Imatges de pÓgina

Enter the Bastard and PETER of POMFRET.

K. John.

Thou hast made me giddy With these ill tidings.-Now, what says the world To your proceedings? do not seek to stuff My head with more ill news, for it is full.

Bast. But, if you be afeard to hear the worst, Then let the worst, unheard, fall on your head. K. John. Bear with me, cousin; for I was amaz'd1 Under the tide: but now I breathe again Aloft the flood; and can give audience To any tongue, speak it of what it will.

Bast. How I have sped among the clergymen, The sums I have collected shall express. But, as I travelled 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's 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.


K. John. Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou so?

Peter. Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so. K. John. Hubert, away with him; imprison him; And on that day at noon, whereon, he says,

I was amaz'd -] i. e. stunned, confounded.

2 And here's a prophet,] This man was a hermit in great repute with the common people. Notwithstanding the event is said to have fallen out as he had prophesied, the poor fellow was inhumanly dragged at horses' tails through the streets of Warham, and, together with his son, who appears to have been even more innocent than his father, hanged afterwards upon a gibbet. See Holinshed's Chronicle, under the year 1213.

I shall yield up my crown, let him be hang'd:
Deliver him to safety, and return,


For I must use thee.-O my gentle cousin,

[Exit HUBERT, with PETER. Hear'st thou the news abroad, who are arriv'd? Bast. 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.

K. John.

Gentle kinsman, go,

And thrust thyself into their companies:
I have a way to win their loves again;

Bring them before me.


I will seek them out.

K. John. Nay, but make haste; the better foot


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.
Bast. The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.

[Exit. K. John. Spoke like a spriteful noble gentle


Go after him; for he, perhaps, shall need
Some messenger betwixt me and the peers;
And be thou he.


With all my heart, my liege.

K. John. My mother dead!


Deliver him to safety,] That is, Give him into safe custody.

Re-enter Hubert.

Hub. My lord, they say, five moons were seen


Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about

The other four, in wond'rous motion.

K. John. Five moons?


in the streets

Old men, and beldams,

Do prophecy 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 contráry feet,)

- five moons were seen to-night: &c.] This incident is mentioned by few of our historians. I have met with it no where but in Matthew of Westminster and Polydore Virgil, with a small alteration. These kind of appearances were more common about that time than either before or since. GREY.

5 slippers, (which his nimble haste

Had falsely thrust upon contráry feet,)] Dr. Johnson says, “I know not how the commentators understand this important passage, which, in Dr. Warburton's edition, is marked as eminently beautiful, and, on the whole, not without justice. But Shakspeare seems to have confounded the man's shoes with his gloves. He that is frighted or hurried may put his hand into the wrong glove, but either shoe will equally admit either foot. The author seems to be disturbed by the disorder which he describes." But Dr. Johnson forgets that ancient slippers might possibly be very different from modern ones, and the commentators have produced many passages to prove the shoe, boot, &c. were right and left legged.

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Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.

Hub. My lord,————

K. 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


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


Out of my sight, and never see me more!
My nobles leave me; and my state is brav'd,
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.
Hub. Arm you against your other enemies,

9 Hadst thou but shook thy head, &c.] There are many touches of nature in this conference of John with Hubert. A man engaged in wickedness would keep the profit to himself, and transfer the guilt to his accomplice. These reproaches, vented against Hubert, are not the words of art or policy, but the eruptions of a mind swelling with a consciousness of a crime, and desirous of discharging its misery on another.

This account of the timidity of guilt is drawn ab ipsis recessibus mentis, from the intimate knowledge of mankind, particularly that line in which he says, that to have bid him tell his tale in express words, would have struck him dumb; nothing is more certain than that bad men use all the arts of fallacy upon themselves, palliate their actions to their own minds by gentle terms, and hide themselves from their own detection in ambiguities and subterfuges.

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