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Henry VIII :: Scenes :: Henry VIII: Act II, Scene 3

Scene 3

London. An ante-chamber in the Queen’s apartment.

(Anne Bullen; Old Lady; Lord Chamberlain)

Anne Bullen pities the Queen, but her companion tells her she is foolish to claim she would rather not be Queen herself. The Lord Chamberlain enters to tell Anne that the King has made her Marchioness of Pembroke. Anne is not so much pleased as worried. ( line)

Enter Anne Bullen and an Old Lady.

ANNE.

Not for that neither; here’s the pang that pinches:

His Highness having liv’d so long with her, and she

So good a lady that no tongue could ever

Pronounce dishonor of her—by my life,

She never knew harm-doing—O, now after

So many courses of the sun enthroned,

Still growing in a majesty and pomp, the which

To leave a thousandfold more bitter than

’Tis sweet at first t’ acquire—after this process,

To give her the avaunt, it is a pity

Would move a monster.

OLD L.

Hearts of most hard temper

Melt and lament for her.

ANNE.

O, God’s will, much better

She ne’er had known pomp! Though’t be temporal,

Yet if that quarrel, fortune, do divorce

It from the bearer, ’tis a sufferance panging

As soul and body’s severing.

OLD L.

Alas, poor lady!

She’s a stranger now again.

ANNE.

So much the more

Must pity drop upon her. Verily,

I swear, ’tis better to be lowly born,

And range with humble livers in content,

Than to be perk’d up in a glist’ring grief

And wear a golden sorrow.

OLD L.

Our content

Is our best having.

ANNE.

By my troth and maidenhead,

I would not be a queen.

OLD L.

Beshrew me, I would,

And venture maidenhead for’t, and so would you

For all this spice of your hypocrisy.

You, that have so fair parts of woman on you,

Have, too, a woman’s heart, which ever yet

Affected eminence, wealth, sovereignty;

Which, to say sooth, are blessings; and which gifts

(Saving your mincing) the capacity

Of your soft cheveril conscience would receive

If you might please to stretch it.

ANNE.

Nay, good troth.

OLD L.

Yes, troth, and troth. You would not be a queen?

ANNE.

No, not for all the riches under heaven.

OLD L.

’Tis strange. A threepence bow’d would hire me,

Old as I am, to queen it. But I pray you,

What think you of a duchess? Have you limbs

To bear that load of title?

ANNE.

No, in truth.

OLD L.

Then you are weakly made; pluck off a little,

I would not be a young count in your way

For more than blushing comes to. If your back

Cannot vouchsafe this burden, ’tis too weak

Ever to get a boy.

ANNE.

How you do talk!

I swear again, I would not be a queen

For all the world.

OLD L.

In faith, for little England

You’ld venture an emballing. I myself

Would for Carnarvonshire, although there ’long’d

No more to th’ crown but that. Lo, who comes here?

Enter Lord Chamberlain.

CHAM.

Good morrow, ladies. What were’t worth to know

The secret of your conference?

ANNE.

My good lord,

Not your demand; it values not your asking.

Our mistress’ sorrows we were pitying.

CHAM.

It was a gentle business, and becoming

The action of good women. There is hope

All will be well.

ANNE.

Now I pray God, amen!

CHAM.

You bear a gentle mind, and heav’nly blessings

Follow such creatures. That you may, fair lady,

Perceive I speak sincerely, and high note’s

Ta’en of your many virtues, the King’s Majesty

Commends his good opinion of you to you, and

Does purpose honor to you no less flowing

Than Marchioness of Pembroke; to which title

A thousand pound a year, annual support,

Out of his grace he adds.

ANNE.

I do not know

What kind of my obedience I should tender.

More than my all is nothing: nor my prayers

Are not words duly hallowed, nor my wishes

More worth than empty vanities; yet prayers and wishes

Are all I can return. Beseech your lordship,

Vouchsafe to speak my thanks and my obedience,

As from a blushing handmaid, to his Highness;

Whose health and royalty I pray for.

CHAM.

Lady,

I shall not fail t’ approve the fair conceit

The King hath of you.

Aside.

I have perus’d her well;

Beauty and honor in her are so mingled

That they have caught the King; and who knows yet

But from this lady may proceed a gem

To lighten all this isle?—I’ll to the King,

And say I spoke with you.

ANNE.

My honor’d lord.

Exit Lord Chamberlain.

OLD L.

Why, this it is! See, see,

I have been begging sixteen years in court

(Am yet a courtier beggarly) nor could

Come pat betwixt too early and too late

For any suit of pounds; and you, O fate!

A very fresh fish here—fie, fie, fie upon

This compell’d fortune!—have your mouth fill’d up

Before you open it.

ANNE.

This is strange to me.

OLD L.

How tastes it? Is it bitter? Forty pence, no.

There was a lady once (’tis an old story)

That would not be a queen, that would she not,

For all the mud in Egypt. Have you heard it?

ANNE.

Come, you are pleasant.

OLD L.

With your theme, I could

O’ermount the lark. The Marchioness of Pembroke?

A thousand pounds a year for pure respect?

No other obligation? By my life,

That promises more thousands; honor’s train

Is longer than his foreskirt. By this time

I know your back will bear a duchess. Say,

Are you not stronger than you were?

ANNE.

Good lady,

Make yourself mirth with your particular fancy,

And leave me out on’t. Would I had no being

If this salute my blood a jot; it faints me

To think what follows.

The Queen is comfortless, and we forgetful

In our long absence. Pray do not deliver

What here y’ have heard to her.

OLD L.

What do you think me?

Exeunt.

 
 
 
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