Upon Good-Friday and ne’er broke his fast:
Sir Robert could do well: marry, to confess,
Could he get me? Sir Robert could not do it: 240
We know his handiwork: therefore, good mother,
To whom am I beholding for these limbs?
Sir Robert never holp to make this leg.
LADY FAULCONBRIDGEHast thou conspired with thy brother too,
That for thine own gain shouldst defend mine honour? 245
What means this scorn, thou most untoward knave?
BASTARDKnight, knight, good mother, Basilisco-like.
What! I am dubb’d! I have it on my shoulder.
But, mother, I am not sir Robert’s son;
I have disclaim’d sir Robert and my land; 250
Legitimation, name and all is gone:
Then, good my mother, let me know my father;
Some proper man, I hope: who was it, mother?
LADY FAULCONBRIDGEHast thou denied thyself a Faulconbridge?
BASTARDAs faithfully as I deny the devil. 255
LADY FAULCONBRIDGEKing Richard Coeur-de-lion was thy father:
By long and vehement suit I was seduced
To make room for him in my husband’s bed:
Heaven lay not my transgression to my charge!
Thou art the issue of my dear offence, 260
Which was so strongly urged past my defence.
BASTARDNow, by this light, were I to get again,
Madam, I would not wish a better father.
Some sins do bear their privilege on earth,
And so doth yours; your fault was not your folly: 265
Needs must you lay your heart at his dispose,
Subjected tribute to commanding love,
Against whose fury and unmatched force
The aweless lion could not wage the fight,
Nor keep his princely heart from Richard’s hand. 270
He that perforce robs lions of their hearts
May easily win a woman’s. Ay, my mother,
With all my heart I thank thee for my father!
Who lives and dares but say thou didst not well
When I was got, I’ll send his soul to hell. 275
Come, lady, I will show thee to my kin;
And they shall say, when Richard me begot,
If thou hadst said him nay, it had been sin:
Who says it was, he lies; I say ’twas not.

Next: King John, Act 2, Scene 1