(George Bevis; John Holland; Jack Cade; Dick the Butcher; Smith the Weaver; Sawyer; Clerk of Chatham; Michael; Sir Humphrey Stafford; William Stafford; Stafford’s Soldiers)
Jack Cade harangues his mob of laborers, who follow him even though they do not believe his grandiose claims to be the proper heir to the throne. He proclaims the terms of his utopia, where all will be cheap and readily available and all lawyers will die. A clerk is brought in and condemned to death for confessing that he can read and write. When Cade hears that Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother are heading the King’s troops against him, he quickly knights himself. The Staffords parley with him, mocking his claims of noble birth and accusing him of being in York’s pay. He denies this. As the people will not be calmed, the Staffords have them all proclaimed traitors and make ready to attack them. (116 lines)
Enter George Bevis and John Holland with long staves.
Come and get thee a sword, though made of a lath; they have been up these two days.
They have the more need to sleep now, then.
I tell thee, Jack Cade the clothier means to dress the commonwealth, and turn it, and set a new nap upon it.
So he had need, for ’tis threadbare. Well, I say, it was never merry world in England since gentlemen came up.
O miserable age! Virtue is not regarded in handicrafts-men.
The nobility think scorn to go in leather aprons.
Nay more, the King’s Council are no good workmen.
True; and yet it is said, labor in thy vocation; which is as much to say as, let the magistrates be laboring men; and therefore should we be magistrates.
Thou hast hit it; for there’s no better sign of a brave mind than a hard hand.
I see them, I see them! There’s Best’s son, the tanner of Wingham—
He shall have the skins of our enemies, to make dog’s-leather of.
And Dick the butcher—
Then is sin struck down like an ox, and iniquity’s throat cut like a calf.
And Smith the weaver—
Argo, their thread of life is spun.
Come, come, let’s fall in with them.
Drum. Enter Cade, Dick butcher, Smith the weaver, and a Sawyer, with infinite numbers, with long staves.
We John Cade, so term’d of our suppos’d father—
Or rather of stealing a cade of herrings.
For our enemies shall fall before us, inspir’d with the spirit of putting down kings and princes—command silence.
My father was a Mortimer—
He was an honest man, and a good bricklayer.
My mother a Plantagenet—
I knew her well, she was a midwife.
My wife descended of the Lacies—
She was indeed a pedlar’s daughter, and sold many laces.
But now of late, not able to travel with her furr’d pack, she washes bucks here at home.
Therefore am I of an honorable house.
Ay, by my faith, the field is honorable, and there was he born, under a hedge; for his father had never a house but the cage.
Valiant I am.
’A must needs, for beggary is valiant.
I am able to endure much.
No question of that; for I have seen him whipt three market-days together.
I fear neither sword nor fire.
He need not fear the sword, for his coat is of proof.
But methinks he should stand in fear of fire, being burnt i’ th’ hand for stealing of sheep.
Be brave then, for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; the three-hoop’d pot shall have ten hoops, and I will make it felony to drink small beer. All the realm shall be in common, and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass; and when I am king, as king I will be—
God save your Majesty!
I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? That parchment, being scribbled o’er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings, but I say, ’tis the bee’s wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since. How now? Who’s there?
Enter one with a Clerk.
The clerk of Chatham. He can write and read and cast accompt.
We took him setting of boys’ copies.
Here’s a villain!
H’as a book in his pocket with red letters in’t.
Nay, then he is a conjurer.
Nay, he can make obligations, and write court-hand.
I am sorry for’t. The man is a proper man, of mine honor; unless I find him guilty, he shall not die. Come hither, sirrah, I must examine thee. What is thy name?
They use to write it on the top of letters; ’twill go hard with you.
Let me alone. Dost thou use to write thy name? Or hast thou a mark to thyself, like a honest plain-dealing man?
Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up that I can write my name.
He hath confess’d! Away with him! He’s a villain and a traitor.
Away with him, I say! Hang him with his pen and inkhorn about his neck.
Exit one with the Clerk of Chatham.
Where’s our general?
Here I am, thou particular fellow.
Fly, fly, fly! Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother are hard by, with the King’s forces.
Stand, villain, stand, or I’ll fell thee down. He shall be encount’red with a man as good as himself. He is but a knight, is ’a?
To equal him, I will make myself a knight presently.
Rise up Sir John Mortimer.
Now have at him!
Enter Sir Humphrey Stafford and his Brother with Drum and Soldiers.
Rebellious hinds, the filth and scum of Kent,
Mark’d for the gallows, lay your weapons down,
Home to your cottages, forsake this groom:
The King is merciful, if you revolt.
But angry, wrathful, and inclin’d to blood,
If you go forward; therefore yield, or die.
As for these silken-coated slaves, I pass not,
It is to you, good people, that I speak,
Over whom, in time to come, I hope to reign,
For I am rightful heir unto the crown.
Villain, thy father was a plasterer,
And thou thyself a shearman, art thou not?
And Adam was a gardener.
And what of that?
Marry, this: Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March,
Married the Duke of Clarence’ daughter, did he not?
By her he had two children at one birth.
Ay, there’s the question; but I say, ’tis true.
The elder of them, being put to nurse,
Was by a beggar-woman stol’n away,
And ignorant of his birth and parentage,
Became a bricklayer when he came to age.
His son am I, deny it if you can.
Nay, ’tis too true; therefore he shall be king.
Sir, he made a chimney in my father’s house, and the bricks are alive at this day to testify it; therefore deny it not.
And will you credit this base drudge’s words,
That speaks he knows not what?
Ay, marry, will we; therefore get ye gone.
Jack Cade, the Duke of York hath taught you this.
He lies, for I invented it myself.—Go to, sirrah, tell the King from me, that, for his father’s sake, Henry the Fifth (in whose time boys went to span-counter for French crowns), I am content he shall reign, but I’ll be Protector over him.
And furthermore, we’ll have the Lord Say’s head for selling the dukedom of Maine.
And good reason; for thereby is England main’d, and fain to go with a staff, but that my puissance holds it up. Fellow kings, I tell you that that Lord Say hath gelded the commonwealth, and made it an eunuch; and more than that, he can speak French, and therefore he is a traitor.
O gross and miserable ignorance!
Nay, answer if you can. The Frenchmen are our enemies. Go to then, I ask but this: can he that speaks with the tongue of an enemy be a good counsellor, or no?
No, no, and therefore we’ll have his head.
Well, seeing gentle words will not prevail,
Assail them with the army of the King.
Herald, away, and throughout every town
Proclaim them traitors that are up with Cade,
That those which fly before the battle ends
May, even in their wives’ and children’s sight,
Be hang’d up for example at their doors.
And you that be the King’s friends, follow me.
Exit with his Brother and Men.
And you that love the commons, follow me.
Now show yourselves men, ’tis for liberty.
We will not leave one lord, one gentleman;
Spare none but such as go in clouted shoon,
For they are thrifty honest men, and such
As would (but that they dare not) take our parts.
They are all in order, and march toward us.
But then are we in order when we are most out of order. Come, march forward.