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King John

King John Translation Act 4, Scene 2

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Enter KING JOHN, PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, and other Lords

KING JOHN

Here once again we sit, once again crown'd,And looked upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes.

KING JOHN

I sit here once again, crowned once again and looked at, I hope, by cheerful eyes.

PEMBROKE

This 'once again,' but that your highness pleased, Was once superfluous: you were crown'd before, And that high royalty was ne'er pluck'd off, The faiths of men ne'er stained with revolt; Fresh expectation troubled not the land With any long'd-for change or better state.

PEMBROKE

This "once again" is pointlessly repeated, except that it pleases you, your highness. You were crowned before and your royalty was never taken away. The faithfulness of your men was never stained by rebelling. The country wasn't troubled by new expectations or any desire for change or a better ruler.

SALISBURY

Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp, To guard a title that was rich before, To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, To throw a perfume on the violet, To smooth the ice, or add another hue Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

SALISBURY

So to have a second ceremony, to decorate a title that was already beautiful, to gild pure gold, to paint a lily, to throw perfume on a violet, to smooth ice, or add another color to the rainbow, or to try to decorate the beautiful sun with a candle's light—that's all wastefully and ridiculously excessive.

PEMBROKE

But that your royal pleasure must be done, This act is as an ancient tale new told, And in the last repeating troublesome, Being urged at a time unseasonable.

PEMBROKE

What you desire has to be done, but this action is like an ancient story told again. And it's boring the second time you tell it, since it's told at an inconvenient time.

SALISBURY

In this the antique and well noted face Of plain old form is much disfigured; And, like a shifted wind unto a sail, It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about, Startles and frights consideration, Makes sound opinion sick and truth suspected, For putting on so new a fashion'd robe.

SALISBURY

In doing this the ancient and well-known face of plain old custom is disfigured. And, like a change of wind in a sail, it changes the course of thought, startles and frightens people, make good opinions sick, and makes truth seem suspicious for putting on such a fashionable new dress.

PEMBROKE

When workmen strive to do better than well, They do confound their skill in covetousness; And oftentimes excusing of a fault Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse, As patches set upon a little breach Discredit more in hiding of the fault Than did the fault before it was so patch'd.

PEMBROKE

When workmen try to do better than well they ruin things by being greedy. Often covering up a mistake makes the mistake worse by covering it, like patches put on a small hole look worse hiding the flaw than the flaw did before it was patched up.

SALISBURY

To this effect, before you were new crown'd, We breathed our counsel: but it pleased your highness To overbear it, and we are all well pleased, Since all and every part of what we would Doth make a stand at what your highness will.

SALISBURY

We gave you this advice before you were crowned again, but you preferred to ignore it. Still, we're all pleased, since every part of what we wants comes down to what you want, your highness.

KING JOHN

Some reasons of this double coronation I have possess'd you with and think them strong; And more, more strong, then lesser is my fear, I shall indue you with: meantime but ask What you would have reform'd that is not well, And well shall you perceive how willingly I will both hear and grant you your requests.

KING JOHN

I have given you some reasons for this second coronation and I think they're good reasons. And I will give you stronger ones for why I'm less afraid. Meanwhile just tell me what you want changed, and you will see how willingly I will hear and do what you ask.

PEMBROKE

Then I, as one that am the tongue of these, To sound the purpose of all their hearts, Both for myself and them, but, chief of all, Your safety, for the which myself and them Bend their best studies, heartily request The enfranchisement of Arthur; whose restraint Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent To break into this dangerous argument,— If what in rest you have in right you hold, Why then your fears, which, as they say, attend The steps of wrong, should move you to mew up Your tender kinsman and to choke his days With barbarous ignorance and deny his youth The rich advantage of good exercise? That the time's enemies may not have this To grace occasions, let it be our suit That you have bid us ask his liberty; Which for our goods we do no further ask Than whereupon our weal, on you depending, Counts it your weal he have his liberty.

PEMBROKE

Then I, speaking for these men to tell you what they all think, ask you to free Arthur—both for me and them but, most of all, for your safety, which they and I often think about. His captivity makes unhappy people mutter and say this dangerous things: if you have a right to the power you hold, why do your fears (they say) make you act wrongly in locking up your young relative and choking his life with barbaric ignorance and denying him the advantage of good exercise in his youth? You asked us what we want, and we ask for his freedom, so your enemies don't have this excuse to grumble against you anymore. We don't ask for this for any reason except that it will be good for us, since we depend on you, if you do what is good for you and set him free.

Enter HUBERT

KING JOHN

Let it be so: I do commit his youthTo your direction. Hubert, what news with you?

KING JOHN

Very well: you decide what to do with him. Hubert, what news do you have?

Taking him apart

PEMBROKE

This is the man should do the bloody deed; He show'd his warrant to a friend of mine: The image of a wicked heinous fault Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his Does show the mood of a much troubled breast; And I do fearfully believe 'tis done, What we so fear'd he had a charge to do.

PEMBROKE

This is the man who was supposed to do the murder. He showed his warrant to a friend of mine. His eyes look like they've seen some evil terrible sin. That secretive look in him shows the mood of a very trouble heart. I am afraid that it's been done—I mean the thing we were so afraid he had been ordered to do.

SALISBURY

The colour of the king doth come and go Between his purpose and his conscience, Like heralds 'twixt two dreadful battles set: His passion is so ripe, it needs must break.

SALISBURY

The king's turning pale and blushing, torn between what he wanted and his conscience, like messengers passing between two powerful armies. His emotions are so strong, they'll have to come out.

PEMBROKE

And when it breaks, I fear will issue thenceThe foul corruption of a sweet child's death.

PEMBROKE

And when it comes out, I'm afraid we'll hear of the disgusting sin of a sweet child's death.

KING JOHN

We cannot hold mortality's strong hand: Good lords, although my will to give is living, The suit which you demand is gone and dead: He tells us Arthur is deceased to-night.

KING JOHN

We can't stop the strong hand of death. Good lords, although my desire to give you what you want is alive, the demand you made is gone and dead. He tells us Arthur died tonight.

SALISBURY

Indeed we fear'd his sickness was past cure.

SALISBURY

We were afraid his sickness couldn't be cured.

PEMBROKE

Indeed we heard how near his death he wasBefore the child himself felt he was sick:This must be answer'd either here or hence.

PEMBROKE

We heard how near death he was before the child himself knew he was sick. They'll pay for this crime, either here or somewhere else.

KING JOHN

Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?Think you I bear the shears of destiny?Have I commandment on the pulse of life?

KING JOHN

Why do you look at me with such serious faces? Do you think I decide who lives and dies? Do I command life to go on?

SALISBURY

It is apparent foul play; and 'tis shameThat greatness should so grossly offer it:So thrive it in your game! and so, farewell.

SALISBURY

It's clearly foul play, and it's shameful that someone powerful would do this so obviously. So good luck with your plots! And goodbye.

PEMBROKE

Stay yet, Lord Salisbury; I'll go with thee, And find the inheritance of this poor child, His little kingdom of a forced grave. That blood which owed the breadth of all this isle, Three foot of it doth hold: bad world the while! This must not be thus borne: this will break out To all our sorrows, and ere long I doubt.

PEMBROKE

Wait, Lord Salisbury. I'll go with you and find the inheritance of this poor child, his little kingdom that became a forced grave. The blood that owned this whole island will be held in three feet of it. What a bad world this is! This must not be allowed. This will end badly for all of us, and before long, I think.

Exeunt Lords

KING JOHN

They burn in indignation. I repent:There is no sure foundation set on blood,No certain life achieved by others' death.

KING JOHN

They're furious. I regret this. Blood doesn't make you safe. You can't be certain of your own life by killing others.

Enter a Messenger

KING JOHN

A fearful eye thou hast: where is that blood That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks? So foul a sky clears not without a storm: Pour down thy weather: how goes all in France?

KING JOHN

You have a frightened look. You're very pale—where is the blood that I have seen before in those cheeks? Such a bad sky doesn't clear up without a storm. Pour down your weather. How is everything in France?

MESSENGER

From France to England. Never such a power For any foreign preparation Was levied in the body of a land. The copy of your speed is learn'd by them; For when you should be told they do prepare, The tidings come that they are all arrived.

MESSENGER

I've come from France to England. Such an army was never gathered from a country for any foreign war. They learned from your speed, because when you should be told they are preparing, the news is that they have arrived.

KING JOHN

O, where hath our intelligence been drunk? Where hath it slept? Where is my mother's care, That such an army could be drawn in France, And she not hear of it?

KING JOHN

Oh, where has our intelligence been drunk? Where has it slept? What has my mother been doing, that such an army could be gathered in France without her hearing about it?

MESSENGER

My liege, her ear Is stopp'd with dust; the first of April died Your noble mother: and, as I hear, my lord, The Lady Constance in a frenzy died Three days before: but this from rumour's tongue I idly heard; if true or false I know not.

MESSENGER

My lord, her ear is filled with dust. Your noble mother died on the first of April. And I hear, my lord, that the Lady Constance died, having gone crazy, three days before. But this is a rumor; I don't know whether it's true or false.

KING JOHN

Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion! O, make a league with me, till I have pleased My discontented peers! What! mother dead! How wildly then walks my estate in France! Under whose conduct came those powers of France That thou for truth givest out are landed here?

KING JOHN

Slow down, horrible disaster! Make an alliance with me, until I've satisfied my unhappy noblemen! What! Mother is dead! My territory in France has no leader then! Who led these French troop that you tell me have landed here?

MESSENGER

Under the Dauphin.

MESSENGER

The Dauphin.

KING JOHN

Thou hast made me giddyWith these ill tidings.

KING JOHN

You've made me dizzy with all this news.

Enter the BASTARD and PETER of Pomfret

KING JOHN

Now, what says the worldTo your proceedings? do not seek to stuffMy head with more ill news, for it is full.

KING JOHN

Now, what does the world say about what you've been doing? Don't try to stuff my head with more bad news because it's full.

BASTARD

But if you be afeard to hear the worst,Then let the worst unheard fall on your bead.

BASTARD

If you're afraid to hear the worst, it will sneak up on you without you knowing about it.

KING JOHN

Bear with me cousin, for I was amazed Under the tide: but now I breathe again Aloft the flood, and can give audience To any tongue, speak it of what it will.

KING JOHN

Bear with me, cousin, because I was overwhelmed by the flood of misfortune. But now I breathe and am above the water, and can listen to any voice, whatever it says.

BASTARD

How I have sped among the clergymen, The sums I have collected shall express. But as I travell'd hither through the land, I find the people strangely fantasied; Possess'd with rumours, full of idle dreams, Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear: And here a prophet, that I brought with me From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found With many hundreds treading on his heels; To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rhymes, That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon, Your highness should deliver up your crown.

BASTARD

The amount of money I've collected will show how I've done among the churchmen. But as I traveled through the country I found the people thinking strange things, convinced by rumors, full of false ideas, afraid without knowing what they were afraid of. And here is a prophet I brought with me from the streets of Pomfret. I found him with many hundreds of people following him. He sang to them in rough harsh-sounding rhymes that, before the next Ascension day at noon, you would give up your crown, your highness.

KING JOHN

Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou so?

KING JOHN

You crazy dreamer, why did you do that?

PETER

Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.

PETER

I foresaw that it would happen.

KING JOHN

Hubert, away with him; imprison him; And on that day at noon whereon he says I shall yield up my crown, let him be hang'd. Deliver him to safety; and return, For I must use thee.

KING JOHN

Hubert, take him away. Lock him up. On that day at noon on which he says I will give up my crown, have him hanged.  Deliver him to prison, and then come back, because I have a job for you.

Exeunt HUBERT with PETER

KING JOHN

O my gentle cousin,Hear'st thou the news abroad, who are arrived?

KING JOHN

Oh my dear cousin, did you hear the news about who has arrived?

BASTARD

The French, my lord; men's mouths are full of it: Besides, I met Lord Bigot and Lord Salisbury, With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire, And others more, going to seek the grave Of Arthur, who they say is kill'd to-night On your suggestion.

BASTARD

The French, my lord. Everyone's talking about it. Besides, I met Lord Bigot and Lord Salisbury, with eyes as red as newly-started fire, and more people, going to look for Arthur's grave. They say he was killed tonight on your orders.

KING JOHN

Gentle kinsman, go, And thrust thyself into their companies: I have a way to win their loves again; Bring them before me.

KING JOHN

Good relative, go, and join their group. I have a plan to make them love me again. Bring them to me.

BASTARD

I will seek them out.

BASTARD

I will look for them.

KING JOHN

Nay, but make haste; the better foot before. O, let me have no subject enemies, When adverse foreigners affright my towns With dreadful pomp of stout invasion! Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels, And fly like thought from them to me again.

KING JOHN

Hurry, go as fast as you can. My subjects can't be my enemies when foreign enemies frighten my towns with the terrible display of a strong invasion! Be like the messenger-god Mercury, put wings on your heels, and fly as quickly as thought from them back to me.

BASTARD

The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.

BASTARD

I know it's a time to be quick.

Exit

KING JOHN

Spoke like a sprightful noble gentleman. Go after him; for he perhaps shall need Some messenger betwixt me and the peers; And be thou he.

KING JOHN

That's what a lively noble gentleman should say. Follow him, because he may need some messenger between me and the nobles. Be that messenger.

MESSENGER

With all my heart, my liege.

MESSENGER

Gladly, my king.

Exit

KING JOHN

My mother dead!

KING JOHN

My mother, dead!

Re-enter HUBERT

HUBERT

My lord, they say five moons were seen to-night;Four fixed, and the fifth did whirl aboutThe other four in wondrous motion.

HUBERT

My lord, they say five moons were seen tonight. Four stood still and the fifth whirled around the other four in an amazing movement.

KING JOHN

Five moons!

KING JOHN

Five moons!

HUBERT

Old men and beldams in the streets Do prophesy upon it dangerously: Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths: And when they talk of him, they shake their heads And whisper one another in the ear; And he that speaks doth gripe the hearer's wrist, Whilst he that hears makes fearful action, With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes. I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus, The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool, With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news; Who, with his shears and measure in his hand, Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet, Told of a many thousand warlike French That were embattailed and rank'd in Kent: Another lean unwash'd artificer Cuts off his tale and talks of Arthur's death.

HUBERT

Old men and women on the streets make dangerous prophecies about it. They're all talking about young Arthur's death and when they talk about him they shake their heads and whisper in one another's ears. The person speaking grips the hearer's wrist, while the one hearing makes terrible motions with a wrinkled forehead, with nods, with rolling eyes. I saw a blacksmith stand with his hammer, like this, while his iron cooled on the anvil, listening to a tailor tell the news with an open mouth. The tailor, with his scissors and tape measure in his hand, standing in slippers which he'd put on the wrong feet in his hurry, told about many thousands of French warriors ready for battle in Kent. Another thin dirty workman cut off his story and talked about Arthur's death.

KING JOHN

Why seek'st thou to possess me with these fears? Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death? Thy hand hath murder'd him: I had a mighty cause To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.

KING JOHN

Why do you try to frighten me? Why do you mention Arthur's death so much? You murdered him yourself. I had very good reason to want him dead, but you had none to kill him.

HUBERT

No had, my lord! why, did you not provoke me?

HUBERT

No reason, my lord! Didn't you ask me to?

KING JOHN

It is the curse of kings to be attended By slaves that take their humours for a warrant To break within the bloody house of life, And on the winking of authority To understand a law, to know the meaning Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns More upon humour than advised respect.

KING JOHN

It's the curse of kings to be served by slaves who take their moods as a warrant to commit bloody murder. When an authority figure winks, they think they understand the law, that they know what a powerful king meansbut maybe he's frowning more out of moodiness than a considered opinion.

HUBERT

Here is your hand and seal for what I did.

HUBERT

[Shows the letter] Here is your handwriting and your seal ordering me to do what I did.

KING JOHN

O, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal Witness against us to damnation! How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds Make deeds ill done! Hadst not thou been by, A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd, Quoted and sign'd to do a deed of shame, This murder had not come into my mind: But taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect, Finding thee fit for bloody villany, Apt, liable to be employ'd in danger, I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death; And thou, to be endeared to a king, Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.

KING JOHN

Oh, when the last judgment happens, this handwriting and seal will be the evidence that damns me! How often seeing a way to do something bad makes you do bad things! If you hadn't been nearby—since you're a man who naturally looks like you would do a shameful deed—this murder would not have occurred to me. But seeing your thuggish appearance and finding you willing to do bloody crimes, good at it, and available to be employed in a dangerous business, I hinted to you that I wanted Arthur dead. And you, to gain the favor of a king, didn't trouble your conscience about killing a prince.

HUBERT

My lord—

HUBERT

My lord—

KING JOHN

Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause When I spake darkly what I purposed, Or turn'd an eye of doubt upon my face, As bid me tell my tale in express words, Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off, And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me: But thou didst understand me by my signs And didst in signs again parley with sin; Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent, And consequently thy rude hand to act The deed, which both our tongues held vile to name. Out of my sight, and never see me more! My nobles leave me; and my state is braved, Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers: Nay, in the body of this fleshly land, This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath, Hostility and civil tumult reigns Between my conscience and my cousin's death.

KING JOHN

If you had only shaken your head or paused when I hinted at what I wanted, or looked doubtfully at me, as though to ask me to spell out what I meant, deep shame would have made me quiet, made me break off, and your fears might have made me afraid. But you understood me by the signs I made and with signs talked about sin. Yes, without pausing you let your heart agree, and then let your rough hand do the deed which both of us considered too disgusting to name. Get out of my sight and never look at me again! My nobles are leaving me and my power is threatened in my own country by foreign armies. And in my own body—this fleshy land, this kingdom, this fort made of blood and breath—violence and civil war are taking place between my conscience and my cousin's death.

HUBERT

Arm you against your other enemies, I'll make a peace between your soul and you. Young Arthur is alive: this hand of mine Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand, Not painted with the crimson spots of blood. Within this bosom never enter'd yet The dreadful motion of a murderous thought; And you have slander'd nature in my form, Which, howsoever rude exteriorly, Is yet the cover of a fairer mind Than to be butcher of an innocent child.

HUBERT

Take arms against your other enemies, and I'll make peace between you and your soul. Young Arthur is alive. This hand of mine is still a virgin and an innocent hand, not painted with red spots of blood. My heart was never moved by a murderous thought. And you have slandered nature by what you said about my appearance. However rough I am on the outside, the roughness covers a mind too kind to butcher an innocent child.

KING JOHN

Doth Arthur live? O, haste thee to the peers, Throw this report on their incensed rage, And make them tame to their obedience! Forgive the comment that my passion made Upon thy feature; for my rage was blind, And foul imaginary eyes of blood Presented thee more hideous than thou art. O, answer not, but to my closet bring The angry lords with all expedient haste. I conjure thee but slowly; run more fast.

KING JOHN

Arthur is alive? Oh, hurry to the nobles and tell them, so that they can tame their anger and obey me! Forgive the comment my emotions made me make about your appearance. My rage was blind, and disgusting imaginary visions of blood made you seem more hideous than you are. Don't answer, but bring the angry nobles to my room as quickly as possible. I'm asking you slowly. Run faster.

Exeunt

King john
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