London. A room in the palace.
(First Petitioner; Second Petitioner; Peter Thump; Duke of Suffolk; Queen Margaret; Servant; King Henry the Sixth; Duke of Gloucester; Cardinal Beauford; Duke of Buckingham; Duke of York; Duke Somerset; Earl of Salisbury; Earl of Warwick; Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester; Thomas Horner)
Petitioners who have come to hand in their complaints to Gloucester are met by the Queen and Suffolk instead, who take and read them. One finds himself in trouble when Suffolk reads a petition attacking him. Another, Peter, is taken away for petitioning against his master’s treason in claiming that York is the right heir to the throne. The incensed Queen tears the others up, disdaining the commoners, and the petitioners leave. Margaret rails against the King’s weakness and pusillanimity, against Gloucester’s power and his wife Eleanor’s insolence. Suffolk implores her to still side with the Cardinal, no matter how much she dislikes him, until they have brought Gloucester down, explaining that he has put together a plot against Eleanor. The court enters, with York and Somerset quarreling over who should be Regent in France. Gloucester’s power is seen to be slipping when all present turn on him and he has to leave and walk around the block to calm himself down. The Queen drops her fan and hits Eleanor for not picking it up; Eleanor leaves in a fury, warning King Henry that his wife is going to lead him by the nose. Gloucester returns and casts his vote for York as Regent in France; Suffolk attempts to argue against him, and brings in Peter and his master Horner. Peter insists that Horner claimed York was rightful heir to the throne. York is angered and begs that Horner be punished; Gloucester judges that the two men should fight in single combat, and that Somerset should be Regent, as York is now under suspicion. (188 lines)
Enter three or four Petitioners, Peter the Armorer’s man being one.
My masters, let’s stand close. My Lord Protector will come this way by and by, and then we may deliver our supplications in the quill.
Marry, the Lord protect him, for he’s a good man! Jesu bless him!
Enter Suffolk and Queen.
Here ’a comes, methinks, and the Queen with him. I’ll be the first, sure.
Come back, fool. This is the Duke of Suffolk and not my Lord Protector.
How now, fellow? Wouldst any thing with me?
I pray, my lord, pardon me, I took ye for my Lord Protector.
“To my Lord Protector”?
Are your supplications to his lordship? Let me see them. What is thine?
Mine is, and’t please your Grace, against John Goodman, my Lord Cardinal’s man, for keeping my house, and lands, and wife and all, from me.
Thy wife too? That’s some wrong indeed. What’s yours? What’s here?
“Against the Duke of Suffolk, for enclosing the commons of Melford.” How now, sir knave?
Alas, sir, I am but a poor petitioner of our whole township.
Giving his petition.
Against my master, Thomas Horner, for saying that the Duke of York was rightful heir to the crown.
What say’st thou? Did the Duke of York say he was rightful heir to the crown?
That my master was? No, forsooth; my master said that he was, and that the King was an usurper.
Who is there?
Take this fellow in, and send for his master with a pursuivant presently. We’ll hear more of your matter before the King.
Exit Servant with Peter.
And as for you, that love to be protected
Under the wings of our Protector’s grace,
Begin your suits anew, and sue to him.
Tear the supplication.
Away, base cullions! Suffolk, let them go.
Come, let’s be gone.
My Lord of Suffolk, say, is this the guise,
Is this the fashions in the court of England?
Is this the government of Britain’s isle,
And this the royalty of Albion’s king?
What, shall King Henry be a pupil still
Under the surly Gloucester’s governance?
Am I a queen in title and in style,
And must be made a subject to a duke?
I tell thee, Pole, when in the city Tours
Thou ran’st a-tilt in honor of my love
And stol’st away the ladies’ hearts of France,
I thought King Henry had resembled thee
In courage, courtship, and proportion;
But all his mind is bent to holiness,
To number Ave-Maries on his beads;
His champions are the prophets and apostles,
His weapons holy saws of sacred writ,
His study is his tilt-yard, and his loves
Are brazen images of canonized saints.
I would the college of the Cardinals
Would choose him Pope and carry him to Rome,
And set the triple crown upon his head—
That were a state fit for his holiness.
Madam, be patient. As I was cause
Your Highness came to England, so will I
In England work your Grace’s full content.
Beside the haughty Protector, have we Beauford
The imperious churchman, Somerset, Buckingham,
And grumbling York; and not the least of these
But can do more in England than the King.
And he of these that can do most of all
Cannot do more in England than the Nevils:
Salisbury and Warwick are no simple peers.
Not all these lords do vex me half so much
As that proud dame, the Lord Protector’s wife:
She sweeps it through the court with troops of ladies,
More like an empress than Duke Humphrey’s wife.
Strangers in court do take her for the Queen.
She bears a duke’s revenues on her back,
And in her heart she scorns our poverty.
Shall I not live to be aveng’d on her?
Contemptuous base-born callot as she is,
She vaunted ’mongst her minions t’ other day,
The very train of her worst wearing gown
Was better worth than all my father’s lands,
Till Suffolk gave two dukedoms for his daughter.
Madam, myself have lim’d a bush for her,
And plac’d a choir of such enticing birds
That she will light to listen to the lays,
And never mount to trouble you again.
So let her rest; and, madam, list to me,
For I am bold to counsel you in this.
Although we fancy not the Cardinal,
Yet must we join with him and with the lords,
Till we have brought Duke Humphrey in disgrace.
As for the Duke of York, this late complaint
Will make but little for his benefit.
So one by one we’ll weed them all at last,
And you yourself shall steer the happy helm.
Sound a sennet. Enter the King, Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, Cardinal, Buckingham, York, Somerset, Salisbury, Warwick, and the Duchess of Gloucester.
For my part, noble lords, I care not which,
Or Somerset or York, all’s one to me.
If York have ill demean’d himself in France,
Then let him be denay’d the regentship.
If Somerset be unworthy of the place,
Let York be Regent, I will yield to him.
Whether your Grace be worthy, yea or no,
Dispute not that; York is the worthier.
Ambitious Warwick, let thy betters speak.
The Cardinal’s not my better in the field.
All in this presence are thy betters, Warwick.
Warwick may live to be the best of all.
Peace, son, and show some reason, Buckingham,
Why Somerset should be preferr’d in this.
Because the King, forsooth, will have it so.
Madam, the King is old enough himself
To give his censure. These are no women’s matters.
If he be old enough, what needs your Grace
To be Protector of his Excellence?
Madam, I am Protector of the realm,
And at his pleasure will resign my place.
Resign it then and leave thine insolence.
Since thou wert king—as who is king but thou?—
The commonwealth hath daily run to wrack,
The Dauphin hath prevail’d beyond the seas,
And all the peers and nobles of the realm
Have been as bondmen to thy sovereignty.
The commons hast thou rack’d, the clergy’s bags
Are lank and lean with thy extortions.
Thy sumptuous buildings and thy wive’s attire
Have cost a mass of public treasury.
Thy cruelty in execution
Upon offenders hath exceeded law,
And left thee to the mercy of the law.
Thy sale of offices and towns in France,
If they were known, as the suspect is great,
Would make thee quickly hop without thy head.
Exit Humphrey. The Queen lets fall her fan.
Give me my fan. What, minion, can ye not?
She gives the Duchess a box on the ear.
I cry you mercy, madam; was it you?
Was’t I? Yea, I it was, proud Frenchwoman.
Could I come near your beauty with my nails,
I could set my ten commandments in your face.
Sweet aunt, be quiet, ’twas against her will.
Against her will, good king? Look to’t in time,
She’ll hamper thee, and dandle thee like a baby.
Though in this place most master wear no breeches,
She shall not strike Dame Eleanor unreveng’d.
Lord Cardinal, I will follow Eleanor,
And listen after Humphrey, how he proceeds.
She’s tickled now; her fume needs no spurs,
She’ll gallop far enough to her destruction.
Enter Humphrey of Gloucester.
Now, lords, my choler being overblown
With walking once about the quadrangle,
I come to talk of commonwealth affairs.
As for your spiteful false objections,
Prove them, and I lie open to the law;
But God in mercy so deal with my soul
As I in duty love my king and country!
But to the matter that we have in hand.
I say, my sovereign, York is meetest man
To be your Regent in the realm of France.
Before we make election, give me leave
To show some reason, of no little force,
That York is most unmeet of any man.
I’ll tell thee, Suffolk, why I am unmeet:
First, for I cannot flatter thee in pride;
Next, if I be appointed for the place,
My Lord of Somerset will keep me here
Without discharge, money, or furniture,
Till France be won into the Dauphin’s hands.
Last time, I danc’d attendance on his will
Till Paris was besieg’d, famish’d, and lost.
That can I witness, and a fouler fact
Did never traitor in the land commit.
Peace, headstrong Warwick!
Image of pride, why should I hold my peace?
Enter Horner the armorer and his man Peter, guarded.
Because here is a man accused of treason.
Pray God the Duke of York excuse himself!
Doth any one accuse York for a traitor?
What mean’st thou, Suffolk? Tell me, what are these?
Please it your Majesty, this is the man
That doth accuse his master of high treason.
His words were these: that Richard Duke of York
Was rightful heir unto the English crown
And that your Majesty was an usurper.
Say, man, were these thy words?
And’t shall please your Majesty, I never said nor thought any such matter. God is my witness, I am falsely accus’d by the villain.
By these ten bones, my lords
Holding up his hands.
he did speak them to me in the garret one night, as we were scouring my Lord of York’s armor.
Base dunghill villain and mechanical,
I’ll have thy head for this thy traitor’s speech.
I do beseech your royal Majesty,
Let him have all the rigor of the law.
Alas, my lord, hang me if ever I spake the words. My accuser is my prentice, and when I did correct him for his fault the other day, he did vow upon his knees he would be even with me. I have good witness of this; therefore I beseech your Majesty, do not cast away an honest man for a villain’s accusation.
Uncle, what shall we say to this in law?
This doom, my lord, if I may judge:
Let Somerset be Regent o’er the French,
Because in York this breeds suspicion;
And let these have a day appointed them
For single combat in convenient place,
For he hath witness of his servant’s malice.
This is the law, and this Duke Humphrey’s doom.
I humbly thank your royal Majesty.
And I accept the combat willingly.
Alas, my lord, I cannot fight; for God’s sake pity my case. The spite of man prevaileth against me. O Lord, have mercy upon me! I shall never be able to fight a blow. O Lord, my heart!
Sirrah, or you must fight, or else be hang’d.
Away with them to prison; and the day of combat shall be the last of the next month. Come, Somerset, we’ll see thee sent away.