William Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John in the complete original text.
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The Life and Death of King John

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Act III. Scene I.

Act III. Scene I.—France. 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 misspoke, 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 en 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. O! 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, be gone! 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 bidd'st me be content,
wert grim,
Ugly and slanderous to thy mother's womb,
Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,
Lame, foolish, crooked, 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 mayst 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,
And made his majesty the bawd to theirs.
France is a bawd to Fortune and King John,
That strumpet Fortune, that usurping John!
Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn?
Envenom him with words, or get thee gone
And leave those woes alone which I alone
Am bound to underbear.
Sal. Pardon me, madam,
I may not go without you to the kings.
Const. Thou mayst, thou shalt: I will not go
with thee.
I will instruct my sorrows to be proud;
For grief is proud and makes his owner stoop.
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 sorrows sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.
[Seats herself on the ground.

Enter KING JOHN, KINO PHILIP, LEWIS,
BLANCH, ELINOR, the BASTARD, DUKE
OF 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 splendour 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 holiday.
Const. [Rising.] A wicked day, and not a holy
day!
What hath this day deserv'd? what hath it done
That it in golden letters should be set
Among the high tides in the calendar?
Nay, rather turn this day out of the week,
This day of shame, oppression, perjury:
Or, if it must stand still, let wives with child
Pray that their burdens may not fall this day,
Lest that their hopes prodigiously be cross'd:
But on this day let seamen fear no wrack;
No bargains break that are not this day made;
This day all things begun come to ill end;
Yea, 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 counter-
feit
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 vigour 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 perjur'd
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!
Aust. 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 art perjur'd too,
And sooth'st up greatness. What a fool art thou,
A ramping fool, to brag, and stamp and swear
Upon my party! 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.
Bast. And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant
limbs.
Aust. Thou dar'st not say so, villain, for thy
life.
Bast. And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant
limbs.
K. John. We like not this; thou dost forget
thyself.

Enter PANDULPH.
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 interroga-
tories
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 a heretic;
And meritorious shall that hand be call'd,
Canonized and worshipp'd as a saint,
That takes away by any secret course
Thy hateful life.
Const. 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.
Const. Look to that, devil, lest that France
repent,
And by disjoining hands, hell lose a soul.
Aust. King Philip, listen to the cardinal.
Bast. And hang a calf's-skin on his recreant
limbs.
Aust. Well, ruffian, I must pocket up these
wrongs,
Because—
Bast. Your breeches best may carry them.
K. John. Philip, what sayst thou to the car-
dinal?
Const. What should he say, but as the car-
dinal?
Lew. Bethink you, father; for the difference
Is purchase of a heavy curse from Rome,
Or the light loss of England for a friend:
Forego the easier.
Blanch. That's the curse of Rome.
Const. O Lewis, stand fast! the devil tempts
thee here,
In likeness of a new untrimmed bride.
Blanch. The Lady Constance speaks not from
her faith,
But from her need.
Const. O! if thou grant my need,
Which only lives but by the death of faith,
That need must needs infer this principle,
That faith would live again by death of need:
O! then, tread down my need, and faith mounts
up;
Keep my need up, and faith is trodden down.
K. John. The king is mov'd, and answers not
to this.
Const. O! be remov'd from him, and answer
well.
Aust. Do so, King Philip: hang no more in
doubt.
Bast. Hang nothing but a calfs-skin, most
sweet lout.
K. Phi. I am perplex'd, and know not what to
say.
Pand. What canst thou say but will perplex
thee more,
If thou stand excommunicate and curs'd?
K. Phi. Good reverend father, make my per-
son yours,
And tell me how you would bestow yourself.
This royal hand and mine are newly knit,
And the conjunction of our inward souls
Married in league, coupled and link'd together
With all religious strength of sacred vows;
The latest breath that gave the sound of words
Was deep-sworn faith, peace, amity, true love,
Between our kingdoms and our royal selves;
And even before this truce, but new before,
No longer than we well could wash our hands
To clap this royal bargain up of peace,
Heaven knows, they were besmear'd and over-
stain'd
With slaughter's pencil, where revenge did paint
The fearful difference of incensed kings:
And shall these hands, so lately purg'd of blood,
So newly join'd 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.
Therefore to arms! be champion of our church,
Or let the church, our mother, breathe her curse,
A mother's curse, on her revolting son.
France, thou mayst hold a serpent by the tongue,
A chafed lion by the mortal paw,
A fasting tiger safer by the tooth,
Than keep in peace that hand which thou dost
hold.
K. Phi. I may disjoin my hand, but not my
faith.
Pand. So mak'st thou faith an enemy to
faith:
And like a civil war sett'st oath to oath,
Thy tongue against thy tongue. O! let thy vow
First made to heaven, first be to heaven per-
form'd;
That is, to be the champion of our church.
What since thou swor'st is sworn against thyself,
And may not be performed by thyself;
For that which thou hast sworn to do amiss
Is not amiss when it is truly done;
And being not done, where doing tends to ill,
The truth is then most done not doing it.
The better act of purposes mistook
Is to mistake again; though indirect,
Yet indirection thereby grows direct,
And falsehood falsehood cures, as fire cools fire
Within the scorched veins of one new-burn'd.
It is religion that doth make vows kept;
But thou hast sworn against religion
By what thou swear'st, against the thing thou
swear'st,
And mak'st an oath the surety for thy truth
Against an oath: the truth thou art unsure
To swear, swears only not to be forsworn;
Else what a mockery should it be to swear!
But thou dost swear only to be forsworn;
And most forsworn, to keep what thou dost
swear.
Therefore thy later vows against thy first
Is in thyself rebellion to thyself;
And better conquest never canst thou make
Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts
Against these giddy loose suggestions:
Upon which better part our prayers come in,
If thou vouchsafe them; but, if not, then know
The peril of our curses light on thee
So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,
But in despair die under their black weight.
Aust. Rebellion, flat rebellion!
Bast. Will't not be?
Will not a calfs-skin stop that mouth of thine?
Lew. Father, to arms!
Blanch. Upon thy wedding-day?
Against the blood that thou hast married?
What! shall our feast be kept with slaughter'd
men?
Shall braying trumpets and loud churlish drums,
Clamours of hell, be measures to our pomp?
O husband, hear me! ay, alack! how new
Is husband in my mouth; even for that name,
Which till this time my tongue did ne'er pro-
nounce,
Upon my knee I beg, go not to arms
Against mine uncle.
Const. O! upon my knee,
Made hard with kneeling, I do pray to thee,
Thou virtuous Dauphin, alter not the doom
Forethought by heaven.
Blanch. Now shall I see thy love: what motive
may
Be stronger with thee than the name of wife?
Const. That which upholdeth him that thee
upholds,
His honour: O! thine honour, Lewis, thine
honour.
Lew. I muse your majesty doth seem so cold,
When such profound respects do pull you on.
Pand. I will denounce a curse upon his head.
K. Phi. Thou shalt not need. England, I'll
fall from thee.
Const. O fair return of banish'd majesty!
Eli. O foul revolt of French inconstancy!
K. John. France, thou shalt rue this hour
within this hour.
Bast. Old Time the clock-setter, that bald
sexton Time,
Is it as he will? well then, France shall rue.
Blanch. The sun's o'ercast with blood: fair
day, adieu!
Which is the side that I must go withal?
I am with both: each army bath a hand;
And in their rage, I having hold of both,
They whirl asunder and dismember me.
Husband, I cannot pray that thou mayst win;
Uncle, I needs must pray that thou mayst lose;
Father, I may not wish the fortune thine;
Grandam, I will not wish thy wishes thrive;
Whoever wins, on that side shall I lose;
Assured loss before the match be play'd.
Lew. Lady, with me; with me thy fortune lies.
Blanch. There where my fortune lives, there
my life dies.
K. John. Cousin, go draw our puissance to-
gether. [Exit BASTARD.
France, I am burn'd up with inflaming wrath;
A rage whose heat hath this condition,
That nothing can allay, nothing but blood,
The blood, and dearest-valu'd blood of France.
K. Phi. Thy rage shall burn thee up, and
thou shalt turn
To ashes, ere our blood shall quench that fire:
Look to thyself, thou art in jeopardy.
K. John. No more than he that threats. To
arms let's hie! [Exeunt.
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