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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act V. Scene III.

The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth

The Council-Chamber.

Enter the Lord Chancellor, the DUKE OF SUFFOLK, the DUKE OF NORFOLK, EARL OF SURREY, Lord Chamberlain, GARDINER, and CROMWELL.The Chancellor places himself at the upper end of the table on the left hand; a seat being left void above him, as for the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.The rest seat themselves in order on each side.CROMWELL at the lower end as secretary.Keeper at the door.

Chan.Speak to the business, Master secretary:

Why are we met in council?

Crom.Please your honours,

The chief cause concerns his Grace of Canterbury.

Gar.Has he had knowledge of it?


Nor.Who waits there?

Keep.Without, my noble lords?


Keep.My lord archbishop:

And has done half-an-hour, to know your pleasures.

Chan.Let him come in.

Keep.Your Grace may enter now.[CRANMER enters and approaches the council-table.

Chan.My good lord archbishop, I’m very sorry

To sit here at this present and behold

That chair stand empty: but we all are men,

In our own natures frail, and capable

Of our flesh; few are angels: out of which frailty

And want of wisdom, you, that best should teach us,

Have misdemean’d yourself, and not a little,

Toward the king first, then his laws, in filling

The whole realm, by your teaching and your chaplains,—

For so we are inform’d,—with new opinions,

Divers and dangerous; which are heresies,

And, not reform’d, may prove pernicious.

Gar.Which reformation must be sudden too,

My noble lords; for those that tame wild horses

Pace ’em not in their hands to make ’em gentle,

But stop their mouths with stubborn bits, and spur ’em,

Till they obey the manage. If we suffer—

Out of our easiness and childish pity

To one man’s honour—this contagious sickness,

Farewell all physic: and what follows then?

Commotions, uproars, with a general taint

Of the whole state: as, of late days, our neighbours,

The upper Germany, can dearly witness,

Yet freshly pitied in our memories.

Cran.My good lords, hitherto in all the progress

Both of my life and office, I have labour’d,

And with no little study, that my teaching

And the strong course of my authority

Might go one way, and safely; and the end

Was ever, to do well: nor is there living,—

I speak it with a single heart, my lords,—

A man that more detests, more stirs against,

Both in his private conscience and his place,

Defacers of a public peace, than I do.

Pray heaven the king may never find a heart

With less allegiance in it! Men, that make

Envy and crooked malice nourishment

Dare bite the best. I do beseech your lordships

That, in this case of justice, my accusers,

Be what they will, may stand forth face to face,

And freely urge against me.

Suf.Nay, my lord,

That cannot be: you are a counsellor,

And by that virtue no man dare accuse you.

Gar.My lord, because we have business of more moment,

We will be short with you. ’Tis his highness’ pleasure,

And our consent, for better trial of you,

From hence you be committed to the Tower;

Where, being but a private man again,

You shall know many dare accuse you boldly,

More than, I fear, you are provided for.

Cran.Ah! my good Lord of Winchester, I thank you;

You are always my good friend: if your will pass,

I shall both find your lordship judge and juror,

You are so merciful. I see your end;

’Tis my undoing: love and meekness, lord,

Become a churchman better than ambition:

Win straying souls with modesty again,

Cast none away. That I shall clear myself,

Lay all the weight ye can upon my patience,

I make as little doubt, as you do conscience,

In doing daily wrongs. I could say more,

But reverence to your calling makes me modest.

Gar.My lord, my lord, you are a sectary;

That’s the plain truth: your painted gloss discovers,

To men that understand you, words and weakness.

Crom.My Lord of Winchester, you are a little,

By your good favour, too sharp; men so noble,

However faulty, yet should find respect

For what they have been: ’tis a cruelty

To load a falling man.

Gar.Good Master secretary,

I cry your honour mercy; you may, worst

Of all this table, say so.

Crom.Why, my lord?

Gar.Do not I know you for a favourer

Of this new sect? ye are not sound.

Crom.Not sound?

Gar.Not sound, I say.

Crom.Would you were half so honest!

Men’s prayers then would seek you, not their fears.

Gar.I shall remember this bold language.


Remember your bold life too.

Chan.This is too much;

Forbear, for shame, my lords.

Gar.I have done.

Crom.And I.

Chan.Then thus for you, my lord: it stands agreed,

I take it, by all voices, that forthwith

You be convey’d to the Tower a prisoner;

There to remain till the king’s further pleasure

Be known unto us. Are you all agreed, lords?

All.We are.

Cran.Is there no other way of mercy,

But I must needs to the Tower, my lords?

Gar.What other

Would you expect? You are strangely troublesome.

Let some o’ the guard be ready there.

Enter Guard.

Cran.For me?

Must I go like a traitor thither?

Gar.Receive him,

And see him safe i’ the Tower.

Cran.Stay, good my lords;

I have a little yet to say. Look there, my lords;

By virtue of that ring I take my cause

Out of the gripes of cruel men, and give it

To a most noble judge, the king my master.

Chan.This is the king’s ring.

Sur.’Tis no counterfeit.

Suf.’Tis the rightring, by heaven! I told ye all,

When we first put this dangerous stone a-rolling,

’Twould fall upon ourselves.

Nor.Do you think, my lords,

The king will suffer but the little finger

Of this man to be vex’d?

Cham.’Tis now too certain:

How much more is his life in value with him?

Would I were fairly out on ’t.

Crom.My mind gave me,

In seeking tales and informations

Against this man—whose honesty the devil

And his disciples only envy at—

Ye blew the fire that burns ye: now have at ye!

Enter the KING, frowning on them: he takes his seat.

Gar.Dread sovereign, how much are we bound to heaven

In daily thanks, that gave us such a prince;

Not only good and wise, but most religious:

One that in all obedience makes the Church

The chief aim of his honour; and, to strengthen

That holy duty, out of dear respect,

His royal self in judgment comes to hear

The cause betwixt her and this great offender.

K. Hen.You were ever good at sudden commendations,

Bishop of Winchester; but know, I come not

To hear such flattery now, and in my presence;

They are too thin and bare to hide offences.

To me you cannot reach; you play the spaniel,

And think with wagging of your tongue to win me;

But, whatsoe’er thou tak’st me for, I’m sure

Thou hast a cruel nature and a bloody.

[To CRANMER.]Good man, sit down. Now let me see the proudest

He, that dares most, but wag his finger at thee:

By all that’s holy, he had better starve

Than but once think this place becomes thee not.

Sur.May it please your Grace.—

K. Hen.No, sir, it does not please me.

I had thought I had had men of some understanding

And wisdom of my council; but I find none.

Was it discretion, lords, to let this man,

This good man,—few of you deserve that title,—

This honest man, wait like a lousy footboy

At chamber-door? and one as great as you are?

Why, what a shame was this! Did my commission

Bid ye so far forget yourselves? I gave ye

Power as he was a counsellor to try him,

Not as a groom. There’s some of ye, I see,

More out of malice than integrity,

Would try him to the utmost, had ye mean;

Which ye shall never have while I live.

Chan.Thus far,

My most dread sov’reign, may it like your Grace

To let my tongue excuse all. What was purpos’d

Concerning his imprisonment, was rather—

If there be faith in men—meant for his trial

And fair purgation to the world, than malice,

I’m sure, in me.

K. Hen.Well, well, my lords, respect him;

Take him, and use him well; he’s worthy of it.

I will say thus much for him, if a prince

May be beholding to a subject, I

Am, for his love and service, so to him.

Make me no more ado, but all embrace him:

Be friends, for shame, my lords! My Lord of Canterbury,

I have a suit which you must not deny me;

That is, a fair young maid that yet wants baptism,

You must be godfather, and answer for her.

Cran.The greatest monarch now alive may glory

In such an honour: how may I deserve it,

That am a poor and humble subject to you?

K. Hen.Come, come, my lord, you’d spare your spoons: you shall have two noble partners with you; the old Duchess of Norfolk, and Lady Marquess Dorset: will these please you?

Once more, my Lord of Winchester, I charge you,

Embrace and love this man.

Gar.With a true heart

And brother-love I do it.

Cran.And let heaven

Witness, how dear I hold this confirmation.

K. Hen.Good man! those joyful tears show thy true heart:

The common voice, I see, is verified

Of thee, which says thus, ‘Do my Lord of Canterbury

A shrewd turn, and he is your friend for ever.’

Come, lords, we trifle time away; I long

To have this young one made a Christian.

As I have made ye one, lords, one remain;

So I grow stronger, you more honour gain.[Exeunt.