Sir Thomas More Scenes
St. Martin’s Gate.
(Lincoln; Doll; Clown; George Betts; Williamson; Sergeant at Arms; Lord Mayor; Surrey; Shrewsbury; More; Crofts)
Lincoln rants to the rioters about foreign habits infecting the English. The Lord Mayor, Shrewsbury, Surrey and More arrive and attempt to speak to the rioters. After some confusion they agree to listen to More. The Sheriff paints them a picture of the foreigners being driven from the land and asks them to imagine themselves in their place, and points out that if they succeed, all they will have done is validate anarchy, and therefore put themselves at risk. Beyond that, he accuses them of rising up against God Himself by going against the King, points out that the King would be within his rights to banish them, and asks them where they could go as refugees, if they treat refugees with so little pity in England. The rioters are convinced, and agree to yield if More will intercede with the King for their pardon. They are all taken away to various prisons to wait for the King’s sentence on them. Shrewsbury goes to tell the King the news. Lincoln and Doll bid farewell to More, holding him to his promise to obtain their pardon. The Mayor congratulates the Sheriff, and he and More make arrangements for keeping the peace over the net night. Shrewsbury returns with news from the King, and knights More, now Sir Thomas, in recompense. What’s more, the King has named More to the Privy Council. More is somewhat overwhelmed. As the Mayor is commanded to make a report of all that has occurred for the King’s sake, More and Shrewsbury leave for court. ( line)
Enter Lincoln, Doll, Clown, George Betts, Williamson, others; and a Sergeant at Arms.
Peace, hear me. He that will not see a red herring at a Harry groat, butter at elevenpence a pound, meal at nine shillings a bushel, and beef at four nobles a stone, list to me.
It will come to that pass, if strangers be suffered. Mark him.
Our country is a great eating country; ergo, they eat more in our country than they do in their own.
By a halfpenny loaf, a day, troy weight.
They bring in strange roots, which is merely to the undoing of poor prentices; for what’s a sorry parsnip to a good heart?
Trash, trash; they breed sore eyes, and ’tis enough to infect the city with the palsey.
Nay, it has infected it with the palsey; for these bastards of dung, as you know they grow in dung, have infected us, and it is our infection will make the city shake, which partly comes through the eating of parsnips.
True; and pumpkins together.
What say ye to the mercy of the king?
Do ye refuse it?
You would have us upon t’ hip, would you? No, marry, do we not; we accept of the king’s mercy, but we will show no mercy upon the strangers.
You are the simplest things that ever stood
In such a question.
How say ye now, prentices? Prentices ‘simple’! Down with him!
Prentices simple! Prentices simple!
Enter the Lord Mayor, Surrey, Shrewsbury, More.
Hold! In the king’s name, hold!
Friends, masters, countrymen—
Peace, how, peace! I charge you, keep the peace!
My masters, countrymen—
The noble Earl of Shrewsbury, let’s hear him.
We’ll hear the Earl of Surrey.
The Earl of Shrewsbury.
We’ll hear both.
Both, both, both, both!
Peace, I say, peace! Are you men of wisdom, or what are you?
What you will have them; but not men of wisdom.
We’ll not hear my lord of Surrey; no, no, no, no, no! Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury!
Whiles they are o’er the bank of their obedience,
Thus will they bear down all things.
Sheriff More speaks; shall we hear Sheriff More speak?
Let’s hear him. ’A keeps a plentyful shrievaltry, and ’a made my brother Arthur Watchins Seriant Safes yeoman. Let’s hear Sheriff More.
Sheriff More, More, More, Sheriff More!
Even by the rule you have among yourselves,
Command still audience.
Surrey, Surrey! More, More!
Peace, peace, silence, peace.
Peace, peace, silence, peace.
You that have voice and credit with the number
Command them to a stillness.
A plague on them, they will not hold their peace; the dual cannot rule them.
Then what a rough and riotous charge have you,
To lead those that the dual cannot rule?—
Good masters, hear me speak.
Aye, by th’ mass, will we, More. Th’ art a good housekeeper, and I thank thy good worship for my brother Arthur Watchins.
Look, what you do offend you cry upon,
That is, the peace. Not one of you here present,
Had there such fellows lived when you were babes,
That could have topped the peace, as now you would,
The peace wherein you have till now grown up
Had been ta’en from you, and the bloody times
Could not have brought you to the state of men.
Alas, poor things, what is it you have got,
Although we grant you get the thing you seek?
Marry, the removing of the strangers, which cannot choose but much advantage the poor handicrafts of the city.
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
Before God, that’s as true as the Gospel.
Nay, this is a sound fellow, I tell you. Let’s mark him.
Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
On supposition; which if you will mark,
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears. First, ’tis a sin
Which oft the apostle did forewarn us of,
Urging obedience to authority;
And ’twere no error, if I told you all,
You were in arms against your God himself.
Marry, God forbid that!
Nay, certainly you are;
For to the king God hath his office lent
Of dread, of justice, power and command,
Hath bid him rule, and willed you to obey;
And, to add ampler majesty to this,
He hath not only lent the king his figure,
His throne and sword, but given him his own name,
Calls him a god on earth. What do you, then,
Rising ’gainst him that God himself installs,
But rise against God? What do you to your souls
In doing this? O, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
Tell me but this. What rebel captain,
As mutinies are incident, by his name
Can still the rout? Who will obey a traitor?
Or how can well that proclamation sound,
When there is no addition but a rebel
To qualify a rebel? You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.
Faith, ’a says true. Let’s do as we may be done to.
We’ll be ruled by you, Master More, if you’ll stand our friend to procure our pardon.
Submit you to these noble gentlemen,
Entreat their mediation to the king,
Give up yourself to form, obey the magistrate,
And there’s no doubt but mercy may be found,
If you so seek.
To persist in it is present death. But, if you
Yield yourselves, no doubt what punishment
You in simplicity have incurred, his highness
In mercy will most graciously pardon.
We yield, and desire his highness’ mercy.
They lay by their weapons.
No doubt his majesty will grant it you:
But you must yield to go to several prisons,
Till that his highness’ will be further known.
Most willingly; whether you will have us.
Lord Mayor, let them be sent to several prisons,
And there, in any case, be well intreated.
My lord of Surrey, please you to take horse,
And ride to Cheapside, where the aldermen
Are with their several companies in arms;
Will them to go unto their several wards,
Both for the stay of further mutiny,
And for the apprehending of such persons
As shall contend.
I go, my noble lord.
We’ll straight go tell his highness these good news;
Withal, Sheriff More, I’ll tell him how your breath
Hath ransomed many a subject from sad death.
Exit Shrewsbury and Cholmley.
Lincoln and Sherwin, you shall both to Newgate;
The rest unto the Counters.
Go guard them hence. A little breath well spent
Cheats expectation in his fairest event.
Well, Sheriff More, thou hast done more with thy good words than all they could with their weapons. Give me thy hand, keep thy promise now for the king’s pardon, or, by the Lord, I’ll call thee a plain coney-catcher.
Farewell, Sheriff More; and as we yield by thee,
So make our peace; then thou dealst honestly.
Aye, and save us from the gallows, else ’a devil’s double honestly!
They are led away.
Master Sheriff More, you have preserved the city
From a most dangerous fierce commotion;
For, if this limb of riot here in St. Martin’s
Had joined with other branches of the city
That did begin to kindle, ’twould have bred
Great rage; that rage much murder would have fed.
Not steel, but eloquence hath wrought this good:
You have redeemed us from much threatened blood.
My lord and brethren, what I here have spoke,
My country’s love, and next the city’s care,
Enjoined me to; which since it thus prevails,
Think, God hath made weak More his instrument
To thwart sedition’s violent intent.
I think ’twere best, my lord, some two hours hence
We meet at the Guildhall, and there determine
That thorough every ward the watch be clad
In armor, but especially proud
That at the city gates selected men,
Substantial citizens, do ward tonight,
For fear of further mischief.
It shall be so:
But yond me thinks my lord of Shrewsbury.
My lord, his majesty sends loving thanks
To you, your brethren, and his faithful subjects,
Your careful citizens. But, Master More, to you
A rougher, yet as kind, a salutation:
A knights creation is this knightly steel.
Rise up, Sir Thomas More.
I thank his highness for thus honoring me.
This is but first taste of his princely favor:
For it hath pleased his high majesty
(Noting your wisdom and deserving merit)
To put this staff of honor in your hand,
For he hath chose you of his Privy Council.
My lord, for to deny my sovereign’s bounty
Were to drop precious stones into the heaps
Whence they first came;
To urge my imperfections in excuse,
Were all as stale as custom. No, my lord,
My service is my kings; good reason why,—
Since life or death hangs on our sovereign’s eye.
His majesty hath honored much the city
In this his princely choice.
My lord and brethren,
Though I depart for court my love shall rest
With you, as heretofore, a faithful guest.
I now must sleep in court, sound sleeps forbear;
The chamberlain to state is public care:
Yet, in this rising of my private blood,
My studious thoughts shall tend the city’s good.
How now, Crofts! What news?
My lord, his highness sends express command
That a record be entered of this riot,
And that the chief and capital offenders
Be thereon straight arraigned, for himself intends
To sit in person on the rest tomorrow
Lord Mayor, you hear your charge.
Come, good Sir Thomas More, to court let’s hie;
You are th’ appeaser of this mutiny.
My lord, farewell. New days begets new tides;
Life whirls bout fate, then to a grave it slides.