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MELUN, a French lord.
CHATILLON, ambassador from France to King John.
ELINOR, the widow of King Henry II., and mother of King John.
CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur.
BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso, King of Castile, and niece to
Lords, Ladies, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers,
Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE.-Sometimes in ENGLAND, and sometim s in FRANCE
We commence our extracts at the period when King John invades France with a numerous army, to chastise Philip for espousing the cause of Prince Arthur, the rightful heir to the English throne.
The contending armies of England and France, meet before the city of Angiers; and after a battle, in which each party claims the victory, a peace is declared between the Sovereigns, to be cemented by the marriage of the French King's son, to Blanch, the niece of John. Philip further engages to break his league with the Lady Constance, and her son. The indignation and grief of the widowed mother, is beautifully depicted in the following scene.
The French King's Tent.
Enter CONSTANCE, ARTHUR, and SALISBURY.
Const. Gone to be married! gone to swear a peace!
False blood to false blood join'd! Gone to be friends!
Shall Lewis have Blanch? and Blanch those provinces ?
It is not so; thou hast mis-spoke, misheard;
Be well advis'd, tell o'er thy tale again:
It cannot be; thou dost but say, 'tis so:
I trust, I may not trust thee; for thy word
Is but the vain breath of a common man :
Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;
I have a king's oath to the contrary.
Thou shalt be punish'd for thus frighting me,
For I am sick, and capable of fears;
Oppress'd with wrongs, and therefore full of fears;
A widow, husbandless, subject to fears;
A woman, naturally born to fears;
And though thou now confess, thou didst but jest,
With my vex'd spirits I cannot take a truce,
But they will quake and tremble all this day.
What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
Why dost thou look so sadly on my son?
What means that hand upon that breast of thine!
Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,-
Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds?
Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
Then speak again; not all thy former tale,
But this one word, whether thy tale be true.
Sal. As true, as, I believe, you think them false,
That give you cause to prove my saying true.
Const. Ŏ, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow,
Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die;
And let belief and life encounter so,
As doth the fury of two desperate men,
Which, in the very meeting, fall, and die.—
Lewis marry Blanch! O, boy, then where art thou?
France friend with England! what becomes of me?—
Fellow, begone! I cannot brook thy sight;
This news hath made thee a most ugly man.
Sal. What other harm have I, good lady, done,
But spoke the harm that is by others done?
Const. Which harm within itself so heinous is,
As it makes harmful all that speak of it.
Arth. I do beseech you, madam, be content.
Const. If thou, that bid'st me be content, were grim,
Full of unpleasing blots, and sightless stains,
Lame, foolish, crook'd, swart, prodigious,
Patch'd with foul moles, and eye-offending marks,
I would not care, I then would be content;
For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou
Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown.
But thou art fair; and at thy birth, dear boy!
Nature and fortune join'd to make thee great:
Of nature's gifts thou may'st with lilies boast,
And with the half-blown rose: but fortune, O!
She is corrupted, chang'd, and won from thee;
She adulterates hourly with thine uncle John;
And with her golden hand hath pluck'd on France
To tread down fair respect of sovereignty.
Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn?
Envenom him with words; or get thee gone,
And leave these woes alone, which I alone,
Am bound to under-bear.
I may not go without you to the kings.
Const. Thou may'st, thou shalt, I will not go with thee:
I will instruct my sorrows to be proud:
For grief is proud, and makes his owner stout.
To me, and to the state of my great grief,
Let kings assemble, for my grief's so great,
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up: here I and sorrow sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.
[She throws herself on the ground.
Enter KING JOHN, King Philip, Lewis, Blanch, ELINOR, FAULCONBRIDGE. AUSTRIA, and Attendants.
K. Phi. "Tis true, fair daughter; and this blessed day,
Ever in France shall be kept festival :
To solemnize this day, the glorious sun
Stays in his course, and plays the alchemist;
Turning, with splendor of his precious eye,
The meagre cloddy earth to glittering gold:
The yearly course, that brings this day about,
Shall never see it but a holyday.
Const. A wicked day, and not a holyday !—
What hath this day deserv'd? what hath it done:
That it in golden letters should
Among the high tides, in the calendar?
Nay, neither, turn this day out of the week;
This day of shame, oppression, perjury :
This day, all things begun come to ill end;
Yes, faith itself to hollow falsehood change!
K. Phi. By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause
To curse the fair proceedings of this day:
Have I not pawn'd to you my majesty ?
Const. You have beguil'd me with a counterfeit
Resembling majesty; which, being touch'd, and tried,
Proves valueless: You are forsworn, forsworn;
You came in arms to spill mine enemies' blood,
But now in arms, you strengthen it with yours:
The grappling vigor and rough frown of war,
Is cold in amity and painted peace,
And our oppression hath made up this league :--
Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perjured kings!
A widow cries; be husband to me, heavens !
Let not the hours of this ungodly day
Wear out the day in peace; but, ere sunset,
Set armed discord 'twixt these perjur'd kings!
Hear me, O, hear me !
Lady Constance, peace.
Const. War! war! no peace! peace is to me a war.
O Lymoges! O Austria! thou dost shame
That bloody spoil: Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward;
Thou little valiant, great in villany!
Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
Thou fortune's champion, that dost never fight
But when her humorous ladyship is by
To teach thee safety! Thou cold-blooded slave,
Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side?
Been sworn my soldier? bidding me depend
Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength?
And dost thou now fall over to my foes?
Thou wear a lion's hide! doff it for shame,
And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
Aust. O, that a man should speak those words to me!
Faul. And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
Aust. Thou dar'st not say so, villain, for thy life.
Faul. And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
K. John. We like not this; thou dost forget thyself.
K. Phi. Here comes the holy legate of the pope.
Pand. Hail, you anointed deputies of heaven!
To thee, king John, my holy errand is.
I, Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal,
And from pope Innocent the legate here,
Do, in his name, religiously demand,
Why thou against the church, our holy mother,
So wilfully dost spurn; and, force perforce,
Keep Stephen Langton, chosen archbishop
Of Canterbury, from that holy see ?
This, in our 'foresaid holy father's name,
Pope Innocent, I do demand of thee.
K. John. What earthly name to interrogatories,
Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the pope.
Tell him this tale; and from the mouth of England,
Add thus much more,-That no Italian priest
Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
But as we under heaven are supreme head,
So, under him, that great supremacy,
Where we do reign, we will alone uphold,
Without the assistance of a mortal hand:
So tell the pope; all reverence set apart,
To him, and his usurp'd authority.
K. Phi. Brother of England, you blaspheme in this.
K. John. Though you, and all the kings of Christendom, Are led so grossly by this meddling priest, Dreading the curse that money may buy out; And, by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust, Purchase corrupted pardon of a man, Who, in that sale, sells pardon from himself; Though you, and all the rest, so grossly led, This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish;
Yet I, alone, alone do me oppose
Against the pope, and count his friends my foes.
Pand. Then by the lawful power that I have,
Thou shalt stand curs'd, and excommunicate:
And blessed shall he be, that doth revolt
From his allegiance to an heretic;
And meritorious shall that hand be call'd,
Canoniz'd, and worship'd as a saint,
That takes away by any secret course
Thy hateful life.
O, lawful let it be,
That I have room with Rome to curse awhile!
Good father cardinal, cry thou, amen,
To my keen curses: for, without my wrong,
There is no tongue hath power to curse him right.
Pand. There's law and warrant, lady, for my curse.
Const. And for mine too; when law can do no right,
Let it be lawful, that law bar no wrong:
Law cannot give my child his kingdom here;
For he, that holds his kingdom, holds the law:
Therefore, since law itself is perfect wrong,
How can the law forbid my tongue to curse?
Pand. Philip of France, on peril of a curse,
Let go the hand of that arch-heretic;
And raise the power of France upon his head,
Unless he do submit himself to Rome.
Eli. Look'st thou pale, France? do not let go thy hand. Aust. King Philip, listen to the cardinal.
K. John. Philip, what say'st thou to the cardinal?
Const. What should he say, but as the cardinal?
K. Phi. Good reverend father, make my person yours,
And tell me, how you would bestow yourself.
This royal hand and mine are newly knit:
And shall these hands, so lately purg'd of blood,
So newly joined in love, so strong in both,
Unyoke this seizure, and this kind regreet?
Play fast and loose with faith? so jest with heaven,
Make such unconstant children of ourselves,
As now again to snatch our palm from palm;
Unswear faith sworn ; and on the marriage bed
Of smiling peace to march a bloody host,
And make a riot on the gentle brow
Of true sincerity? O holy sir,
My reverend father, let it not be so:
Out of your grace, devise, ordain, impose
Some gentle order; and then we shall be bless'd
To do your pleasure, and continue friends.
Pand. All form is formless, order orderless,
Save what is opposite to England's love.