London. An ante-chamber in the Queen’s apartment.
(Anne Bullen; Old Lady; Lord Chamberlain)
Anne Bullen pities the Queen, but her companion tells her she is foolish to claim she would rather not be Queen herself. The Lord Chamberlain enters to tell Anne that the King has made her Marchioness of Pembroke. Anne is not so much pleased as worried. (128 lines)
Enter Anne Bullen and an Old Lady.
Not for that neither; here’s the pang that pinches:
His Highness having liv’d so long with her, and she
So good a lady that no tongue could ever
Pronounce dishonor of her—by my life,
She never knew harm-doing—O, now after
So many courses of the sun enthroned,
Still growing in a majesty and pomp, the which
To leave a thousandfold more bitter than
’Tis sweet at first t’ acquire—after this process,
To give her the avaunt, it is a pity
Would move a monster.
Hearts of most hard temper
Melt and lament for her.
O, God’s will, much better
She ne’er had known pomp! Though’t be temporal,
Yet if that quarrel, fortune, do divorce
It from the bearer, ’tis a sufferance panging
As soul and body’s severing.
Alas, poor lady!
She’s a stranger now again.
So much the more
Must pity drop upon her. Verily,
I swear, ’tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perk’d up in a glist’ring grief
And wear a golden sorrow.
Is our best having.
By my troth and maidenhead,
I would not be a queen.
Beshrew me, I would,
And venture maidenhead for’t, and so would you
For all this spice of your hypocrisy.
You, that have so fair parts of woman on you,
Have, too, a woman’s heart, which ever yet
Affected eminence, wealth, sovereignty;
Which, to say sooth, are blessings; and which gifts
(Saving your mincing) the capacity
Of your soft cheveril conscience would receive
If you might please to stretch it.
Nay, good troth.
Yes, troth, and troth. You would not be a queen?
No, not for all the riches under heaven.
’Tis strange. A threepence bow’d would hire me,
Old as I am, to queen it. But I pray you,
What think you of a duchess? Have you limbs
To bear that load of title?
No, in truth.
Then you are weakly made; pluck off a little,
I would not be a young count in your way
For more than blushing comes to. If your back
Cannot vouchsafe this burden, ’tis too weak
Ever to get a boy.
How you do talk!
I swear again, I would not be a queen
For all the world.
In faith, for little England
You’ld venture an emballing. I myself
Would for Carnarvonshire, although there ’long’d
No more to th’ crown but that. Lo, who comes here?
Enter Lord Chamberlain.
Good morrow, ladies. What were’t worth to know
The secret of your conference?
My good lord,
Not your demand; it values not your asking.
Our mistress’ sorrows we were pitying.
It was a gentle business, and becoming
The action of good women. There is hope
All will be well.
Now I pray God, amen!
You bear a gentle mind, and heav’nly blessings
Follow such creatures. That you may, fair lady,
Perceive I speak sincerely, and high note’s
Ta’en of your many virtues, the King’s Majesty
Commends his good opinion of you to you, and
Does purpose honor to you no less flowing
Than Marchioness of Pembroke; to which title
A thousand pound a year, annual support,
Out of his grace he adds.
I do not know
What kind of my obedience I should tender.
More than my all is nothing: nor my prayers
Are not words duly hallowed, nor my wishes
More worth than empty vanities; yet prayers and wishes
Are all I can return. Beseech your lordship,
Vouchsafe to speak my thanks and my obedience,
As from a blushing handmaid, to his Highness;
Whose health and royalty I pray for.
I shall not fail t’ approve the fair conceit
The King hath of you.
I have perus’d her well;
Beauty and honor in her are so mingled
That they have caught the King; and who knows yet
But from this lady may proceed a gem
To lighten all this isle?—I’ll to the King,
And say I spoke with you.
My honor’d lord.
Exit Lord Chamberlain.
Why, this it is! See, see,
I have been begging sixteen years in court
(Am yet a courtier beggarly) nor could
Come pat betwixt too early and too late
For any suit of pounds; and you, O fate!
A very fresh fish here—fie, fie, fie upon
This compell’d fortune!—have your mouth fill’d up
Before you open it.
This is strange to me.
How tastes it? Is it bitter? Forty pence, no.
There was a lady once (’tis an old story)
That would not be a queen, that would she not,
For all the mud in Egypt. Have you heard it?
Come, you are pleasant.
With your theme, I could
O’ermount the lark. The Marchioness of Pembroke?
A thousand pounds a year for pure respect?
No other obligation? By my life,
That promises more thousands; honor’s train
Is longer than his foreskirt. By this time
I know your back will bear a duchess. Say,
Are you not stronger than you were?
Make yourself mirth with your particular fancy,
And leave me out on’t. Would I had no being
If this salute my blood a jot; it faints me
To think what follows.
The Queen is comfortless, and we forgetful
In our long absence. Pray do not deliver
What here y’ have heard to her.
What do you think me?