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O, FOR a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention !
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and, at his heels,
Leashed in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire,
Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,
The flat, unraised spirit, that hath dared,
On this unworthy scaffold, to bring forth
So great an object. Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France ? or may we cram
Within this wooden 0, the very casques,
That did affright the air at Agincourt ?
0, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest, in little place, a million ;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces ? work.
Suppose, within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high, upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous, narrow ocean parts asunder.
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts ;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance ;
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them

1 0, for circle, alluding to the circular form of the theatre.

2 « Imaginary forces." Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy.

Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times;
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass. For the which supply,
Admit me chorus to this history;
Who, prologue like, your humble patience pray
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.


SCENE I. London. An Antechamber in the

King's Palace.

Enter the Archbishop Canterbury, and Bishop

of Ely. Canterbury. My lord, I'll tell you,-that self bill is

Which in the eleventh year o’the last king's reign
Was like, and had indeed against us passed,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of further question.

Ely. But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?

Cant. It must be thought on. If it pass against us, We lose the better half of our possession; For all the temporal lands, which men devout By testament have given to the church, Would they strip from us: being valued thus,

1 This first scene was added in the folio, together with the choruses and other amplifications. It appears from Hall and Holinshed, that the events passed at Leicester, where king Henry V. held a parliament in the second year of his reign. But the chorus at the beginning of the second act shows that the Poet intended to make London the place of his first scene.

2 “Canterbury and Ely.” Henry Chicheley, a Carthusian monk, recently promoted to the see of Canterbury. John Fordham, bishop of Ely, consecrated 1388, died 1426.

As much as would maintain, to the king's honor,
Full fifteen earls, and fifteen hundred knights;
Six thousand and two hundred good esquires;
And, to relief of lazars, and weak

Of indigent, faint souls, past corporal toil,
A hundred alms-houses, right well supplied ;
And to the coffers of the king beside,
A thousand pounds by the year. Thus runs the bill.

Ely. This would drink deep.
'Twould drink the cup

and all.
Ely. But what prevention ?
Cant. The king is full of grace, and fair regard.
Ely. And a true lover of the holy church.

Cant. The courses of his youth promised it not.
The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seemed to die too;1 yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came,
And whipped the offending Adam out of him ;
Leaving his body as a paradise,
To envelop and contain celestial spirits.
Never was such a sudden scholar made;
Never came reformation in a flood,
With such a heady current, scouring faults ;
Nor never hydra-headed wilfulness
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
As in this king.

We are blessed in the change.
Cant. Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire, the king were made a prelate :
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say,—it hath been all in all his study:
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rendered you in music :
Turn him to any cause of policy,

1 The same thought occurs in the preceding play, where king Henry V. says:

“ My father is gone wild into his grave,
For in his tomb lie my affections."

The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter; that, when he speaks,
The air, a chartered libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences ;
So that the art and practic part of life
Must be the mistress to his theoric; 1
Which is a wonder, how his grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain ;
His companies unlettered, rude, and shallow ;
His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports ;
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.

Ely. The strawberry grows underneath the nettle ;
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best,
Neighbored by fruit of baser quality.
And so the prince obscured his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt,
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crescive? in his faculty.

Cant. It must be so; for miracles are ceased ;
And therefore we must needs admit the means,
How things are perfected.

But, my good lord,
How now for mitigation of this bill
Urged by the commons ? Doth his majesty
Incline to it, or no ?

He seems indifferent ;
Or, rather, swaying more upon our part,
Than cherishing the exhibiters against us.
For I have made an offer to his majesty, -
Upon our spiritual convocation ;
And in regard of causes now in hand,
Which I have opened to his grace at large,

1 He discourses with so much skill on all subjects, “ that his theory must have been taught by art and practice.Practic and theoric, or rather practique and theorique, was the old orthography of practice and theory.

2 This expressive word is used by Drant, in his Translation of Horace's Art of Poetry, 1567.


As touching France,—to give a greater sum
Than ever at one time the clergy yet
Did to his predecessors part withal.

Ely. How did this offer seem received, my lord ?

Cant. With good acceptance of his majesty;
Save, that there was not time enough to hear
(As, I perceived, his grace would fain have done)
The severals, and unhidden passages
Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms;
And, generally, to the crown and seat of France,
Derived from Edward his great grandfather.

Ely. What was the impediment that broke this off?

Cant. The French ambassador upon that instant
Craved audience; and the hour I think is come,
To give him hearing. Is it four o'clock ?

It is.
Cant. Then go we in, to know his embassy ;
Which I could, with a ready guess, declare,
Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.
Ely. I'll wait upon you; and I long to hear it.




The same.

A Room of State in the same.


WARWICK, WESTMORELAND, and Attendants. K. Hen. Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury? Ere. Not here in presence. K. Hen. Send for him, good uncle.? West. Shall we call in the ambassador, my liege? K. Hen. Not yet, my cousin; we would be resolved,

1 “The severals and unhidden passages.” The particulars and clear, unconcealed circumstances of his true titles, &c.

2 “ Send for him, good uncle.” The person here addressed was Thomas Beaufort, half brother to king Henry IV., being one of the sons of John of Gaunt by Katharine Swynford. He was not made duke of Exeter till the year after the battle of Agincourt, 1416. He was properly now only earl of Dorset. Shakspeare may have confounded this character with John Holland, duke of Exeter, who married Elizabeth, the king's aunt. He was executed at Plashey, in 1400. The old play began with the next speech.



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