Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Henry VIII.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth
Act III. Scene I.
The Palace at Bridewell.  A Room in the QUEEN’S Apartment.
The QUEEN and her Women at work.
  Q. Kath.  Take thy lute, wench: my soul grows sad with troubles;
Sing and disperse ’em, if thou canst. Leave working.
Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
  Bow themselves, when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
  There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
  Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
  Fall asleep, or hearing, die.
Enter a Gentleman.
  Q. Kath.  How now!
  Gent.  An ’t please your Grace, the two great cardinals
Wait in the presence.
  Q. Kath.        Would they speak with me?        10
  Gent.  They will’d me say so, madam.
  Q. Kath.        Pray their Graces
To come near.  [Exit Gentleman.]  What can be their business
With me, a poor weak woman, fall’n from favour?
I do not like their coming, now I think on ’t.        15
They should be good men, their affairs as righteous;
But all hoods make not monks.
  Wol.        Peace to your highness!
  Q. Kath.  Your Graces find me here part of a housewife,        20
I would be all, against the worst may happen.
What are your pleasures with me, reverend lords?
  Wol.  May it please you, noble madam, to withdraw
Into your private chamber, we shall give you
The full cause of our coming.        25
  Q. Kath.        Speak it here;
There’s nothing I have done yet, o’ my conscience,
Deserves a corner: would all other women
Could speak this with as free a soul as I do!
My lords, I care not—so much I am happy        30
Above a number—if my actions
Were tried by every tongue, every eye saw ’em,
Envy and base opinion set against ’em,
I know my life so even. If your business
Seek me out, and that way I am wife in,        35
Out with it boldly: truth loves open dealing.
  Wol.  Tanta est erga te mentis integritas, regina serenissima,
  Q. Kath.  O, good my lord, no Latin;
I am not such a truant since my coming
As not to know the language I have liv’d in:        40
A strange tongue makes my cause more strange, suspicious;
Pray, speak in English: here are some will thank you,
If you speak truth, for their poor mistress’ sake:
Believe me, she has had much wrong. Lord Cardinal,
The willing’st sin I ever yet committed        45
May be absolv’d in English.
  Wol.        Noble lady,
I am sorry my integrity should breed,—
And service to his majesty and you,—
So deep suspicion, where all faith was meant.        50
We come not by the way of accusation,
To taint that honour every good tongue blesses,
Nor to betray you any way to sorrow,
You have too much, good lady; but to know
How you stand minded in the weighty difference        55
Between the king and you; and to deliver,
Like free and honest men, our just opinions
And comforts to your cause.
  Cam.        Most honour’d madam,
My Lord of York, out of his noble nature,        60
Zeal and obedience he still bore your Grace,
Forgetting, like a good man, your late censure
Both of his truth and him,—which was too far,—
Offers, as I do, in sign of peace,
His service and his counsel.        65
  Q. Kath.        [Aside.]  To betray me.
My lords, I thank you both for your good wills;
Ye speak like honest men,—pray God, ye prove so!—
But how to make ye suddenly an answer,
In such a point of weight, so near mine honour,—        70
More near my life, I fear,—with my weak wit,
And to such men of gravity and learning,
In truth, I know not. I was set at work
Among my maids; full little, God knows, looking
Either for such men or such business.        75
For her sake that I have been,—for I feel
The last fit of my greatness,—good your Graces
Let me have time and counsel for my cause:
Alas! I am a woman, friendless, hopeless.
  Wol.  Madam, you wrong the king’s love with these fears:        80
Your hopes and friends are infinite.
  Q. Kath.        In England
But little for my profit. Can you think, lords,
That any Englishman dare give me counsel?
Or be a known friend, ’gainst his highness’ pleasure,—        85
Though he be grown so desperate to be honest,—
And live a subject? Nay, forsooth, my friends,
They that must weigh out my afflictions,
They that my trust must grow to, live not here:
They are, as all my other comforts, far hence        90
In mine own country, lords.
  Cam.        I would your Grace
Would leave your griefs, and take my counsel.
  Q Kath.        How, sir?
  Cam.  Put your main cause into the king’s protection;        95
He’s loving and most gracious: ’twill be much
Both for your honour better and your cause;
For if the trial of the law o’ertake ye,
You’ll part away disgrac’d.
  Wol.        He tells you rightly.        100
  Q. Kath.  Ye tell me what ye wish for both; my ruin.
Is this your Christian counsel? out upon ye!
Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge
That no king can corrupt.
  Cam.        Your rage mistakes us.        105
  Q. Kath.  The more shame for ye! holy men I thought ye,
Upon my soul, two reverend cardinal virtues;
But cardinal sins and hollow hearts I fear ye.
Mend ’em, for shame, my lords. Is this your comfort?
The cordial that ye bring a wretched lady,        110
A woman lost among ye, laugh’d at, scorn’d?
I will not wish ye half my miseries,
I have more charity; but say, I warn’d ye:
Take heed, for heaven’s sake, take heed, lest at once
The burden of my sorrows fall upon ye.        115
  Wol.  Madam, this is a mere distraction;
You turn the good we offer into envy.
  Q. Kath.  Ye turn me into nothing: woe upon ye,
And all such false professors! Would ye have me,—
If ye have any justice, any pity;        120
If ye be anything but churchmen’s habits,—
Put my sick cause into his hands that hates me?
Alas! he has banish’d me his bed already,
His love, too long ago! I am old, my lords,
And all the fellowship I hold now with him        125
Is only my obedience. What can happen
To me above this wretchedness? all your studies
Make me a curse like this.
  Cam.        Your fears are worse.
  Q. Kath.  Have I liv’d thus long—let me speak myself,        130
Since virtue finds no friends—a wife, a true one?
A woman, I dare say without vain-glory,
Never yet branded with suspicion?
Have I with, all my full affections
Still met the king? lov’d him next heaven? obey’d him?        135
Been, out of fondness, superstitious to him?
Almost forgot my prayers to content him?
And am I thus rewarded? ’tis not well, lords.
Bring me a constant woman to her husband,
One that ne’er dream’d a joy beyond his pleasure,        140
And to that woman, when she has done most,
Yet will I add an honour, a great patience.
  Wol.  Madam, you wander from the good we aim at.
  Q. Kath.  My lord, I dare not make myself so guilty,
To give up willingly that noble title        145
Your master wed me to: nothing but death
Shall e’er divorce my dignities.
  Wol.        Pray hear me.
  Q. Kath.  Would I had never trod this English earth,
Or felt the flatteries that grow upon it!        150
Ye have angels’ faces, but heaven knows your hearts.
What will become of me now, wretched lady?
I am the most unhappy woman living.
[To her women.]  Alas! poor wenches, where are now your fortunes?
Shipwrack’d upon a kingdom, where no pity,        155
No friends, no hope; no kindred weep for me;
Almost no grave allow’d me. Like the lily,
That once was mistress of the field and flourish’d,
I’ll hang my head and perish.
  Wol.        If your Grace        160
Could but be brought to know our ends are honest,
You’d feel more comfort. Why should we, good lady,
Upon what cause, wrong you? alas! our places,
The way of our profession is against it:
We are to cure such sorrows, not to sow them.        165
For goodness’ sake, consider what you do;
How you may hurt yourself, ay, utterly
Grow from the king’s acquaintance, by this carriage.
The hearts of princes kiss obedience,
So much they love it; but to stubborn spirits        170
They swell, and grow as terrible as storms.
I know you have a gentle, noble temper,
A soul as even as a calm: pray think us
Those we profess, peace-makers, friends, and servants.
  Cam.  Madam, you’ll find it so. You wrong your virtues        175
With these weak women’s fears: a noble spirit,
As yours was put into you, ever casts
Such doubts, as false coin, from it. The king loves you;
Beware you lose it not: for us, if you please
To trust us in your business, we are ready        180
To use our utmost studies in your service.
  Q. Kath.  Do what ye will, my lords: and, pray, forgive me
If I have us’d myself unmannerly.
You know I am a woman, lacking wit
To make a seemly answer to such persons.        185
Pray do my service to his majesty:
He has my heart yet; and shall have my prayers
While I shall have my life. Come, reverend fathers,
Bestow your counsels on me: she now begs
That little thought, when she set footing here,        190
She should have bought her dignities so dear.  [Exeunt.

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