London. A room in Gloucester’s house.
(Duke of Gloucester; Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester; First Royal Messenger; John Hume)
Humphrey of Gloucester tells his wife Eleanor of a disquieting dream I which he saw his staff of office being broken, and the heads of Somerset and Suffolk placed on the broken parts. She interprets it as the death of those who seek to upset him, and tells her dream of sovereignty; but he is angry with her for such ambition. He leaves to accompany the King on a hawking trip. Eleanor calls in Sir John Hume, a priest, who flatters her with the title of Majesty, and says he has arranged with Margery Jourdain, a witch, and Roger Bolingbroke, a conjurer, to help her. She gives him gold and leaves. He considers how he is in the pay of the Cardinal and Suffolk to undermine Eleanor and so overthrow Gloucester, and that though he recognizes it as ill practice, he can’t deny he’s well-paid. (107 lines)
Enter Duke Humphrey of Gloucester and his wife Eleanor the Duchess.
Why droops my lord, like over-ripen’d corn
Hanging the head at Ceres’ plenteous load?
Why doth the great Duke Humphrey knit his brows,
As frowning at the favors of the world?
Why are thine eyes fix’d to the sullen earth,
Gazing on that which seems to dim thy sight?
What seest thou there? King Henry’s diadem,
Enchas’d with all the honors of the world?
If so, gaze on, and grovel on thy face,
Until thy head be circled with the same.
Put forth thy hand, reach at the glorious gold.
What, is’t too short? I’ll lengthen it with mine,
And having both together heav’d it up,
We’ll both together lift our heads to heaven,
And never more abase our sight so low
As to vouchsafe one glance unto the ground.
O Nell, sweet Nell, if thou dost love thy lord,
Banish the canker of ambitious thoughts!
And may that thought, when I imagine ill
Against my king and nephew, virtuous Henry,
Be my last breathing in this mortal world!
My troublous dreams this night doth make me sad.
What dream’d my lord? Tell me, and I’ll requite it
With sweet rehearsal of my morning’s dream.
Methought this staff, mine office-badge in court,
Was broke in twain (by whom I have forgot,
But, as I think, it was by th’ Cardinal),
And on the pieces of the broken wand
Were plac’d the heads of Edmund Duke of Somerset,
And William de la Pole, first Duke of Suffolk.
This was my dream, what it doth bode God knows.
Tut, this was nothing but an argument
That he that breaks a stick of Gloucester’s grove
Shall lose his head for his presumption.
But list to me, my Humphrey, my sweet duke:
Methought I sate in seat of majesty
In the cathedral church of Westminster,
And in that chair where kings and queens were crown’d,
Where Henry and Dame Margaret kneel’d to me,
And on my head did set the diadem.
Nay, Eleanor, then must I chide outright.
Presumptuous dame, ill-nurtur’d Eleanor,
Art thou not second woman in the realm?
And the Protector’s wife, belov’d of him?
Hast thou not worldly pleasure at command
Above the reach or compass of thy thought?
And wilt thou still be hammering treachery,
To tumble down thy husband and thyself
From top of honor to disgrace’s feet?
Away from me, and let me hear no more!
What, what, my lord? Are you so choleric
With Eleanor, for telling but her dream?
Next time I’ll keep my dreams unto myself,
And not be check’d.
Nay, be not angry, I am pleas’d again.
My Lord Protector, ’tis his Highness’ pleasure
You do prepare to ride unto Saint Albans,
Where as the King and Queen do mean to hawk.
I go. Come, Nell, thou wilt ride with us?
Yes, my good lord, I’ll follow presently.
Exit Humphrey with Messenger.
Follow I must, I cannot go before
While Gloucester bears this base and humble mind.
Were I a man, a duke, and next of blood,
I would remove these tedious stumbling-blocks,
And smooth my way upon their headless necks;
And, being a woman, I will not be slack
To play my part in Fortune’s pageant.
Where are you there? Sir John! Nay, fear not, man,
We are alone, here’s none but thee and I.
Jesus preserve your royal Majesty!
What say’st thou? Majesty? I am but Grace.
But, by the grace of God and Hume’s advice,
Your Grace’s title shall be multiplied.
What say’st thou, man? Hast thou as yet conferr’d
With Margery Jourdain, the cunning witch,
With Roger Bolingbrook, the conjurer?
And will they undertake to do me good?
This they have promised, to show your Highness
A spirit rais’d from depth of under ground,
That shall make answer to such questions
As by your Grace shall be propounded him.
It is enough, I’ll think upon the questions.
When from Saint Albans we do make return,
We’ll see these things effected to the full.
Here, Hume, take this reward. Make merry, man,
With thy confederates in this weighty cause.
Hume must make merry with the Duchess’ gold;
Marry, and shall. But how now, Sir John Hume?
Seal up your lips, and give no words but mum;
The business asketh silent secrecy.
Dame Eleanor gives gold to bring the witch;
Gold cannot come amiss, were she a devil.
Yet have I gold flies from another coast—
I dare not say from the rich Cardinal
And from the great and new-made Duke of Suffolk;
Yet I do find it so; for, to be plain,
They, knowing Dame Eleanor’s aspiring humor,
Have hired me to undermine the Duchess,
And buzz these conjurations in her brain.
They say, “A crafty knave does need no broker,”
Yet am I Suffolk and the Cardinal’s broker.
Hume, if you take not heed, you shall go near
To call them both a pair of crafty knaves.
Well, so it stands; and thus, I fear, at last
Hume’s knavery will be the Duchess’ wrack,
And her attainture will be Humphrey’s fall.
Sort how it will, I shall have gold for all.