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

Act II. Scene IV.

The Life of King Henry the Fifth

France.An Apartment in the FRENCH KING’S Palace.

Flourish.Enter the FRENCH KING, attended; the DAUPHIN, the DUKES OF BERRI AND BRITAINE, the CONSTABLE, and Others.

Fr. King.Thus come the English with full power upon us;

And more than carefully it us concerns

To answer royally in our defences.

Therefore the Dukes of Berri and Britaine,

Of Brabant and of Orleans, shall make forth,

And you, Prince Dauphin, with all swift dispatch,

To line and new repair our towns of war

With men of courage and with means defendant:

For England his approaches makes as fierce

As waters to the sucking of a gulf.

It fits us then to be as provident

As fear may teach us, out of late examples

Left by the fatal and neglected English

Upon our fields.

Dau.My most redoubted father,

It is most meet we arm us ’gainst the foe;

For peace itself should not so dull a kingdom,—

Though war nor no known quarrel were in question,—

But that defences, musters, preparations,

Should be maintain’d, assembled, and collected,

As were a war in expectation.

Therefore, I say ’tis meet we all go forth

To view the sick and feeble parts of France:

And let us do it with no show of fear;

No, with no more than if we heard that England

Were busied with a Whitsun morris-dance:

For, my good liege, she is so idly king’d,

Her sceptre so fantastically borne

By a vain, giddy, shallow, humorous youth,

That fear attends her not.

Con.O peace, Prince Dauphin!

You are too much mistaken in this king.

Question your Grace the late ambassadors,

With what great state he heard their embassy,

How well supplied with noble counsellors,

How modest in exception, and, withal

How terrible in constant resolution,

And you shall find his vanities forespent

Were but the outside of the Roman Brutus,

Covering discretion with a coat of folly;

As gardeners do with ordure hide those roots

That shall first spring and be most delicate.

Dau.Well, ’tis not so, my lord high constable;

But though we think it so, it is no matter:

In cases of defence ’tis best to weigh

The enemy more mighty than he seems:

So the proportions of defence are fill’d;

Which of a weak and niggardly projection

Doth like a miser spoil his coat with scanting

A little cloth.

Fr. King.Think we King Harry strong;

And, princes, look you strongly arm to meet him.

The kindred of him hath been flesh’d upon us,

And he is bred out of that bloody strain

That haunted us in our familiar paths:

Witness our too much memorable shame

When Cressy battle fatally was struck

And all our princes captiv’d by the hand

Of that black name, Edward Black Prince of Wales;

Whiles that his mounting sire, on mountain standing,

Up in the air, crown’d with the golden sun,

Saw his heroical seed, and smil’d to see him

Mangle the work of nature, and deface

The patterns that by God and by French fathers

Had twenty years been made. This is a stem

Of that victorious stock; and let us fear

The native mightiness and fate of him.

Enter a Messenger.

Mess.Ambassadors from Harry King of England

Do crave admittance to your majesty.

Fr. King.We’ll give them present audience. Go, and bring them.[Exeunt Messenger and certain Lords.

You see this chase is hotly follow’d, friends.

Dau.Turn head, and stop pursuit; for coward dogs

Most spend their mouths when what they seem to threaten

Runs far before them. Good my sovereign,

Take up the English short, and let them know

Of what a monarchy you are the head:

Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin

As self-neglecting.

Re-enter Lords, with EXETER and Train.

Fr. King.From our brother England?

Exe.From him; and thus he greets your majesty.

He wills you, in the name of God Almighty,

That you divest yourself, and lay apart

The borrow’d glories that by gift of heaven,

By law of nature and of nations ’long

To him and to his heirs; namely, the crown

And all wide-stretched honours that pertain

By custom and the ordinance of times

Unto the crown of France. That you may know

’Tis no sinister nor no awkward claim,

Pick’d from the worm-holes of long-vanish’d days,

Nor from the dust of old oblivion rak’d,

He sends you this most memorable line,[Gives a pedigree.

In every branch truly demonstrative;

Willing you overlook this pedigree;

And when you find him evenly deriv’d

From his most fam’d of famous ancestors,

Edward the Third, he bids you then resign

Your crown and kingdom, indirectly held

From him the native and true challenger.

Fr. King.Or else what follows?

Exe.Bloody constraint; for if you hide the crown

Even in your hearts, there will he rake for it:

Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming,

In thunder and in earthquake like a Jove,

That, if requiring fail, he will compel;

And bids you, in the bowels of the Lord,

Deliver up the crown, and to take mercy

On the poor souls for whom this hungry war

Opens his vasty jaws; and on your head

Turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cries,

The dead men’s blood, the pining maidens’ groans,

For husbands, fathers, and betrothed lovers,

That shall be swallow’d in this controversy.

This is his claim, his threat’ning, and my message;

Unless the Dauphin be in presence here,

To whom expressly I bring greeting too.

Fr. King.For us, we will consider of this further:

To-morrow shall you bear our full intent

Back to our brother England.

Dau.For the Dauphin,

I stand here for him: what to him from England?

Exe.Scorn and defiance, slight regard, contempt,

And anything that may not misbecome

The mighty sender, doth he prize you at.

Thus says my king: an if your father’s highness

Do not, in grant of all demands at large,

Sweeten the bitter mock you sent his majesty,

He’ll call you to so hot an answer of it,

That caves and womby vaultages of France

Shall chide your trespass and return your mock

In second accent of his ordinance.

Dau.Say, if my father render fair return,

It is against my will; for I desire

Nothing but odds with England: to that end,

As matching to his youth and vanity,

I did present him with the Paris balls.

Exe.He’ll make your Paris Louvre shake for it,

Were it the mistress-court of mighty Europe:

And, be assur’d, you’ll find a difference—

As we his subjects have in wonder found—

Between the promise of his greener days

And these he masters now. Now he weighs time

Even to the utmost grain; that you shall read

In your own losses, if he stay in France.

Fr. King.To-morrow shall you know our mind at full.

Exe.Dispatch us with all speed, lest that our king

Come here himself to question our delay;

For he is footed in this land already.

Fr. King.You shall be soon dispatch’d with fair conditions:

A night is but small breath and little pause

To answer matters of this consequence.[Flourish.Exeunt.