London. Antechamber in the King’s Palace.
(Archbishop of Canterbury; Bishop of Ely)
Canterbury and Ely discuss the great improvement in King Henry’s behavior since he inherited the crown. They are concerned about a proposal in parliament to strip the church of a great part of its revenue. Considering Henry’s claims to the throne of France, they decide to offer Henry money to fight for France, in return for which they will be allowed to keep the revenue. (102 lines)
Enter the two Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely.
My lord, I’ll tell you, that self bill is urg’d
Which in th’ eleventh year of the last king’s reign
Was like, and had indeed against us pass’d,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of farther question.
But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?
It must be thought on. If it pass against us,
We lose the better half of our possession;
For all the temporal lands, which men devout
By testament have given to the Church,
Would they strip from us; being valu’d thus:
As much as would maintain, to the King’s honor,
Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights,
Six thousand and two hundred good esquires;
And to relief of lazars, and weak age
Of indigent faint souls past corporal toil,
A hundred almshouses right well supplied;
And to the coffers of the King beside,
A thousand pounds by th’ year. Thus runs the bill.
This would drink deep.
’Twould drink the cup and all.
But what prevention?
The King is full of grace and fair regard.
And a true lover of the holy Church.
The courses of his youth promis’d it not.
The breath no sooner left his father’s body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seem’d to die too; yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an angel came
And whipt th’ offending Adam out of him,
Leaving his body as a paradise
T’ envelop and contain celestial spirits.
Never was such a sudden scholar made;
Never came reformation in a flood
With such a heady currance, scouring faults;
Nor never Hydra-headed willfulness
So soon did lose his seat (and all at once)
As in this king.
We are blessed in the change.
Hear him but reason in divinity,
And all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire the King were made a prelate;
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say it hath been all in all his study;
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rend’red you in music;
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter; that, when he speaks,
The air, a charter’d libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men’s ears
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences;
So that the art and practic part of life
Must be the mistress to this theoric;
Which is a wonder how his Grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain,
His companies unletter’d, rude, and shallow,
His hours fill’d up with riots, banquets, sports;
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle,
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbor’d by fruit of baser quality;
And so the Prince obscur’d his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness, which (no doubt)
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty.
It must be so; for miracles are ceas’d;
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected.
But, my good lord,
How now for mitigation of this bill
Urg’d by the commons? Doth his Majesty
Incline to it, or no?
He seems indifferent;
Or rather swaying more upon our part
Than cherishing th’ exhibitors against us;
For I have made an offer to his Majesty,
Upon our spiritual convocation
And in regard of causes now in hand,
Which I have open’d to his Grace at large,
As touching France, to give a greater sum
Than ever at one time the clergy yet
Did to his predecessors part withal.
How did this offer seem receiv’d, my lord?
With good acceptance of his Majesty;
Save that there was not time enough to hear,
As I perceiv’d his Grace would fain have done,
The severals and unhidden passages
Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms,
And generally to the crown and seat of France,
Deriv’d from Edward, his great-grandfather.
What was th’ impediment that broke this off?
The French embassador upon that instant
Crav’d audience; and the hour, I think, is come
To give him hearing. Is it four a’ clock?
Then go we in, to know his embassy;
Which I could with a ready guess declare,
Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.
I’ll wait upon you, and I long to hear it.