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Edward III Scenes

Scene 1

Roxborough. The gardens of the castle.

(Lodowick; King Edward; Countess of Salisbury; Warwick)

Lodowick considers the King’s behavior, and, concluding that he is in love with the Countess, infers that war-making is off the schedule for a while. The besotted King asks Lodowick to write a love letter to the Countess for him. As it turns out, the King is rather a backseat driver when it comes to writing, and particularly objects to any references to chastity, as this is scarcely what he has in mind. The King is quite unimpressed by Lodowick’s efforts and dismisses him, but before he can begin to write himself the Countess comes in and he begins rather crassly to woo her. She makes the mistake of promising to give him whatever he wants before she knows what it is, but defends herself quite spiritedly when she finds out what his intentions are, and walks out. This resistance is unexpected, and Edward swears to himself that he will have her. He begins to work on her father, Warwick, instead, tricking him into swearing to force his daughter to acquiesce. He is horrified but, having sworn, makes himself go through with it. When the Countess responds to his half-hearted attempt with outrage, he is delighted. (463 lines)

Enter Lodowick.


I might perceive his eye in her eye lost,

His ear to drink her sweet tongue’s utterance,

And changing passion, like inconstant clouds

That rack upon the carriage of the winds,

Increase and die in his disturbed cheeks.

Lo, when she blushed, even then did he look pale,

As if her cheeks by some enchanted power

Attracted had the cherry blood from his:

Anon, with reverent fear when she grew pale,

His cheeks put on their scarlet ornaments;

But no more like her oriental red,

Than brick to coral or live things to dead.

Why did he then thus counterfeit her looks?

If she did blush, twas tender modest shame,

Being in the sacred presence of a King;

If he did blush, twas red immodest shame,

To veil his eyes amiss, being a king;

If she looked pale, twas silly woman’s fear,

To bear herself in presence of a king;

If he looked pale, it was with guilty fear,

To dote amiss, being a mighty king.

Then, Scottish wars, farewell; I fear twill prove

A lingering English siege of peevish love.

Here comes his highness, walking all alone.

Enter King Edward.


She is grown more fairer far since I came hither,

Her voice more silver every word than other,

Her wit more fluent. What a strange discourse

Unfolded she of David and his Scots!

“Even thus,” quoth she, “he spake,” and then spoke broad,

With epithites and accents of the Scot,

But somewhat better than the Scot could speak:

“And thus,” quoth she, and answered then herself—

For who could speak like her but she herself—

Breathes from the wall an angel’s note from heaven

Of sweet defiance to her barbarous foes.

When she would talk of peace, methinks, her tongue

Commanded war to prison; when of war,

It wakened Caesar from his Roman grave,

To hear war beautified by her discourse.

Wisdom is foolishness but in her tongue,

Beauty a slander but in her fair face,

There is no summer but in her cheerful looks,

Nor frosty winter but in her disdain.

I cannot blame the Scots that did besiege her,

For she is all the treasure of our land;

But call them cowards, that they ran away,

Having so rich and fair a cause to stay.—

Art thou there, Lodowick? Give me ink and paper.


I will, my liege.


And bid the lords hold on their play at chess,

For we will walk and meditate alone.


I will, my sovereign.

Exit Lodowick.


This fellow is well read in poetry,

And hath a lusty and persuasive spirit;

I will acquaint him with my passion,

Which he shall shadow with a veil of lawn,

Through which the queen of beauty’s queen shall see

Her self the ground of my infirmity.

Enter Lodowick.


Hast thou pen, ink, and paper ready, Lodowick?


Ready, my liege.


Then in the summer arbor sit by me,

Make it our counsel house or cabinet:

Since green our thoughts, green be the conventicle,

Where we will ease us by disburdening them.

Now, Lodowick, invocate some golden muse,

To bring thee hither an enchanted pen,

That may for sighs set down true sighs indeed,

Talking of grief, to make thee ready groan;

And when thou writest of tears, encouch the word

Before and after with such sweet laments,

That it may raise drops in a Tartar’s eye,

And make a flintheart Scythian pitiful;

For so much moving hath a Poet’s pen:

Then, if thou be a poet, move thou so,

And be enriched by thy sovereign’s love.

For, if the touch of sweet concordant strings

Could force attendance in the ears of hell,

How much more shall the strains of poets’ wit

Beguile and ravish soft and humane minds?


To whom, my lord, shall I direct my stile?


To one that shames the fair and sots the wise;

Whose bod is an abstract or a brief,

Contains each general virtue in the world.

Better than beautiful thou must begin,

Devise for fair a fairer word than fair,

And every ornament that thou wouldest praise,

Fly it a pitch above the soar of praise.

For flattery fear thou not to be convicted;

For, were thy admiration ten times more,

Ten times ten thousand more the worth exceeds

Of that thou art to praise, thy praises worth.

Begin; I will to contemplate the while:

Forget not to set down, how passionate,

How heart sick, and how full of languishment,

Her beauty makes me.


Write I to a woman?


What beauty else could triumph over me,

Or who but women do our love lays greet?

What, thinkest thou I did bid thee praise a horse?


Of what condition or estate she is,

’Twere requisite that I should know, my lord.


Of such estate, that hers is as a throne,

And my estate the footstool where she treads:

Then mayst thou judge what her condition is

By the proportion of her mightiness.

Write on, while I peruse her in my thoughts.—

Her voice to music or the nightingale—

To music every summer leaping swain

Compares his sunburnt lover when she speaks;

And why should I speak of the nightingale?

The nightingale sings of adulterate wrong,

And that, compared, is too satyrical;

For sin, though sin, would not be so esteemed,

But, rather, virtue sin, sin virtue deemed.

Her hair, far softer than the silk worm’s twist,

Like to a flattering glass, doth make more fair

The yellow Amber:—like a flattering glass

Comes in too soon; for, writing of her eyes,

I’ll say that like a glass they catch the sun,

And thence the hot reflection doth rebound

Against the breast, and burns my heart within.

Ah, what a world of descant makes my soul

Upon this voluntary ground of love!—

Come, Lodowick, hast thou turned thy ink to gold?

If not, write but in letters capital

My mistress’ name, and it will gild thy paper:

Read, lord, read;

Fill thou the empty hollows of mine ears

With the sweet hearing of thy poetry.


I have not to a period brought her praise.


Her praise is as my love, both infinite,

Which apprehend such violent extremes,

That they disdain an ending period.

Her beauty hath no match but my affection;

Hers more than most, mine most and more than more:

Hers more to praise than tell the sea by drops,

Nay, more than drop the massy earth by sands,

And sand by sand print them in memory:

Then wherefore talkest thou of a period

To that which craves unended admiration?

Read, let us hear.


“More fair and chaste than is the queen of shades,”—


That line hath two faults, gross and palpable:

Comparest thou her to the pale queen of night,

Who, being set in dark, seems therefore light?

What is she, when the sun lifts up his head,

But like a fading taper, dim and dead?

My love shall brave the eye of heaven at noon,

And, being unmasked, outshine the golden sun.


What is the other fault, my sovereign lord?


Read o’er the line again.


“More fair and chaste”—


I did not bid thee talk of chastity,

To ransack so the treasure of her mind;

For I had rather have her chased than chaste.

Out with the moon line, I will none of it;

And let me have her likened to the sun:

Say she hath thrice more splendor than the sun,

That her perfections emulate the sun,

That she breeds sweets as plenteous as the sun,

That she doth thaw cold winter like the sun,

That she doth cheer fresh summer like the sun,

The she doth dazzle gazers like the sun;

And, in this application to the sun,

Bid her be free and general as the sun,

Who smiles upon the basest weed that grows

As lovingly as on the fragrant rose.

Let’s see what follows that same moonlight line.


“More fair and chaste than is the queen of shades,

More bold in constance”—


In constance! Than who?


“Than Judith was.”


O monstrous line! Put in the next a sword,

And I shall woo her to cut off my head.

Blot, blot, good Lodowick! Let us hear the next.


There’s all that yet is done.


I thank thee then; thou hast done little ill,

But what is done, is passing, passing ill.

No, let the captain talk of boisterous war,

The prisoner of emured dark constraint,

The sick man best sets down the pangs of death,

The man that starves the sweetness of a feast,

The frozen soul the benefit of fire,

And every grief his happy opposite:

Love cannot sound well but in lover’s tongues;

Give me the pen and paper, I will write.

Enter Countess.

But soft, here comes the treasurer of my spirit.—

Lodowick, thou knowst not how to draw a battle;

These wings, these flankers, and these squadrons

Argue in thee defective discipline:

Thou shouldest have placed this here, this other here.


Pardon my boldness, my thrice gracious lords;

Let my intrusion here be called my duty,

That comes to see my sovereign how he fares.


Go, draw the same, I tell thee in what form.


I go.

Exit Lodowick.


Sorry I am to see my liege so sad:

What may thy subject do to drive from thee

Thy gloomy consort, sullome melancholy?


Ah, lady, I am blunt and cannot straw

The flowers of solace in a ground of shame:—

Since I came hither, Countess, I am wronged.


Now God forbid that any in my house

Should think my sovereign wrong! Thrice gentle King,

Acquaint me with your cause of discontent.


How near then shall I be to remedy?


As near, my liege, as all my woman’s power

Can pawn itself to buy thy remedy.


If thou speakst true, then have I my redress:

Engage thy power to redeem my Joys,

And I am joyful, Countess; else I die.


I will, my Liege.


Swear, Countess, that thou wilt.


By heaven, I will.


Then take thyself a little way a side,

And tell thyself, a king doth dote on thee;

Say that within thy power it doth lie

To make him happy, and that thou hast sworn

To give him all the joy within thy power:

Do this, and tell me when I shall be happy.


All this is done, my thrice dread sovereign:

That power of love, that I have power to give,

Thou hast with all devout obedience;

Employ me how thou wilt in proof thereof.


Thou hear’st me say that I do dote on thee.


If on my beauty, take it if thou canst;

Though little, I do prize it ten times less;

If on my virtue, take it if thou canst,

For virtue’s store by giving doth augment;

Be it on what it will, that I can give

And thou canst take away, inherit it.


It is thy beauty that I would enjoy.


O, were it painted, I would wipe it off

And dispossess myself, to give it thee.

But, sovereign, it is soldered to my life:

Take one and both; for, like an humble shadow,

It haunts the sunshine of my summer’s life.


But thou mayst lend it me to sport with all.


As easy may my intellectual soul

Be lent away, and yet my body live,

As lend my body, palace to my soul,

Away from her, and yet retain my soul.

My body is her bower, her court, her abbey,

And she an angel, pure, divine, unspotted:

If I should leave her house, my lord, to thee,

I kill my poor soul and my poor soul me.


Didst thou not swear to give me what I would?


I did, my liege, so what you would I could.


I wish no more of thee than thou mayst give:—

Nor beg I do not, but I rather buy—

That is, thy love; and for that love of thine

In rich exchange I tender to thee mine.


But that your lips were sacred, my lord,

You would profane the holy name of love.

That love you offer me you cannot give,

For Caesar owes that tribute to his queen;

That love you beg of me I cannot give,

For Sara owes that duty to her lord.

He that doth clip or counterfeit your stamp

Shall die, my lord; and will your sacred self

Commit high treason against the King of Heaven,

To stamp his image in forbidden metal,

Forgetting your allegiance and your oath?

In violating marriage sacred law,

You break a greater honor than yourself:

To be a king is of a younger house

Than to be married; your progenitour,

Sole reigning Adam on the universe,

By God was honored for a married man,

But not by him anointed for a king.

It is a penalty to break your statutes,

Though not enacted with your highness’ hand:

How much more, to infringe the holy act,

Made by the mouth of God, sealed with his hand?

I know, my sovereign, in my husband’s love,

Who now doth loyal service in his wars,

Doth but so try the wife of Salisbury,

Whither she will hear a wanton’s tale or no,

Lest being therein guilty by my stay,

From that, not from my liege, I turn away.



Whether is her beauty by her words dying,

Or are her words sweet chaplains to her beauty?

Like as the wind doth beautify a sail,

And as a sail becomes the unseen wind,

So do her words her beauties, beauties words.

O, that I were a honey gathering bee,

To bear the comb of virtue from this flower,

And not a poison sucking envious spider,

To turn the juice I take to deadly venom!

Religion is austere and beauty gentle;

Too strict a guardian for so fair a ward!

O, that she were, as is the air, to me!

Why, so she is, for when I would embrace her,

This do I, and catch nothing but myself.

I must enjoy her; for I cannot beat

With reason and reproof fond love a way.

Enter Warwick.

Here comes her father: I will work with him,

To bear my colors in this field of love.


How is it that my sovereign is so sad?

May I with pardon know your highness grief;

And that my old endeavor will remove it,

It shall not cumber long your majesty.


A kind and voluntary gift thou proferest,

That I was forward to have begged of thee.

But, O thou world, great nurse of flattery,

Why dost thou tip men’s tongues with golden words,

And peise their deeds with weight of heavy lead,

That fair performance cannot follow promise?

O, that a man might hold the heart’s close book

And choke the lavish tongue, when it doth utter

The breath of falsehood not charactered there!


Far be it from the honor of my age,

That I should owe bright gold and render lead;

Age is a cynic, not a flatterer.

I say again, that if I knew your grief,

And that by me it may be lessened,

My proper harm should buy your Highness’ good.


These are the vulgar tenders of false men,

That never pay the duty of their words.

Thou wilt not stick to swear what thou hast said;

But, when thou knowest my grief’s condition,

This rash disgorged vomit of thy word

Thou wilt eat up again, and leave me helpless.


By heaven, I will not, though your majesty

Did bid me run upon your sword and die.


Say that my grief is no way medicinable

But by the loss and bruising of thine honor.


If nothing but that loss may vantage you,

I would accompt that loss my vantage too.


Thinkst that thou canst unswear thy oath again?


I cannot; nor I would not, if I could.


But, if thou dost, what shall I say to thee?


What may be said to any perjured villain,

That breaks the sacred warrant of an oath.


What wilt thou say to one that breaks an oath?


That he hath broke his faith with God and man,

And from them both stands excommunicate.


What office were it, to suggest a man

To break a lawful and religious vow?


An office for the devil, not for man.


That devil’s office must thou do for me,

Or break thy oath, or cancel all the bonds

Of love and duty twixt thyself and me;

And therefore, Warwick, if thou art thyself,

The lord and master of thy word and oath,

Go to thy daughter; and in my behalf

Command her, woo her, win her any ways,

To be my mistress and my secret love.

I will not stand to hear thee make reply:

Thy oath break hers, or let thy sovereign die.



O doting King! O detestable office!

Well may I tempt myself to wrong myself,

When he hath sworn me by the name of God

To break a vow made by the name of God.

What, if I swear by this right hand of mine

To cut this right hand off? The better way

Were to profane the Idol than confound it:

But neither will I do; I’ll keep mine oath,

And to my daughter make a recantation

Of all the virtue I have preacht to her:

I’ll say, she must forget her husband Salisbury,

If she remember to embrace the king;

I’ll say, an oath may easily be broken,

But not so easily pardoned, being broken;

I’ll say, it is true charity to love,

But not true love to be so charitable;

I’ll say, his greatness may bear out the shame,

But not his kingdom can buy out the sin;

I’ll say, it is my duty to persuade,

But not her honesty to give consent.

Enter Countess.

See where she comes; was never father had

Against his child an embassage so bad?


My lord and father, I have sought for you:

My mother and the Peers importune you

To keep in presence of his majesty,

And do your best to make his highness merry.



How shall I enter in this graceless arrant?

I must not call her child, for where’s the father

That will in such a suit seduce his child?

Then, “wife of Salisbury”; shall I so begin?

No, he’s my friend, and where is found the friend

That will do friendship such indammagement?

To the Countess.

Neither my daughter nor my dear friend’s wife,

I am not Warwick, as thou thinkst I am,

But an attorney from the court of hell,

That thus have housed my spirit in his form,

To do a message to thee from the king.

The mighty king of England dotes on thee:

He that hath power to take away thy life,

Hath power to take thy honor; then consent

To pawn thine honor rather than thy life:

Honor is often lost and got again,

But life, once gone, hath no recovery.

The sun, that withers hay, doth nourish grass;

The king, that would disdain thee, will advance thee.

The poets write that great Achilles’ spear

Could heal the wound it made: the moral is,

What mighty men misdo, they can amend.

The lion doth become his bloody jaws,

And grace his forragement by being mild,

When vassel fear lies trembling at his feet.

The king will in his glory hide thy shame;

And those that gaze on him to find out thee,

Will lose their eyesight, looking in the sun.

What can one drop of poison harm the sea,

Whose huge vastures can digest the ill

And make it loose his operation?

The king’s great name will temper thy misdeeds,

And give the bitter potion of reproach,

A sugared, sweet and most delicious taste.

Besides, it is no harm to do the thing

Which without shame could not be left undone.

Thus have I in his majesty’s behalf

Appareled sin in virtuous sentences,

And dwell upon thy answer in his suit.


Unnatural besiege! Woe me unhappy,

To have escaped the danger of my foes,

And to be ten times worse injured by friends!

Hath he no means to stain my honest blood,

But to corrupt the author of my blood

To be his scandalous and vile solicitor?

No marvel though the branches be then infected,

When poison hath encompassed the root:

No marvel though the leprous infant die,

When the stern dame invenometh the Dug.

Why then, give sin a passport to offend,

And youth the dangerous reign of liberty:

Blot out the strict forbidding of the law,

And cancel every cannon that prescribes

A shame for shame or penance for offense.

No, let me die, if his too boistrous will

Will have it so, before I will consent

To be an actor in his graceless lust.


Why, now thou speakst as I would have thee speak:

And mark how I unsay my words again.

An honorable grave is more esteemed

Than the polluted closet of a king:

The greater man, the greater is the thing,

Be it good or bad, that he shall undertake:

An unreputed mote, flying in the sun,

Presents a greater substance than it is:

The freshest summer’s day doth soonest taint

The loathed carrion that it seems to kiss:

Deep are the blows made with a mighty axe:

That sin doth ten times aggravate itself,

That is committed in a holy place:

An evil deed, done by authority,

Is sin and subornation: deck an ape

In tissue, and the beauty of the robe

Adds but the greater scorn unto the beast.

A spatious field of reasons could I urge

Between his glory, daughter, and thy shame:

That poison shews worst in a golden cup;

Dark night seems darker by the lightning flash;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds;

And every glory that inclines to sin,

The shame is treble by the opposite.

So leave I with my blessing in thy bosom,

Which then convert to a most heavy curse,

When thou convertest from honor’s golden name

To the black faction of bed blotting shame.


I’ll follow thee; and when my mind turns so,

My body sink my soul in endless woe!



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