Classics > Poetry > Shakespeare's Plays > The Famous History of the Life of Henry the Eighth > Act II
Trumpets, sennet, and cornets. Enter two Vergers, with short silver wands; next them, two Scribes, in the habit of doctors; after them, Canterbury alone; after him, Lincoln, Ely, Rochester, and Saint Asaph; next them, with some small distance, follows a Gentleman bearing the purse, with the great seal, and a cardinal's hat; then two Priests, bearing each a silver cross; then a Gentleman-usher bare-headed, accompanied with a Sergeant-at-arms bearing a silver mace; then two Gentlemen bearing two great silver pillars; after them, side by side, Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius; two Noblemen with the sword and mace. King Henry VIII takes place under the cloth of state; Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius sit under him as judges. Queen Katharine takes place some distance from King Henry VIII. The Bishops place themselves on each side the court, in manner of a consistory; below them, the Scribes. The Lords sit next the Bishops. The rest of the Attendants stand in convenient order about the stage
What's the need? It hath already publicly been read, And on all sides the authority allow'd; You may, then, spare that time.
Queen Katharine makes no answer, rises out of her chair, goes about the court, comes to King Henry Viii, and kneels at his feet; then speaks
Sir, I desire you do me right and justice; And to bestow your pity on me: for I am a most poor woman, and a stranger, Born out of your dominions; having here No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir, In what have I offended you? what cause Hath my behavior given to your displeasure, That thus you should proceed to put me off, And take your good grace from me? Heaven witness, I have been to you a true and humble wife, At all times to your will conformable; Ever in fear to kindle your dislike, Yea, subject to your countenance, glad or sorry As I saw it inclined: when was the hour I ever contradicted your desire, Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends Have I not strove to love, although I knew He were mine enemy? what friend of mine That had to him derived your anger, did I Continue in my liking? nay, gave notice He was from thence discharged. Sir, call to mind That I have been your wife, in this obedience, Upward of twenty years, and have been blest With many children by you: if, in the course And process of this time, you can report, And prove it too, against mine honour aught, My bond to wedlock, or my love and duty, Against your sacred person, in God's name, Turn me away; and let the foul'st contempt Shut door upon me, and so give me up To the sharp'st kind of justice. Please you sir, The king, your father, was reputed for A prince most prudent, of an excellent And unmatch'd wit and judgment: Ferdinand, My father, king of Spain, was reckon'd one The wisest prince that there had reign'd by many A year before: it is not to be question'd That they had gather'd a wise council to them Of every realm, that did debate this business, Who deem'd our marriage lawful: wherefore I humbly Beseech you, sir, to spare me, till I may Be by my friends in Spain advised; whose counsel I will implore: if not, i' the name of God, Your pleasure be fulfill'd!
You have here, lady, And of your choice, these reverend fathers; men Of singular integrity and learning, Yea, the elect o' the land, who are assembled To plead your cause: it shall be therefore bootless That longer you desire the court; as well For your own quiet, as to rectify What is unsettled in the king.
His grace Hath spoken well and justly: therefore, madam, It's fit this royal session do proceed; And that, without delay, their arguments Be now produced and heard.
Sir, I am about to weep; but, thinking that We are a queen, or long have dream'd so, certain The daughter of a king, my drops of tears I'll turn to sparks of fire.
I will, when you are humble; nay, before, Or God will punish me. I do believe, Induced by potent circumstances, that You are mine enemy, and make my challenge You shall not be my judge: for it is you Have blown this coal betwixt my lord and me; Which God's dew quench! Therefore I say again, I utterly abhor, yea, from my soul Refuse you for my judge; whom, yet once more, I hold my most malicious foe, and think not At all a friend to truth.
I do profess You speak not like yourself; who ever yet Have stood to charity, and display'd the effects Of disposition gentle, and of wisdom O'ertopping woman's power. Madam, you do me wrong: I have no spleen against you; nor injustice For you or any: how far I have proceeded, Or how far further shall, is warranted By a commission from the consistory, Yea, the whole consistory of Rome. You charge me That I have blown this coal: I do deny it: The king is present: if it be known to him That I gainsay my deed, how may he wound, And worthily, my falsehood! yea, as much As you have done my truth. If he know That I am free of your report, he knows I am not of your wrong. Therefore in him It lies to cure me: and the cure is, to Remove these thoughts from you: the which before His highness shall speak in, I do beseech You, gracious madam, to unthink your speaking And to say so no more.
My lord, my lord, I am a simple woman, much too weak To oppose your cunning. You're meek and humble-mouth'd; You sign your place and calling, in full seeming, With meekness and humility; but your heart Is cramm'd with arrogancy, spleen, and pride. You have, by fortune and his highness' favours, Gone slightly o'er low steps and now are mounted Where powers are your retainers, and your words, Domestics to you, serve your will as't please Yourself pronounce their office. I must tell you, You tender more your person's honour than Your high profession spiritual: that again I do refuse you for my judge; and here, Before you all, appeal unto the pope, To bring my whole cause 'fore his holiness, And to be judged by him.
She curtsies to King Henry VIII, and offers to depart
The queen is obstinate, Stubborn to justice, apt to accuse it, and Disdainful to be tried by't: 'tis not well. She's going away.
What need you note it? pray you, keep your way: When you are call'd, return. Now, the Lord help, They vex me past my patience! Pray you, pass on: I will not tarry; no, nor ever more Upon this business my appearance make In any of their courts.
Exeunt Queen Katharine and her Attendants
Go thy ways, Kate: That man i' the world who shall report he has A better wife, let him in nought be trusted, For speaking false in that: thou art, alone, If thy rare qualities, sweet gentleness, Thy meekness saint-like, wife-like government, Obeying in commanding, and thy parts Sovereign and pious else, could speak thee out, The queen of earthly queens: she's noble born; And, like her true nobility, she has Carried herself towards me.
Most gracious sir, In humblest manner I require your highness, That it shall please you to declare, in hearing Of all these ears,—for where I am robb'd and bound, There must I be unloosed, although not there At once and fully satisfied,—whether ever I Did broach this business to your highness; or Laid any scruple in your way, which might Induce you to the question on't? or ever Have to you, but with thanks to God for such A royal lady, spake one the least word that might Be to the prejudice of her present state, Or touch of her good person?
My lord cardinal, I do excuse you; yea, upon mine honour, I free you from't. You are not to be taught That you have many enemies, that know not Why they are so, but, like to village-curs, Bark when their fellows do: by some of these The queen is put in anger. You're excused: But will you be more justified? You ever Have wish'd the sleeping of this business; never desired It to be stirr'd; but oft have hinder'd, oft, The passages made toward it: on my honour, I speak my good lord cardinal to this point, And thus far clear him. Now, what moved me to't, I will be bold with time and your attention: Then mark the inducement. Thus it came; give heed to't: My conscience first received a tenderness, Scruple, and prick, on certain speeches utter'd By the Bishop of Bayonne, then French ambassador; Who had been hither sent on the debating A marriage 'twixt the Duke of Orleans and Our daughter Mary: i' the progress of this business, Ere a determinate resolution, he, I mean the bishop, did require a respite; Wherein he might the king his lord advertise Whether our daughter were legitimate, Respecting this our marriage with the dowager, Sometimes our brother's wife. This respite shook The bosom of my conscience, enter'd me, Yea, with a splitting power, and made to tremble The region of my breast; which forced such way, That many mazed considerings did throng And press'd in with this caution. First, methought I stood not in the smile of heaven; who had Commanded nature, that my lady's womb, If it conceived a male child by me, should Do no more offices of life to't than The grave does to the dead; for her male issue Or died where they were made, or shortly after This world had air'd them: hence I took a thought, This was a judgment on me; that my kingdom, Well worthy the best heir o' the world, should not Be gladded in't by me: then follows, that I weigh'd the danger which my realms stood in By this my issue's fail; and that gave to me Many a groaning throe. Thus hulling in The wild sea of my conscience, I did steer Toward this remedy, whereupon we are Now present here together: that's to say, I meant to rectify my conscience,—which I then did feel full sick, and yet not well,— By all the reverend fathers of the land And doctors learn'd: first I began in private With you, my Lord of Lincoln; you remember How under my oppression I did reek, When I first moved you.
So please your highness, The question did at first so stagger me, Bearing a state of mighty moment in't And consequence of dread, that I committed The daring'st counsel which I had to doubt; And did entreat your highness to this course Which you are running here.
I then moved you, My Lord of Canterbury; and got your leave To make this present summons: unsolicited I left no reverend person in this court; But by particular consent proceeded Under your hands and seals: therefore, go on: For no dislike i' the world against the person Of the good queen, but the sharp thorny points Of my alleged reasons, drive this forward: Prove but our marriage lawful, by my life And kingly dignity, we are contented To wear our mortal state to come with her, Katharine our queen, before the primest creature That's paragon'd o' the world.
So please your highness, The queen being absent, 'tis a needful fitness That we adjourn this court till further day: Meanwhile must be an earnest motion Made to the queen, to call back her appeal She intends unto his holiness.
[Aside] I may perceive These cardinals trifle with me: I abhor This dilatory sloth and tricks of Rome. My learn'd and well-beloved servant, Cranmer, Prithee, return: with thy approach, I know, My comfort comes along. Break up the court: I say, set on.
Exeunt in manner as they entered