William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 2), Act III

Act III

Scene I

Westminster. The palace

Enter King Henry IV in his nightgown, with a Page

King Henry IV

Go call the Earls of Surrey and of Warwick; But, ere they come, bid them o'er-read these letters, And well consider of them; make good speed.

Exit Page

How many thousand of my poorest subjects Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down And steep my senses in forgetfulness? Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, Than in the perfumed chambers of the great, Under the canopies of costly state, And lull'd with sound of sweetest melody? O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile In loathsome beds, and leavest the kingly couch A watch-case or a common 'larum-bell? Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains In cradle of the rude imperious surge And in the visitation of the winds, Who take the ruffian billows by the top, Curling their monstrous heads and hanging them With deafening clamour in the slippery clouds, That, with the hurly, death itself awakes? Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude, And in the calmest and most stillest night, With all appliances and means to boot, Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Enter Warwick and Surrey

Warwick

Many good morrows to your majesty!

King Henry IV

Is it good morrow, lords?

Warwick

'Tis one o'clock, and past.

King Henry IV

Why, then, good morrow to you all, my lords. Have you read o'er the letters that I sent you?

Warwick

We have, my liege.

King Henry IV

Then you perceive the body of our kingdom How foul it is; what rank diseases grow And with what danger, near the heart of it.

Warwick

It is but as a body yet distemper'd; Which to his former strength may be restored With good advice and little medicine: My Lord Northumberland will soon be cool'd.

King Henry IV

O God! that one might read the book of fate, And see the revolution of the times Make mountains level, and the continent, Weary of solid firmness, melt itself Into the sea! and, other times, to see The beachy girdle of the ocean Too wide for Neptune's hips; how chances mock, And changes fill the cup of alteration With divers liquors! O, if this were seen, The happiest youth, viewing his progress through, What perils past, what crosses to ensue, Would shut the book, and sit him down and die. 'Tis not 'ten years gone Since Richard and Northumberland, great friends, Did feast together, and in two years after Were they at wars: it is but eight years since This Percy was the man nearest my soul, Who like a brother toil'd in my affairs And laid his love and life under my foot, Yea, for my sake, even to the eyes of Richard Gave him defiance. But which of you was by— You, cousin Nevil, as I may remember—

To Warwick

When Richard, with his eye brimful of tears, Then cheque'd and rated by Northumberland, Did speak these words, now proved a prophecy? 'Northumberland, thou ladder by the which My cousin Bolingbroke ascends my throne;' Though then, God knows, I had no such intent, But that necessity so bow'd the state That I and greatness were compell'd to kiss: 'The time shall come,' thus did he follow it, 'The time will come, that foul sin, gathering head, Shall break into corruption:' so went on, Foretelling this same time's condition And the division of our amity.

Warwick

There is a history in all men's lives, Figuring the nature of the times deceased; The which observed, a man may prophesy, With a near aim, of the main chance of things As yet not come to life, which in their seeds And weak beginnings lie intreasured. Such things become the hatch and brood of time; And by the necessary form of this King Richard might create a perfect guess That great Northumberland, then false to him, Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness; Which should not find a ground to root upon, Unless on you.

King Henry IV

Are these things then necessities? Then let us meet them like necessities: And that same word even now cries out on us: They say the bishop and Northumberland Are fifty thousand strong.

Warwick

It cannot be, my lord; Rumour doth double, like the voice and echo, The numbers of the fear'd. Please it your grace To go to bed. Upon my soul, my lord, The powers that you already have sent forth Shall bring this prize in very easily. To comfort you the more, I have received A certain instance that Glendower is dead. Your majesty hath been this fortnight ill, And these unseason'd hours perforce must add Unto your sickness.

King Henry IV

I will take your counsel: And were these inward wars once out of hand, We would, dear lords, unto the Holy Land.

Exeunt