London. A street.
(Duke of Gloucester; Gloucester’s First Attendant; Gloucester’s Second Attendant; Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester; Sir John Stanley; Sheriff of London; Officers; Herald)
Gloucester and his servants witness Eleanor’s humiliating penance. The Duke restrains his servants from rescuing her. She speaks to him, warning him of his enemies, but Gloucester insists that he has done no wrong and therefore cannot be touched. A messenger comes to call him to Parliament; he is bothered that he was not consulted. As Eleanor leaves for exile, Gloucester begs her keeper to treat her well; he promises to do so. Eleanor looks forward to reaching her prison. (111 lines)
Enter Duke Humphrey of Gloucester and his Attendants in mourning cloaks.
Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud,
And after summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold;
So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.
Sirs, what’s a’ clock?
Ten, my lord.
Ten is the hour that was appointed me
To watch the coming of my punish’d duchess.
Uneath may she endure the flinty streets,
To tread them with her tender-feeling feet.
Sweet Nell, ill can thy noble mind abrook
The abject people gazing on thy face,
With envious looks laughing at thy shame,
That erst did follow thy proud chariot-wheels
When thou didst ride in triumph through the streets.
But soft, I think she comes, and I’ll prepare
My tear-stain’d eyes to see her miseries.
Enter the Duchess of Gloucester, barefoot, in a white sheet, and verses written on her back and pinned on, and a taper burning in her hand, with Sir John Stanley, the Sheriff, and Officers.
So please your Grace, we’ll take her from the sheriff.
No, stir not for your lives, let her pass by.
Come you, my lord, to see my open shame?
Now thou dost penance too. Look how they gaze!
See how the giddy multitude do point
And nod their heads, and throw their eyes on thee!
Ah, Gloucester, hide thee from their hateful looks,
And in thy closet pent up, rue my shame,
And ban thine enemies, both mine and thine.
Be patient, gentle Nell, forget this grief.
Ah, Gloucester, teach me to forget myself;
For whilest I think I am thy married wife,
And thou a prince, Protector of this land,
Methinks I should not thus be led along,
Mail’d up in shame, with papers on my back,
And follow’d with a rabble that rejoice
To see my tears and hear my deep-fet groans.
The ruthless flint doth cut my tender feet,
And when I start, the envious people laugh,
And bid me be advised how I tread.
Ah, Humphrey, can I bear this shameful yoke?
Trowest thou that e’er I’ll look upon the world,
Or count them happy that enjoys the sun?
No; dark shall be my light, and night my day;
To think upon my pomp shall be my hell.
Sometime I’ll say, I am Duke Humphrey’s wife,
And he a prince, and ruler of the land;
Yet so he rul’d, and such a prince he was,
As he stood by, whilest I, his forlorn duchess,
Was made a wonder and a pointing-stock
To every idle rascal follower.
But be thou mild, and blush not at my shame,
Nor stir at nothing, till the axe of death
Hang over thee, as sure it shortly will;
For Suffolk, he that can do all in all
With her that hateth thee and hates us all,
And York and impious Beauford, that false priest,
Have all lim’d bushes to betray thy wings,
And fly thou how thou canst, they’ll tangle thee.
But fear not thou, until thy foot be snar’d,
Nor never seek prevention of thy foes.
Ah, Nell, forbear! Thou aimest all awry.
I must offend before I be attainted;
And had I twenty times so many foes,
And each of them had twenty times their power,
All these could not procure me any scathe
So long as I am loyal, true, and crimeless.
Wouldst have me rescue thee from this reproach?
Why, yet thy scandal were not wip’d away,
But I in danger for the breach of law.
Thy greatest help is quiet, gentle Nell.
I pray thee sort thy heart to patience,
These few days’ wonder will be quickly worn.
Enter a Herald.
I summon your Grace to his Majesty’s parliament,
Holden at Bury the first of this next month.
And my consent ne’er ask’d herein before?
This is close dealing. Well, I will be there.
My Nell, I take my leave; and, Master Sheriff,
Let not her penance exceed the King’s commission.
And’t please your Grace, here my commission stays;
And Sir John Stanley is appointed now
To take her with him to the Isle of Man.
Must you, Sir John, protect my lady here?
So am I given in charge, may’t please your Grace.
Entreat her not the worse in that I pray
You use her well. The world may laugh again,
And I may live to do you kindness if
You do it her. And so, Sir John, farewell!
What, gone, my lord, and bid me not farewell?
Witness my tears, I cannot stay to speak.
Exit Gloucester with his Men.
Art thou gone too? All comfort go with thee,
For none abides with me. My joy is death;
Death, at whose name I oft have been afeard,
Because I wish’d this world’s eternity.
Stanley, I prithee go, and take me hence,
I care not whither, for I beg no favor;
Only convey me where thou art commanded.
Why, madam, that is to the Isle of Man,
There to be us’d according to your state.
That’s bad enough, for I am but reproach;
And shall I then be us’d reproachfully?
Like to a duchess, and Duke Humphrey’s lady,
According to that state you shall be us’d.
Sheriff, farewell, and better than I fare,
Although thou hast been conduct of my shame.
It is my office, and, madam, pardon me.
Ay, ay, farewell, thy office is discharg’d.
Come, Stanley, shall we go?
Madam, your penance done, throw off this sheet,
And go we to attire you for our journey.
My shame will not be shifted with my sheet.
No, it will hang upon my richest robes,
And show itself, attire me how I can.
Go, lead the way, I long to see my prison.