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

Act III. Scene VI.

The Life of King Henry the Fifth

The English Camp in Picardy.


Gow.How now, Captain Fluellen! come you from the bridge?

Flu.I assure you, there is very excellent services committed at the pridge.

Gow.Is the Duke of Exeter safe?

Flu.The Duke of Exeter is as magnanimous as Agamemnon; and a man that I love and honour with my soul, and my heart, and my duty, and my life, and my living, and my uttermost power: he is not—God be praised and plessed!—any hurt in the world; but keeps the pridge most valiantly, with excellent discipline. There is an aunchient lieutenant there at the pridge, I think, in my very conscience, he is as valiant a man as Mark Antony; and he is a man of no estimation in the world; but I did see him do as gallant service.

Gow.What do you call him?

Flu.He is called Aunchient Pistol.

Gow.I know him not.


Flu.Here is the man.

Pist.Captain, I thee beseech to do me favours:

The Duke of Exeter doth love thee well.

Flu.Ay, I praise God; and I have merited some love at his hands.

Pist.Bardolph, a soldier firm and sound of heart,

And of buxom valour, hath, by cruel fate

And giddy Fortune’s furious fickle wheel,

That goddess blind,

That stands upon the rolling restless stone,—

Flu.By your patience, Aunchient Pistol. Fortune is painted plind, with a muffler afore her eyes, to signify to you that Fortune is plind: and she is painted also with a wheel, to signify to you, which is the moral of it, that she is turning, and inconstant, and mutability, and variation: and her foot, look you, is fixed upon a spherical stone, which rolls, and rolls, and rolls: in good truth, the poet makes a most excellent description of it: Fortune is an excellent moral.

Pist.Fortune is Bardolph’s foe, and frowns on him;

For he hath stol’n a pax, and hanged must a’ be,

A damned death!

Let gallows gape for dog, let man go free

And let not hemp his wind-pipe suffocate.

But Exeter hath given the doom of death

For pax of little price.

Therefore, go speak; the duke will hear thy voice;

And let not Bardolph’s vital thread be cut

With edge of penny cord and vile reproach:

Speak, captain, for his life, and I will thee requite.

Flu.Aunchient Pistol, I do partly understand your meaning.

Pist.Why then, rejoice therefore.

Flu.Certainly, aunchient, it is not a thing to rejoice at; for, if, look you, he were my brother, I would desire the duke to use his good pleasure and put him to execution; for discipline ought to be used.

Pist.Die and be damn’d; and figo for thy friendship!

Flu.It is well.

Pist.The fig of Spain![Exit.

Flu.Very good.

Gow.Why, this is an arrant counterfeit rascal: I remember him now; a bawd, a cutpurse.

Flu.I’ll assure you a’ uttered as prave words at the pridge as you shall see in a summer’s day. But it is very well; what he has spoke to me, that is well, I warrant you, when time is serve.

Gow.Why, ’tis a gull, a fool, a rogue, that now and then goes to the wars to grace himself at his return into London under the form of a soldier. And such fellows are perfect in the great commanders’ names, and they will learn you by rote where services were done; at such and such a sconce, at such a breach, at such a convoy; who came off bravely, who was shot, who disgraced, what terms the enemy stood on; and this they con perfectly in the phrase of war, which they trick up with new-tuned oaths: and what a beard of the general’s cut and a horrid suit of the camp will do among foaming bottles and ale-washed wits, is wonderful to be thought on. But you must learn to know such slanders of the age, or else you may be marvellously mistook.

Flu.I tell you what, Captain Gower; I do perceive, he is not the man that he would gladly make show to the world he is: if I find a hole in his coat I will tell him my mind.[Drum heard.]Hark you, the king is coming; and I must speak with him from the pridge.

Enter KING HENRY, GLOUCESTER, and Soldiers.

Flu.God pless your majesty!

K. Hen.How now, Fluellen! cam’st thou from the bridge?

Flu.Ay, so please your majesty. The Duke of Exeter hath very gallantly maintained the pridge: the French is gone off, look you, and there is gallant and most prave passages. Marry, th’ athversary was have possession of the pridge, but he is enforced to retire, and the Duke of Exeter is master of the pridge. I can tell your majesty the duke is a prave man.

K. Hen.What men have you lost, Fluellen?

Flu.The perdition of th’ athversary hath been very great, reasonable great: marry, for my part, I think the duke hath lost never a man but one that is like to be executed for robbing a church; one Bardolph, if your majesty know the man: his face is all bubukles, and whelks, and knobs, and flames o’ fire; and his lips blows at his nose, and it is like a coal of fire, sometimes plue and sometimes red; but his nose is executed, and his fire’s out.

K. Hen.We would have all such offenders so cut off: and we give express charge that in our marches through the country there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language; for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.

Tucket.Enter MONTJOY.

Mont.You know me by my habit.

K. Hen.Well then I know thee: what shall I know of thee?

Mont.My master’s mind.

K. Hen.Unfold it.

Mont.Thus says my king: Say thou to Harry of England: Though we seemed dead, we did but sleep: advantage is a better soldier than rashness. Tell him, we could have rebuked him at Harfleur, but that we thought not good to bruise an injury till it were full ripe: now we speak upon our cue, and our voice is imperial: England shall repent his folly, see his weakness, and admire our sufferance. Bid him therefore consider of his ransom; which must proportion the losses we have borne, the subjects we have lost, the disgrace we have digested; which, in weight to re-answer, his pettiness would bow under. For our losses, his exchequer is too poor; for the effusion of our blood, the muster of his kingdom too faint a number; and for our disgrace, his own person, kneeling at our feet, but a weak and worthless satisfaction. To this add defiance: and tell him, for conclusion, he hath betrayed his followers, whose condemnation is pronounced. So far my king and master, so much my office.

K. Hen.What is thy name? I know thy quality.


K. Hen.Thou dost thy office fairly. Turn thee back,

And tell thy king I do not seek him now,

But could be willing to march on to Calais

Without impeachment; for, to say the sooth,—

Though ’tis no wisdom to confess so much

Unto an enemy of craft and vantage,—

My people are with sickness much enfeebled,

My numbers lessen’d, and those few I have

Almost no better than so many French:

Who, when they were in health, I tell thee, herald,

I thought upon one pair of English legs

Did march three Frenchmen. Yet, forgive me, God,

That I do brag thus! this your air of France

Hath blown that vice in me; I must repent.

Go therefore, tell thy master here I am:

My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk,

My army but a weak and sickly guard;

Yet, God before, tell him we will come on,

Though France himself and such another neighbour

Stand in our way. There’s for thy labour, Montjoy.

Go, bid thy master well advise himself:

If we may pass, we will; if we be hinder’d,

We shall your tawny ground with your red blood

Discolour: and so, Montjoy, fare you well.

The sum of all our answer is but this:

We would not seek a battle as we are;

Nor, as we are, we say we will not shun it:

So tell your master.

Mont.I shall deliver so. Thanks to your highness.[Exit.

Glo.I hope they will not come upon us now.

K. Hen.We are in God’s hand, brother, not in theirs.

March to the bridge; it now draws toward night:

Beyond the river we’ll encamp ourselves,

And on to-morrow bid them march away.[Exeunt.