Henry VIII Translation Act 1, Prologue
I come no more to make you laugh: things now, That bear a weighty and a serious brow, Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe, Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow, We now present. Those that can pity, here May, if they think it well, let fall a tear; The subject will deserve it. Such as give Their money out of hope they may believe, May here find truth too. Those that come to see Only a show or two, and so agree The play may pass, if they be still and willing, I'll undertake may see away their shilling Richly in two short hours. Only they That come to hear a merry bawdy play, A noise of targets, or to see a fellow In a long motley coat guarded with yellow, Will be deceived; for, gentle hearers, know, To rank our chosen truth with such a show As fool and fight is, beside forfeiting Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring, To make that only true we now intend, Will leave us never an understanding friend. Therefore, for goodness' sake, and as you are known The first and happiest hearers of the town, Be sad, as we would make ye: think ye see The very persons of our noble story As they were living; think you see them great, And follow'd with the general throng and sweat Of thousand friends; then in a moment, see How soon this mightiness meets misery: And, if you can be merry then, I'll say A man may weep upon his wedding-day.
I haven't come to make you laugh anymore. Now we're showing you things that are serious, sad, noble, and full of dignity and sadness: scenes that make you cry. Those who are able to feel pity can cry at this if they want. The subject deserves it. Those who pay money hoping to see something true will find truth here too. Those who have only come to see a play or two to make themselves happy can sit through this play if they want to and if they can sit still. I'll make sure they get a good show lasting two short hours in return for their money. Only those who come to see a funny, dirty play, to hear the noise of shields clashing together, or to see a man in a long fool's coat with a yellow border will not be satisfied. Because, dear listeners, spoiling the true story we have chosen to tell with a show full of fools and fighting would mean losing all our intelligent friends as well as giving up our own brains and our intention only to show the truth. So, for goodness' sake, you who are known to be the best and happiest theater audience in town, be as sad as we want to make you. Imagine you see the real characters in our noble story as if they were alive. Imagine you see them powerful and followed by a sweaty crowd of a thousand friends. Then see how, all at once, this power runs into disaster. And if you can be happy then, I'll believe a man can weep on the day he gets married.