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King Henry VI, Part 2: Act 2 Scene 4
Scene IV A street.
- [Enter GLOUCESTER and his Servingmen, in
- mourning cloaks]
- Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
- And after summer evermore succeeds
- Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:
- So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.
- Sirs, what's o'clock?
- Ten, my lord.
- Ten is the hour that was appointed me
- To watch the coming of my punish'd duchess:
- Uneath may she endure the flinty streets,
- To tread them with her tender-feeling feet.
- Sweet Nell, ill can thy noble mind abrook
- The abject people gazing on thy face,
- With envious looks, laughing at thy shame,
- That erst did follow thy proud chariot-wheels
- When thou didst ride in triumph through the streets.
- But, soft! I think she comes; and I'll prepare
- My tear-stain'd eyes to see her miseries.
- [Enter the DUCHESS in a white sheet, and a taper
- burning in her hand; with STANLEY, the Sheriff,
- and Officers]
- So please your grace, we'll take her from the sheriff.
- No, stir not, for your lives; let her pass by.
- Come you, my lord, to see my open shame?
- Now thou dost penance too. Look how they gaze!
- See how the giddy multitude do point,
- And nod their heads, and throw their eyes on thee!
- Ah, Gloucester, hide thee from their hateful looks,
- And, in thy closet pent up, rue my shame,
- And ban thine enemies, both mine and thine!
- Be patient, gentle Nell; forget this grief.
- Ah, Gloucester, teach me to forget myself!
- For whilst I think I am thy married wife
- And thou a prince, protector of this land,
- Methinks I should not thus be led along,
- Mail'd up in shame, with papers on my back,
- And followed with a rabble that rejoice
- To see my tears and hear my deep-fet groans.
- The ruthless flint doth cut my tender feet,
- And when I start, the envious people laugh
- And bid me be advised how I tread.
- Ah, Humphrey, can I bear this shameful yoke?
- Trow'st thou that e'er I'll look upon the world,
- Or count them happy that enjoy the sun?
- No; dark shall be my light and night my day;
- To think upon my pomp shall be my hell.
- Sometime I'll say, I am Duke Humphrey's wife,
- And he a prince and ruler of the land:
- Yet so he ruled and such a prince he was
- As he stood by whilst I, his forlorn duchess,
- Was made a wonder and a pointing-stock
- To every idle rascal follower.
- But be thou mild and blush not at my shame,
- Nor stir at nothing till the axe of death
- Hang over thee, as, sure, it shortly will;
- For Suffolk, he that can do all in all
- With her that hateth thee and hates us all,
- And York and impious Beaufort, that false priest,
- Have all limed bushes to betray thy wings,
- And, fly thou how thou canst, they'll tangle thee:
- But fear not thou, until thy foot be snared,
- Nor never seek prevention of thy foes.
- Ah, Nell, forbear! thou aimest all awry;
- I must offend before I be attainted;
- And had I twenty times so many foes,
- And each of them had twenty times their power,
- All these could not procure me any scathe,
- So long as I am loyal, true and crimeless.
- Wouldst have me rescue thee from this reproach?
- Why, yet thy scandal were not wiped away
- But I in danger for the breach of law.
- Thy greatest help is quiet, gentle Nell:
- I pray thee, sort thy heart to patience;
- These few days' wonder will be quickly worn.
- [Enter a Herald]
- I summon your grace to his majesty's parliament,
- Holden at Bury the first of this next month.
- And my consent ne'er ask'd herein before!
- This is close dealing. Well, I will be there.
- [Exit Herald]
- My Nell, I take my leave: and, master sheriff,
- Let not her penance exceed the king's commission.
- An't please your grace, here my commission stays,
- And Sir John Stanley is appointed now
- To take her with him to the Isle of Man.
- Must you, Sir John, protect my lady here?
- So am I given in charge, may't please your grace.
- Entreat her not the worse in that I pray
- You use her well: the world may laugh again;
- And I may live to do you kindness if
- You do it her: and so, Sir John, farewell!
- What, gone, my lord, and bid me not farewell!
- Witness my tears, I cannot stay to speak.
- [Exeunt GLOUCESTER and Servingmen]
- Art thou gone too? all comfort go with thee!
- For none abides with me: my joy is death;
- Death, at whose name I oft have been afear'd,
- Because I wish'd this world's eternity.
- Stanley, I prithee, go, and take me hence;
- I care not whither, for I beg no favour,
- Only convey me where thou art commanded.
- Why, madam, that is to the Isle of Man;
- There to be used according to your state.
- That's bad enough, for I am but reproach:
- And shall I then be used reproachfully?
- Like to a duchess, and Duke Humphrey's lady;
- According to that state you shall be used.
- Sheriff, farewell, and better than I fare,
- Although thou hast been conduct of my shame.
- It is my office; and, madam, pardon me.
- Ay, ay, farewell; thy office is discharged.
- Come, Stanley, shall we go?
- Madam, your penance done, throw off this sheet,
- And go we to attire you for our journey.
- My shame will not be shifted with my sheet:
- No, it will hang upon my richest robes
- And show itself, attire me how I can.
- Go, lead the way; I long to see my prison.