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Can you not read it ? is it not fair writ
Arth. Too fairly Hubert, for so foul effect :
Must you with hot irons burn out both mine eyes ?
Hub. Young boy, I must.
And will you ?
And I will.
Arth. Have you the heart ? When your head did but ache,
I knit my hand-kercher about your brows,
(The best I had, a princess wrought it me,)
And I did never ask it you again :
And with my hand at midnight held your head ;
And, like the watchful minutes to the hour,
Still and anon cheer'd up the heavy time;
Saying, What lack you ? and, Where lies your grief?
Or, What good love may I perform for you?
Many a poor man's son would have lain still,
And ne'er have spoke a loving word to you ;
But you at your sick service had a prince.
Nay, you may think my love was crafty love,
And call it cunning ; do, an if you will :
If heaven be pleas'd that you must use me ill,
Why, then you must,—Will you put out mine eyes ?
These eyes, that never did, nor never shall,
So much as frown on you ?
I have sworn to do it
And with hot irons must I burn them out.
Arth. Ah, none, but in this iron age, would do it !
The iron of itself, though heat red-hot,
Approaching near these eyes, would drink my tears,
And quench his fiery indignation,
Even in the matter of mine innocence ;
Nay, after that, consume away in rust,
But for containing fire to harm mine eye.
Are you more stubborn-hard than hammer'd iron ?
An if an angel should have come to me,
And told me, Hubert should put out mine eyes,
I would not have believ'd him. No tongue but Hubert's
Hub. Come forth.
Re-enter Attendants, with Cords, Irons, &c. Do as I bid you do.
Arth. O, save me, Hubert, save me! my eyes are out, Even with the fierce looks of these bloody men,
Hub. Give me the iron, I say, and bind him here.
Arth. Alas, what need you be so boist'rous-rough ?
I will not struggle, I will stand stone-still.
For heaven sake, Hubert, let me not be bound !
Nay, hear me, Hubert ! drive these men away
And I will sit as quiet as a lamb
I will not stir, nor wince, nor speak a word,
Nor look upon the iron angerly:
Thrust but these men away, and I'll forgive you,
Whatever torment, you do put me to.
Hub, Go, stand within ; let me alone with him.
First Attend. I am best pleas'd to be from such a deed.
Arth. Alas! I then have chid away my friend ;
He hath a stern look, but a gentle beart :-
Let him come back, that his compassion may
Give life to yours.
Come, boy, prepare yourself.
Arth. Is there no remedy?
None, but to lose your eyes.
Arth. O heaven !—that there were but a mote in yours,
A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair,
Any annoyance in that precious sense!
Then, feeling what small things are boist'rous there,
Your vile intent must needs seem horrible.
Hub. Is this your promise ? go to, hold your tongue.
Arth. Hubert, the utterance of a brace of tongues
Must needs want pleading for a pair of eyes:
Let me not hold my tongue ! let me not, Hubert !
Or, Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,
So I may keep mine eyes. O, spare mine eyes ;
Though to no use, but still to look on you !
Lo, by my troth, the instrument is cold,
And would not harm me.
I can heat it, boy.
Arth. No, in good sooth; the fire is dead with grief,
Being create for comfort, to be us'd
In undeserv'd extremes : See else yourself!
There is no malice in this burning coal ;
The breath of heaven hath blown his spirit out,
And strew'd repentant ashes on his head.
Hub. But with my breath I can revive it, boy.
Arth. And if you do, you will but make it blush,
And glow with shame of your proceedings, Hubert.
Nay, it, perchance, will sparkle in your eyes ;
And, like a dog that is compellid to fight,
Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on.
All things that you should use to do me wrong
Deny their office ; only you do lack
That mercy which fierce fire and iron extend,
Creatures of note for mercy-lacking uses.
Hub. Well, see to live; I will not touch thine eyes
For all the treasure that thine uncle owes :
Yet am I sworn, and I did purpose, boy,
With this same very iron to burn them out.
Arth. O, now you look like Hubert ! all this while
You were disguised.
Peace : no more. Adieu ;
Your uncle must not know but you are dead :
I'll fill these dogged spies with false reports,
And, pretty child, sleep doubtless, and secure,
That Hubert, for the wealth of all the world,
Will not offend thee.
O heaven !—I thank you, Hubert.
Hub. Silence ; no more : Go closely in with me.
Much danger do I undergo for thee.
SCENE III.—John and Hubert.
Hub. My lord, they say five moons were seen to-nighc
Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about
The other four in wondrous motion,
K. John. Five moons ?
Old men, and beldames, in the streets
Du prophesy upon it dangerously :
Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths :
And when they taik of him, they shake their heads,
And whisper one another in the ear;
And he that speaks doth gripe the hearer's wrist ;
While he that hears makes fearful action,
With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
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 contrary feet,)
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
That were embattled 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 young Arthur's death ?
Thy hand hath murther'd him: I had a mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou had'st none to kill him.
Hub. None had, my lord ! why, did you not provoke 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.
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
Makes ill deeds done! Hadst thou not been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd,
Quoted, and sign’d, to do a deed of shame,
This murther had not come into my mind
But, taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villainy,
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,
As bid me tell my tale in express words,
Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,
And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:
But thou didst understand me by my signs,
And didst in signs again parley with sin ;
Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
And, consequently, thy rude hand to act
The deed, which both our tongues held vile to name.
Out of my sight, and never see me more !
My nobles leave me ; and my state is bravid,
Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers :
Nay, in the body of this fleshy land,
This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
Hostility and civil tumult reigns
Between my conscience and my cousin's death.
Hub. Arm you against your other enemies,
I'll make a peace between your soul and you.
Young Arthur is alive: This hand of mine
Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand,
Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.
Within this bosom never enter'd yet
The dreadful motion of a murtherous thought;
And you have slander'd nature in my form,
Which, howsoever rude exteriorly,
Is yet the cover of a fairer mind
Than to be butcher of an innocent child.
K. John. Doth Arthur live? O, haste thee to the peers,
Throw this report on their incensed rage,
And make them tame to their obedience !
Forgive the comment that my passion made
Upon thy feature ; for my rage was blind,
And foul imaginary eyes of blood
Presented thee more hideous than thou art.
O, answer not ; but to my closet bring
The angry lords, with all expedient haste ;
I conjure thee but slowly : run more fast.
SCENE IV.-Enter Arthur, on the Walls.
Arth. The wall is high ; and yet will I leap down :-
Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not !
There's few, or none, do know me ; if they did,
This ship-boy's semblance hath disguis'd me quite.
I am afraid ; and yet I 'll venture it.
If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
I'll find a thousand shifts to get away :
As good to die and go, as die and stay.
O me! my uncle's spirit is in these stones :-
Heaven take my soul, an England keep my bones !
C. KNIGHT. From the National Shakspere.' It is unquestionably to be deplored that the greatest writers of imagination have sometimes embodied events not only unsupported by the facts of history, but utterly opposed to them. We are not speaking of those deviations from the actual succession of events,--those omissions of minor particulars,—those groupings of characters who were really never brought together,---which the poet knowingly abandons himself to, that he may accomplish the great purposes of his art, the first of which, in a drama especially, is unity of action. Such a license has Shakspere taken in 'King John;' and who can doubt that, poetically, he was right? But there is a limit even to the mastery of the poet, when he is dealing with the broad truths of history; for the poetical truth would be destroyed if the historical truth were utterly disregarded. For example, if the grand scenes between Arthur and Hubert, and between Hubert and John, were entirely contradicted by the truth of history, there would be an abatement even of the irresistible power of these matchless scenes. Had the proper historians led us to believe that no attempt was made to deprive Arthur of his sight—that his death was not the result of the dark suspicions and cowardly fears of his uncle that the manner of his death was so clear that he who held him captive was absolved from all suspicion of treachery,—then the poet would indeed have left an impression on the mind which even the historical truth could with difficulty have overcome ; but he would not have left that complete and overwhelming impression of the reality of his scenes,--he could not have produced our implicit belief in the sad story, as he tells it, of Arthur of Brittany, -he could not have rendered it impossible for any one to recur to that story, who has read this Act of 'King John,' and not think of the dark prison where the iron was hot and the executioner ready, but where nature, speaking in words such as none but the greatest poet of nature could have furnished, made the fire and the iron "deny their office," and the executioner leave the poor boy, for a while, to “sleep doubtless and secure.” Fortunate is it that we have no records to hold up which should say that Shakspere built this immortal scene upon a rotten foundation. The story, as told by Holinshed, is deeply interesting ; and we cannot read it without feeling how skilfully the poet has followed it :
" It is said that King John caused his nephew Arthur to be brought before him at Falaise, and there went about to persuade him all that he could to forsake his friendship and alliance with the French king, and to lean and stick to him his natural uncle. But Arthur, like one that wanted good counsel, and abounding too much in his own wilful opinion, made a presumptuous answer, not only denying so to do, but also commanding King John to restore unto him the realms of England, with all those other lands and possessions which King Richard had in his hand at the hour of his death. For sith the same appertaineth to him by right of inheritance, he assured him, except restitution were made the sooner, he should not long continue quiet. King John, being sore moved by such words thus uttered by his nephew, appointed (as before is said) that he should be strictly kept in prison, as first in Falaise, and after at Roan, within the new castle there.