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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?
O, 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.
Pierce 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
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 Antichamber in the King's Palace.
Enter the Archbishop of CANTERBURY, and Bishop of ELY,
Cant. My lord, I'll tell you,--that self bill is urged,
Which, in the eleventh year o' the last king's reign
Was like, and had indeed against us pass'd,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of further question. I
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,-
As much as would maintain, to the king's honour,
Full fifteen earls, and fifteen hundred knights;
Six thousand and two hundred good esquires ;
And to relief of lazars, and weak age,
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.
Cant. '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,
Seem'd to die too: yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came,
And whipp'd 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.
Ely. 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 render'd you in music :
Turn him to any cause of policy, The Gordian knot of it he will unloose, Familiar as his garter ; that, when he speaks, The air, a charter'd libertine, is still, And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears, To steal his sweet and honey'd sentences; So that the art and practic part of life Must be the mistress to this theoric:t Which is a wonder, how his grace should glean it, Since his addiction was to courses vain : His companies I unletter'd, rude, and shallow; His hours fill’d up with riots, banquets, sports; And never noted in him any study, Any retirement, any sequestration From open haunts and popularity.S
Ely. The strawberry grows underneath the nettle; And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best, Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality : And so the prince obscured his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt,
Grew like 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.
Ely. But, my good lord,
How now for mitigation of this bill
Urged by the cominons ? Doth his majesty
Incline to it, or no ?
Cant. 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 open’d to his grace at large,
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 ?
Ely. 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. [Exeunt.
SCENE II.-The same. A Room of State in the same. Enter KING HENRY, GLOSTER, BEDFORD, EXETER, WARWICK,
WESTMORELAND, and Attendants.
K. Hen. Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury ?
Exe. 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,
Before we hear him, of some things of weight,
That task our thoughts, concerning us and France.
Enter the Archbishop of CANTERBURY, and Bishop of ElY.
Cant. God and his angels guard your sacred throne,
And make you long become it!
K. Hen. Sure, we thank you.
My learned lord, we pray you to proceed;
And justly and religiously unfold,
Why the law Salique, that they have in France,
Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim.
And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading,
Or nicely* charge your understanding soul
With opening titles miscreate,t whose right
Suits not in native colours with the truth;
For God doth know, how many, now in health,
Shall drop their blood in approbation I
Of what your reverence shall incite us to:
Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
How you awake the sleeping sword of war;
We charge you in the name of God, take heed :
For never two such kingdoms did contend,
Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops
Are every one a woe, a sore complaint,
'Gainst him, whose wrongs give edge unto the swords
That make such waste in brief mortality.
Under this conjuration, speak, my lord:
And we will hear, note, and believe in heart,
That what you speak is in your conscience wash'd
As pure as sin with baptism.
Cant. Then hear me, gracious sovereign,-and you peers,
That owe your lives, your faith, and services,
To this imperial throne ;-There is no bar
To make against your highness' claim to France,
But this, which they produce from Pharamond,
In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant,
No woman shall succeed in Salique land :
Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze,
To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
The founder of this law and female bar.
Yet their own authors faithfully affirm,
That the land Salique lies in Germany,
Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe :
Where Charles the great, having subdued the Saxons,
There left behind and settled certain French;
Who, holding in disdain the German women,
For some dishonest manners of their life,
Establish'd there this law,-to wit, no female
Should be inheritrix in Salique land;
Which Salique, as I said, 'twixt Elbe and Sala,
Is at this day in Germany call’d-Meisen.
Thus doth it well appear, the Salique law
Was not devised for the realm of France:
Nor did the French possess the Salique land
Until four hundred one and twenty years
After defunction of king Pharamond,
Idly supposed the founder of this law;
Who died within the year of our redemption
Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the great
Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
Beyond the river Sala, in the year
Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
King Pepin, which deposed Childerick,
Did, as heir general, being descended
Of Blithild, which was the daughter to Clothair,
Make claim and title to the crown of France.
Hugh Capet also,--that usurp'd the crown
Or Charles the duke of Lorain, sole heir male
Of the true line and stock of Charles the great,-
To fine* his title with some show of truth
(Though, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught),
Convey'd † himself as heir to the lady Lingare,
Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son
To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son
Of Charles the great. Also king Lewis the tenth,
Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
Could not keep quiet in his conscience,
Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied
That fair queen Isabel, his grandmother,
Was lineal of the lady Ermengare,
Daughter to Charles the foresaid duke of Lorain:
By the which marriage, the line of Charles the great
Was re-united to the crown of France.
So that, as clear as is the summer's sun,
King Pepin's title, and Hugh Capet's claim,
King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
To hold in right and title of the female:
So do the kings of France unto this day;
Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law,
To bar your highness claiming from the female:
And rather choose to hide them in a net,
Than amply to imbare their crooked titles
Usurp'd from you and your progenitors.
K. Hen. May I, with right and conscience, make this claim ?
Cant. The sin upon my head, dread sovereign !
For in the book of Numbers is'it writ,-
When the son dies, let the inheritance
Descend unto the daughter. Gracious lord,
Stand for your own; unwind your bloody flag;
Look back unto your mighty ancestors :