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ACT III, SCENE i
BRITO, TRACY, URSE, MOREVILLE
BRITO At last, comrades, we have set foot on our longed-for soil, and in the city where Thomas resides, the target of our toil.
URSE But we are late in the setting. Long ago we should have reported to Henry the father that the deed was done.
MOREVILLE I admit the hated prelate draws breath longer than our hopes and his deserts would have it. Yet you know it is the fault of the sea and winds that a space, no matter what it is, has been given to his damned life. How the mad sea, how the rebellious winds began all at once to batter our ship when it had scarcely left the coast of France!
TRACY And it would have yielded to the wrath of the foaming sea unless Henry’s wrath, greater than the angry ocean, had not propelled the craft.
BRITO Nothing long resists him in his rage.
TRACY When I recall that tempest, then there comes to mind how he was a few days ago, when he raged against Thomas with his eyes, his mouth, face, body, and all his mind.
MOREVILLE But what fraction of his fury does the mad sea reflect? Add even the inmates of Hell themselves and it is too little, the arrogant archbishop so provokes his royal mind.
BRITO We have joined our anger and arms to the royal fury, such behooves a king’s loyal servants. Do you imagine Thomas will be equal to such a weight? Either my mind deceives me, or he will pay for his pride.
TRACY The anger of the royal breast needs to be chewed over thus, our fury must be whetted on that stone lest it grow blunt.
URSE I have stored in my memory the many things bitter-minded Henry lately said, groaning. For when he perceived Thomas to be inexorable towards the bishops and opposed to himself, straightway a pallor came over all his face, it went stiff and bloodless. Soon the blood, recalled from deep within his heart, suffused both his cheeks, anger kindled the flaming glow of his eyes, his piercing look flashed and scorched. He looked about, moved, started and halted his step. With is countenance he vented his wrath. Soon he groaned, again he raged. Then again, heedless of his fury, he complained and grieved. He was drawn in such varied ways by his passion, and he was first in doubt with what words to express his heart’s unrestrained frenzy.
MOREVILLE And even if the words were ready, he lacked the breath to pronounce them.
TRACY When he was able to speak, he thundered these: “Am I the single person in my realm who cannot have peace with that priest?”
URSE Glancing my way, he fell silent for a while.
MOREVILLE Then, turning to me, “Will nobody free me from that man?”
TRACY He looked at me while saying that.
URSE This was the sword he saw, who denies it?
TRACY What do you mean, “who denies it?”
URSE He will feel this sword at which Henry looked.
TRACY Let him become acquainted with your hand, he is familiar with mine.
URSE You, Tracy, will make the acquaintance of my hand, and likewise be its familiar.
BRITO Hold your angry hands. As long as scope be allowed for your anger, you don’t care whether there should be anyone to strike down Thomas.
TRACY I’ll become acquainted with your hand, and likewise familiar.
MOREVILLE Henry marked out each and every one of us with an equal intention.
BRITO Indeed, let him discover that in our minds each and every one of us suffices to deal with so great an evil. But he looked at every one of us, so as to end the delay for the killing and more lavishly to indulge his anger. Fury which can remain concealed in a single man is no fury at all.
MOREVILLE But by our expressions he noted our hands as readier for the killing, and first he signed to me.
BRITO Has your rebellious mind not yet subsided? Come, pour out this bile on the archbishop himself, the enemy both of the king and of all of us.
TRACY Urse, when murdered Thomas has appeased the royal pain with his death, our quarrel will straightway be settled with a duel.
URSE I always value my life little in comparison with my honor. Let it be so.
MOREVILLE Meanwhile let private quarrels defer to our common one.
URSE So Henry glanced at Tracy’s hand. He looked at me too.
TRACY Let us say he looked at you. Come, let’s see your sword and ourselves drunken and bestained with the blood of this ever-restless prelate.
URSE Unless you have seem it, and seen it before tomorrow’s nightfall, let that next night hide my light with death’s eternal darkness, lest the following day behold my base self among the living.
MOREVILLE But where is the prelate to be overcome?
TRACY Wherever he chances to be.
URSE Let this hand deprive him of soul and slumber while he sleeps. Is he at leisure for his studies? He prays? Let him die even there.
MOREVILLE So no place, no reverence will protect him at his prayers.
BRITO So far we have been speaking stoutly, but these things must be accomplished with prudence. I have decided we should first approach him unarmed.
MOREVILLE But Urse will not allow this.
URSE I’ll strike him, I have no time for speaking.
BRITO I’ll speak to him, I’ll advise him to free those bound by accursed anathema. He will refuse. I’ll add threats to my entreaties and invoke the king’s name along with my exhortations. But he will ignore them. I’ll produce citizens as my witnesses, I’ll join them to the royal cause. They’ll pledge their loyalty, the whole people will come a-running to the murder, we’ll all make our assault at once.
URSE You fight by tricks, Brito, leave the violence to me.
TRACY Meanwhile we’re wasting time. Let’s go.
MOREVILLE The time and place summon us to the business.
ACT III, SCENE ii
HENRY, THE AMBASSADOR, RICHARD &c. going to the hunt
HENRY With his ruddy torch Phoebus scatters the clouds, returning color to things, daylight to the sky, and, longed-for, shines for me. While the dewy ground is still marked with tracks, I want to unleash my hounds. Easily they range the groves, noses pressed to the ground, and their keen nostrils sniff so they may mark the prey with plaintive yelps. Let our eyes and ears keep watch, if any quarry should take to flight. Let these fellows bar the hidden paths running through the shady recesses of the trackless forest. Let panic start the deer, and compel the doe to abandon her young, let it drive them into open fields. Let a novel terror overcome them. There let a fleet hound await them and turn them with its swift run, fiercely teaching them varied turns and twists. From this side and that loosed mastiffs harry their prey, scarce touching the top of the grass with their flying feet. The quarry cheats impending death and baffles their gaping jaws. Here let there be many a shining horseman with his darts, here let him draw his Cretan bow, here let our watchman let fly sure arrows from his hand.
And you, brother, joined with the ambassador, must range the banks green with perpetual springtide, and teach him what castles the river waters, how many boats it carries to and fro, what superstition gripped its ancient inhabitants, what crops this and that region bear in sweet peacetime, and how it is advantageous in war.
This whole field stretches open to the eye. There no prey will elude your sight. You people go surround the grove in a lengthy line. And you men give a signal from the mountain when the prey is sighted. If any should draw near, my task is to enter into the grove, this welcome chore summons me. [ Exeunt omnes but Henry.]
ACT III, SCENE iii
Henry stays, and is met by an angel wearing a hermit’s habit.
HENRY He who scorches my heart makes my nightly hours sleepless, a great fire is devouring my marrow. Enter the hermit. I am at the hunt, I am chasing harmless beasts. But a thousand cares are chasing after me. They tell fables of Actaeon’s hounds, those poets who are free to invent all things. But I experience their gaping maws while I ponder great things, I discover no way in which I may flee these savage dogs.
HERMIT Unhappy man, if someone would agree to show you one, would you give him a hearing?
HENRY Who are you to dare intrude on my solitude?
HERMIT A humble man. You present yourself as such and these emotions will disappear. Abandon your complaints, young man, just as you should put off the old man. Listen, this humble man will teach you the path that leads straight to heaven.
HENRY I am your attentive pupil. Teach, old man.
HERMIT Let ambition depart, let banished love return and a concern for heavenly things, dismiss your mad impulsiveness. Remember what great things God has granted you as a king, and believe He has never given you anything that transcends the mean. Acknowledge to yourself that He did not make you supreme head of many peoples so you might oppress the helpless, so that your capricious whim might trample nations, so that you, having lost the way, might harm good men, so you might hunger after other men’s goods and squander your own. Rather, His hand lifted you to the summit so that as a wholesome head you might defend the limbs.
HENRY The precepts you dictate to a king, old man! What godhead has given you liberty to lay down the law?
HERMIT Holy concern makes me solicitous for you, king. A loyal man rarely gives advice to a king. Listen to a man advising righteous things, which you will seldom hear. Restrain your ferocity, turn back, support saintly Thomas, whom you have adjudged to be in need of suppression.
HENRY Oh the vain appearance of your habit, oh deceiving good! Now piety is made a mask, and shadows every villain with its impious wings. The woods show you to be a old man cultivating leisure for virtue’s sake, and your habit speaks thus. Do you wound your king with a wicked tongue? You should quickly leave your king and seek out someone else to deceive with your art. Royal splendor is not deluded by these tricks.
HERMIT Let royal splendor learn the art whereby it may shine.
HENRY Let the suspicious rascals’ art seek out darkness while it may.
HERMIT Quit your empty threats, you boy of a king.
HENRY Reverence for an old man’s age makes me a boy. I defer to the crazed, take to your heels right now. My reverence will do the same, I swear.
He takes off his hermit’s habit and suddenly appears as an angel.
HERMIT You unhappy person, whatever threats you mutter rebound against yourself. Now, feckless boy, learn that you will lose your scepter thanks to the sin with which you sully it. Too late you will fear God and seek the advice of that holy man whom your father’s fury, paving the way for your own, has removed from this earth and returned to heaven. Mark you, our mighty God’s generous hand has grasped your stock and exalted it. You may measure how large a part of France was that Anjou your grandfather possessed, and he held it at the pleasure of his king. Your father, raised from that to a lofty pinnacle, shares with you the scepter of England. You acknowledge this? You should likewise acknowledge that the kindly godhead gave this although you were unworthy. And what do you repay? What crimes has your scepter restrained? Rather, what crimes have not been supported by it? Never have you come to the aid of good men, never have you checked the hands of the bad. England has been damaged by mischiefs, France harried, Italy has witnessed what great things Thomas has suffered because he refused to be impious. Compelled by your madness, Thomas has been obliged to abandon your father’s realm as an exile. He has returned and striven to subject himself to you. You scorn and shun this innocent man’s hands outstretched to your knees, and out of your mouth you condemn him whom you know to be pious. What sacrilegious man can equal this misdeed? Hear, wretch, what punishments expiate royal sins. Sons will wage wicked wars against felonious fathers. Hence France will observe how a wicked crew of sons harass their father. The world will gawk at their arms, nor will the world be able to restrain the arms with which you bitterly harass your father. This scepter you so crave to wield by yourself will never be borne by your hand alone, as you are destined to make an end by death in impious battle. Go. If tears can placate the supernals, pour them forth. In life you wage civil war, dying you bequeath protracted war to your brothers. And that is nothing, to your grandsons— your madness will extend to late posterity. Royal sin must be expiated by a belated punishment for kings. Farewell. [Exit. Enter Richard.]
ACT III, SCENE iv
Henry interrupts Richard’s speech as if doing something else, because of his previous fear, expressed in these words: Hermit? Spirit? Angel? Ghost? Man?
RICHARD Nimble horses are spilling through all the mountains, with slow steps the steeds lift their feet in silence. Would you imagine that by their striving men could turn this into great things? This man lauds the sought-for quarry, another’s horse is spurred to a gallop. That one follows the unleashed dogs, encouraging the anger of a raging one, urging on a slow, and, calling each by name with his familiar voice, he increases the racket he is encouraging. How much sweat is dripping here! Are you afraid of the enemy you are going to harm? Oh, how much effort is wasted on prey you will not well ensnare! Will sweat pour down the royal cheeks for such a purpose? I don’t like it. Are you panting now, Richard, so that animals may die, while whole peoples lie oppressed by bestial tyrants? While the barbaric Saracen uses arms to appropriate Christian soil? Oh the shame! The sacred city of Jerusalem groans long over its infidel yoke. The unbeliever tramples our supreme God’s monuments, and we princes of Christendom are shamefully exposed to the world’s laughter and mockery. Will it never be granted me, as I desire, to carry a free cross and set it up aloft, the impious scattered by the sound of Richard’s name? It will be granted, my prayers to God promise it.
But see, the king is amazed. Or what man has assumed and altered my brother the king’s face and look, and distorted it so? The king himself? My eyesight is mistaken. Does daylight see the king thus beclouded? Speak up, whoever you are that is doing such a fine job of joining my brother’s face to dull dread. Are you silent? You will be compelled, your tricks will not deceive me.
HENRY Who approaches?
RICHARD Your brother and your friend.
HENRY Flee. You are treading a place damned with spectral ghosts, infested places.
RICHARD Ghosts? Specters?
HENRY It is so.
RICHARD Collect yourself, Henry. It is your brother and he alone who is kissing your hand. What’s this quaking? Plantagenet, are you shivering? Oh the shame of that great name! May this omen befall your enemies!
HENRY Brother, don’t leave me.
RICHARD A falling thunderbolt would not sunder our bond. Speak up, sovereign brother, famed Henry’s heir and star of his name. Lift up your face, regain your strength, banish the clouds and wear a royal look. Behold, your brother Richard Aquitaine stands before you.
HENRY Are you alone?
RICHARD It shames me to touch a king’s hand still stiff with fear. Tell me the reason.
HENRY The prelate Thomas is a saint.
RICHARD Hence such great fear? There’s no reason for ghosts or specters to sing this. The world says so, his past life (a pious example of virtue) has proven it.
HENRY So why should I delay in attesting to what the world says, what his past life (a pious example of virtue) has proven? This will displease my father, I know. My father must yield when the heaven-dwellers keep telling us the truth. I must go. Incensed hand-poured on pontifical altars, sprinklings of holy water, will expiate these hands. But a new torpor recalls my foot, an upheaval shakes my astonished heart. Leave me, brother, but don’t go far away. [Exit Richard.] Shifting emotions run through my heart, the memory of my offended father comes to mind. This brings with it great burdens of dread. The old man who threateningly forecast such great evils frequently alluded to my father’s sins. This is one source of panic, but another is that, if I publicly condemn the crimes my father has committed, an offended holy Thomas is to be feared. But he is more to be feared who is willing to see a just man oppressed: if he is offended, will he spare his son? Oh my father’s words, how have you issued from my mouth?
Let my father atone for his sins. If Father has not learned how to guard against sin, I shall succeed him as heir to the scepter. Let the mark of this unlucky star fade, it will not stain my destined hand. So let that dread depart, abolished. But what will he do if I seek out Thomas and attend upon that prelate with due reverence? Afire with wrath, my father will thunder with threats. Afire with wrath, he will wholly turn to ash, and a pious opportunity will be given me to take up arms. Enter pensioners and henchmen.
Let my throng of retainers be recalled quickly. I must go to Thomas. He can explain the doubtful things that vex me. Whatever he is, he will give me this at least, that I may be called his pious supporter.
ON HUMAN MUTABILITY
3. May the Ruler Who created the highest and the midmost grant stable affairs to highest and midmost. Everything has its order, let it maintain that with certitude. Thus the missile shot by a Parthian bow does not retain its impetus. Whatever our effort has set as its ultimate goal often seeks to return to its beginning. How often must we try vain things, as Sisyphus, having seized on his stone balanced in a peaceful mean, rolls it from the height to the depth?
4. The thing today appoints tomorrow often alters with a new plan. For, wearied with old things, another and better effort changes them. Thus, being weak, we are turned by light impulses on a fragile hinge.
1. Heavenly reason arranges things in accordance with another law, but no less wholesome a one, as it imposes its rule and restrains things lacking in sense, as a bounteous gift giving Man a portion more excellent than what he has allotted himself. Whatever we choose, another power better than ours selects, and its bends yielding pinnacles in whatever direction it wishes, whether it is pleased to damn things with a mark of shame, or whether it favors them with a white stone, for it can do all things.
2. The boy who lately desired to glut himself on the prelate’s blood alters his impious attentions, serving as an example that whatever fury makes ardent and drives headlong is a most trifling thing, checked by a divine will greater than itself.
Go to Act IV