Milan. An anteroom in the Duke’s palace.
(Duke; Thurio; Proteus; Valentine; Launce; Speed)
Proteus informs on Valentine to the Duke, who is glad to have confirmation of his suspicions about Valentine. Proteus even mentions the plot of eloping with the help of a rope ladder. He begs the Duke not to let Valentine know how he found out, and the Duke promises. Proteus leaves and the Duke calls Valentine aside as he passes by. He mentions his intent to marry Silvia to Thurio, and Valentine praises his rival as well worthy of Silvia’s hand. However, the Dike points out that his daughter will have none of him, and claims that he has decided to marry again and to leave Silvia without a dowry. However, he needs to ask the younger man’s advice on how to go about courting the lady. Valentine offers him advice drawn from his own life, even suggesting that the Duke and the lady elope by night with a rope ladder. He offers to get the Duke such a ladder, that he can hide under his cloak; the duke asks to borrow Valentine’s cloak for the purpose, and manages to find the ladder that Valentine is already carrying and a love letter to Silvia promising to take her away that night. The furious Duke banishes Valentine. Launce and Proteus join the disconsolate Valentine, telling him that Silvia has begged for the Duke to repeal his sentence, but he is obdurate and swears that Valentine will die if he is caught within Milanese territory, and has had Silvia imprisoned. Proteus persuades Valentine that leaving is the best solution, as things may get better. Launce reflects that Proteus is a knave, but is soon distracted by his own love for a maid, whose qualities he has listed on a paper. Speed comes in and insists on knowing what’s on the paper; they discuss love and women and the particular woman Launce is in love Speed. Speed mocks Launce a great deal, but Launce gets his revenge by not telling Speed that Valentine has been waiting for him at the North Gate that he’ll have to run to catch up to him. (325 lines)
Enter Duke, Thurio, Proteus.
Sir Thurio, give us leave, I pray, a while,
We have some secrets to confer about.
Now tell me, Proteus, what’s your will with me?
My gracious lord, that which I would discover
The law of friendship bids me to conceal,
But when I call to mind your gracious favors
Done to me (undeserving as I am),
My duty pricks me on to utter that
Which else no worldly good should draw from me.
Know, worthy prince, Sir Valentine, my friend,
This night intends to steal away your daughter;
Myself am one made privy to the plot.
I know you have determin’d to bestow her
On Thurio, whom your gentle daughter hates,
And should she thus be stol’n away from you,
It would be much vexation to your age.
Thus, for my duty’s sake, I rather chose
To cross my friend in his intended drift,
Than, by concealing it, heap on your head
A pack of sorrows which would press you down,
Being unprevented, to your timeless grave.
Proteus, I thank thee for thine honest care,
Which to requite, command me while I live.
This love of theirs myself have often seen,
Haply when they have judg’d me fast asleep,
And oftentimes have purpos’d to forbid
Sir Valentine her company and my court;
But fearing lest my jealous aim might err,
And so, unworthily, disgrace the man
(A rashness that I ever yet have shunn’d),
I gave him gentle looks, thereby to find
That which thyself hast now disclos’d to me.
And that thou mayst perceive my fear of this,
Knowing that tender youth is soon suggested,
I nightly lodge her in an upper tow’r,
The key whereof myself have ever kept;
And thence she cannot be convey’d away.
Know, noble lord, they have devis’d a mean
How he her chamber-window will ascend,
And with a corded ladder fetch her down;
For which the youthful lover now is gone,
And this way comes he with it presently,
Where (if it please you) you may intercept him.
But, good my lord, do it so cunningly
That my discovery be not aimed at:
For love of you, not hate unto my friend,
Hath made me publisher of this pretense.
Upon mine honor, he shall never know
That I had any light from thee of this.
Adieu, my lord, Sir Valentine is coming.
Sir Valentine, whither away so fast?
Please it your Grace, there is a messenger
That stays to bear my letters to my friends,
And I am going to deliver them.
Be they of much import?
The tenure of them doth but signify
My health and happy being at your court.
Nay then no matter; stay with me a while;
I am to break with thee of some affairs
That touch me near, wherein thou must be secret.
’Tis not unknown to thee that I have sought
To match my friend Sir Thurio to my daughter.
I know it well, my lord, and sure the match
Were rich and honorable; besides, the gentleman
Is full of virtue, bounty, worth, and qualities
Beseeming such a wife as your fair daughter.
Cannot your Grace win her to fancy him?
No, trust me, she is peevish, sullen, froward,
Proud, disobedient, stubborn, lacking duty,
Neither regarding that she is my child,
Nor fearing me as if I were her father;
And may I say to thee, this pride of hers
(Upon advice) hath drawn my love from her,
And where I thought the remnant of mine age
Should have been cherish’d by her child-like duty,
I now am full resolv’d to take a wife,
And turn her out to who will take her in:
Then let her beauty be her wedding-dow’r,
For me and my possessions she esteems not.
What would your Grace have me to do in this?
There is a lady in Milano here
Whom I affect; but she is nice and coy,
And nought esteems my aged eloquence.
Now therefore would I have thee to my tutor
(For long agone I have forgot to court;
Besides, the fashion of the time is chang’d)
How and which way I may bestow myself
To be regarded in her sun-bright eye.
Win her with gifts, if she respect not words:
Dumb jewels often in their silent kind
More than quick words do move a woman’s mind.
But she did scorn a present that I sent her.
A woman sometime scorns what best contents her.
Send her another; never give her o’er,
For scorn at first makes after-love the more.
If she do frown, ’tis not in hate of you,
But rather to beget more love in you.
If she do chide, ’tis not to have you gone,
For why, the fools are mad, if left alone.
Take no repulse, what ever she doth say;
For “get you gone,” she doth not mean “away!”
Flatter and praise, commend, extol their graces;
Though ne’er so black, say they have angels’ faces.
That man that hath a tongue, I say is no man,
If with his tongue he cannot win a woman.
But she I mean is promis’d by her friends
Unto a youthful gentleman of worth,
And kept severely from resort of men,
That no man hath access by day to her.
Why then I would resort to her by night.
Ay, but the doors be lock’d, and keys kept safe,
That no man hath recourse to her by night.
What lets but one may enter at her window?
Her chamber is aloft, far from the ground,
And built so shelving that one cannot climb it
Without apparent hazard of his life.
Why then a ladder, quaintly made of cords,
To cast up, with a pair of anchoring hooks,
Would serve to scale another Hero’s tow’r,
So bold Leander would adventure it.
Now as thou art a gentleman of blood,
Advise me where I may have such a ladder.
When would you use it? Pray, sir, tell me that.
This very night; for Love is like a child,
That longs for every thing that he can come by.
By seven a’ clock I’ll get you such a ladder.
But hark thee: I will go to her alone.
How shall I best convey the ladder thither?
It will be light, my lord, that you may bear it
Under a cloak that is of any length.
A cloak as long as thine will serve the turn?
Ay, my good lord.
Then let me see thy cloak—
I’ll get me one of such another length.
Why, any cloak will serve the turn, my lord.
How shall I fashion me to wear a cloak?
I pray thee let me feel thy cloak upon me.
What letter is this same? What’s here? “To Silvia”?
And here an engine fit for my proceeding!
I’ll be so bold to break the seal for once.
“My thoughts do harbor with my Silvia nightly,
And slaves they are to me that send them flying:
O, could their master come and go as lightly,
Himself would lodge where, senseless, they are lying!
My herald thoughts in thy pure bosom rest them,
While I, their king, that thither them importune,
Do curse the grace that with such grace hath blest them,
Because myself do want my servants’ fortune.
I curse myself, for they are sent by me,
That they should harbor where their lord should be.”
“Silvia, this night I will enfranchise thee.”
’Tis so; and here’s the ladder for the purpose.
Why, Phaëton (for thou art Merops’ son),
Wilt thou aspire to guide the heavenly car,
And with thy daring folly burn the world?
Wilt thou reach stars, because they shine on thee?
Go, base intruder, overweening slave,
Bestow thy fawning smiles on equal mates,
And think my patience (more than thy desert)
Is privilege for thy departure hence.
Thank me for this more than for all the favors
Which (all too much) I have bestowed on thee.
But if thou linger in my territories
Longer than swiftest expedition
Will give thee time to leave our royal court,
By heaven, my wrath shall far exceed the love
I ever bore my daughter, or thyself.
Be gone, I will not hear thy vain excuse,
But as thou lov’st thy life, make speed from hence.
And why not death, rather than living torment?
To die is to be banish’d from myself,
And Silvia is myself: banish’d from her
Is self from self, a deadly banishment.
What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?
What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?
Unless it be to think that she is by,
And feed upon the shadow of perfection.
Except I be by Silvia in the night,
There is no music in the nightingale;
Unless I look on Silvia in the day,
There is no day for me to look upon.
She is my essence, and I leave to be,
If I be not by her fair influence
Foster’d, illumin’d, cherish’d, kept alive.
I fly not death, to fly his deadly doom:
Tarry I here, I but attend on death,
But fly I hence, I fly away from life.
Enter Proteus and Launce.
Run, boy, run, run, and seek him out.
What seest thou?
Him we go to find. There’s not a hair on ’s head but ’tis a Valentine.
Who then? His spirit?
Can nothing speak? Master, shall I strike?
Who wouldst thou strike?
Why, sir, I’ll strike nothing. I pray you—
Sirrah, I say forbear. Friend Valentine, a word.
My ears are stopp’d and cannot hear good news,
So much of bad already hath possess’d them.
Then in dumb silence will I bury mine,
For they are harsh, untuneable, and bad.
Is Silvia dead?
No Valentine indeed, for sacred Silvia.
Hath she forsworn me?
No Valentine, if Silvia have forsworn me. What is your news?
Sir, there is a proclamation that you are vanish’d.
That thou art banish’d—O, that’s the news!—
From hence, from Silvia, and from me thy friend.
O, I have fed upon this woe already,
And now excess of it will make me surfeit.
Doth Silvia know that I am banished?
Ay, ay; and she hath offered to the doom
(Which unrevers’d stands in effectual force)
A sea of melting pearl, which some call tears;
Those at her father’s churlish feet she tender’d,
With them, upon her knees, her humble self,
Wringing her hands, whose whiteness so became them
As if but now they waxed pale for woe:
But neither bended knees, pure hands held up,
Sad sighs, deep groans, nor silver-shedding tears
Could penetrate her uncompassionate sire;
But Valentine, if he be ta’en, must die.
Besides, her intercession chaf’d him so,
When she for thy repeal was suppliant,
That to close prison he commanded her,
With many bitter threats of biding there.
No more; unless the next word that thou speak’st
Have some malignant power upon my life;
If so—I pray thee breathe it in mine ear,
As ending anthem of my endless dolor.
Cease to lament for that thou canst not help,
And study help for that which thou lament’st.
Time is the nurse and breeder of all good.
Here if thou stay, thou canst not see thy love;
Besides, thy staying will abridge thy life.
Hope is a lover’s staff; walk hence with that
And manage it against despairing thoughts.
Thy letters may be here, though thou art hence,
Which, being writ to me, shall be deliver’d
Even in the milk-white bosom of thy love.
The time now serves not to expostulate:
Come, I’ll convey thee through the city-gate;
And ere I part with thee, confer at large
Of all that may concern thy love-affairs.
As thou lov’st Silvia (though not for thyself)
Regard thy danger, and along with me.
I pray thee, Launce, and if thou seest my boy,
Bid him make haste and meet me at the North-gate.
Go, sirrah, find him out. Come, Valentine.
O my dear Silvia! Hapless Valentine!
Exeunt Valentine and Proteus.
I am but a fool, look you, and yet I have the wit to think my master is a kind of a knave; but that’s all one, if he be but one knave. He lives not now that knows me to be in love, yet I am in love, but a team of horse shall not pluck that from me; nor who ’tis I love; and yet ’tis a woman; but what woman, I will not tell myself; and yet ’tis a milkmaid; yet ’tis not a maid, for she hath had gossips; yet ’tis a maid, for she is her master’s maid, and serves for wages. She hath more qualities than a water-spaniel, which is much in a bare Christian.
Pulling out a paper.
Here is the cate-log of her condition. “Imprimis, She can fetch and carry.” Why, a horse can do no more; nay, a horse cannot fetch, but only carry, therefore is she better than a jade. “Item, She can milk.” Look you, a sweet virtue in a maid with clean hands.
How now, Signior Launce? What news with your mastership?
With my master’s ship? Why, it is at sea.
Well, your old vice still: mistake the word. What news then in your paper?
The blackest news that ever thou heardst.
Why, man? How black?
Why, as black as ink.
Let me read them.
Fie on thee, jolthead, thou canst not read.
Thou liest; I can.
I will try thee. Tell me this: who begot thee?
Marry, the son of my grandfather.
O illiterate loiterer! It was the son of thy grandmother. This proves that thou canst not read.
Come, fool, come; try me in thy paper.
There—and Saint Nicholas be thy speed!
“Imprimis, She can milk.”
Ay, that she can.
“Item, She brews good ale.”
And thereof comes the proverb: “Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale.”
“Item, She can sew.”
That’s as much as to say, “Can she so?”
“Item, She can knit.”
What need a man care for a stock with a wench, when she can knit him a stock?
“Item, She can wash and scour.”
A special virtue; for then she need not be wash’d and scour’d.
“Item, She can spin.”
Then may I set the world on wheels, when she can spin for her living.
“Item, She hath many nameless virtues.”
That’s as much as to say “bastard virtues,” that indeed know not their fathers, and therefore have no names.
Here follow her vices.
Close at the heels of her virtues.
“Item, She is not to be kiss’d fasting, in respect of her breath.”
Well, that fault may be mended with a breakfast. Read on.
“Item, She hath a sweet mouth.”
That makes amends for her sour breath.
“Item, She doth talk in her sleep.”
It’s no matter for that, so she sleep not in her talk.
“Item, She is slow in words.”
O villain, that set this down among her vices! To be slow in words is a woman’s only virtue. I pray thee out with’t, and place it for her chief virtue.
“Item, She is proud.”
Out with that too; it was Eve’s legacy, and cannot be ta’en from her.
“Item, She hath no teeth.”
I care not for that neither, because I love crusts.
“Item, She is curst.”
Well, the best is, she hath no teeth to bite.
“Item, She will often praise her liquor.”
If her liquor be good, she shall; if she will not, I will; for good things should be prais’d.
“Item, She is too liberal.”
Of her tongue she cannot, for that’s writ down she is slow of; of her purse she shall not, for that I’ll keep shut. Now, of another thing she may, and that cannot I help. Well, proceed.
“Item, She hath more hair than wit, and more faults than hairs, and more wealth than faults.”
Stop there; I’ll have her. She was mine and not mine twice or thrice in that last article. Rehearse that once more.
“Item, She hath more hair than wit”—
More hair than wit? It may be; I’ll prove it: the cover of the salt hides the salt, and therefore it is more than the salt; the hair that covers the wit is more than the wit, for the greater hides the less. What’s next?
“And more faults than hairs”—
That’s monstrous. O that that were out!
“And more wealth than faults.”
Why, that word makes the faults gracious. Well, I’ll have her; and if it be a match, as nothing is impossible—
Why, then will I tell thee—that thy master stays for thee at the North-gate.
For thee? Ay, who art thou? He hath stay’d for a better man than thee.
And must I go to him?
Thou must run to him, for thou hast stay’d so long that going will scarce serve the turn.
Why didst not tell me sooner? Pox of your love-letters!
Now will he be swing’d for reading my letter—an unmannerly slave, that will thrust himself into secrets. I’ll after, to rejoice in the boy’s correction.