Prologue Scene 2
A bedchamber in the Lord’s house.
(Sly; First Servant; Second Servant; Third Servant; Lord; Page; Messenger)
The servants press around Sly, offering him rich people’s drink, food and clothes, but he vigorously denies he is a lord and insists he prefers beer to wine. As he goes through the details of his life, the servants pretend that this is merely the form his madness takes, and beg him to get better. As they offer to bring him anything he wants and list the various things he supposedly owns, Sly begins to be convinced. The Page enters dressed as a woman, and the servants have to teach Sly how a nobleman treats a noblewoman, since Sly cannot rise above his lower-class style. He tries to get his “wife” to go to bed with him, but the Page excuses “herself” on doctors’ orders. A Messenger arrives to announce the players, and Sly agrees to see their play — “The Taming of the Shrew”. (123 lines)
Enter aloft the drunkard Sly with Attendants, some with apparel, basin and ewer, and other appurtenances, and Lord.
For God’s sake, a pot of small ale.
Will’t please your lordship drink a cup of sack?
Will’t please your honor taste of these conserves?
What raiment will your honor wear today?
I am Christophero Sly, call not me honor nor lordship. I ne’er drank sack in my life; and if you give me any conserves, give me conserves of beef. Ne’er ask me what raiment I’ll wear, for I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet—nay, sometime more feet than shoes, or such shoes as my toes look through the overleather.
Heaven cease this idle humor in your honor!
O that a mighty man of such descent,
Of such possessions, and so high esteem,
Should be infused with so foul a spirit!
What, would you make me mad? Am not I Christopher Sly, old Sly’s son of Burton-heath, by birth a pedlar, by education a card-maker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present profession a tinker? Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of Wincot, if she know me not. If she say I am not fourteen pence on the score for sheer ale, score me up for the lying’st knave in Christendom. What! I am not bestraught. Here’s—
O, this it is that makes your lady mourn!
O, this is it that makes your servants droop!
Hence comes it that your kindred shuns your house,
As beaten hence by your strange lunacy.
O noble lord, bethink thee of thy birth,
Call home thy ancient thoughts from banishment,
And banish hence these abject lowly dreams.
Look how thy servants do attend on thee,
Each in his office ready at thy beck.
Wilt thou have music? Hark, Apollo plays,
And twenty caged nightingales do sing.
Or wilt thou sleep? We’ll have thee to a couch,
Softer and sweeter than the lustful bed
On purpose trimm’d up for Semiramis.
Say thou wilt walk; we will bestrow the ground.
Or wilt thou ride? Thy horses shall be trapp’d,
Their harness studded all with gold and pearl.
Dost thou love hawking? Thou hast hawks will soar
Above the morning lark. Or wilt thou hunt?
Thy hounds shall make the welkin answer them
And fetch shrill echoes from the hollow earth.
Say thou wilt course, thy greyhounds are as swift
As breathed stags; ay, fleeter than the roe.
Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee straight
Adonis painted by a running brook,
And Cytherea all in sedges hid,
Which seem to move and wanton with her breath,
Even as the waving sedges play with wind.
We’ll show thee Io as she was a maid,
And how she was beguiled and surpris’d,
As lively painted as the deed was done.
Or Daphne roaming through a thorny wood,
Scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds,
And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep,
So workmanly the blood and tears are drawn.
Thou art a lord, and nothing but a lord.
Thou hast a lady far more beautiful
Than any woman in this waning age.
And till the tears that she hath shed for thee
Like envious floods o’errun her lovely face,
She was the fairest creature in the world,
And yet she is inferior to none.
Am I a lord, and have I such a lady?
Or do I dream? Or have I dream’d till now?
I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak;
I smell sweet savors, and I feel soft things.
Upon my life, I am a lord indeed,
And not a tinker, nor Christopher Sly.
Well, bring our lady hither to our sight,
And once again a pot o’ th’ smallest ale.
Will’t please your mightiness to wash your hands?
O how we joy to see your wit restor’d!
O that once more you knew but what you are!
These fifteen years you have been in a dream,
Or when you wak’d, so wak’d as if you slept.
These fifteen years! By my fay, a goodly nap,
But did I never speak of all that time?
O yes, my lord, but very idle words,
For though you lay here in this goodly chamber,
Yet would you say ye were beaten out of door,
And rail upon the hostess of the house,
And say you would present her at the leet,
Because she brought stone jugs and no seal’d quarts.
Sometimes you would call out for Cicely Hacket.
Ay, the woman’s maid of the house.
Why, sir, you know no house nor no such maid,
Nor no such men as you have reckon’d up,
As Stephen Sly, and old John Naps of Greece,
And Peter Turph, and Henry Pimpernell,
And twenty more such names and men as these,
Which never were, nor no man ever saw.
Now Lord be thanked for my good amends!
Enter the Page as a lady, with Attendants.
I thank thee, thou shalt not lose by it.
How fares my noble lord?
Marry, I fare well, for here is cheer enough.
Where is my wife?
Here, noble lord, what is thy will with her?
Are you my wife and will not call me husband?
My men should call me “lord”; I am your goodman.
My husband and my lord, my lord and husband,
I am your wife in all obedience.
I know it well. What must I call her?
Al’ce madam, or Joan madam?
Madam, and nothing else, so lords call ladies.
Madam wife, they say that I have dream’d,
And slept above some fifteen year or more.
Ay, and the time seems thirty unto me,
Being all this time abandon’d from your bed.
’Tis much. Servants, leave me and her alone.
Madam, undress you, and come now to bed.
Thrice-noble lord, let me entreat of you
To pardon me yet for a night or two;
Or if not so, until the sun be set.
For your physicians have expressly charg’d,
In peril to incur your former malady,
That I should yet absent me from your bed.
I hope this reason stands for my excuse.
Ay, it stands so that I may hardly tarry so long. But I would be loath to fall into my dreams again. I will therefore tarry in despite of the flesh and the blood.
Enter a Messenger.
Your honor’s players, hearing your amendment,
Are come to play a pleasant comedy,
For so your doctors hold it very meet,
Seeing too much sadness hath congeal’d your blood,
And melancholy is the nurse of frenzy.
Therefore they thought it good you hear a play,
And frame your mind to mirth and merriment,
Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.
Marry, I will, let them play it. Is not a comonty a Christmas gambold, or a tumbling-trick?
No, my good lord, it is more pleasing stuff.
What, household stuff?
It is a kind of history.
Well, we’ll see’t. Come, madam wife, sit by my side, and let the world slip, we shall ne’er be younger.
They all sit. Flourish.