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King John

ACT IV SCENE IIIBefore the castle.
Enter ARTHUR, on the walls.
ARTHURThe wall is high, and yet will I leap down:
Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not!
There’s few or none do know me: if they did,
This ship-boy’s semblance hath disguised me quite. 5
I am afraid; and yet I’ll venture it.
If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
I’ll find a thousand shifts to get away:
As good to die and go, as die and stay.
Leaps down
O me! my uncle’s spirit is in these stones: 10
Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!
SALISBURYLords, I will meet him at Saint Edmundsbury:
It is our safety, and we must embrace
This gentle offer of the perilous time.
PEMBROKEWho brought that letter from the cardinal? 15
SALISBURYThe Count Melun, a noble lord of France,
Whose private with me of the Dauphin’s love
Is much more general than these lines import.
BIGOTTo-morrow morning let us meet him then.
SALISBURYOr rather then set forward; for ’twill be 20
Two long days’ journey, lords, or ere we meet.
Enter the BASTARD
BASTARDOnce more to-day well met, distemper’d lords!
The king by me requests your presence straight.
SALISBURYThe king hath dispossess’d himself of us:
We will not line his thin bestained cloak 25
With our pure honours, nor attend the foot
That leaves the print of blood where’er it walks.
Return and tell him so: we know the worst.
BASTARDWhate’er you think, good words, I think, were best.
SALISBURYOur griefs, and not our manners, reason now. 30
BASTARDBut there is little reason in your grief;
Therefore ’twere reason you had manners now.
PEMBROKESir, sir, impatience hath his privilege.
BASTARD‘Tis true, to hurt his master, no man else.
SALISBURYThis is the prison. What is he lies here? 35
PEMBROKEO death, made proud with pure and princely beauty!
The earth had not a hole to hide this deed.
SALISBURYMurder, as hating what himself hath done,
Doth lay it open to urge on revenge.
BIGOTOr, when he doom’d this beauty to a grave, 40
Found it too precious-princely for a grave.
SALISBURYSir Richard, what think you? have you beheld,
Or have you read or heard? or could you think?
Or do you almost think, although you see,
That you do see? could thought, without this object, 45
Form such another? This is the very top,
The height, the crest, or crest unto the crest,
Of murder’s arms: this is the bloodiest shame,
The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke,
That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage 50
Presented to the tears of soft remorse.
PEMBROKEAll murders past do stand excused in this:
And this, so sole and so unmatchable,
Shall give a holiness, a purity,
To the yet unbegotten sin of times; 55
And prove a deadly bloodshed but a jest,
Exampled by this heinous spectacle.
BASTARDIt is a damned and a bloody work;
The graceless action of a heavy hand,
If that it be the work of any hand. 60
SALISBURYIf that it be the work of any hand!
We had a kind of light what would ensue:
It is the shameful work of Hubert’s hand;
The practise and the purpose of the king:
From whose obedience I forbid my soul, 65
Kneeling before this ruin of sweet life,
And breathing to his breathless excellence
The incense of a vow, a holy vow,
Never to taste the pleasures of the world,
Never to be infected with delight, 70
Nor conversant with ease and idleness,
Till I have set a glory to this hand,
By giving it the worship of revenge.
| Our souls religiously confirm thy words. 75
HUBERTLords, I am hot with haste in seeking you:
Arthur doth live; the king hath sent for you.
SALISBURYO, he is old and blushes not at death.
Avaunt, thou hateful villain, get thee gone! 80
HUBERTI am no villain.
SALISBURYMust I rob the law?
Drawing his sword
BASTARDYour sword is bright, sir; put it up again.
SALISBURYNot till I sheathe it in a murderer’s skin.
HUBERTStand back, Lord Salisbury, stand back, I say; 85
By heaven, I think my sword’s as sharp as yours:
I would not have you, lord, forget yourself,
Nor tempt the danger of my true defence;
Lest I, by marking of your rage, forget
Your worth, your greatness and nobility. 90
BIGOTOut, dunghill! darest thou brave a nobleman?
HUBERTNot for my life: but yet I dare defend
My innocent life against an emperor.
SALISBURYThou art a murderer.
HUBERTDo not prove me so; 95
Yet I am none: whose tongue soe’er speaks false,
Not truly speaks; who speaks not truly, lies.
PEMBROKECut him to pieces.
BASTARDKeep the peace, I say.
SALISBURYStand by, or I shall gall you, Faulconbridge. 100
BASTARDThou wert better gall the devil, Salisbury:
If thou but frown on me, or stir thy foot,
Or teach thy hasty spleen to do me shame,
I’ll strike thee dead. Put up thy sword betime;
Or I’ll so maul you and your toasting-iron, 105
That you shall think the devil is come from hell.
BIGOTWhat wilt thou do, renowned Faulconbridge?
Second a villain and a murderer?
HUBERTLord Bigot, I am none.
BIGOTWho kill’d this prince? 110
HUBERT‘Tis not an hour since I left him well:
I honour’d him, I loved him, and will weep
My date of life out for his sweet life’s loss.
SALISBURYTrust not those cunning waters of his eyes,
For villany is not without such rheum; 115
And he, long traded in it, makes it seem
Like rivers of remorse and innocency.
Away with me, all you whose souls abhor
The uncleanly savours of a slaughter-house;
For I am stifled with this smell of sin. 120
BIGOTAway toward Bury, to the Dauphin there!
PEMBROKEThere tell the king he may inquire us out.
Exeunt Lords
BASTARDHere’s a good world! Knew you of this fair work?
Beyond the infinite and boundless reach
Of mercy, if thou didst this deed of death, 125
Art thou damn’d, Hubert.
HUBERTDo but hear me, sir.
BASTARDHa! I’ll tell thee what;
Thou’rt damn’d as black–nay, nothing is so black;
Thou art more deep damn’d than Prince Lucifer: 130
There is not yet so ugly a fiend of hell
As thou shalt be, if thou didst kill this child.
HUBERTUpon my soul–
BASTARDIf thou didst but consent
To this most cruel act, do but despair; 135
And if thou want’st a cord, the smallest thread
That ever spider twisted from her womb
Will serve to strangle thee, a rush will be a beam
To hang thee on; or wouldst thou drown thyself,
Put but a little water in a spoon, 140
And it shall be as all the ocean,
Enough to stifle such a villain up.
I do suspect thee very grievously.
HUBERTIf I in act, consent, or sin of thought,
Be guilty of the stealing that sweet breath 145
Which was embounded in this beauteous clay,
Let hell want pains enough to torture me.
I left him well.
BASTARDGo, bear him in thine arms.
I am amazed, methinks, and lose my way 150
Among the thorns and dangers of this world.
How easy dost thou take all England up!
From forth this morsel of dead royalty,
The life, the right and truth of all this realm
Is fled to heaven; and England now is left 155
To tug and scamble and to part by the teeth
The unowed interest of proud-swelling state.
Now for the bare-pick’d bone of majesty
Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest
And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace: 160
Now powers from home and discontents at home
Meet in one line; and vast confusion waits,
As doth a raven on a sick-fall’n beast,
The imminent decay of wrested pomp.
Now happy he whose cloak and cincture can 165
Hold out this tempest. Bear away that child
And follow me with speed: I’ll to the king:
A thousand businesses are brief in hand,
And heaven itself doth frown upon the land.

Next: King John, Act 5, Scene 1