Picardy. The English camp before Calais.
(King Edward; Derby; Soldiers; Frenchmen; Lord Percy; French Captain; Poor Inhabitant of Calais)
In response to Calais’s refusal to surrender, King Edward has his men completely surround the city and swears to starve them out. He chooses to feed rather than kill six famished Frenchmen who have been ejected from the city due to their inability to fight. Lord Percy arrives to tell Edward that his Queen has defeated the Scots in battle, but that the esquire who captured the Scottish King is refusing to hand him over. Edward sends an official command to the man to surrender the King, and is apprised of the Queen’s imminent arrival. A French Captain arrives to tell the King that the burghers of Calais have agreed to surrender if Edward will promise to spare their lives and good. Wrathful, Edward points out that he made much the same offer before, and it was rejected; he refuses to pardon the city unless the six richest men come to him in rags and accept to suffer any fate he chooses. The Captain considers that they would have surrendered earlier if they had not been promised that King John was going to relieve them. (85 lines)
Enter King Edward and Derby, with Soldiers.
Since they refuse our proffered league, my lord,
And will not ope their gates, and let us in,
We will entrench ourselves on every side,
That neither victuals nor supply of men
May come to succour this accursed town:
Famine shall combat where our swords are stopped.
Enter six poor Frenchmen, including a Poor Inhabitant of Calais.
The promised aid, that made them stand aloof,
Is now retired and gone an other way:
It will repent them of their stubborn will.
But what are these poor ragged slaves, my lord?
Ask what they are; it seems, they come from Callice.
You wretched patterns of despair and woe,
What are you, living men or gliding ghosts,
Crept from your graves to walk upon the earth?
No ghosts, my lord, but men that breath a life
Far worse than is the quiet sleep of death:
We are distressed poor inhabitants,
That long have been diseased, sick, and lame;
And now, because we are not fit to serve,
The captain of the town hath thrust us forth,
That so expense of victuals may be saved.
A charitable deed, no doubt, and worthy praise!
But how do you imagine then to speed?
We are your enemies; in such a case
We can no less but put ye to the sword,
Since, when we proffered truce, it was refused.
And if your grace no otherwise vouchsafe,
As welcome death is unto us as life.
Poor silly men, much wronged and more distressed!
Go, Derby, go, and see they be relieved;
Command that victuals be appointed them,
And give to every one five crowns a piece.
Exeunt Derby and Frenchmen.
The lion scorns to touch the yielding prey,
And Edward’s sword must flesh itself in such
As wilful stubbornness hath made perverse.
Enter Lord Percy.
Lord Percy! Welcome: what’s the news in England?
The Queen, my lord, comes here to your Grace,
And from her highness and the lord viceregent
I bring this happy tidings of success:
David of Scotland, lately up in arms,
Thinking, belike, he soonest should prevail,
Your highness being absent from the realm,
Is, by the fruitful service of your peers
And painful travel of the Queen herself,
That, big with child, was every day in arms,
Vanquished, subdued, and taken prisoner.
Thanks, Percy, for thy news, with all my heart!
What was he took him prisoner in the field?
An esquire, my lord; John Copland is his name:
Who since, intreated by her Majesty,
Denies to make surrender of his prize
To any but unto your grace alone;
Whereat the Queen is grievously displeas’d.
Well, then we’ll have a Pursiuvant despatched,
To summon Copland hither out of hand,
And with him he shall bring his prisoner king.
The Queen’s, my lord, herself by this at sea,
And purposeth, as soon as wind will serve,
To land at Callice, and to visit you.
She shall be welcome; and, to wait her coming,
I’ll pitch my tent near to the sandy shore.
Enter First French Captain.
The Burgesses of Callice, mighty king,
Have by a counsel willingly decreed
To yield the town and castle to your hands,
Upon condition it will please your grace
To grant them benefit of life and goods.
They will so! Then, belike, they may command,
Dispose, elect, and govern as they list.
No, sirra, tell them, since they did refuse
Our princely clemency at first proclaimed,
They shall not have it now, although they would;
I will accept of nought but fire and sword,
Except, within these two days, six of them,
That are the wealthiest merchants in the town,
Come naked, all but for their linen shirts,
With each a halter hanged about his neck,
And prostrate yield themselves, upon their knees,
To be afflicted, hanged, or what I please;
And so you may inform their masterships.
Exeunt Edward and Percy.
Why, this it is to trust a broken staff:
Had we not been persuaded, John our King
Would with his army have relieved the town,
We had not stood upon defiance so:
But now ’tis past that no man can recall,
And better some do go to wrack them all.