Sir Thomas More Scenes
London. A street.
(John Lincoln; George Betts; Clown Betts; Francis de Barde; Doll; Caveler; Williamson; Sherwin)
The foreigner Francis de Barde drags Doll about, insisting on his right to do with her what he pleases, despite her imprecations and raging comments about his treatment of others. Caveler comes in as well, carrying some pigeons he has taken from Williamson. Williamson and others protest, but the self-satisfied Caveler has no patience with them. The grumbling Londoners do not quite dare attack the foreigners, who have friends in high places, but their patience is stretched to the breaking point and their threats do make Caveler and de Barde take off to complain to the ambassador, leaving Doll behind. The Londoners’ simmering rage is encapsulated by John Lincoln, who has written a petition detailing all the wrongs perpetrated by the foreigners, that he intends to have made public. He reads it out, and the emboldened citizens begin to plan a riot to take their revenge. ( line)
Enter, at one end, John Lincoln, with the two Bettses together; at the other end, enters Francis de Barde and Doll a lusty woman, he haling her by the arm.
Whether wilt thou hale me?
Whether I please; thou art my prize, and I plead purchase of thee.
Purchase of me? Away, ye rascal! I am an honest plain carpenters wife, and though I have no beauty to like a husband, yet whatsoever is mine scorns to stoop to a stranger. Hand off, then, when I bid thee!
Go with me quietly, or I’ll compel thee.
Compel me, ye dog’s face! Thou thinkst thou hast the goldsmith’s wife in hand, whom thou enticed’st from her husband with all his plate, and when thou turnd’st her home to him again, mad’st him, like an ass, pay for his wife’s board.
So will I make thy husband too, if please me.
Enter Caveler with a pair of doves; Williamson the carpenter, and Sherwin following him.
Here he comes himself; tell him so, if thou dar’st.
Follow me no further; I say thou shalt not have them.
I bought them in Cheapside, and paid my money for them.
He did, sir, indeed; and you offer him wrong, both to take them from him, and not restore him his money neither.
If he paid for them, let it suffice that I possess them. Beefs and brews may serve such hinds. Are pigeons meat for a coarse carpenter?
It is hard when Englishmen’s patience must be thus jetted on by strangers, and they not dare to revenge their own wrongs.
Lincoln, let’s beat them down, and bear no more of these abuses.
We may not, Betts. Be patient, and hear more.
How now, husband! What, one stranger take they food from thee, and another thy wife! By our Lady, flesh and blood, I think, can hardly brook that.
Will this gear never be otherwise? Must these wrongs be thus endured?
Let us step in, and help to revenge their injury.
What art thou that talkest of revenge? My lord ambassador shall once more make your Major have a check, if he punish thee for this saucy presumption.
Indeed, my lord Mayor, on the ambassador’s complaint, sent me to Newgate one day, because (against my will) I took the wall of a stranger. You may do any thing; the goldsmith’s wife and mine now must be at your commandment.
The more patient fools are ye both, to suffer it.
Suffer it! Mend it thou or he, if ye can or dare. I tell thee, fellows, and she were the Mayor of London’s wife, had I her once in my possession, I would keep her in spite of him that durst say nay.
I tell thee, Lombard, these words should cost thy best cape, were I not curbed by duty and obedience. The Mayor of London’s wife! Oh God, shall it be thus?
Why, Betts, am not I as dear to my husband as my lord Mayor’s wife to him? And wilt thou so neglectly suffer thine own shame?—Hands off, proud stranger! Or, by him that bought me, if men’s milky hearts dare not strike a stranger, yet women beat them down, ere they bear these abuses.
Mistress, I say you shall along with me.
Touch not Doll Williamson, least she lay thee along on God’s dear earth.
And you, sir, that allow such coarse cates to carpenters, whilst pigeons, which they pay for, must serve your dainty appetite, deliver them back to my husband again, or I’ll call so many women to mine assistance as will not leave one inch untorn of thee. If our husbands must be bridled by law, and forced to bear your wrongs, their wives will be a little lawless, and soundly beat ye.
Come away, De Barde, and let us go complain to my lord ambassador.
Aye, go, and send him among us, and we’ll give him his welcome too. I am ashamed that freeborn Englishmen, having beaten strangers within their own homes, should thus be braved and abused by them at home.
It is not our lack of courage in the cause, but the strict obedience that we are bound to. I am the goldsmith whose wrongs you talked of; but how to redress yours or mine own is a matter beyond our abilities.
Not so, not so, my good friends. I, though a mean man, a broker by profession, and named John Lincoln, have long time winked at these wild enormities with mighty impatience, and, as these two brethren here (Betts by name) can witness, with loss of mine own life would gladly remedy them.
And he is in a good forwardness, I tell ye, if all hit right.
As how, I prithee? Tell it to Doll Williamson.
You know the Spittle sermons begin the next week. I have drawn a bill of our wrongs and the strangers’ insolences.
Which he means the preachers shall there openly publish in the pulpit.
Oh, but that they would! I’faith, it would tickle our strangers thoroughly.
Aye, and if you men durst not undertake it, before God, we women would. Take an honest woman from her husband! Why, it is intolerable.
But how find ye the preachers affected to our proceeding?
Master Doctor Standish hath answered that it becomes not him to move any such thing in his sermon, and tells us we must move the Mayor and aldermen to reform it, and doubts not but happy success will ensue on statement of our wrongs. You shall perceive there’s no hurt in the bill. Here’s a couple of it; I pray ye, hear it.
With all our hearts; for God’s sake, read it.
“To you all, the worshipful lords and masters of this city, that will take compassion over the poor people your neighbors, and also of the great importable hurts, losses, and hinderances, whereof proceedeth extreme poverty to all the king’s subjects that inhabit within this city and suburbs of the same. For so it is that aliens and strangers eat the bread from the fatherless children, and take the living from all the artificers and the intercourse from all the merchants, whereby poverty is so much increased, that every man bewaileth the misery of other; for craftsmen be brought to beggary, and merchants to neediness. Wherefore, the premises considered, the redress must be of the common knit and united to one part. And as the hurt and damage grieveth all men, so must all men see to their willing power for remedy, and not suffer the said aliens in their wealth, and the natural born men of this region to come to confusion.”
Before God, ’tis excellent; and I’ll maintain the suit to be honest.
Well, say ’tis read, what is your further meaning in the matter?
What? Marry, list to me. No doubt but this will store us with friends enow, whose names we will closely keep in writing; and on May day next in the morning we’ll go forth a Maying, but make it the worst May day for the strangers that ever they saw. How say ye? Do ye subscribe, or are ye faint-hearted revolters?
Hold thee, George Betts, there’s my hand and my heart. By the Lord, I’ll make a captain among ye, and do somewhat to be talk of forever after.
My masters, ere we part, let’s friendly go and drink together, and swear true secrecy upon our lives.
There spake an angel. Come, let us along, then.