William Shakespeare's The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth in the complete original text.
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The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth

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Act II. Scene III.

Scene III.—An Antechamber in the QUEEN'S

Enter ANNE BULLEN and an Old Lady.

Anne. Not for that neither: here's the pang
that pinches:
His highness having liv'd so long with her, and
So good a lady that no tongue could ever
Pronounce dishonour of her; by my life,
She never knew harm-doing; O! now, after
So many courses of the sun enthron'd,
Still growing in a majesty and pomp, the which
To leave a thousand-fold more bitter than
'Tis sweet at first to acquire, after this process
To give her the avaunt! it is a pity
Would move a monster.
Old Lady. Hearts of most hard temper
Melt and lament for her.
Anne. O! God's will; much better
She ne'er had known pomp: though't be tem-
Yet, if that quarrel. Fortune, do divorce
It from the bearer, 'tis a sufferance panging
As soul and body's severing.
Old Lady. Alas! poor lady,
She's a stranger now again.
Anne. So much the more
Must pity drop upon her. Verily,
I swear, 'tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perk'd up in a glist'ring grief
And wear a golden sorrow.
Old Lady. Our content
Is our best having.
Anne. By my troth and maidenhead
I would not be a queen.
Old Lady. Beshrew me, I would,
And venture maidenhead for't; and so would
For all this spice of your hypocrisy.
You, that have so fair parts of woman on you,
Have too a woman's heart; which ever yet
Affected eminence, wealth, sovereignty:
Which, to say sooth, are blessings, and which
Saving your mincing—the capacity
Of your soft cheveril conscience would receive,
If you might please to stretch it.
Anne. Nay, good troth.
Old Lady. Yes, troth, and troth; you would
not be a queen?
Anne. No, not for all the riches under hea-
Old Lady. 'Tis strange: a three-pence bow'd
would hire me,
Old as I am, to queen it. But, I pray you,
What think you of a duchess? have you limbs
To bear that load of title?
Anne. No, in truth.
Old Lady. Then you are weakly made. Pluck
off a little:
I would not be a young count in your way,
For more than blushing comes to: if your back
Cannot vouchsafe this burden, 'tis too weak
Ever to get a boy.
Anne. How you do talk!
I swear again, I would not be a queen
For all the world.
Old Lady. In faith, for little England
You'd venture an emballing: I myself
Would for Carnarvonshire, although there 'long'd
No more to the crown but that. Lo! who comes

Enter the Lord Chamberlain.
Cham. Good morrow, ladies. What were 't
worth to know
The secret of your conference?
Anne. My good lord,
Not your demand; it values not your asking:
Our mistress' sorrows we were pitying.
Cham. It was a gentle business, and becom-
The action of good women: there is hope
All will be well.
Anne. Now, I pray God, amen!
Cham. You bear a gentle mind, and heavenly
Follow such creatures. That you may, fair lady,
Perceive I speak sincerely, and high note's
Ta'en of your many virtues, the king's majesty
Commends his good opinion of you, and
Does purpose honour to you no less flowing
Than Marchioness of Pembroke; to which title
A thousand pound a year, annual support,
Out of his grace he adds.
Anne. I do not know
What kind of my obedience I should tender;
More than my all is nothing, nor my prayers
Are not words duly hallow'd, nor my wishes
More worth than empty vanities; yet prayers
and wishes
Are all I can return. Beseech your lordship,
Vouchsafe to speak my thanks and my obe-
As from a blushing handmaid, to his highness,
Whose health and royalty I pray for.
Cham. Lady,
I shall not fail to approve the fair conceit
The king hath of you. [Aside.] I have perus'd
her well;
Beauty and honour in her are so mingled
That they have caught the king; and who knows
But from this lady may proceed a gem
To lighten all this isle? [To her.] I'll to the
And say, I spoke with you.
Anne. My honour'd lord.
Old Lady. Why, this it is; see, see!
I have been begging sixteen years in court,
Am yet a courtier beggarly, nor could
Come pat betwixt too early and too late;
For any suit of pounds; and you, O fate!
A very fresh-fish here,—fie, fie, upon
This compell'd fortune!—have your mouth fill'd
Before you open it.
Anne. This is strange to me.
Old Lady. How tastes it? is it bitter? forty
pence, no.
There was a lady once,—'tis an old story,—
That would not be a queen, that would she not,
For all the mud in Egypt: have you heard it?
Anne. Come, you are pleasant.
Old Lady. With your theme I could
O'ermount the lark. The Marchioness of Pem-
A thousand pounds a year, for pure respect!
No other obligation! By my life
That promises more thousands: honour's train
Is longer than his foreskirt. By this time
I know your back will bear a duchess: say,
Are you not stronger than you were?
Anne. Good lady,
Make yourself mirth with your particular fancy,
And leave me out on't. Would I had no being,
If this salute my blood a jot: it faints me,
To think what follows.
The queen is comfortless, and we forgetful
In our long absence. Pray, do not deliver
What here you've heard to her.
Old Lady. What do you think me?
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