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K. John. O,where hath our intelligence been drunk? Where hath it slept 14 ? Where is my mother's care? That such an army could be drawn in France, And she not hear of it? Mess.

My liege, her ear Is stopp'd with dust; the first of April, died Your noble mother; And, as I hear, my lord, The Lady Constance in a frenzy died Three days before: but this from rumour's tongue I idly heard; if true, or false, I know not.

K. John. Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion ! 0, make a league with me, till I have pleas'd My discontented peers!—What! mother dead? How wildly then walks my estate in France 15!Under whose conduct came those

powers of France, That thou for truth giv'st out, are landed here?

Mess. Under the Dauphin.
Enter the Bastard and PETER of POMFRET.
K. John.

Thou hast made me giddy
With these ill tidings.—Now, what says the world
To your proceedings? do not seek to stuff
My head with more ill news, for it is full.
Bast. But, if


be afeard to hear the worst, Then let the worst, unheard, fall on your head.

K. John. Bear with me, cousin; for I was amaz'd 16 Under the tide: but now I breathe again Aloft the flood; and can give audience To any tongue, speak it of what it will. 14 So in Macbeth :

Was the hope drunk Wherein you drest yourself? hath it slept since?' 15 i. e. how ill my affairs go in France.

10 Astonied, stunned, confounded, are the ancient synonymes of amazed, obstupesco. So in Cymbeline :

I am amazed with matter.' And in the Merry Wives of Windsor :

You do amaze her, hear the truth of it.'

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Bast. How I have sped among the clergymen, The sums I have collected shall express. But, as I travelled hither through the land, I find the people strangely fantasied; Possess'd with rumours, full of idle dreams; Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear: And here's a prophet 17, that I brought with me

'rom forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found With many hundreds treading on his heels; To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rhymes, That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon, Your highness should deliver up your crown.

K.John. Thou idle dreamer,wherefore didst thou so? Peter. Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.

K. John. Hubert, away with him; imprison him; And on that day at noon, whereon, he says, I shall yield up my crown, let him be hang’d: Deliver him to safety 18, and return, For I must use thee.—O my gentle cousin,

[Erit HUBERT, with PETER. Hear'st thou the news abroad, who are arriv'd ? Bast. The French, my lord; men's mouths are

full of it: Besides, I met Lord Bigot, and Lord Salisbury (With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire), And others more, going to seek the

grave Of Arthur, who, they say, is kill'd to-night On your suggestion.

17 This man was a hermit in great repute with the common people. Notwithstanding the event is said to have fallen out as he prophesied, the poor fellow was inhumanly dragged at horses' tails through the streets of Warham, and, together with his son, who appears to have been even more innocent than his father, hanged afterwards upon a gibbet, Holinshed, in anno 1213.Speed says that Peter the hermit was suborned by the pope's legate, the French king, and the barons for this purpose.

18 i. e, to safe custody.

K. John.

Gentle kinsman, go,
And thrust thyself into their companies :
I have a way to win their loves again;
Bring them before me.

I will seek them out.
K. John. Nay, but make haste; the better foot

before. 0, let me have no subject enemies, When adverse foreigners affright my towns With dreadful pomp of stout invasion! Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels; And fly, like thought, from them to me again. Bast. The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.

[Exit. K. John. Spoke like a spriteful noble gentle


Go after him; for he, perhaps, shall need
Some messenger betwixt me and the peers;
And be thou he.
With all my heart, my liege.

[Exit. K. John. My mother dead!

Re-enter HUBERT. Hub. My lord, they say, five moons were seen

to-night: Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about The other four, in wondrous motion.

K. John. Five moons?

Hub. Old men, and beldams, in the streets Do prophesy upon it dangerously: Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths: And when they talk of him, they shake their heads, And whisper one another in the ear; And he, that speaks, doth gripe the hearer's wrist; Whilst he, that hears, makes fearful action,

With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes 19.
I saw a smith stand with his hammer thus,
The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;
Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
Standing on slippers (which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust upon contráry feet 20),
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
That were embattailed and rank’d in Kent:
Another lean unwash'd artificer
Cuts off his tale, and talks of Arthur's death.
K. John. Why seek'st thou to possess me with

these fears? Why urgest thou so oft


Arthur's death? Thy hand hath murder'd him: I had a mighty cause To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him. Hub. Had none, my lord! why, did you not pro

voke me? K. John. It is the curse of kings to be attended By slaves, that take their humours for a warrant To break within the bloody house of life: And, on the winking of authority, To understand a law; to know the meaning Of dangerous majesty, when, perchance, it frowns More upon

humour than advis'd respect 21 19 This may be compared with a spirited passage in Edward III. Capel's Prolusions, p. 75:


mouths and staring eyes,
Look on each other, as they did attend
Each other's words, and yet no creature speaks ;
A tongue-tied fear hath made a midnight hour,

And speeches sleep through all the waking region.' 20 This passage, which called forth the antiquarian knowledge of so many learned commentators, is now, from the return of the fashion of right and left shoes, become intelligible without a note. 21 Deliberate consideration. So in Hamlet:

There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.'


« Our men,

Hub. Here is your hand and seal for what I did. K. John. 0, when the last account 'twixt heaven

and earth Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal Witness against us to damnation ! How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds, Make deeds ill done! Hadest not thou been by, A fellow by the hand of nature mark’d, Quoted, and sign'd, to do a deed of shame, This murder had not come into


mind :
But, taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
Apt, liable, to be employ'd in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death;
And thou, to be endeared to a king,
Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.

Hub. My lord, --
K. John. Hadst thou but shook thy head, or made

a pause
When I spake darkly what I purposed;
Or turn’d an eye of doubt upon my face,



22 To quote is to note or mark. See Hamlet, Act ii. Sc. 1:

'I am sorry that with better heed and judgment

I had not quoted him. 23 There are many touches of nature in this conference of John with Hubert. A man engaged in wickedness would keep the profit to himself, and transfer the guilt to his accomplice. These reproaches vented against Hubert are not the words of art or policy, but the eruptions of a mind swelling with consciousness of a crime, and desirous of discharging its misery on another. This account of the timidity of guilt is drawn, ab ipsis recessibus mentis, from the intimate knowledge of mankind; particularly that line in which he says, that to have bid him tell his tale in express words would have struck him dumb : nothing is more certain than that bad men use all the arts of fallacy upon themselves, palliate their actions to their own minds by gentle terms, and hide themselves from their own detection in ambiguities and subterfuges.-Johnson.

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