London. King Richard’s palace.
(King Richard; John of Gaunt; Nobles; Attendants; Bullingbrook; Mowbray)
King Richard calls on his uncle, John of Gaunt, to bring in his son Henry Bullingbrook, along with Thomas Mowbray so that the latter two can have their quarrel out in public. Bullingbrook accuses Mowbray of embezzlement and treasonous plotting, which Mowbray stoutly denies; finally, Bullingbrook charges Mowbray with the murder of the King’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. They challenge each other to a duel to determine the truth. Richard (who is not guiltless of Gloucester’s death), tries to pacify the two men, as does Gaunt, but neither of them is willing to appear a coward by taking back his challenge, and Richard is forced to set a date for the two to meet in combat. (207 lines)
Enter King Richard, John of Gaunt, with other Nobles and Attendants.
Old John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster,
Hast thou, according to thy oath and band,
Brought hither Henry Herford thy bold son,
Here to make good the boist’rous late appeal,
Which then our leisure would not let us hear,
Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
I have, my liege.
Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him,
If he appeal the Duke on ancient malice,
Or worthily, as a good subject should,
On some known ground of treachery in him?
As near as I could sift him on that argument,
On some apparent danger seen in him
Aim’d at your Highness, no inveterate malice.
Then call them to our presence; face to face,
And frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear
The accuser and the accused freely speak.
High-stomach’d are they both and full of ire,
In rage, deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.
Enter Bullingbrook and Mowbray with Attendants.
Many years of happy days befall
My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege!
Each day still better other’s happiness,
Until the heavens, envying earth’s good hap,
Add an immortal title to your crown!
We thank you both, yet one but flatters us,
As well appeareth by the cause you come:
Namely, to appeal each other of high treason.
Cousin of Herford, what dost thou object
Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?
First, heaven be the record to my speech,
In the devotion of a subject’s love,
Tend’ring the precious safety of my prince,
And free from other misbegotten hate,
Come I appellant to this princely presence.
Now, Thomas Mowbray, do I turn to thee,
And mark my greeting well; for what I speak
My body shall make good upon this earth,
Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.
Thou art a traitor and a miscreant,
Too good to be so, and too bad to live,
Since the more fair and crystal is the sky,
The uglier seem the clouds that in it fly.
Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
With a foul traitor’s name stuff I thy throat,
And wish (so please my sovereign) ere I move,
What my tongue speaks, my right drawn sword may prove.
Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal.
’Tis not the trial of a woman’s war,
The bitter clamor of two eager tongues,
Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain;
The blood is hot that must be cool’d for this.
Yet can I not of such tame patience boast
As to be hush’d and nought at all to say.
First, the fair reverence of your Highness curbs me
From giving reins and spurs to my free speech,
Which else would post until it had return’d
These terms of treason doubled down his throat.
Setting aside his high blood’s royalty,
And let him be no kinsman to my liege,
I do defy him, and I spit at him,
Call him a slanderous coward, and a villain,
Which to maintain I would allow him odds
And meet him, were I tied to run afoot
Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps,
Or any other ground inhabitable
Where ever Englishman durst set his foot.
Mean time, let this defend my loyalty:
By all my hopes, most falsely doth he lie.
Pale trembling coward, there I throw my gage,
Disclaiming here the kinred of the King,
And lay aside my high blood’s royalty,
Which fear, not reverence, makes thee to except.
If guilty dread have left thee so much strength
As to take up mine honor’s pawn, then stoop.
By that, and all the rites of knighthood else,
Will I make good against thee, arm to arm,
What I have spoke, or thou canst worse devise.
I take it up, and by that sword I swear
Which gently laid my knighthood on my shoulder,
I’ll answer thee in any fair degree
Or chivalrous design of knightly trial;
And when I mount, alive may I not light,
If I be traitor or unjustly fight!
What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray’s charge?
It must be great that can inherit us
So much as of a thought of ill in him.
Look what I speak, my life shall prove it true:
That Mowbray hath receiv’d eight thousand nobles
In name of lendings for your Highness’ soldiers,
The which he hath detain’d for lewd employments,
Like a false traitor and injurious villain;
Besides I say, and will in battle prove,
Or here or elsewhere to the furthest verge
That ever was surveyed by English eye,
That all the treasons for these eighteen years,
Complotted and contrived in this land,
Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and spring.
Further I say, and further will maintain
Upon his bad life to make all this good,
That he did plot the Duke of Gloucester’s death,
Suggest his soon-believing adversaries,
And consequently, like a traitor coward,
Sluic’d out his innocent soul through streams of blood,
Which blood, like sacrificing Abel’s, cries,
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth,
To me for justice and rough chastisement;
And, by the glorious worth of my descent,
This arm shall do it, or this life be spent.
How high a pitch his resolution soars!
Thomas of Norfolk, what say’st thou to this?
O, let my sovereign turn away his face,
And bid his ears a little while be deaf,
Till I have told this slander of his blood
How God and good men hate so foul a liar.
Mowbray, impartial are our eyes and ears.
Were he my brother, nay, my kingdom’s heir,
As he is but my father’s brother’s son,
Now by my sceptre’s awe I make a vow,
Such neighbor nearness to our sacred blood
Should nothing privilege him nor partialize
The unstooping firmness of my upright soul.
He is our subject, Mowbray; so art thou.
Free speech and fearless I to thee allow.
Then, Bullingbrook, as low as to thy heart
Through the false passage of thy throat thou liest.
Three parts of that receipt I had for Callice
Disburs’d I duly to his Highness’ soldiers;
The other part reserv’d I by consent,
For that my sovereign liege was in my debt,
Upon remainder of a dear account,
Since last I went to France to fetch his queen.
Now swallow down that lie. For Gloucester’s death,
I slew him not, but to my own disgrace
Neglected my sworn duty in that case.
For you, my noble Lord of Lancaster,
The honorable father to my foe,
Once did I lay an ambush for your life,
A trespass that doth vex my grieved soul;
But ere I last receiv’d the sacrament
I did confess it, and exactly begg’d
Your Grace’s pardon, and I hope I had it.
This is my fault. As for the rest appeal’d,
It issues from the rancor of a villain,
A recreant and most degenerate traitor,
Which in myself I boldly will defend,
And interchangeably hurl down my gage
Upon this overweening traitor’s foot,
To prove myself a loyal gentleman
Even in the best blood chamber’d in his bosom,
In haste whereof, most heartily I pray
Your Highness to assign our trial day.
Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be rul’d by me,
Let’s purge this choler without letting blood.
This we prescribe, though no physician;
Deep malice makes too deep incision.
Forget, forgive, conclude and be agreed,
Our doctors say this is no month to bleed.
Good uncle, let this end where it begun;
We’ll calm the Duke of Norfolk, you your son.
To be a make-peace shall become my age.
Throw down, my son, the Duke of Norfolk’s gage.
And, Norfolk, throw down his.
When, Harry? When?
Obedience bids I should not bid again.
Norfolk, throw down, we bid, there is no boot.
Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot,
My life thou shalt command, but not my shame:
The one my duty owes, but my fair name,
Despite of death that lives upon my grave,
To dark dishonor’s use thou shalt not have.
I am disgrac’d, impeach’d, and baffled here,
Pierc’d to the soul with slander’s venom’d spear,
The which no balm can cure but his heart-blood
Which breath’d this poison.
Rage must be withstood,
Give me his gage. Lions make leopards tame.
Yea, but not change his spots. Take but my shame,
And I resign my gage. My dear dear lord,
The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d-up chest
Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.
Mine honor is my life, both grow in one,
Take honor from me, and my life is done.
Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try;
In that I live, and for that will I die.
Cousin, throw up your gage, do you begin.
O, God defend my soul from such deep sin!
Shall I seem crestfallen in my father’s sight?
Or with pale beggar-fear impeach my height
Before this outdar’d dastard? Ere my tongue
Shall wound my honor with such feeble wrong,
Or sound so base a parley, my teeth shall tear
The slavish motive of recanting fear,
And spit it bleeding in his high disgrace,
Where shame doth harbor, even in Mowbray’s face.
We were not born to sue, but to command,
Which since we cannot do to make you friends,
Be ready, as your lives shall answer it,
At Coventry upon Saint Lambert’s day.
There shall your swords and lances arbitrate
The swelling difference of your settled hate.
Since we cannot atone you, we shall see
Justice design the victor’s chivalry.
Lord Marshal, command our officers-at-arms
Be ready to direct these home alarms.