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Henry VIII Scenes

Scene 2

The lobby before the council chamber.

(Pursuivants; Pages; Cranmer; Archbishop of Canterbury; Doorkeeper of the Council Chamber; Doctor Butts; King Henry; Lord Chancellor; Duke of Suffolk; Duke of Norfolk; Surrey; Lord Chamberlain; Gardiner; Cromwell; Council Guards)

Cranmer is made to wait without the Chamber. The King witnesses this and is angered. Finally let in, Cranmer is charged with heresy by the Lord Chancellor. It is swiftly decided to cast Cranmer into the Tower, despite his strong defense, but the King enters and forces the councilors to embrace the Archbishop instead. He asks Cranmer to come and baptize his newborn daughter. (250 lines)

Pursuivants, Pages, etc., attending. Enter Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.


I hope I am not too late, and yet the gentleman

That was sent to me from the Council pray’d me

To make great haste. All fast? What means this? Ho!

Who waits there? Sure you know me?

Enter Doorkeeper of the Council Chamber.


Yes, my lord;

But yet I cannot help you.




Your Grace must wait till you be call’d for.

Enter Doctor Butts.





This is a piece of malice. I am glad

I came this way so happily; the King

Shall understand it presently.

Exit Butts.



’Tis Butts,

The King’s physician. As he pass’d along,

How earnestly he cast his eyes upon me!

Pray heaven he sound not my disgrace! For certain

This is of purpose laid by some that hate me

(God turn their hearts! I never sought their malice)

To quench mine honor; they would shame to make me

Wait else at door, a fellow Councillor,

’Mong boys, grooms, and lackeys. But their pleasures

Must be fulfill’d, and I attend with patience.

Enter the King and Butts at a window above.


I’ll show your Grace the strangest sight—


What’s that, Butts?


I think your Highness saw this many a day.


Body a’ me, where is it?


There, my lord:

The high promotion of his Grace of Canterbury,

Who holds his state at door ’mongst pursuivants,

Pages, and footboys.


Ha? ’Tis he indeed.

Is this the honor they do one another?

’Tis well there’s one above ’em yet. I had thought

They had parted so much honesty among ’em—

At least good manners—as not thus to suffer

A man of his place, and so near our favor,

To dance attendance on their lordships’ pleasures,

And at the door too, like a post with packets.

By holy Mary, Butts, there’s knavery.

Let ’em alone, and draw the curtain close;

We shall hear more anon.

Curtain, above, partially drawn, but the King and Butts remain listening.

A council-table brought in with chairs and stools, and placed under the state.

Enter Lord Chancellor; places himself at the upper end of the table on the left hand; a seat being left void above him, as for Canterbury’s seat.

Duke of Suffolk, Duke of Norfolk, Surrey, Lord Chamberlain, Gardiner seat themselves in order on each side, Cromwell at lower end, as secretary.


Speak to the business, Master Secretary.

Why are we met in Council?


Please your honors,

The chief cause concerns his Grace of Canterbury.


Has he had knowledge of it?




Who waits there?


Without, my noble lords?




My Lord Archbishop;

And has done half an hour, to know your pleasures.


Let him come in.


Your Grace may enter now.

Cranmer approaches the council-table.


My good Lord Archbishop, I’m very sorry

To sit here at this present, and behold

That chair stand empty; but we all are men,

In our own natures frail, and capable

Of our flesh; few are angels; out of which frailty

And want of wisdom, you, that best should teach us,

Have misdemean’d yourself, and not a little:

Toward the King first, then his laws, in filling

The whole realm by your teaching and your chaplains’

(For so we are inform’d) with new opinions,

Divers and dangerous; which are heresies,

And, not reform’d, may prove pernicious.


Which reformation must be sudden too,

My noble lords; for those that tame wild horses

Pace ’em not in their hands to make ’em gentle,

But stop their mouths with stubborn bits and spur ’em

Till they obey the manage. If we suffer,

Out of our easiness and childish pity

To one man’s honor, this contagious sickness,

Farewell all physic! And what follows then?

Commotions, uproars, with a general taint

Of the whole state; as of late days our neighbors,

The upper Germany, can dearly witness,

Yet freshly pitied in our memories.


My good lords: hitherto, in all the progress

Both of my life and office, I have labor’d,

And with no little study, that my teaching

And the strong course of my authority

Might go one way, and safely; and the end

Was ever to do well; nor is there living

(I speak it with a single heart, my lords)

A man that more detests, more stirs against,

Both in his private conscience and his place,

Defacers of a public peace than I do.

Pray heaven the King may never find a heart

With less allegiance in it! Men that make

Envy and crooked malice nourishment

Dare bite the best. I do beseech your lordships,

That, in this case of justice, my accusers,

Be what they will, may stand forth face to face,

And freely urge against me.


Nay, my lord,

That cannot be; you are a Councillor,

And by that virtue no man dare accuse you.


My lord, because we have business of more moment,

We will be short with you. ’Tis his Highness’ pleasure

And our consent, for better trial of you,

From hence you be committed to the Tower,

Where being but a private man again,

You shall know many dare accuse you boldly,

More than (I fear) you are provided for.


Ah, my good Lord of Winchester—I thank you,

You are always my good friend; if your will pass,

I shall both find your lordship judge and juror,

You are so merciful. I see your end,

’Tis my undoing. Love and meekness, lord,

Become a churchman better than ambition;

Win straying souls with modesty again,

Cast none away. That I shall clear myself,

Lay all the weight ye can upon my patience,

I make as little doubt as you do conscience

In doing daily wrongs. I could say more,

But reverence to your calling makes me modest.


My lord, my lord, you are a sectary,

That’s the plain truth. Your painted gloss discovers,

To men that understand you, words and weakness.


My Lord of Winchester, y’ are a little,

By your good favor, too sharp; men so noble,

However faulty, yet should find respect

For what they have been. ’Tis a cruelty

To load a falling man.


Good Master Secretary,

I cry your honor mercy; you may worst

Of all this table say so.


Why, my lord?


Do not I know you for a favorer

Of this new sect? Ye are not sound.


Not sound?


Not sound, I say.


Would you were half so honest!

Men’s prayers then would seek you, not their fears.


I shall remember this bold language.



Remember your bold life too.


This is too much.

Forbear for shame, my lords.


I have done.


And I.


Then thus for you, my lord, it stands agreed,

I take it, by all voices: that forthwith

You be convey’d to th’ Tower a prisoner;

There to remain till the King’s further pleasure

Be known unto us. Are you all agreed, lords?


We are.


Is there no other way of mercy

But I must needs to th’ Tower, my lords?


What other

Would you expect? You are strangely troublesome.

Let some o’ th’ guard be ready there.

Enter the Guard.


For me?

Must I go like a traitor thither?


Receive him,

And see him safe i’ th’ Tower.


Stay, good my lords,

I have a little yet to say. Look there, my lords;

By virtue of that ring, I take my cause

Out of the gripes of cruel men, and give it

To a most noble judge, the King my master.


This is the King’s ring.


’Tis no counterfeit.


’Tis the right ring, by heav’n! I told ye all,

When we first put this dangerous stone a-rolling,

’Twould fall upon ourselves.


Do you think, my lords,

The King will suffer but the little finger

Of this man to be vex’d?


’Tis now too certain.

How much more is his life in value with him!

Exeunt King and Butts above.

Would I were fairly out on’t!


My mind gave me,

In seeking tales and informations

Against this man, whose honesty the devil

And his disciples only envy at,

Ye blew the fire that burns ye. Now have at ye!

Enter King frowning on them; takes his seat.


Dread sovereign, how much are we bound to heaven

In daily thanks, that gave us such a prince,

Not only good and wise but most religious;

One that, in all obedience, makes the Church

The chief aim of his honor, and to strengthen

That holy duty, out of dear respect,

His royal self in judgment comes to hear

The cause betwixt her and this great offender.


You were ever good at sudden commendations,

Bishop of Winchester. But know I come not

To hear such flattery now, and in my presence

They are too thin and base to hide offenses.

To me you cannot reach you play the spaniel,

And think with wagging of your tongue to win me;

But whatsoe’er thou tak’st me for, I’m sure

Thou hast a cruel nature and a bloody.

To Cranmer.

Good man, sit down. Now let me see the proudest

He, that dares most, but wag his finger at thee.

By all that’s holy, he had better starve

Than but once think his place becomes thee not.


May it please your Grace—


No, sir, it does not please me.

I had thought I had had men of some understanding

And wisdom of my Council; but I find none.

Was it discretion, lords, to let this man,

This good man (few of you deserve that title),

This honest man, wait like a lousy footboy

At chamber-door? And one as great as you are?

Why, what a shame was this? Did my commission

Bid ye so far forget yourselves? I gave ye

Power as he was a Councillor to try him,

Not as a groom. There’s some of ye, I see,

More out of malice than integrity,

Would try him to the utmost had ye mean,

Which ye shall never have while I live.


Thus far,

My most dread sovereign, may it like your Grace

To let my tongue excuse all. What was purpos’d

Concerning his imprisonment was rather

(If there be faith in men) meant for his trial

And fair purgation to the world than malice,

I’m sure, in me.


Well, well, my lords, respect him,

Take him, and use him well; he’s worthy of it.

I will say thus much for him, if a prince

May be beholding to a subject, I

Am for his love and service so to him.

Make me no more ado, but all embrace him.

Be friends, for shame, my lords! My Lord of Canterbury,

I have a suit which you must not deny me:

That is, a fair young maid that yet wants baptism,

You must be godfather, and answer for her.


The greatest monarch now alive may glory

In such an honor; how may I deserve it,

That am a poor and humble subject to you?


Come, come, my lord, you’d spare your spoons. You shall have

Two noble partners with you, the old Duchess of Norfolk

And Lady Marquess Dorset. Will these please you?

Once more, my Lord of Winchester, I charge you,

Embrace and love this man.


With a true heart

And brother-love I do it.


And let heaven

Witness how dear I hold this confirmation.


Good man, those joyful tears show thy true heart.

The common voice, I see, is verified

Of thee, which says thus, “Do my Lord of Canterbury

A shrewd turn, and he’s your friend forever.”

Come, lords, we trifle time away; I long

To have this young one made a Christian.

As I have made ye one, lords, one remain:

So I grow stronger, you more honor gain.



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