John Dryden (1631–1700). All for Love.
Act the Fifth
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
51. Act the Fifth
[A room in Kenilworth Castle]
Enter KING EDWARD, LEICESTER, the BISHOP OF WINCHESTER, [and TRUSSEL.
Leices.Be patient, good my lord, cease to lament.Imagine Killingworth Castle were your court,And that you lay for pleasure here a space,Not of compulsion or necessity.K. Edw.Leicester, if gentle words might comfort me,Thy speeches long ago had eas’d my sorrows;For kind and loving hast thou always been.The griefs of private men are soon allay’d,But not of kings. The forest deer, being struck,Runs to an herb that closeth up the wounds;But, when the imperial lion’s flesh is gored,He rends and tears it with his wrathful paw,And highly scorning that the lowly earthShould drink his blood, mounts up into the air.And so it fares with me, whose dauntless mindThe ambitious Mortimer would seek to curb,And that unnatural queen, false Isabel,That thus hath pent and mew’d me in a prison;For such outrageous passions cloy my soul,As with the wings of rancour and disdain,Full often am I soaring up to Heaven,To plain me to the gods against them both.But when I call to mind I am a king,Methinks I should revenge me of my wrongs,That Mortimer and Isabel have done.But what are kings, when regiment is gone,But perfect shadows in a sunshine day?My nobles rule, I bear the name of king;I wear the crown, but am controll’d by them,By Mortimer, and my unconstant queen,Who spots my nuptial bed with infamy;Whilst I am lodg’d within this cave of care,Where sorrow at my elbow still attends,To company my heart with sad laments,That bleeds within me for this strange exchange.But tell me, must I now resign my crown,To make usurping Mortimer a king?B. of Win.Your grace mistakes; it is for England’s good,And princely Edward’s right we crave the crown.K. Edw.No, ’tis for Mortimer, not Edward’s head;For he’s a lamb, encompassed by wolves,Which in a moment will abridge his life.But if proud Mortimer do wear this crown,Heavens turn it to a blaze of quenchless fire!Or like the snaky wreath of Tisiphon,Engirt the temples of his hateful head;So shall not England’s vine be perished,But Edward’s name survives, though Edward dies.Leices.My lord, why waste you thus the time away?They stay your answer; will you yield your crown?K. Edw.Ah, Leicester, weigh how hardly I can brookTo lose my crown and kingdom without cause;To give ambitious Mortimer my right,That like a mountain overwhelms my bliss,In which extreme my mind here murdered is.But what the heavens appoint, I must obey!Here, take my crown; the life of Edward too;[Taking off the crown.]Two kings in England cannot reign at once.But stay awhile, let me be king till night,That I may gaze upon this glittering crown;So shall my eyes receive their last content,My head, the latest honour due to it,And jointly both yield up their wished right.Continue ever thou celestial sun;Let never silent night possess this clime:Stand still you watches of the element;All times and seasons, rest you at a stay,That Edward may be still fair England’s king!But day’s bright beam doth vanish fast away,And needs I must resign my wished crown.Inhuman creatures! nurs’d with tiger’s milk!Why gape you for your sovereign’s overthrow!My diadem I mean, and guiltless life.See, monsters, see, I’ll wear my crown again![He puts on the crown.]What, fear you not the fury of your king?But, hapless Edward, thou art fondly led;They pass not for thy frowns as late they did,But seek to make a new-elected king;Which fills my mind with strange despairing thoughts,Which thoughts are martyred with endless torments,And in this torment comfort find I none,But that I feel the crown upon my head;And therefore let me wear it yet awhile.Trus.My lord, the parliament must have present news,And therefore say, will you resign or no?The KING rageth.K. Edw.I’ll not resign, but whilst I live be king.Traitors, be gone and join with Mortimer!Elect, conspire, install, do what you will:—Their blood and yours shall seal these treacheries!B. of Win.This answer we’ll return, and so farewell.[Going with TRUSSEL.]Leices.Call them again, my lord, and speak them fair;For if they go, the prince shall lose his right.K. Edw.Call thou them back, I have no power to speak.Leices.My lord, the king is willing to resign.B. of Win.If he be not, let him choose.K. Edw.O would I might, but heavens and earth conspireTo make me miserable! Here receive my crown;Receive it? No, these innocent hands of mineShall not be guilty of so foul a crime.He of you all that most desires my blood,And will be called the murderer of a king,Take it. What, are you moved? Pity you me?Then send for unrelenting Mortimer,And Isabel, whose eyes, being turned to steel,Will sooner sparkle fire than shed a tear.Yet stay, for rather than I’ll look on them,Here, here![Gives the crown.]Now, sweet God of Heaven,Make me despise this transitory pomp,And sit for aye enthronized in Heaven!Come, death, and with thy fingers close my eyes,Or if I live, let me forget myself.B. of Win.My lord—K. Edw.Call me not lord; away—out of my sight!Ah, pardon me: grief makes me lunatic!Let not that Mortimer protect my son;More safety is there in a tiger’s jaws,Than his embracements. Bear this to the queen,Wet with my tears, and dried again with sighs;[Gives a handkerchief.]If with the sight thereof she be not mov’d,Return it back and dip it in my blood.Commend me to my son, and bid him ruleBetter than I. Yet how have I transgress’d,Unless it be with too much clemency?Trus.And thus most humbly do we take our leave.K. Edw.Farewell;[Exeunt the BISHOP OF WINCHESTER and TRUSSEL.]I know the next news that they bringWill be my death; and welcome shall it be;To wretched men, death is felicity.
Enter BERKELEY, [who gives a paper to LEICESTER]
Leices.Another post! what news brings he?K. Edw.Such news as I expect—come, Berkeley, come,And tell thy message to my naked breast.Berk.My lord, think not a thought so villainousCan harbour in a man of noble birth.To do your highness service and devoir,And save you from your foes, Berkeley would die.Leices.My lord, the council of the queen commandsThat I resign my charge.K. Edw.And who must keep me now? Must you, my lord?Berk.Ay, my most gracious lord; so ’tis decreed.K. Edw.[taking the paper.] By Mortimer, whose name is written here!Well may I rend his name that rends my heart![Tears it.]This poor revenge has something eas’d my mind.So may his limbs be torn, as is this paper!Hear me, immortal Jove, and grant it too!Berk.Your grace must hence with me to Berkeley straight.K. Edw.Whither you will; all places are alike,And every earth is fit for burial.Leices.Favour him, my lord, as much as lieth in you.Berk.Even so betide my soul as I use him.K. Edw.Mine enemy hath pitied my estate,And that’s the cause that I am now remov’d.Berk.And thinks your grace that Berkeley will be cruel?K. Edw.I know not; but of this am I assured,That death ends all, and I can die but once.Leicester, farewell!Leices.Not yet, my lord; I’ll bear you on your way.Exeunt.