William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 1), Act I, Scene III

Scene III

London. The palace

Enter the King, Northumberland, Worcester, Hotspur, Sir Walter Blunt, with others

King Henry IV

My blood hath been too cold and temperate, Unapt to stir at these indignities, And you have found me; for accordingly You tread upon my patience: but be sure I will from henceforth rather be myself, Mighty and to be fear'd, than my condition; Which hath been smooth as oil, soft as young down, And therefore lost that title of respect Which the proud soul ne'er pays but to the proud.

Earl of Worcester

Our house, my sovereign liege, little deserves The scourge of greatness to be used on it; And that same greatness too which our own hands Have holp to make so portly.

Northumberland

My lord.—

King Henry IV

Worcester, get thee gone; for I do see Danger and disobedience in thine eye: O, sir, your presence is too bold and peremptory, And majesty might never yet endure The moody frontier of a servant brow. You have good leave to leave us: when we need Your use and counsel, we shall send for you.

Exit Worcester

You were about to speak.

To North

Northumberland

Yea, my good lord. Those prisoners in your highness' name demanded, Which Harry Percy here at Holmedon took, Were, as he says, not with such strength denied As is deliver'd to your majesty: Either envy, therefore, or misprison Is guilty of this fault and not my son.

Hotspur

My liege, I did deny no prisoners. But I remember, when the fight was done, When I was dry with rage and extreme toil, Breathless and faint, leaning upon my sword, Came there a certain lord, neat, and trimly dress'd, Fresh as a bridegroom; and his chin new reap'd Show'd like a stubble-land at harvest-home; He was perfumed like a milliner; And 'twixt his finger and his thumb he held A pouncet-box, which ever and anon He gave his nose and took't away again; Who therewith angry, when it next came there, Took it in snuff; and still he smiled and talk'd, And as the soldiers bore dead bodies by, He call'd them untaught knaves, unmannerly, To bring a slovenly unhandsome corse Betwixt the wind and his nobility. With many holiday and lady terms He question'd me; amongst the rest, demanded My prisoners in your majesty's behalf. I then, all smarting with my wounds being cold, To be so pester'd with a popinjay, Out of my grief and my impatience, Answer'd neglectingly I know not what, He should or he should not; for he made me mad To see him shine so brisk and smell so sweet And talk so like a waiting-gentlewoman Of guns and drums and wounds,—God save the mark!— And telling me the sovereign'st thing on earth Was parmaceti for an inward bruise; And that it was great pity, so it was, This villanous salt-petre should be digg'd Out of the bowels of the harmless earth, Which many a good tall fellow had destroy'd So cowardly; and but for these vile guns, He would himself have been a soldier. This bald unjointed chat of his, my lord, I answer'd indirectly, as I said; And I beseech you, let not his report Come current for an accusation Betwixt my love and your high majesty.

Sir Walter Blunt

The circumstance consider'd, good my lord, Whate'er Lord Harry Percy then had said To such a person and in such a place, At such a time, with all the rest retold, May reasonably die and never rise To do him wrong or any way impeach What then he said, so he unsay it now.

King Henry IV

Why, yet he doth deny his prisoners, But with proviso and exception, That we at our own charge shall ransom straight His brother-in-law, the foolish Mortimer; Who, on my soul, hath wilfully betray'd The lives of those that he did lead to fight Against that great magician, damn'd Glendower, Whose daughter, as we hear, the Earl of March Hath lately married. Shall our coffers, then, Be emptied to redeem a traitor home? Shall we but treason? and indent with fears, When they have lost and forfeited themselves? No, on the barren mountains let him starve; For I shall never hold that man my friend Whose tongue shall ask me for one penny cost To ransom home revolted Mortimer.

Hotspur

Revolted Mortimer! He never did fall off, my sovereign liege, But by the chance of war; to prove that true Needs no more but one tongue for all those wounds, Those mouthed wounds, which valiantly he took When on the gentle Severn's sedgy bank, In single opposition, hand to hand, He did confound the best part of an hour In changing hardiment with great Glendower: Three times they breathed and three times did they drink, Upon agreement, of swift Severn's flood; Who then, affrighted with their bloody looks, Ran fearfully among the trembling reeds, And hid his crisp head in the hollow bank, Bloodstained with these valiant combatants. Never did base and rotten policy Colour her working with such deadly wounds; Nor could the noble Mortimer Receive so many, and all willingly: Then let not him be slander'd with revolt.

King Henry IV

Thou dost belie him, Percy, thou dost belie him; He never did encounter with Glendower: I tell thee, He durst as well have met the devil alone As Owen Glendower for an enemy. Art thou not ashamed? But, sirrah, henceforth Let me not hear you speak of Mortimer: Send me your prisoners with the speediest means, Or you shall hear in such a kind from me As will displease you. My Lord Northumberland, We licence your departure with your son. Send us your prisoners, or you will hear of it.

Exeunt King Henry, Blunt, and train

Hotspur

An if the devil come and roar for them, I will not send them: I will after straight And tell him so; for I will ease my heart, Albeit I make a hazard of my head.

Northumberland

What, drunk with choler? stay and pause awhile: Here comes your uncle.

Re-enter Worcester

Hotspur

Speak of Mortimer! 'Zounds, I will speak of him; and let my soul Want mercy, if I do not join with him: Yea, on his part I'll empty all these veins, And shed my dear blood drop by drop in the dust, But I will lift the down-trod Mortimer As high in the air as this unthankful king, As this ingrate and canker'd Bolingbroke.

Northumberland

Brother, the king hath made your nephew mad.

Earl of Worcester

Who struck this heat up after I was gone?

Hotspur

He will, forsooth, have all my prisoners; And when I urged the ransom once again Of my wife's brother, then his cheek look'd pale, And on my face he turn'd an eye of death, Trembling even at the name of Mortimer.

Earl of Worcester

I cannot blame him: was not he proclaim'd By Richard that dead is the next of blood?

Northumberland

He was; I heard the proclamation: And then it was when the unhappy king, —Whose wrongs in us God pardon!—did set forth Upon his Irish expedition; From whence he intercepted did return To be deposed and shortly murdered.

Earl of Worcester

And for whose death we in the world's wide mouth Live scandalized and foully spoken of.

Hotspur

But soft, I pray you; did King Richard then Proclaim my brother Edmund Mortimer Heir to the crown?

Northumberland

He did; myself did hear it.

Hotspur

Nay, then I cannot blame his cousin king, That wished him on the barren mountains starve. But shall it be that you, that set the crown Upon the head of this forgetful man And for his sake wear the detested blot Of murderous subornation, shall it be, That you a world of curses undergo, Being the agents, or base second means, The cords, the ladder, or the hangman rather? O, pardon me that I descend so low, To show the line and the predicament Wherein you range under this subtle king; Shall it for shame be spoken in these days, Or fill up chronicles in time to come, That men of your nobility and power Did gage them both in an unjust behalf, As both of you—God pardon it!—have done, To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose, An plant this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke? And shall it in more shame be further spoken, That you are fool'd, discarded and shook off By him for whom these shames ye underwent? No; yet time serves wherein you may redeem Your banish'd honours and restore yourselves Into the good thoughts of the world again, Revenge the jeering and disdain'd contempt Of this proud king, who studies day and night To answer all the debt he owes to you Even with the bloody payment of your deaths: Therefore, I say—

Earl of Worcester

Peace, cousin, say no more: And now I will unclasp a secret book, And to your quick-conceiving discontents I'll read you matter deep and dangerous, As full of peril and adventurous spirit As to o'er-walk a current roaring loud On the unsteadfast footing of a spear.

Hotspur

If he fall in, good night! or sink or swim: Send danger from the east unto the west, So honour cross it from the north to south, And let them grapple: O, the blood more stirs To rouse a lion than to start a hare!

Northumberland

Imagination of some great exploit Drives him beyond the bounds of patience.

Hotspur

By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap, To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon, Or dive into the bottom of the deep, Where fathom-line could never touch the ground, And pluck up drowned honour by the locks; So he that doth redeem her thence might wear Without corrival, all her dignities: But out upon this half-faced fellowship!

Earl of Worcester

He apprehends a world of figures here, But not the form of what he should attend. Good cousin, give me audience for a while.

Hotspur

I cry you mercy.

Earl of Worcester

Those same noble Scots That are your prisoners,—

Hotspur

I'll keep them all; By God, he shall not have a Scot of them; No, if a Scot would save his soul, he shall not: I'll keep them, by this hand.

Earl of Worcester

You start away And lend no ear unto my purposes. Those prisoners you shall keep.

Hotspur

Nay, I will; that's flat: He said he would not ransom Mortimer; Forbad my tongue to speak of Mortimer; But I will find him when he lies asleep, And in his ear I'll holla 'Mortimer!' Nay, I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak Nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him To keep his anger still in motion.

Earl of Worcester

Hear you, cousin; a word.

Hotspur

All studies here I solemnly defy, Save how to gall and pinch this Bolingbroke: And that same sword-and-buckler Prince of Wales, But that I think his father loves him not And would be glad he met with some mischance, I would have him poison'd with a pot of ale.

Earl of Worcester

Farewell, kinsman: I'll talk to you When you are better temper'd to attend.

Northumberland

Why, what a wasp-stung and impatient fool Art thou to break into this woman's mood, Tying thine ear to no tongue but thine own!

Hotspur

Why, look you, I am whipp'd and scourged with rods, Nettled and stung with pismires, when I hear Of this vile politician, Bolingbroke. In Richard's time,—what do you call the place?— A plague upon it, it is in Gloucestershire; 'Twas where the madcap duke his uncle kept, His uncle York; where I first bow'd my knee Unto this king of smiles, this Bolingbroke,— 'Sblood!— When you and he came back from Ravenspurgh.

Northumberland

At Berkley castle.

Hotspur

You say true: Why, what a candy deal of courtesy This fawning greyhound then did proffer me! Look,'when his infant fortune came to age,' And 'gentle Harry Percy,' and 'kind cousin;' O, the devil take such cozeners! God forgive me! Good uncle, tell your tale; I have done.

Earl of Worcester

Nay, if you have not, to it again; We will stay your leisure.

Hotspur

I have done, i' faith.

Earl of Worcester

Then once more to your Scottish prisoners. Deliver them up without their ransom straight, And make the Douglas' son your only mean For powers in Scotland; which, for divers reasons Which I shall send you written, be assured, Will easily be granted. You, my lord,

To Northumberland

Your son in Scotland being thus employ'd, Shall secretly into the bosom creep Of that same noble prelate, well beloved, The archbishop.

Hotspur

Of York, is it not?

Earl of Worcester

True; who bears hard His brother's death at Bristol, the Lord Scroop. I speak not this in estimation, As what I think might be, but what I know Is ruminated, plotted and set down, And only stays but to behold the face Of that occasion that shall bring it on.

Hotspur

I smell it: upon my life, it will do well.

Northumberland

Before the game is afoot, thou still let'st slip.

Hotspur

Why, it cannot choose but be a noble plot; And then the power of Scotland and of York, To join with Mortimer, ha?

Earl of Worcester

And so they shall.

Hotspur

In faith, it is exceedingly well aim'd.

Earl of Worcester

And 'tis no little reason bids us speed, To save our heads by raising of a head; For, bear ourselves as even as we can, The king will always think him in our debt, And think we think ourselves unsatisfied, Till he hath found a time to pay us home: And see already how he doth begin To make us strangers to his looks of love.

Hotspur

He does, he does: we'll be revenged on him.

Earl of Worcester

Cousin, farewell: no further go in this Than I by letters shall direct your course. When time is ripe, which will be suddenly, I'll steal to Glendower and Lord Mortimer; Where you and Douglas and our powers at once, As I will fashion it, shall happily meet, To bear our fortunes in our own strong arms, Which now we hold at much uncertainty.

Northumberland

Farewell, good brother: we shall thrive, I trust.

Hotspur

Uncle, Adieu: O, let the hours be short Till fields and blows and groans applaud our sport!

Exeunt