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Henry VI, Part 2 Scenes

Scene 2

Bury St. Edmund’s. A palace room of state.

(First Murderer; Second Murderer; Duke of Suffolk; King Henry the Sixth; Queen Margaret; Cardinal Beauford; Duke Somerset; King’s Attendants; Earl of Warwick; Earl of Salisbury; Duke of Gloucester; Vaux; First Commoner)

The murderers report to Suffolk that they have done their job and Gloucester is dead. The King and the court enter, prepared for Gloucester’s trial; when Suffolk, pretending shock, reports that he is dead, Henry faints. Awakening, he makes clear his suspicions of Suffolk’s guilt and his grief at his uncle’s death. Margaret protests, suggesting that she too might be accused of the Duke’s death, and laments her unhappy state. Warwick comes in, warning that the people have heard that Gloucester is dead and are rioting in response. Going in to see the body, he is convinced that Gloucester was murdered, and points to the various signs of his having been strangled. He openly accuses Suffolk and the Cardinal of murder. Warwick and Suffolk go out to fight, but the mob sets upon Suffolk instead, yelling for his blood, and he is forced to take refuge inside. Salisbury enters and brings the mob’s demand that Suffolk be banished; pretentious Suffolk sneers at the commoners, but the King banishes him all the same. Margaret tries to plead for Suffolk, but for once Henry loses his temper and orders her to keep her tongue. She curses him as he leaves, then takes her leave of Suffolk, both lamenting. She assures him she will work to bring him back, while he insists her presence is all he needs for happiness. News comes that the Cardinal is at point of death. The queen and Suffolk part as if to their deaths. (416 lines)

Enter two or three Murderers running over the stage, from the murder of Duke Humphrey.

1. MUR.

Run to my Lord of Suffolk; let him know

We have dispatch’d the Duke, as he commanded.

2. MUR.

O that it were to do! What have we done?

Didst ever hear a man so penitent?

Enter Suffolk.

1. MUR.

Here comes my lord.


Now, sirs, have you dispatch’d this thing?

1. MUR.

Ay, my good lord, he’s dead.


Why, that’s well said. Go, get you to my house,

I will reward you for this venturous deed.

The King and all the peers are here at hand.

Have you laid fair the bed? Is all things well,

According as I gave directions?

1. MUR.

’Tis, my good lord.


Away, be gone.


Sound trumpets. Enter the King, the Queen, Cardinal, Suffolk, Somerset, with Attendants.


Go call our uncle to our presence straight.

Say we intend to try his Grace today,

If he be guilty, as ’tis published.


I’ll call him presently, my noble lord.



Lords, take your places; and I pray you all

Proceed no straiter ’gainst our uncle Gloucester

Than from true evidence of good esteem

He be approv’d in practice culpable.


God forbid any malice should prevail,

That faultless may condemn a nobleman!

Pray God he may acquit him of suspicion!


I thank thee, Meg, these words content me much.

Enter Suffolk.

How now? Why look’st thou pale? Why tremblest thou?

Where is our uncle? What’s the matter, Suffolk?


Dead in his bed, my lord; Gloucester is dead.


Marry, God forfend!


God’s secret judgment. I did dream tonight

The Duke was dumb and could not speak a word.

King sounds.


How fares my lord? Help, lords, the King is dead.


Rear up his body, wring him by the nose.


Run, go, help, help! O Henry, ope thine eyes!


He doth revive again. Madam, be patient.


O heavenly God!


How fares my gracious lord?


Comfort, my sovereign! Gracious Henry, comfort!


What, doth my Lord of Suffolk comfort me?

Came he right now to sing a raven’s note,

Whose dismal tune bereft my vital pow’rs;

And thinks he that the chirping of a wren,

By crying comfort from a hollow breast,

Can chase away the first-conceived sound?

Hide not thy poison with such sug’red words.

Lay not thy hands on me; forbear, I say!

Their touch affrights me as a serpent’s sting.

Thou baleful messenger, out of my sight!

Upon thy eyeballs murderous tyranny

Sits in grim majesty, to fright the world.

Look not upon me, for thine eyes are wounding.

Yet do not go away. Come, basilisk,

And kill the innocent gazer with thy sight;

For in the shade of death I shall find joy;

In life but double death, now Gloucester’s dead.


Why do you rate my Lord of Suffolk thus?

Although the Duke was enemy to him,

Yet he most Christian-like laments his death;

And for myself, foe as he was to me,

Might liquid tears or heart-offending groans

Or blood-consuming sighs recall his life,

I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans,

Look pale as primrose with blood-drinking sighs,

And all to have the noble Duke alive.

What know I how the world may deem of me,

For it is known we were but hollow friends?

It may be judg’d I made the Duke away,

So shall my name with slander’s tongue be wounded,

And princes’ courts be fill’d with my reproach.

This get I by his death. Ay me, unhappy,

To be a queen, and crown’d with infamy!


Ah, woe is me for Gloucester, wretched man!


Be woe for me, more wretched than he is.

What, dost thou turn away and hide thy face?

I am no loathsome leper, look on me.

What? Art thou like the adder waxen deaf?

Be poisonous too, and kill thy forlorn queen.

Is all thy comfort shut in Gloucester’s tomb?

Why then Dame Margaret was ne’er thy joy.

Erect his statue and worship it,

And make my image but an alehouse sign.

Was I for this nigh wrack’d upon the sea,

And twice by awkward wind from England’s bank

Drove back again unto my native clime?

What boded this, but well forewarning wind

Did seem to say, “Seek not a scorpion’s nest,

Nor set no footing on this unkind shore”?

What did I then, but curs’d the gentle gusts,

And he that loos’d them forth their brazen caves,

And bid them blow towards England’s blessed shore,

Or turn our stern upon a dreadful rock?

Yet Aeolus would not be a murderer,

But left that hateful office unto thee.

The pretty vaulting sea refus’d to drown me,

Knowing that thou wouldst have me drown’d on shore

With tears as salt as sea, through thy unkindness.

The splitting rocks cow’r’d in the sinking sands,

And would not dash me with their ragged sides,

Because thy flinty heart, more hard than they,

Might in thy palace perish Margaret.

As far as I could ken thy chalky cliffs,

When from thy shore the tempest beat us back,

I stood upon the hatches in the storm;

And when the dusky sky began to rob

My earnest-gaping sight of thy land’s view,

I took a costly jewel from my neck,

A heart it was, bound in with diamonds,

And threw it towards thy land. The sea receiv’d it,

And so I wish’d thy body might my heart.

And even with this I lost fair England’s view,

And bid mine eyes be packing with my heart,

And call’d them blind and dusky spectacles,

For losing ken of Albion’s wished coast.

How often have I tempted Suffolk’s tongue

(The agent of thy foul inconstancy)

To sit and witch me, as Ascanius did

When he to madding Dido would unfold

His father’s acts commenc’d in burning Troy!

Am I not witch’d like her? Or thou not false like him?

Ay me, I can no more! Die, Margaret!

For Henry weeps that thou dost live so long.

Noise within. Enter Warwick, Salisbury, and many Commons.


It is reported, mighty sovereign,

That good Duke Humphrey traitorously is murd’red

By Suffolk and the Cardinal Beauford’s means.

The commons, like an angry hive of bees

That want their leader, scatter up and down,

And care not who they sting in his revenge.

Myself have calm’d their spleenful mutiny,

Until they hear the order of his death.


That he is dead, good Warwick, ’tis too true,

But how he died God knows, not Henry.

Enter his chamber, view his breathless corpse,

And comment then upon his sudden death.


That shall I do, my liege. Stay, Salisbury,

With the rude multitude till I return.

Exit Warwick; then Salisbury with the Commons.


O Thou that judgest all things, stay my thoughts,

My thoughts that labor to persuade my soul

Some violent hands were laid on Humphrey’s life!

If my suspect be false, forgive me, God,

For judgment only doth belong to thee.

Fain would I go to chafe his paly lips

With twenty thousand kisses, and to drain

Upon his face an ocean of salt tears,

To tell my love unto his dumb deaf trunk,

And with my fingers feel his hand unfeeling.

But all in vain are these mean obsequies,

Bed put forth with the body of Gloucester in it.

Enter Warwick.

And to survey his dead and earthy image,

What were it but to make my sorrow greater?


Come hither, gracious sovereign, view this body.


That is to see how deep my grave is made,

For with his soul fled all my worldly solace;

For seeing him, I see my life in death.


As surely as my soul intends to live

With that dread King that took our state upon him,

To free us from his Father’s wrathful curse,

I do believe that violent hands were laid

Upon the life of this thrice-famed duke.


A dreadful oath, sworn with a solemn tongue!

What instance gives Lord Warwick for his vow?


See how the blood is settled in his face.

Oft have I seen a timely-parted ghost,

Of ashy semblance, meagre, pale, and bloodless,

Being all descended to the laboring heart,

Who, in the conflict that it holds with death,

Attracts the same for aidance ’gainst the enemy,

Which with the heart there cools and ne’er returneth

To blush and beautify the cheek again.

But see, his face is black and full of blood,

His eyeballs further out than when he lived,

Staring full ghastly, like a strangled man;

His hair uprear’d, his nostrils stretch’d with struggling;

His hands abroad display’d, as one that grasp’d

And tugg’d for life, and was by strength subdu’d.

Look, on the sheets his hair, you see, is sticking,

His well-proportion’d beard made rough and rugged,

Like to the summer’s corn by tempest lodged.

It cannot be but he was murd’red here,

The least of all these signs were probable.


Why, Warwick, who should do the Duke to death?

Myself and Beauford had him in protection,

And we, I hope, sir, are no murderers.


But both of you were vowed Duke Humphrey’s foes,

And you

To Cardinal.

forsooth, had the good Duke to keep.

’Tis like you would not feast him like a friend,

And ’tis well seen he found an enemy.


Then you belike suspect these noblemen

As guilty of Duke Humphrey’s timeless death.


Who finds the heifer dead and bleeding fresh,

And sees fast by a butcher with an axe,

But will suspect ’twas he that made the slaughter?

Who finds the partridge in the puttock’s nest

But may imagine how the bird was dead,

Although the kite soar with unbloodied beak?

Even so suspicious is this tragedy.


Are you the butcher, Suffolk? Where’s your knife?

Is Beauford term’d a kite? Where are his talons?


I wear no knife to slaughter sleeping men,

But here’s a vengeful sword, rusted with ease,

That shall be scoured in his rancorous heart

That slanders me with murder’s crimson badge.

Say, if thou dar’st, proud Lord of Warwickshire,

That I am faulty in Duke Humphrey’s death.

Exeunt Cardinal, Somerset, and others.


What dares not Warwick, if false Suffolk dare him?


He dares not calm his contumelious spirit,

Nor cease to be an arrogant controller,

Though Suffolk dare him twenty thousand times.


Madam, be still—with reverence may I say—

For every word you speak in his behalf

Is slander to your royal dignity.


Blunt-witted lord, ignoble in demeanor!

If ever lady wrong’d her lord so much,

Thy mother took into her blameful bed

Some stern untutor’d churl; and noble stock

Was graft with crab-tree slip, whose fruit thou art

And never of the Nevils’ noble race.


But that the guilt of murder bucklers thee,

And I should rob the deathsman of his fee,

Quitting thee thereby of ten thousand shames,

And that my sovereign’s presence makes me mild,

I would, false murd’rous coward, on thy knee

Make thee beg pardon for thy passed speech,

And say it was thy mother that thou meant’st,

That thou thyself wast born in bastardy;

And after all this fearful homage done,

Give thee thy hire and send thy soul to hell,

Pernicious blood-sucker of sleeping men!


Thou shalt be waking while I shed thy blood,

If from this presence thou dar’st go with me.


Away even now, or I will drag thee hence.

Unworthy though thou art, I’ll cope with thee,

And do some service to Duke Humphrey’s ghost.

Exeunt Suffolk and Warwick.


What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!

Thrice is he arm’d that hath his quarrel just;

And he but naked, though lock’d up in steel,

Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

A noise within.


What noise is this?

Enter Suffolk and Warwick with their weapons drawn.


Why, how now, lords? Your wrathful weapons drawn

Here in our presence? Dare you be so bold?

Why, what tumultuous clamor have we here?


The trait’rous Warwick, with the men of Bury,

Set all upon me, mighty sovereign.

Enter Salisbury.


To the Commons within.

Sirs, stand apart, the King shall know your mind.—

Dread lord, the commons send you word by me,

Unless Lord Suffolk straight be done to death,

Or banished fair England’s territories,

They will by violence tear him from your palace,

And torture him with grievous ling’ring death.

They say, by him the good Duke Humphrey died;

They say, in him they fear your Highness’ death;

And mere instinct of love and loyalty,

Free from a stubborn opposite intent,

As being thought to contradict your liking,

Makes them thus forward in his banishment.

They say, in care of your most royal person,

That if your Highness should intend to sleep,

And charge that no man should disturb your rest

In pain of your dislike, or pain of death,

Yet notwithstanding such a strait edict,

Were there a serpent seen, with forked tongue,

That slily glided towards your Majesty,

It were but necessary you were wak’d,

Lest being suffer’d in that harmful slumber,

The mortal worm might make the sleep eternal.

And therefore do they cry, though you forbid,

That they will guard you, whe’er you will or no,

From such fell serpents as false Suffolk is;

With whose envenomed and fatal sting,

Your loving uncle, twenty times his worth,

They say is shamefully bereft of life.



An answer from the King, my Lord of Salisbury!


’Tis like the commons, rude unpolish’d hinds,

Could send such message to their sovereign.

But you, my lord, were glad to be employ’d,

To show how quaint an orator you are;

But all the honor Salisbury hath won

Is, that he was the lord embassador

Sent from a sort of tinkers to the King.



An answer from the King, or we will all break in!


Go, Salisbury, and tell them all from me,

I thank them for their tender loving care;

And had I not been cited so by them,

Yet did I purpose as they do entreat;

For sure, my thoughts do hourly prophesy

Mischance unto my state by Suffolk’s means.

And therefore by His majesty I swear,

Whose far-unworthy deputy I am,

He shall not breathe infection in this air

But three days longer, on the pain of death.

Exit Salisbury.


O Henry, let me plead for gentle Suffolk!


Ungentle queen, to call him gentle Suffolk!

No more, I say! If thou dost plead for him,

Thou wilt but add increase unto my wrath.

Had I but said, I would have kept my word;

But when I swear, it is irrevocable.

If after three days’ space thou here be’st found

On any ground that I am ruler of,

The world shall not be ransom for thy life.

Come, Warwick, come, good Warwick, go with me,

I have great matters to impart to thee.

Exit with Warwick.


Mischance and sorrow go along with you!

Heart’s discontent and sour affliction

Be playfellows to keep you company!

There’s two of you, the devil make a third,

And threefold vengeance tend upon your steps!


Cease, gentle queen, these execrations,

And let thy Suffolk take his heavy leave.


Fie, coward woman and soft-hearted wretch!

Hast thou not spirit to curse thine enemy?


A plague upon them! Wherefore should I curse them?

Would curses kill, as doth the mandrake’s groan,

I would invent as bitter searching terms,

As curst, as harsh, and horrible to hear,

Deliver’d strongly through my fixed teeth,

With full as many signs of deadly hate,

As lean-fac’d Envy in her loathsome cave.

My tongue should stumble in mine earnest words,

Mine eyes should sparkle like the beaten flint,

Mine hair be fix’d an end, as one distract;

Ay, every joint should seem to curse and ban;

And even now my burden’d heart would break,

Should I not curse them. Poison be their drink!

Gall, worse than gall, the daintiest that they taste!

Their sweetest shade a grove of cypress trees!

Their chiefest prospect murd’ring basilisks!

Their softest touch as smart as lizards’ stings!

Their music frightful as the serpent’s hiss,

And boding screech owls make the consort full!

All the foul terrors in dark-seated hell—


Enough, sweet Suffolk, thou torment’st thyself,

And these dread curses, like the sun ’gainst glass,

Or like an overcharged gun, recoil,

And turns the force of them upon thyself.


You bade me ban, and will you bid me leave?

Now by the ground that I am banish’d from,

Well could I curse away a winter’s night,

Though standing naked on a mountain top,

Where biting cold would never let grass grow,

And think it but a minute spent in sport.


O, let me entreat thee cease. Give me thy hand,

That I may dew it with my mournful tears;

Nor let the rain of heaven wet this place

To wash away my woeful monuments.

O, could this kiss be printed in thy hand,

That thou mightst think upon these by the seal,

Through whom a thousand sighs are breath’d for thee!

So get thee gone, that I may know my grief,

’Tis but surmis’d whiles thou art standing by,

As one that surfeits thinking on a want.

I will repeal thee, or, be well assur’d,

Adventure to be banished myself;

And banished I am, if but from thee.

Go, speak not to me; even now be gone.

O, go not yet! Even thus two friends condemn’d

Embrace, and kiss, and take ten thousand leaves,

Loather a hundred times to part than die.

Yet now farewell, and farewell life with thee!


Thus is poor Suffolk ten times banished,

Once by the King, and three times thrice by thee.

’Tis not the land I care for, wert thou thence;

A wilderness is populous enough,

So Suffolk had thy heavenly company:

For where thou art, there is the world itself,

With every several pleasure in the world;

And where thou art not, desolation.

I can no more: live thou to joy thy life;

Myself no joy in nought but that thou liv’st.

Enter Vaux.


Whither goes Vaux so fast? What news, I prithee?


To signify unto his Majesty

That Cardinal Beauford is at point of death;

For suddenly a grievous sickness took him,

That makes him gasp, and stare, and catch the air,

Blaspheming God and cursing men on earth.

Sometime he talks as if Duke Humphrey’s ghost

Were by his side; sometime he calls the King,

And whispers to his pillow as to him

The secrets of his overcharged soul;

And I am sent to tell his Majesty

That even now he cries aloud for him.


Go tell this heavy message to the King.

Exit Vaux.

Ay me! What is this world! What news are these!

But wherefore grieve I at an hour’s poor loss,

Omitting Suffolk’s exile, my soul’s treasure?

Why only, Suffolk, mourn I not for thee,

And with the southern clouds contend in tears,

Theirs for the earth’s increase, mine for my sorrows?

Now get thee hence, the King, thou know’st, is coming.

If thou be found by me, thou art but dead.


If I depart from thee, I cannot live,

And in thy sight to die, what were it else

But like a pleasant slumber in thy lap?

Here could I breathe my soul into the air,

As mild and gentle as the cradle-babe

Dying with mother’s dug between its lips;

Where, from thy sight, I should be raging mad,

And cry out for thee to close up mine eyes,

To have thee with thy lips to stop my mouth;

So shouldst thou either turn my flying soul,

Or I should breathe it so into thy body,

And then it liv’d in sweet Elysium.

To die by thee were but to die in jest,

From thee to die were torture more than death.

O, let me stay, befall what may befall!


Away! Though parting be a fretful corrosive,

It is applied to a deathful wound.

To France, sweet Suffolk! Let me hear from thee;

For wheresoe’er thou art in this world’s globe,

I’ll have an Iris that shall find thee out.


I go.


And take my heart with thee.

She kisseth him.


A jewel, lock’d into the woefull’st cask

That ever did contain a thing of worth.

Even as a splitted bark, so sunder we;

This way fall I to death.


This way for me.

Exeunt severally.


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