Henry VIIIby William Shakespeare
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Read an Excerpt
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Scene I. London. An Ante-Chamber in the Palace.
Enter the Duke of Norfolk at one door; at the other, the Duke of Buckingham and the Lord Abergavenny.
Buck. Good morrow, and well met. How have ye done Since last we saw in France?
Nor. I thank your grace, Healthful, and ever since a fresh admirer Of what I saw there.
Buck. An untimely ague Stay'd me a prisoner in my chamber, when Those suns of glory, those two lights of men, Met in the vale of Andren.
Nor. 'Twixt Guynes and Arde: I was then present, saw them salute on horseback; Beheld them, when they 'lighted, how they clung In their embracement, as they grew together;  Which had they, what four throned ones could have weigh'd Such a compounded one?
Buck. All the whole time I was my chamber's prisoner.
Nor. Then you lost The view of earthly glory: men might say, Till this time pomp was single, but now married To one above itself. Each following day Became the next day's master, till the last Made former wonders its. To-day the French, All clinquant, all in gold, like heathen gods, Shone down the English; and to-morrow they  Made Britain India: every man that stood Show'd like a mine. Their dwarfish pages were As cherubins, all gilt: the madams too, Not used to toil, did almost sweat to bear The pride upon them, that their very labour Was to them as a painting: now this masque Was cried incomparable; and the ensuing night Made it a fool and beggar. The two kings, Equal in lustre, were now best, now worst, As presence did present them; him in eye  Still him in praise; and being present both, 'Twas said they saw but one, and no discerner Durst wag his tongue in censure. When these suns — For so they phrase 'em — by their heralds challenged The noble spirits to arms, they did perform Beyond thought's compass; that former fabulous story, Being now seen possible enough, got credit, That Bevis was believed.
Buck. O, you go far.
Nor. As I belong to worship, and affect In honour honesty, the tract of every thing  Would by a good discourser lose some life, Which action's self was tongue to. All was royal; To the disposing of it nought rebell'd; Order gave each thing view; the office did Distinctly his full function.
Buck. Who did guide, I mean, who set the body and the limbs Of this great sport together, as you guess?
Nor. One, certes, that promises no element In such a business.
Buck. I pray you, who, my lord?
Nor. All this was order'd by the good discretion  Of the right reverend Cardinal of York.
Buck. The devil speed him! no man's pie is freed From his ambitious finger. What had he To do in these fierce vanities? I wonder That such a keech can with his very bulk Take up the rays o' the beneficial sun, And keep it from the earth.
Nor. Surely, sir, There's in him stuff that puts him to these ends; For, being not propp'd by ancestry, whose grace Chalks successors their way, nor call'd upon  For high feats done to the crown; neither allied To eminent assistants; but, spider-like, Out of his self-drawing web, he gives us note, The force of his own merit makes his way; A gift that heaven gives for him, which buys A place next to the king.
Aber. I cannot tell What heaven hath given him; let some graver eye Pierce into that; but I can see his pride Peep through each part of him: whence has he that? If not from hell, the devil is a niggard,  Or has given all before, and he begins A new hell in himself.
Buck. Why the devil, Upon this French going out, took he upon him, Without the privity o' the king, to appoint Who should attend on him? He makes up the file Of all the gentry; for the most part such To whom as great a charge as little honour He meant to lay upon: and his own letter, The honourable board of council out, Must fetch him in he papers.
Aber. I do know 80 Kinsmen of mine, three at the least, that have By this so sicken'd their estates that never They shall abound as formerly.
Buck. O, many Have broke their backs with laying manors on 'em For this great journey. What did this vanity But minister communication of A most poor issue?
Nor. Grievingly I think, The peace between the French and us not values The cost that did conclude it.
Buck. Every man, After the hideous storm that follow'd, was  A thing inspired, and not consulting broke Into a general prophecy: That this tempest, Dashing the garment of this peace, aboded The sudden breach on 't.
Nor. Which is budded out; For France hath flaw'd the league, and hath attach'd Our merchants' goods at Bourdeaux.
Aber. Is it therefore The ambassador is silenced?
Nor. Marry, is 't.
Aber. A proper title of a peace, and purchased At a superfluous rate!
Buck. Why, all this business Our reverend cardinal carried.
Nor. Like it your grace,  The state takes notice of the private difference Betwixt you and the cardinal. I advise you — And take it from a heart that wishes towards you Honour and plenteous safety — that you read The cardinal's malice and his potency Together; to consider further that What his high hatred would effect wants not A minister in his power. You know his nature, That he's revengeful, and I know his sword Hath a sharp edge; it's long and 't may be said  It reaches far, and where 'twill not extend, Thither he darts it. Bosom up my counsel; You'll find it wholesome. Lo, where comes that rock That I advise your shunning.
Enter Cardinal Wolsey, the purse borne before him, certain of the Guard, and two Secretaries with papers. The Cardinal in his passage fixeth his eye on Buckingham, and Buckingham on him, both full of disdain.
Wol. The Duke of Buckingham's surveyor, ha? Where 's his examination?
First Sec. Here, so please you.
Wol. Is he in person ready?
First Sec. Ay, please your grace.
Wol. Well, we shall then know more; and Buckingham Shall lessen this big look. [Exeunt Wolsey and his Train.
Buck. This butcher's cur is venom-mouth'd, and I  Have not the power to muzzle him; therefore best Not wake him in his slumber. A beggar's book Outworths a noble's blood.
Nor. What, are you chafed? Ask God for temperance; that's the appliance only Which your disease requires.
Buck. I read in 's looks Matter against me, and his eye reviled Me as his abject object: at this instant He bores me with some trick: he's gone to the king; I'll follow and outstare him.
Nor. Stay, my lord, And let your reason with your choler question  What 'tis you go about: to climb steep hills Requires slow pace at first: anger is like A full-hot horse, who being allow'd his way, Self-mettle tires him. Not a man in England Can advise me like you: be to yourself As you would to your friend.
Buck. I'll to the king; And from a mouth of honour quite cry down This Ipswich fellow's insolence, or proclaim There's difference in no persons.
Nor. Be advised; Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot  That it do singe yourself: we may outrun, By violent swiftness, that which we run at, And lose by over-running. Know you not, The fire that mounts the liquor till 't run o'er In seeming to augment it wastes it? Be advised: I say again, there is no English soul More stronger to direct you than yourself, If with the sap of reason you would quench, Or but allay, the fire of passion.
Buck. Sir, I am thankful to you; and I'll go along  By your prescription: but this top-proud fellow — Whom from the flow of gall I name not, but From sincere motions — by intelligence And proofs as clear as founts in July when We see each grain of gravel, I do know To be corrupt and treasonous.
Nor. Say not 'treasonous.'
Buck. To the king I 'll say 't; and make my vouch as strong As shore of rock. Attend. This holy fox, Or wolf, or both — for he is equal ravenous As he is subtle, and as prone to mischief  As able to perform 't; his mind and place Infecting one another, yea, reciprocally — Only to show his pomp as well in France As here at home, suggests the king our master To this last costly treaty, the interview, That swallow'd so much treasure, and like a glass Did break i' the rinsing.
Nor. Faith, and so it did.
Buck. Pray, give me favour, sir. This cunning cardinal The articles o' the combination drew As himself pleased; and they were ratified  As he cried 'Thus let be,' to as much end As give a crutch to the dead: but our count-cardinal Has done this, and 'tis well; for worthy Wolsey, Who cannot err, he did it. Now this follows — Which, as I take it, is a kind of puppy To the old dam, treason — Charles the emperor, Under pretence to see the queen his aunt — For 'twas indeed his colour, but he came To whisper Wolsey — here makes visitation: His fears were that the interview betwixt  England and France might through their amity Breed him some prejudice; for from this league Peep'd harms that menaced him: he privily Deals with our cardinal; and, as I trow — Which I do well, for I am sure the emperor Paid ere he promised; whereby his suit was granted Ere it was ask'd — but when the way was made And paved with gold, the emperor thus desired, That he would please to alter the king's course, And break the foresaid peace. Let the king know,  As soon he shall by me, that thus the cardinal Does buy and sell his honour as he pleases, And for his own advantage.
Nor. I am sorry To hear this of him, and could wish he were Something mistaken in 't.
Buck. No, not a syllable: I do pronounce him in that very shape He shall appear in proof.
Enter Brandon, a Sergeant at arms before him, and two or three of the Guard.
Bran. Your office, sergeant; execute it.
Serg. Sir, My lord the Duke of Buckingham, and Earl Of Hereford, Stafford, and Northampton, I  Arrest thee of high treason, in the name Of our most sovereign king.
Buck. Lo you, my lord, The net has fall'n upon me! I shall perish Under device and practice.
Bran. I am sorry To see you ta'en from liberty, to look on The business present: 'tis his highness' pleasure You shall to the Tower.
Buck. It will help me nothing To plead mine innocence; for that dye is on me Which makes my whitest part black. The will of heaven Be done in this and all things! I obey.  O my Lord Abergavenny, fare you well!
Bran. Nay, he must bear you company. [To Abergavenny] The king Is pleased you shall to the Tower, till you know How he determines further.
Aber. As the duke said, The will of heaven be done, and the king's pleasure By me obey'd!
Bran. Here is a warrant from The king to attach Lord Montacute; and the bodies Of the duke's confessor, John de la Car, One Gilbert Peck, his chancellor, —
Buck. So, so; These are the limbs o' the plot: no more, I hope. 
Bran. A monk o' the Chartreux.
Buck. O, Nicholas Hopkins?
Buck. My surveyor is false; the o'er-great cardinal Hath show'd him gold; my life is spann'd already: I am the shadow of poor Buckingham, Whose figure even this instant cloud puts on, By darkening my clear sun. My lord, farewell. [Exeunt.
Scene II. The Same. The Council-Chamber.
Cornets. Enter King Henry, leaning on the Cardinal's shoulder; the Nobles, and Sir Thomas Lovell: the Cardinal places himself under the King's feet on his right side.
King. My life itself, and the best heart of it, Thanks you for this great care: I stood i' the level Of a full-charged confederacy, and give thanks To you that choked it. Let be call'd before us That gentleman of Buckingham's; in person I 'll hear him his confessions justify; And point by point the treasons of his master He shall again relate.
A noise within, crying 'Room for the Queen!' Enter Queen Katharine, ushered by the Duke of Norfolk, and the Duke of Suffolk: she kneels. The King riseth from his state, takes her up, kisses and placeth her by him.
Q. Kath. Nay, we must longer kneel: I am a suitor.
King. Arise, and take place by us: half your suit  Never name to us; you have half our power: The other moiety ere you ask is given; Repeat your will and take it.
Q. Kath. Thank your majesty. That you would love yourself, and in that love Not unconsider'd leave your honour nor The dignity of your office, is the point Of my petition.
King. Lady mine, proceed.
Q. Kath. I am solicited, not by a few, And those of true condition, that your subjects Are in great grievance: there have been commissions  Sent down among 'em, which hath flaw'd the heart Of all their loyalties: wherein although, My good lord cardinal, they vent reproaches Most bitterly on you as putter on Of these exactions, yet the king our master — Whose honour heaven shield from soil! — even he escapes not Language unmannerly, yea, such which breaks The sides of loyalty, and almost appears In loud rebellion.
Nor. Not almost appears; It doth appear; for, upon these taxations,  The clothiers all, not able to maintain The many to them 'longing, have put off The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who, Unfit for other life, compell'd by hunger And lack of other means, in desperate manner Daring the event to the teeth, are all in uproar, And danger serves among them.
Wherein? and what taxation? My lord cardinal, You that are blamed for it alike with us, Know you of this taxation?
Wol. Please you, sir,  I know but of a single part in aught Pertains to the state, and front but in that file Where others tell steps with me.
Q. Kath. No, my lord, You know no more than others: but you frame Things that are known alike, which are not wholesome To those which would not know them, and yet must Perforce be their acquaintance. These exactions, Whereof my sovereign would have note, they are Most pestilent to the hearing; and, to bear 'em, The back is sacrifice to the load. They say  They are devised by you; or else you suffer Too hard an exclamation.
King. Still exaction! The nature of it? in what kind, let 's know, Is this exaction?
Q. Kath. I am much too venturous In tempting of your patience, but am bolden'd Under your promised pardon. The subjects' grief Comes through commissions, which compel from each The sixth part of his substance, to be levied Without delay; and the pretence for this Is named your wars in France: this makes bold mouths:  Tongues spit their duties out, and cold hearts freeze Allegiance in them; their curses now Live where their prayers did; and it 's come to pass, This tractable obedience is a slave To each incensed will. I would your highness Would give it quick consideration, for There is no primer business.
King. By my life, This is against our pleasure.
Wol. And for me, I have no further gone in this than by A single voice, and that not pass'd me but  By learned approbation of the judges. If I am Traduced by ignorant tongues, which neither know My faculties nor person, yet will be The chronicles of my doing, let me say 'Tis but the fate of place, and the rough brake That virtue must go through. We must not stint Our necessary actions, in the fear To cope malicious censurers; which ever, As ravenous fishes, do a vessel follow That is new-trimm'd, but benefit no further  Than vainly longing. What we oft do best, By sick interpreters, once weak ones, is Not ours or not allow'd; what worst, as oft, Hitting a grosser quality, is cried up For our best act. If we shall stand still, In fear our notion will be mock'd or carp'd at, We should take root here where we sit, or sit State-statues only.
Excerpted from Henry VIII by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio. Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.
Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.
Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays.
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