(Sir Thomas More; Lieutenant; Servant; Lady More; Daughters; Master Roper)
The Lieutenant of the Tower tells More that the warrant for his execution has arrived, and that he is to die the next morning. Even now, More manages to joke, commenting on how he no longer needs to fear for his health nor need to bother (or pay) a doctor. Asking about Rochester, he is told that the Bishop was executed the day before. The Lieutenant is shocked to discover that More was an honest Chancellor, never taking bribes, and that he is therefore excessively poor. More’s family comes to say farewell, and he points out to them how much better circumstances are now than when he was Chancellor: he is not too busy to receive them. They beg him to give in, insisting that the King will pardon him if he only submits, even this late, but he is obdurate and will not. He gives his family one last homily, and blesses them, before they are forced to leave. (132 lines)
Enter Sir Thomas More, the Lieutenant, and a Servant attending, as in his chamber in the Tower.
Master Lieutenant, is the warrant come?
If it be so, a God’s name, let us know it.
My lord, it is.
’Tis welcome, sir, to me
With all my heart. His blessed will be done!
Your wisdom, sir, hath been so well approved,
And your fair patience in imprisonment
Hath ever shewn such constancy of mind
And Christian resolution in all troubles,
As warrant us you are not unprepared.
No, Master Lieutenant;
I thank my God, I have peace of conscience,
Though the world and I are at a little odds:
But we’ll be even now, I hope, ere long.
When is the execution of your warrant?
So, sir, I thank ye;
I have not lived so ill, I fear to die.
Master Lieutenant, I have had a sore fit of the stone tonight; but the
King hath sent me such a rare receipt, I thank him, as I shall not
Need to fear it much.
In life and death still merry Sir Thomas More.
Sirrah fellow, reach me the urinal:
He gives it him.
Ha! Let me see (there’s) gravel in the water;
(And yet I see no grave danger in that)
The man were likely to live long enough,
So pleased the king. Here, fellow, take it.
Shall I go with it to the doctor, sir?
No, save thy labor; we’ll cozen him of a fee:
Thou shalt see me take a dram tomorrow morning,
Shall cure the stone, I warrant; doubt it not.
Master Lieutenant, what news of my Lord of Rochester?
Yesterday morning was he put to death.
The peace of soul sleep with him!
He was a learned and a reverend prelate,
And a rich man, believe me.
If he were rich, what is Sir Thomas More,
That all this while hath been Lord Chancellor?
Say ye so, Master Lieutenant? What do ye think
A man, that with my time had held my place,
Perhaps, my lord, two thousand pound a year.
Master Lieutenant, I protest to you,
I never had the means in all my life
To purchase one poor hundred pound a year:
I think I am the poorest Chancellor
That ever was in England, though I could wish,
For credit of the place, that my estate were better.
It’s very strange.
It will be found as true.
I think, sir, that with most part of my coin
I have purchased as strange commodities
As ever you heard tell of in your life.
Commodities, my lord!
Might I (without offense) inquire of them?
Croutches, Master Lieutenant, and bare cloaks;
For halting soldiers and poor needy scholars
Have had my gettings in the Chancery:
To think but what a cheat the crown shall have
By my attainder! I prithee, if thou be’est a gentleman,
Get but a copy of my inventory.
That part of poet that was given me
Made me a very unthrift;
For this is the disease attends us all,
Poets were never thrifty, never shall.
Enter Lady More mourning, Daughters, Master Roper.
Oh, noble More!—
My lord, your wife, your son-in-law, and daughters.
Son Roper, welcome;—welcome, wife, and girls.
Why do you weep? Because I live at ease?
Did you not see, when I was Chancellor,
I was so clogged with suitors every hour,
I could not sleep, nor dine, nor sup in quiet?
Here’s none of this; here I can sit and talk
With my honest keeper half a day together,
Laugh and be merry. Why, then, should you weep?
These tears, my lord, for this your long restraint
Hope had dried up, with comfort that we yet,
Although imprisoned, might have had your life.
To live in prison, what a life were that!
The king (I thank him) loves me more then so.
Tomorrow I shall be at liberty
To go even whether I can,
After I have dispatched my business.
Ah, husband, husband, yet submit yourself!
Have care of your poor wife and children.
Wife, so I have; and I do leave you all
To his protection hath the power to keep you
Safer than I can,—
The father of the widow and the orphans.
The world, my lord, hath ever held you wise;
And ’t shall be no distaste unto your wisdom,
To yield to the opinion of the state.
I have deceived myself, I must acknowledge;
And, as you say, son Roper, to confess the same,
It will be no disparagement at all.
His highness shall be certified thereof
Offering to depart.
Nay, hear me, wife; first let me tell ye how:
I thought to have had a barber for my beard;
Now, I remember, that were labor lost,
The headsman now shall cut off head and all.
Father, his majesty, upon your meek submission,
Will yet (they say) receive you to his grace
In as great credit as you were before.
Has appointed me to do a little business.
If that were past, my girl, thou then shouldst see
What I would say to him about that matter;
But I shall be so busy until then,
I shall not tend it.
Ah, my dear father!
Dear lord and husband!
Be comforted, good wife, to live and love my children;
For with thee leave I all my care of them.
Son Roper, for my sake that have loved thee well,
And for her virtue’s sake, cherish my child.
Girl, be not proud, but of thy husband’s love;
Ever retain thy virtuous modesty;
That modesty is such a comely garment
As it is never out of fashion, sits as fair
Upon the meaner woman as the empress;
No stuff that gold can buy is half so rich,
Nor ornament that so becomes a woman.
Live all and love together, and thereby
You give your father a rich obsequy.
Your blessing, dear father.
I must be gone—God bless you!—
To talk with God, who now doth call.
Aye, my dear husband!
Sweet wife, good night, good night:
God send us all his everlasting light!
I think, before this hour,
More heavy hearts ne’er parted in the Tower.