Paris. A hall of state.
(King Henry the Sixth; Duke of Gloucester; Bishop of Winchester; Duke of York; Earl of Suffolk; Duke of Somerset; Earl Warwick; Lord Talbot; Governor of Paris; Duke of Exeter; Falstaff; Vernon; Basset)
Henry is crowned King of France, and the Mayor of Paris is bound on oath to elect no other king. Falstaff, entering with a letter from the Duke of Burgundy, is stripped of his Order of the Garter by Talbot for his desertion, and is banished by the King. The letter from Burgundy informs the English that he has switched his allegiance, and Talbot is sent to deal with him. Vernon and Basset plead their quarrel before the King, supported by York and Somerset, each swearing that the other began the fight. The King begs for peace, but the quarrel grows until York challenges Somerset to fight. Incensed, Gloucester scolds them all for disturbing the royal council with such a little matter. King Henry comments on how foolish it would be to create dissension over a rose, and puts on a red one, insisting it does not mean he tends more towards Somerset than York. He orders the two of them to unite their forces in the fight in France. Richard is not pleased that the King took up a red rose, but keeps his mouth shut as he sees the King meant no malice. Exeter is worried at Richard’s temper and where it may lead. (195 lines)
Enter King, Gloucester, Winchester, York, Suffolk, Somerset, Warwick, Talbot, and Governor of Paris, Exeter, and others.
Lord Bishop, set the crown upon his head.
God save King Henry, of that name the sixt!
Now, Governor of Paris, take your oath:
That you elect no other king but him;
Esteem none friends but such as are his friends,
And none your foes but such as shall pretend
Malicious practices against his state.
This shall ye do, so help you righteous God!
Exeunt Governor and Train.
My gracious sovereign, as I rode from Callice,
To haste unto your coronation,
A letter was deliver’d to my hands,
Writ to your Grace from th’ Duke of Burgundy.
Shame to the Duke of Burgundy and thee!
I vow’d, base knight, when I did meet thee next,
To tear the Garter from thy craven’s leg,
Plucking it off.
Which I have done, because (unworthily)
Thou wast installed in that high degree.
Pardon me, princely Henry, and the rest.
This dastard, at the battle of Poictiers,
When (but in all) I was six thousand strong
And that the French were almost ten to one,
Before we met, or that a stroke was given,
Like to a trusty squire did run away;
In which assault we lost twelve hundred men;
Myself and divers gentlemen beside
Were there surpris’d and taken prisoners.
Then judge, great lords, if I have done amiss;
Or whether that such cowards ought to wear
This ornament of knighthood, yea or no?
To say the truth, this fact was infamous
And ill beseeming any common man,
Much more a knight, a captain, and a leader.
When first this order was ordain’d, my lords,
Knights of the Garter were of noble birth,
Valiant and virtuous, full of haughty courage,
Such as were grown to credit by the wars;
Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress,
But always resolute in most extremes.
He then, that is not furnish’d in this sort,
Doth but usurp the sacred name of knight,
Profaning this most honorable order,
And should (if I were worthy to be judge)
Be quite degraded, like a hedge-born swain
That doth presume to boast of gentle blood.
Stain to thy countrymen, thou hear’st thy doom!
Be packing therefore, thou that wast a knight;
Henceforth we banish thee, on pain of death.
And now, Lord Protector, view the letter
Sent from our uncle Duke of Burgundy.
What means his Grace, that he hath chang’d his style?
No more but plain and bluntly “To the King”?
Hath he forgot he is his sovereign?
Or doth this churlish superscription
Pretend some alteration in good will?
“I have, upon especial cause,
Mov’d with compassion of my country’s wrack,
Together with the pitiful complaints
Of such as your oppression feeds upon,
Forsaken your pernicious faction
And join’d with Charles, the rightful King of France.”
O monstrous treachery! Can this be so?
That in alliance, amity, and oaths,
There should be found such false dissembling guile?
What? Doth my uncle Burgundy revolt?
He doth, my lord, and is become your foe.
Is that the worst this letter doth contain?
It is the worst, and all, my lord, he writes.
Why then Lord Talbot there shall talk with him,
And give him chastisement for this abuse.
How say you, my lord? Are you not content?
Content, my liege? Yes. But that I am prevented,
I should have begg’d I might have been employ’d.
Then gather strength and march unto him straight.
Let him perceive how ill we brook his treason,
And what offense it is to flout his friends.
I go, my lord, in heart desiring still
You may behold confusion of your foes.
Enter Vernon and Basset.
Grant me the combat, gracious sovereign.
And me, my lord, grant me the combat too.
This is my servant, hear him, noble prince.
And this is mine, sweet Henry, favor him.
Be patient, lords, and give them leave to speak.
Say, gentlemen, what makes you thus exclaim?
And wherefore crave you combat? Or with whom?
With him, my lord, for he hath done me wrong.
And I with him, for he hath done me wrong.
What is that wrong whereof you both complain?
First let me know, and then I’ll answer you.
Crossing the sea from England into France,
This fellow here, with envious carping tongue,
Upbraided me about the rose I wear,
Saying the sanguine color of the leaves
Did represent my master’s blushing cheeks,
When stubbornly he did repugn the truth
About a certain question in the law
Argu’d betwixt the Duke of York and him;
With other vile and ignominious terms:
In confutation of which rude reproach,
And in defense of my lord’s worthiness,
I crave the benefit of law of arms.
And that is my petition, noble lord.
For though he seem with forged quaint conceit
To set a gloss upon his bold intent,
Yet know, my lord, I was provok’d by him,
And he first took exceptions at this badge,
Pronouncing that the paleness of this flower
Bewray’d the faintness of my master’s heart.
Will not this malice, Somerset, be left?
Your private grudge, my Lord of York, will out,
Though ne’er so cunningly you smother it.
Good Lord, what madness rules in brain-sick men,
When for so slight and frivolous a cause
Such factious emulations shall arise!
Good cousins both, of York and Somerset,
Quiet yourselves, I pray, and be at peace.
Let this dissension first be tried by fight,
And then your Highness shall command a peace.
The quarrel toucheth none but us alone,
Betwixt ourselves let us decide it then.
There is my pledge, accept it, Somerset.
Nay, let it rest where it began at first.
Confirm it so, mine honorable lord.
Confirm it so? Confounded be your strife,
And perish ye, with your audacious prate!
Presumptuous vassals, are you not asham’d
With this immodest clamorous outrage
To trouble and disturb the King and us?
And you, my lords, methinks you do not well
To bear with their perverse objections;
Much less to take occasion from their mouths
To raise a mutiny betwixt yourselves.
Let me persuade you take a better course.
It grieves his Highness. Good my lords, be friends.
Come hither, you that would be combatants:
Henceforth I charge you, as you love our favor,
Quite to forget this quarrel, and the cause.
And you, my lords: remember where we are—
In France, amongst a fickle, wavering nation.
If they perceive dissension in our looks,
And that within ourselves we disagree,
How will their grudging stomachs be provok’d
To willful disobedience, and rebel!
Beside, what infamy will there arise,
When foreign princes shall be certified
That for a toy, a thing of no regard,
King Henry’s peers and chief nobility
Destroy’d themselves, and lost the realm of France!
O, think upon the conquest of my father,
My tender years, and let us not forgo
That for a trifle that was bought with blood!
Let me be umpeer in this doubtful strife.
I see no reason, if I wear this rose,
Putting on a red rose.
That any one should therefore be suspicious
I more incline to Somerset than York:
Both are my kinsmen, and I love them both.
As well they may upbraid me with my crown,
Because, forsooth, the King of Scots is crown’d.
But your discretions better can persuade
Than I am able to instruct or teach;
And therefore, as we hither came in peace,
So let us still continue peace, and love.
Cousin of York, we institute your Grace
To be our regent in these parts of France;
And, good my Lord of Somerset, unite
Your troops of horsemen with his bands of foot,
And like true subjects, sons of your progenitors,
Go cheerfully together and digest
Your angry choler on your enemies.
Ourself, my Lord Protector, and the rest,
After some respite, will return to Callice;
From thence to England, where I hope ere long
To be presented, by your victories,
With Charles, Alanson, and that traitorous rout.
Exeunt. Manent York, Warwick, Exeter, Vernon.
My Lord of York, I promise you, the King
Prettily, methought, did play the orator.
And so he did, but yet I like it not,
In that he wears the badge of Somerset.
Tush, that was but his fancy, blame him not.
I dare presume, sweet prince, he thought no harm.
And if I wist he did—but let it rest,
Other affairs must now be managed.
Exeunt. Manet Exeter.
Well didst thou, Richard, to suppress thy voice,
For had the passions of thy heart burst out,
I fear we should have seen decipher’d there
More rancorous spite, more furious raging broils,
Than yet can be imagin’d or suppos’d.
But howsoe’er, no simple man that sees
This jarring discord of nobility,
This shouldering of each other in the court,
This factious bandying of their favorites,
But that it doth presage some ill event.
’Tis much, when sceptres are in children’s hands;
But more, when envy breeds unkind division:
There comes the ruin, there begins confusion.