Table of Contents
Enter KING JOHN, QUEEN ELEANOR, PEMBROKE, ESSEX, SALISBURY, and others, with [the French ambassador] CHATILLON
Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of France
In my behavior (through my person) to the majesty -
The borrow'd (stolen) majesty - of England here.
(Chatillon speaks in the place of the King of France)
KING JOHN††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††
Philip of France, in right and true behalf
Of thy deceased brother Geoffrey's son -
Arthur Plantagenet - lays most lawful claim
To this fair island and the territories,
To Ireland, [to] Poitiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine (continental regions under Johnís dominion),
Desiring thee to lay aside the sword,
Which sways usurpingly (rules unlawfully) these several (individual) titles (possessions),
And [to] put these same into young Arthur's hand,
Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.
(On behalf of Johnís French brother, Arthur, King Philip lays claim to properties inherited by John from Johnís father, Richard I (ďthe Lion-HeartedĒ))
Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace.
Be thou as [swift as] lightning in the eyes of (to report to the King of) France,
For, ere (before) thou canst report, I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be heard.
So, hence! Be thou the trumpet (speaker) of our wrath
And sullen presage (foreteller) of your own decay (destruction).
An honorable conduct (escort) let him have.
Pembroke, look to 't. Farewell, Chatillon.
Exeunt CHATILLON and PEMBROKE
What now, my son! Have I not ever said
How that ambitious Constance (the Duchess of Brittany) would not cease
Till she had kindled France and all the world
Upon the right and party (side) of her son?
This might have been prevented and made whole
With very easy arguments of love (friendly discussions),
Which now the manage (management) of two kingdoms must,
With fearful bloody issue (outcome), arbitrate.
Enter a sheriff
Enter ROBERT and the BASTARD
Most certain of one mother, mighty King,
That is well known, and, as I think, one father,
But, for the certain knowledge of that truth
I put you o'er to heaven and to my mother,
Of that I doubt, as all men's children may.
I, madam? No, I have no reason for it.
That is my brother's plea and none of mine,
The which, if he can prove, a' (he) pops me out (robs me)
At least from fair five hundred pound a year.
Heaven guard my mother's honor and my land!
I know not why except to get the land,
But, once (briefly put), he slander'd me with bastardy,
But whether I be as TRUE (legitimately) begot or no,
That still (always) I lay upon my mother's head,
But that I am as WELL begot, my liege,
(Fair fall (may good befall) the bones that took the pains for (to conceive) me!)
Compare our faces and be judge yourself.
If old Sir Robert did beget us both
And were our father and this son (young Robert) like him,
O, old Sir Robert, father, on my knee
I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!
Because he hath a half-face (profile) like my father.
With half that face (insolence) would he have all my land -
A half-faced groat (coin with the Kingís profile on it) [worth] five hundred pound a year!
And once dispatch'd him in an embassy (in diplomacy)
To Germany, there with the emperor
To treat of high affairs touching that time.
The advantage of his absence took the King
(the King took advantage of his absence)
And in the meantime sojourn'd at my father's,
Where how he did prevail I shame to speak,
But truth is truth. Large lengths of seas and shores
Between my father and my mother lay,
As I have heard my father speak himself,
When this same lusty (merry) gentleman was [be]got.
Upon his death-bed he (Sir Robert Faulkenbridge) by will bequeath'd
His lands to me and took it on his death (swore on his deathbed)
That this my mother's son (Bastard) was none of his,
And, if he were, he came into the world
Full fourteen weeks before the [due] course of time.
Then, good my liege (sovereign), let me have what is mine,
My father's land, as was my father's will.
Sirrah, your brother is legitimate.
Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him,
And, if she did play false, the fault was hers,
Which fault lies on the hazards of all husbands
That marry wives. Tell me how, if my brother,
Who, as you say, took pains to [be]get this son,
Had of your father claim'd this son for his?
In sooth, good friend, your father might have kept
This calf bred from his cow from all the world.
In sooth he might. Then, if he were my brother's,
My brother might not claim him nor your father,
Being none of his, refuse (disclaim) him. This concludes (is conclusive).
My mother's son did [be]get your father's heir.
Your father's heir must have your father's land.
Madam, [an] if my brother had my shape
And I had his, Sir Robert['s] his, like him,
And if my legs were two such riding-rods,
My arms such eel-skins stuff'd, my face so thin
That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose
Lest men should say, 'Look, where three-farthings goes!'
(the rose on the three-farthing piece was identified with Eleanor)
And, to his shape (in addition to his royal appearance), were heir to all this land,
Would I might never stir from off this place.
I would give it every foot to have this face,
I would not be Sir Nob (Robert) in any case.
Brother, take you my land, I'll take my chance.
Your face hath got five hundred pound a year,†
Yet, sell your face for five pence and 't is dear (too expensive).
Madam, I'll follow you unto the death.
BASTARD (now Richard Plantagenet)
Madam, by chance but not by truth (virtue), what though (what does it matter)?
Something about, a little from the right (proper),
In at the window, or else o'er the hatch (through the wrong entrance).
Who dares not stir by day (act openly) must walk by night,
And have is have (possession is nine-tenths of the law), however men do catch (take possession).
Near or far off, well won is still well shot,
(if you hit the bullís eye, who cares how you did it)
And I am I, howe'er I was begot.
Go, Faulconbridge. Now hast thou thy desire.
A landless knight (Bastard) makes thee a landed squire
(Faulconbridge, who traded his knighthood for land).
Come, madam, and come, Richard (Bastard), we must speed
For France, for France, for it is more than need.
Exeunt all but BASTARD
A foot (footing) of honor better than I was,
But many a many foot of land the worse.
Well, now can I make any Joan a lady.
'Good den (good eíen Ė good evening), Sir Richard!'--'God-a-mercy, fellow!'--
And, if his name be George, I'll call him Peter,
For new-made honor doth forget men's names.
'T is too respective (courteous) and too sociable
For your conversion (conversation). Now your traveler,
He and his toothpick at my worship's mess (dinner table)
And, when my knightly stomach is sufficed,
Why then I suck my teeth and catechize
My picked (refined) man of countries (foreign travel): 'My dear sir,'
Thus, leaning on mine elbow, I begin,
'I shall beseech you'--that is question now,
And then comes answer like an A-B-C book:
'O sir,' says answer, 'at your best command,
At your employment, at your service, sir.'
'No, sir,' says question, 'I, sweet sir, at yours.'
And, so, ere answer knows what question would,
Saving in (except for) dialogue of compliment (elegant discourse)
And talking of the Alps and Apennines,
The Pyrenean, and the River Po,
It draws toward supper in conclusion, so,
But this is worshipful society
And fits the mounting (socially ascending) spirit like myself,
For he is but a bastard to the time (unfashionable)
That doth not smack of observation (is not given to obsequiousness),
And so am I [unfashionable] , whether I smack or no,
And not alone in habit (dress) and device (coat of arms),
Exterior form, outward accoutrement (trappings)
But from the inward motion to deliver
Sweet, sweet, sweet poison (flattery) for the age's tooth (appetite),
Which, though I will not practice to deceive,
Yet, to avoid deceit, I mean to learn,
For it (flattery) shall strew the footsteps of my rising.
(rushes were laid on the floor to honor a guestís arrival)
But who comes in such haste in riding robes?
What woman-post is this? Hath she no husband
That will take pains to blow a horn before her (announce her arrival)?
Enter LADY FAULCONBRIDGE and GURNEY
Madam, I was not Old Sir Robert's son.
Sir Robert might have eat his part in me
Upon Good Friday and ne'er broke his fast.
Sir Robert could do well - marry (by the Virgin Mary), to confess,
Could he [be]get me? Sir Robert could not do it.
We know his handiwork. Therefore, good mother,
To whom am I beholding for these limbs?
Sir Robert never holp to make this leg.
Knight, knight, good mother, Basilisco like.
(Basilisco=a cowardly braggart from an old play)
What! I am dubb'd (knighted by the King)! I have it on my shoulder.
But, Mother, I am not Sir Robert's son.
I have disclaim'd Sir Robert and my land.
Legitimation, name, and all is gone.
Then, good my mother, let me know my father.
Some proper man, I hope. Who was it, Mother?
King Richard Coeur-de-Lion was thy father.
By long and vehement suit I was seduced
To make room for him in my husband's bed.
Heaven lay not my transgression to my charge!
Thou art the issue of my dear (costly) offense,
Which was so strongly urged past my defense.
Now, by this light, were I to get (be conceived) again,
Madam, I would not wish a better father.
Some sins do bear their privilege on earth,
And so doth yours. Your fault was not your folly.
Needs must you lay your heart at his dispose,
Subjected tribute to commanding love,
Against whose fury and unmatched force
The aweless lion could not wage the fight
Nor keep his princely heart from Richard's hand.
He that perforce robs lions of their hearts
May easily win a woman's. Ay, my mother,
With all my heart I thank thee for my father!
Who lives and dares but say thou didst not well
When I was got, I'll send his soul to hell.
Come, lady, I will show thee to my kin,
And they shall say, when Richard (King Richard) me begot,
If thou [lady] hadst said (told) him nay, it had been sin.
Who says it was, he lies. I say 't was not.
Enter AUSTRIA, wearing the lion skin that he supposedly took from Richard, and forces, drums, etc., on one side, on the other KING PHILIP and his power (army). LOUIS (heir to King Philip, the French king), ARTHUR (nephew of John, claimant to properties in France), CONSTANCE (mother of Arthur and sister-in-law of John), and attendants
[Upon the death of Eleanorís husband Henry II in 1189, Eleanor and Henryís son, namely Richard I, was the undisputed heir. One of his first acts as King was to release Eleanor from prison in England. Eleanor rode to Westminster and received the oaths of fealty from many lords and prelates on behalf of the King. Eleanor ruled England as regent while King Richard went off on the Third Crusade. Eleanor survived Richard and lived well into the reign of her youngest son, King John.
When war broke out between John and Philip (king of France) [over properties in France], Eleanor declared her support for John and set out for her capital, Poitiers, to prevent the son (Arthur) of her brother-in-law Geoffrey and his wife Constance from taking control. Arthur learned of her whereabouts and besieged her in the castle of Mirebeau. As soon as John heard of this, he marched south, overcame the besiegers, and captured his 15-year-old nephew Arthur.]
KING PHILIP OF FRANCE (addressing Arthur)
Arthur: that great forerunner of thy blood,
Richard, that robb'd the lion of his heart
And fought the holy wars in Palestine,
By this brave duke [of Austria] came [he] early to his grave,
And, for amends to his posterity,
At our importance (importunity) hither is he come
To spread his colors (display his (Austriaís) banner), boy (Arthur), in thy behalf,
And to rebuke the usurpation
Of (by) thy unnatural uncle, English John.
Embrace him (Austria), love him, give him welcome hither.
ARTHUR (addressing Austria)
God shall forgive you Coeur-de-Lion's death
The rather that (all the sooner because) you give his offspring (descendants) life,
Shadowing (sheltering) their right under your wings of war.
I give you welcome with a powerless hand
But with a heart full of unstained love.
Welcome before the gates of Angiers, Duke.
A noble boy! Who would not do thee right?
(do right by thee)
Upon thy cheek lay I this zealous (holy) kiss
As seal to this indenture (sealed agreement) of my love,
That to my home I will no more return
Till Angiers and the right thou hast in France,
Together with that pale, that white-faced shore (white because of the cliffs of Dover),
Whose foot spurns back the ocean's roaring tides
And coops (encloses for protection) from other lands her islanders,
Even till that England, hedged in with the main (ocean),
That water-walled bulwark, still (forever) secure
And confident from foreign purposes,
Even till that utmost corner of the West (England)
Salute thee for her King. Till then, fair boy,
Will I not think of home but follow arms.
Well, then, to work. Our cannon shall be bent
Against the brows of this resisting town.
Call for our chiefest men of [military] discipline
To cull the plots of best advantages.
(to select the most advantageous military positions)
We'll lay before this town our royal bones,
Wade to the market-place in Frenchmen's blood,
But we will make it subject to this boy.
Stay for an answer to your embassy (diplomatic message),
Lest unadvised you stain your swords with blood.
My Lord Chatillon may from England bring
That right in peace which here we urge in war,
And, then, we shall repent each drop of blood
That hot, rash haste so indirectly shed.
Then, turn your forces from this paltry siege
And stir them up against a mightier task.
England (King John), impatient of your just demands,
Hath put himself in arms. The adverse winds,
Whose leisure I have stay'd (calm I have waited for), have given him time
To land his legions all as soon as I.
His marches are expedient (speedy) to this town,
His forces strong, his soldiers confident.
With him along is come the mother-queen (Eleanor),
An Ate (Greek goddess of discord), stirring him to blood and strife,
With her her niece, the Lady Blanch of Spain,
With them a bastard of the King's (Richardís) (deceased)
And all the unsettled humors (grudges) of the land.
Rash, inconsiderate (reckless), fiery voluntaries,
With ladies' faces and fierce dragons' spleens (source of passions),
Have sold their fortunes at their native homes,
Bearing their birthrights proudly on their backs (wearing armor bought with their birthrights),
To make hazard of (take a chance on) new fortunes here.
In brief, a braver choice of dauntless spirits
Than now the English bottoms (ships) have waft o'er (lightly carried)
Did nearer float upon the swelling tide
To do offence and scathe (harm) in Christendom.
Enter KING JOHN, QUEEN ELEANOR (Johnís mother), BLANCH (Eleanorís granddaughter), the BASTARD (another son of Richard I, who was Johnís brother), lords, and forces
Peace be to France, if France in peace permit
Our just and lineal (hereditary line) entrance to our own [kingdom].
If not, bleed France, and peace ascend to heaven (retreat),
Whiles we, God's wrathful agent, do correct
Their proud contempt that beats His peace (chases away Godís peace) to [its retreat in] heaven.
Peace be to England, if that war return
From France to England, there to live in peace.
England (Arthur, Englandís legitimate ruler in the eyes of France) we love, and for that England's sake
With burden of our armor here we sweat.
This toil of ours should be a work of thine,
But thou from loving England (Arthur) art so far
That thou hast underwrought (undermined) his lawful King (Arthur),
Cut off the sequence of posterity,
Outfaced infant state (defied the authority of the child-king), and done a rape
Upon the maiden virtue of the crown (Arthurís kingship).
Look here [at Arthur] upon thy brother Geoffrey's face.
These eyes, these brows were moulded out of his.
This little abstract (small edition) doth contain that large [edition=Geoffrey]
Which died in Geoffrey, and the hand of time
Shall draw this brief (small edition) into as huge a volume.
That Geoffrey was thy elder brother born (thy brother elder born)
And this (Arthur) his son. England was Geoffrey's right [by inheritance],
And this (Arthur) is Geoffrey's. In the name of God
How comes it then that thou art call'd a king
When living blood doth in these (Arthurís) temples (sides of the head) beat,
Which owe (own) the crown that thou o'ermasterest (make yourself master of)?
From whom hast thou this great commission, France,
To draw my answer from thy articles?
(demand that I answer your charges)
From that supernal (heavenly) Judge, that stirs good thoughts
In any breast of strong authority
To look into the blots and stains [signs of bastardy on a coat-of-arms] of right.
That Judge hath made me guardian to this boy
Under whose warrant (under Godís guarantee) I impeach (accuse) thy wrong
And by Whose help I mean to chastise it.
Excuse it is to beat usurping down.
(my usurpation is sufficiently excused by my fighting against usurpation)
My bed was ever to thy son as true
(Constance was married to Eleanorís son Geoffrey)
As thine was to thy husband, and this boy,
Liker in feature to his father Geoffrey
Than thou and John in manners, being as like
As rain to water or devil to his dam (mother).
(This was a saying in Shakespeareís day)
My boy a bastard! By my soul, I think
His father never was so true begot (legitimately fathered).
It cannot be, an if thou wert (if you were) his mother.
One that will play the devil, sir, with you
An a' (if he) may catch your hide (lionís skin) and you alone.
You are the hare of whom the proverb goes,
ď[he] whose valor plucks dead lions by the beard.Ē
I'll smoke your skin-coat, an I catch you right.
Sirrah (insultingly), look to 't, i' faith, I will, i' faith.
It lies as sightly (attractively) on the back of him
As great Alcides (Hercules, who wore a lionís skin) shows upon an ass,
But, ass, I'll take that burthen from your back
Or ďlay onĒ [with a club] that shall make your shoulders crack.
Women and fools (children), break off your conference.
King John, this is the very sum of all.
England and Ireland, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
In right of Arthur do I claim of thee.
Wilt thou resign them and lay down thy arms?
My life as soon. I do defy thee, France.
Arthur of Bretagne (Brittany), yield thee to my hand,
And out of my dear love I'll give thee more
Than e'er the coward hand of France can win.
Submit thee, boy.
Do, child, go to it grandam, child.
(Constance is Arthurís mother, Eleanor his grandmother (on his fatherís side))
Give grandam kingdom, and it grandam will
Give it a plum, a cherry, and a fig.
There's a good grandam.
Now shame upon you, whether she does or no!
His grandam's wrongs, and not his mother's shames,
Draws those heaven-moving pearls (tears) from his poor eyes,
Which heaven shall take in nature of a fee.
Ay, with these crystal beads heaven shall be bribed
To do him justice and revenge on you.
Thou monstrous injurer of heaven and earth!
Call not me slanderer. Thou, and thine, usurp
The dominations, royalties, and rights
Of this oppressed boy. This is thy eld'st son's son (oldest grandson),
Infortunate in nothing but in thee.
Thy sins are visited in this poor child.
The canon of the law (Exodus 20:5) is laid on him,
Being but the second generation (grandchild)
(God is jealous and punishes sin unto the fourth generation)
Removed from thy sin-conceiving womb.
(claiming that John is illegitimate)
I have but this to say,
That he (Arthur) is not only plagued for her sin,††††††††††††
But God hath made her sin (John) and her the plague (divine punishment)
On this removed issue, plague for her
(Arthur was in a different line from John)
And with her plague, her sin his injury,
Her injury the beadle (church punisher) to her sin,
All punish'd in the person of this child,
And all for her. A plague upon her!
Peace, lady! Pause or be more temperate.
It ill beseems this [royal] presence to cry aim (take aim as with an arrow)
To these ill-tuned repetitions.
Some trumpet summon hither to the walls
These men of Angiers. Let us hear them speak
Whose title they admit (prefer), Arthur's or John's.
Trumpet sounds. Enter certain citizens upon the walls
For our advantage. Therefore, hear us first.
These flags of France that are advanced here
Before the eye and prospect of your town
Have hither march'd to your endamagement.
The cannons have their bowels full of wrath,
And, ready mounted, are they to spit forth
Their iron indignation (cannonballs) 'gainst your walls.
All preparation for a bloody siege,
All merciless proceeding by these French,
Confronts your city's eyes, your winking (closed as if asleep) gates,
And, but for our approach, those sleeping stones
That as a waist doth girdle you about,
By the compulsion of their (French) ordnance
By this time from their fixed beds of lime (mortar in the walls)
Had been dishabited (dislodged) and wide havoc (a breach) made
For bloody power (soldiers) to rush [in] upon your peace,
But, on the sight of us, your lawful king,
Who painfully with much expedient march
Have brought a countercheque before your gates
To save unscratch'd your city's threatened cheeks,
Behold, the French, amazed, vouchsafe a parle,
And, now, instead of bullets wrapp'd in fire
To make a shaking fever in your walls,
They shoot but calm words folded up in smoke
To make a faithless error in your ears,
Which trust, accordingly, kind citizens,
And let us in, your King, whose labor'd spirits,
Forwearied in this action of swift speed,
Crave harborage within your city walls.
When I have said, make answer to us both.
Lo, in (led by) this right hand, whose protection
Is most divinely vow'd upon (to defend) the right
Of him it holds, stands young Plantagenet (Arthur),
Son to the elder brother (Geoffrey) of this man (John)
And King o'er him (John) and all that he enjoys.
For this down-trodden equity (flouted right) we tread
In warlike march these greens before your town,
Being no further enemy to you
Than the constraint of hospitable zeal
(In the relief of this oppressed child)
Religiously provokes. Be pleased, then,
To pay that duty which you truly owe
To [him] that owes it (has a right to† it), namely this young prince,
And, then, our arms, like to a muzzled bear
Save in aspect (appearance), hath all offense seal'd up.
(will see to it that our capacity for offense is sealed up)
Our cannons' malice vainly shall be spent
Against the invulnerable clouds of heaven,
And, with a blessed and unvex'd retire (withdrawal),
With unhack'd (unused) swords and helmets all unbruised,
We will bear home that lusty (vigorous) blood again,
Which here we came to spout against your town,
And leave your children, wives, and you in peace.
But if you fondly (foolishly) pass our proffer'd offer,
'T is not the roundure (circumference) †of your old-faced walls
Can hide you from our messengers of war (cannon balls),
Though all these English and their discipline
Were harbor'd in their rude circumference.
Then, tell us, shall your city call us lord
In that behalf which (on behalf of him for whom) we have challenged it,
Or shall we give the signal to our rage
And stalk in blood to our possession?
Then, God forgive the sin of all
That to their everlasting residence (place the soul goes to after death),
Before the dew of evening fall, shall fleet (fly away to)
In dreadful trial (contest to choose one king) of our kingdom's king!
Here, after excursions (bouts of fighting), enter the herald (messenger) of France, with trumpets, to the gates
You men of Angiers, open wide your
And let young Arthur, Duke of Bretagne, in,
Who by the hand of [the king of] France this day hath made
Much work (cause) for tears in many an English mother,
Whose sons lie scattered on the bleeding ground.
Many a widow's husband grovelling lies,
Coldly embracing the discolor'd earth,
(discolored with blood)
And victory, with little loss, doth play
Upon the dancing banners of the French,
Who are at hand, triumphantly display'd,
To enter [as] conquerors and to proclaim
Arthur of Bretagne England's King and yours.
Enter English herald with trumpet[er]
Rejoice, you men of Angiers, ring your bells.
King John, your King and England's, doth approach,
Commander of this hot[ly contested,] malicious (like a disease) day.
Their armors that march'd hence so silver-bright
Hither return all gilt (reddened) with Frenchmen's blood.
There stuck no plume in any English crest
That is removed by a staff (spear) of France.
(no plume in an English helmet was cut off by a Frenchman)
Our colors (banners) do return in those same hands
That did display them when we first march'd forth,
And, like a troop of jolly huntsmen, come
Our lusty (vigorous) English, all with purpled (bloody) hands,
Dyed in the dying slaughter of their foes.
Open your gates and give the victors way (give way to the victors).
Heralds, from off our towers we
From first to last, the onset and retire (retreat)
Of both your armies, whose equality
By our best eyes cannot be censured (estimated).
Blood hath bought blood and blows have answered blows,
Strength match'd with strength, and power confronted power.
Both are alike, and both alike we like.
One must prove greatest. While they weigh so even,
We hold our town for neither, yet for both.
Re-enter KING JOHN and KING PHILIP with their powers (armies), severally
France, hast thou yet more blood
to cast away?
Say, shall the current of our right run on (continue unimpeded)
Whose passage, vex'd with thy impediment (getting in the way),
Shall leave his native channel and o'erswell,
With course disturb'd, even thy confining shores,
Unless thou let his silver water keep
A peaceful progress to the ocean.
England, thou hast not saved one
drop of blood,
In this hot trial, more than we of France,
Rather, lost more, and by this hand I swear,
That sways the earth this climate (part of the sky) overlooks,
Before we will lay down our just[ly]-borne arms,
We'll put thee down, 'gainst whom these arms we bear,
Or add a royal number (King John) to the dead,
Gracing the scroll that tells of this war's loss
With slaughter coupled to the name of kings.
Ha, majesty! How high thy [vain]glory towers
When the rich blood of kings is set on fire!
O, now doth Death line his dead chaps (jaws) with steel.
The swords of soldiers are his teeth, his fangs,
And now he feasts, mousing (devouring, like a cat) the flesh of men,
In undetermined differences (unresolved conflicts) of kings.
Why stand these royal fronts (faces) amaz-ed thus?
Cry, 'havoc!', Kings. Back to the stain-ed [with blood] field,
You equal potents (potentates), fiery kindled spirits!
Then, let confusion of one part (defeat of one party) confirm
The other's peace. Till then, blows, blood, and death!
A greater power than we denies
And, till it be undoubted, we do lock
Our former scruple (uncertainty) in our strong-barr'd gates,
King'd of our fears, until our fears, resolved,
Be by some certain king purged and deposed.