Percy Bysshe Shelley: Charles I Scene 3

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Scene 3: The Star Chamber [1]

Laud, Juxon, Strafford, and others, as judges. Prynne as a prisoner, and then Bastwick.

Bring forth the prisoner Bastwick: let the clerk
Recite his sentence.
'That he pay five thousand
Pounds to the king, lose both his ears, be branded
With red-hot iron on the cheek and forehead,
And be imprisoned within Lancaster Castle
During the pleasure of the Court.'
If you have aught to say wherefore this sentence
Should not be put into effect, now speak.
If you have aught to plead in mitigation,
Thus, my lords. If, like the prelates, I
Were an invader of the royal power
A public scorner of the word of God,
Profane, idolatrous, popish, superstitious,
Impious in heart and in tyrannic act,
Void of wit, honesty, and temperance;
If Satan were my lord, as theirs,—our God
Pattern of all I should avoid to do;
Were I an enemy of my God and King
And of good men, as ye are;—I should merit
Your fearful state and gilt prosperity,
Which, when ye wake from the last sleep, shall turn
To cowls and robes of everlasting fire.
But, as I am, I bid ye grudge me not
The only earthly favour ye can yield,
Or I think worth acceptance at your hands,—
Scorn, mutilation, and imprisonment.
even as my Master did,
Until Heaven's kingdom shall descend on earth,
Or earth be like a shadow in the light
Of Heaven absorbed—some few tumultuous years
Will pass, and leave no wreck of what opposes
His will whose will is power.[2]
Officer, take the prisoner from the bar,
And be his tongue slit for his insolence.
While this hand holds a pen—
Be his hands—
Forbear, my lord! The tongue, which now can speak
No terror, would interpret, being dumb,
Heaven's thunder to our harm;...
And hands, which now write only their own shame,
With bleeding stumps might sign our blood away.
Much more such 'mercy' among men would be,
Did all the ministers of Heaven's revenge
Flinch thus from earthly retribution. I
Could suffer what I would inflict.
Bring up
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln.—
Know you not
That, in distraining for ten thousand pounds
Upon his books and furniture at Lincoln,
Were found these scandalous and seditious letters
Sent from one Osbaldistone, who is fled?
I speak it not as touching this poor person;
But of the office which should make it holy,
Were it as vile as it was ever spotless.
Mark too, my lord, that this expression strikes
His Majesty, if I misinterpret not.
'Twere politic and just that Williams taste
The bitter fruit of his connection with
The schismatics. But you, my Lord Archbishop,
Who owed your first promotion to his favour,
Who grew beneath his smile—
Would therefore beg
The office of his judge from this High Court,—
That it shall seem, even as it is, that I,
In my assumption of this sacred robe,
Have put aside all worldly preference,
All sense of all distinction of all persons,
All thoughts but of the service of the Church.—
Bishop of Lincoln!
Peace, proud hierarch!
I know my sentence, and I own it just.
Thou wilt repay me less than I deserve,
In stretching to the utmost

Bring...utmost 1870; scene omitted 1824.


even...power printed as a fragment, Garnett, 1862; inserted here conjecturally, Rossetti, 1870.

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