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Sir Thomas More Scenes

Scene 5


(First Sheriff; Third Messenger; Officers; Lincoln; Doll; Clown; Williamson; Earl of Surrey)

A Sheriff is ordered to set up a gibbet here in Cheapside so that some of the rioters may be hanged there as well as at Tyburn — specifically, Lincoln and his fellow leaders. There are so many people crowding the street that it is difficult to get the condemned to the gallows. The Sheriff orders Lincoln to be hanged first; he accepts it as his due. Climbing the ladder, he makes a brave farewell speech protesting his loyalty to the King; then without needing to be pushed he jumps off himself and hangs. The Sheriff orders Williamson to be brought up next, but Doll begs to be hanged before her husband. She complains that More has not kept his word about obtaining their pardons. As she bravely bids farewell to all her friends, Surrey enters in a rush to announce that they have all been spared death, even Lincoln. Alas, it is too late to save Lincoln, but the others have been spared at More’s entreaty, who has been made Lord High Chancellor of England. Surrey lectures the pardoned rioters about the King’s goodness, and they all cheer the King, Surrey, and More. (174 lines)

Enter First Sheriff, and meet a Messenger.


Messenger, what news?

3. MESS.

Is execution yet performed?


Not yet; the carts stand ready at the stairs,

And they shall presently away to Tibourne.

3. MESS.

Stay, Master Sheriff; it is the council’s pleasure,

For more example in so bad a case,

A gibbet be erected in Cheapside,

Hard by the Standard; whether you must bring

Lincoln and those that were the chief with him,

Enter Officers.

To suffer death, and that immediately.


It shall be done, sir.

Exit Third Messenger.

—Officers, be speedy;

Call for a gibbet, see it be erected;

Others make haste to Newgate, bid them bring

The prisoners hither, for they here must die:

Away, I say, and see no time be slacked.


We go, sir.

Exit some severally; others set up the gibbet.


That’s well said, fellow; now you do your duty.

God for his pity help these troublous times!

The streets stopped up with gazing multitudes:

Command our armed officers with halberds

Make way for entrance of the prisoners;

Let proclamation once again be made.

That every householder, on pain of death,

Keep in his prentices, and every man

Stand with a weapon ready at his door,

As he will answer to the contrary.


I’ll see it done, sir.


Enter another Officer.


Bring them away to execution:

The writ is come above two hours since:

The city will be fined for this neglect.


There’s such a press and multitude at Newgate,

They cannot bring the carts onto the stairs,

To take the prisoners in.


Then let them come on foot;

We may not dally time with great command.


Some of the bench, sir, think it very fit

That stay be made, and give it out abroad

The execution is deferred till morning,

And, when the streets shall be a little cleared,

To chain them up, and suddenly dispatch it.


Stay; in meantime me thinks they come along:

See, they are coming. So, ’tis very well:

The prisoners are brought in, well guarded.

Bring Lincoln there the first unto the tree.


I, for I cry lug, sir.


I knew the first, sir, did belong to me:

This the old proverb now complete doth make,

That ‘Lincoln should be hanged for London’s sake.’

He goes up.

I’God’s name, let us to work. Fellow, dispatch:

I was the foremost man in this rebellion,

And I the foremost that must die for it.


Bravely, John Lincoln, let thy death express,

That, as thou liv’dst a man, thou diest no less.


Doll Williamson, thine eyes shall witness it.

Then to all you that come to view mine end

I must confess, I had no ill intent,

But against such as wronged us over much:

And now I can perceive it was not fit

That private men should carve out their redress,

Which way they list; no, learn it now by me,—

Obedience is the best in each degree:

And asking mercy meekly of my king,

I patiently submit me to the law;

But God forgive them that were cause of it!

And, as a Christian, truly from my heart

I likewise crave they would forgive me too

(As freely as I do forgive their wrong)

That others by example of the same

Henceforth be warned to attempt the like

’Gainst any alien that repaireth hither.

Fare ye well, all. The next time that we meet,

I trust in heaven we shall each other greet.

He leaps off.


Farewell, John Lincoln. Say all what they can,

Thou liv’dst a good fellow, and diedst an honest man.


Would I wear so fair on my journey! The first stretch is the worst, methinks.


Bring Williamson there forward.


Good Master Sheriff, I have an earnest suit,

And, as you are a man, deny’t me not.


Woman, what is it? Be it in my power,

Thou shalt obtain it.


Let me die next, sir; that is all I crave:

You know not what a comfort you shall bring

To my poor heart, to die before my husband.


Bring her to death; she shall have her desire.


Sir, and I have a suit for you too.


What is it?


That, as you have hanged Lincoln first, and will hang her next, so you will not hang me at all.


Nay, you set ope’ the Counter gates, and you must hang for the folly.


Well, then, so much for it!


Sir, your free bounty much contents my mind.

Commend me to that good Sheriff Master More,

And tell him, had’t not been for his persuasion,

John Lincoln had not hung here as he does:

We would first have locked us up in Leadenhall,

And there been burnt to ashes with the roof.


Woman, what Master More did was a subject’s duty,

And hath so pleased our gracious lord the king,

That he is hence removed to higher place,

And made of council to his majesty.


Well is he worthy of it, by my troth,

An honest, wise, well-spoken gentleman;

Yet would I praise his honesty much more,

If he had kept his word, and saved our lives:

But let that pass; men are but men, and so

Words are but words, and pays not what men owe.

You, husband, since perhaps the world may say

That through my means thou comest thus to thy end,

Here I begin this cup of death to thee,

Because thou shalt be sure to taste no worse

Than I have taken that must go before thee.

What though I be a woman? That’s no matter;

I do owe God a death, and I must pay him.

Husband, give me thy hand; be not dismayed;

This chair being chaired, then all our debt is paid.

Only two little babes we leave behind us,

And all I can bequeath them at this time

Is but the love of some good honest friend,

To bring them up in charitable sort:

What, masters! He goes upright that never halts,

And they may live to mend their parents’ faults.


Why, well said, wife; i’faith, thou cheerest my heart:

Give me thy hand; let’s kiss, and so let’s part.

He kisses her on the ladder.


The next kiss, Williamson, shall be in heaven.

Now cheerily, lads! George Betts, a hand with thee;

And thine too, Rafe, and thine, good honest Sherwin.

Now let me tell the women of this town,

No stranger yet brought Doll to lying down:

So long as I an Englishman can see,

Nor French nor Dutch shall get a kiss of me;

And when that I am dead, for me yet say,

I died in scorn to be a stranger’s prey.

A great shout and noise, cry within “Pardon, pardon, pardon, pardon! Room for the Earl of Surrey, room there, room!”

Enter Surrey.


Save the man’s life, if it be possible.


It is too late, my lord; he’s dead already.


I tell ye, Master Sheriff, you are too forward,

To make such haste with men unto their death;

I think your pains will merit little thanks,

Since that his highness is so merciful

As not to spill the blood of any subject.


My noble lord, would we so much had known!

The Councils’ warrant hastened our dispatch;

It had not else been done so suddenly.


Sir Thomas More humbly upon his knee

Did beg the lives of all, since on his word

They did so gently yield. The king hath granted it,

And made him Lord High Chancellor of England.

According as he worthily deserves.

Since Lincoln’s life cannot be had again,

Then for the rest, from my dread sovereign’s lips,

I here pronounce free pardon for them all.


God save the king, God save the king!

My good Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Surrey!

Flinging up caps.


And Doll desires it from her very heart,

More’s name may live for this right noble part;

And whensoere we talk of ill May day,

Praise More, whose honest words our falls did stay.


In hope his highness’ clemency and mercy,

Which in the arms of mild and meek compassion

Would rather clip you, as the loving nurse

Oft doth the wayward infant, then to leave you

To the sharp rod of justice, so to draw you

To shun such lewd assemblies as beget

Unlawful riots and such traitorous acts,

That, striking with the hand of private hate,

Maim your dear country with a public wound:—

Oh God, that Mercy, whose majestic brow

Should be unwrinkled, and that awful Justice,

Which looketh through a vail of sufferance

Upon the frailty of the multitude,

Should with the clamors of outrageous wrongs

Be stirred and wakened thus to punishment!—

But your deserved death he doth forgive:

Who gives you life, pray all he long may live.


God save the king! God save the king!

My good Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Surrey!



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