Sir Thomas More – Act 1, Scene 2

Return to previous scene

An arras is drawn, and behind it, as in Sessions, sir the LORD MAYOR, JUSTICE SURESBY, and other Justices, SHERIFF MORE and the other Sheriff sitting by; SMART is the plaintiff, LIFTER the prisoner at the bar.

 MAYOR
Having dispatched our weightier businesses,
We may give way to petty felonies.
Master Sheriff More, what is this fellow?

MORE
My lord, he stands indicted for a purse,
He hath been tried, the jury is together.

MAYOR
Who sent him in?

SURESBY
That did I, my lord.
Had he had right, he had been hanged ere this,
The only captain of the cutpurse crew.

MAYOR
What is his name?

SURESBY
As his profession is, Lifter, my lord,
One that can life a purse right cunningly.

MAYOR
And is that he accuses him?

SURESBY
The same, my lord, whom, by your honour’s leave,
I must say something too, because I find
In some respects he is well worthy blame.

MAYOR
Good Master Justice Suresby, speak your mind;
We are well pleased to give you audience.

SURESBY
Hear me, Smart, thou art a foolish fellow;
If Lifter be convicted by the law,
As I see not how the jury can acquit him,
I’ll stand to’t thou art guilty of his death.

MORE
My lord, that’s worthy the hearing.

MAYOR
Listen then, good Master More.

SURESBY
I tell the plain, it is a shame for thee
With such a sum to tempt necessity.
No less then ten pounds, sir, will serve your turn,
To carry in your purse about with ye,
To crack and brag in taverns of your money.
I promise thee, a man that goes abroad
With an intent of truth, meeting such a booty
May be provoked to that he never meant.
What makes so many pilferers and felons
But such fond baits that foolish people lay
To tempt the needy miserable wretch?
Ten pounds odd money, that is a pretty sum
To bear about, which were more safe at home,  [LORD MAYOR and MORE whisper.
‘Fore God, ‘twere well to fine ye as much more
To the relief of the poor prisoners,
To teach ye be {more careful of} your own.
{In sooth I say ye were but} rightly served
{If ye had lost as much as twice ten pounds.}

MORE
Good my lord, soothe a {pound or two} for once
Only to try conclusions in this case.

MAYOR
Content, good Master More.  We’ll rise awhile,
And till the jury can return their verdict,
Walk in the garden.  How say you, justices?

ALL
We like it well, my lord, we’ll follow ye.    [Exeunt LORD MAYOR and Justices.

MORE
Nay, plaintiff, go you too; and, officers,                                        [Exit SMART.
Stand you aside, and leave the prisoner
To me awhile.  Lifter, come hither.

LIFTER
What is your worship’s pleasure?

MORE
Sirrah, you know that you are known to me
And I have often saved ye from this place
Since first I came in office.  Thou seest beside
That Justice Suresby is thy heavy friend,
<cut  to text begins here
For all the blame that he pretends to Smart
For tempting thee with such a sum of money.
cut ends here>
I tell thee what, devise me but a means
To pick or cut his purse, and on my credit
And as I am a Christian and a man,
I will procure thy pardon for that jest.

LIFTER
Good Master shrieve, seek not my overthrow.
You know, sir, I have many heavy friends
And more indictments like to come upon me.
You are too deep for me to deal withal,
You are known to be one of the wisest men that is in England.
I pray ye, Master sheriff, go not about
To undermine my life.

MORE
Lifter, I am true subject to my king.
Thou must mistak’st me and for thou shalt not think
I mean by this to hurt thy life at all,
I will maintain the act when thou hast done it.
Thou knowest there are such matter in my hands
As if I pleased to give them to the jury,
I should not need this way to circumvent thee.
All that I aim at is a merry jest;
Perform it, Lifter, and expect my best.

LIFTER
I thank your worship, God preserve your life.
But Master Justice Suresby is gone in,
I know not how to come near where he is.

MORE
Let me alone for that, I’ll be thy setter.
I’ll send him hither to thee presently
Under the colour of thine own request
Of private matters to acquaint him with.

LIFTER
If ye do so, sir, then let me alone;
Forty to one but then his purse is gone.

MORE
Well said, but see that thou diminish not
One penny of the money, but give it me.
It is the cunning act that credits thee.                                   [Exit MORE.

LIFTER
I will, good master sheriff, I assure ye.
I see the purpose of this gentleman
If but to check the folly of the justice
For blaming others in a desperate case
Wherein himself may fall so soon as any.
To save my life it is a good adventure.
Silence there ho!  Now doth the justice enter.

Enter JUSTICE SURESBY.

 SURESBY
Now, sirrah, now what is your will with me?
Wilt thou discharge thy conscience like an honest man?
What sayst to me, sirrah?  Be brief, be brief.

LIFTER
As brief, sir, as I can.
[Aside.] If ye stand fair, I shall be brief anon.

SURESBY
Speak out and mumble not.  What sayst thou, sirrah?

LIFTER
Sir, I am charged, as God shall be my comfort,
With more than’s true—

SURESBY
Sir, sir, ye are indeed, with more than’s true,
For you are flatly charged with felony.
You’re charged with more then truth, and that is theft,
More than a true man should be charged withal.
Thou art a varlet, that’s no more than true.
Trifle not with me, do not, do not, sirrah,
Confess but what thou knowest, I ask no more.

LIFTER
There be, sir, there be, if’t shall please your worship.

SURESBY
There be, varlet?  What be there?  Tell me what there be.
Come off or on, there be, what be there, knave?

LIFTER
There be, sir, divers very cunning fellows,
That while you stand and look them in the face
Will have your purse.

SURESBY
Thou art an honest knave.
Tell me what are they?  Where might they be caught?
Ay, those are they I look for.

LIFTER
You talk of me, sir.
Alas, I am puny.  There’s one indeed
Goes by my name, he puts down all for purses
{Faith, I could show you, sir, the very trick,
But that I fear you’ld hold me too familiar.

SURESBY
Be} as familiar as thou wilt, my knave,
‘Tis this I long to know.

LIFTER
[Aside.] And you shall have your longing ere you go.
[Aloud.] This fellow, sir, perhaps will meet ye thus,
Or thus, or thus in a kind compliment                                                      [Action.
Pretend acquaintance, somewhat doubtfully,
And these embraces serve—

SURESBY
[Shrugging gladly.]                Ay, marry, Lifter,
Wherefore serve they?

LIFTER

Only to feel
Whether you go full under sail or no,
Or that you lading be aboard your bark.

SURESBY
In plain English, Lifter, if my purse
Be stored or no?

LIFTER
Ye have it, sir.

SURESBY
Excellent, excellent.

LIFTER
Then, sir, you cannot but for manners’ sake
Walk on with him, for he will walk your way,
Alleging either you have must forgot him,
Or he mistakes you.

SURESBY
But in this time has he my purse or no?

LIFTER
Not yet, sir, fie!  No, nor I have not yours.

Enter LORD MAYOR &c.

But now we must forbear, my lords return.

SURESBY
A murrain on’t.  Lifter, we’ll more anon.
Ay, sayst thou, there are shrewd knaves indeed!                 [He sits down.
But let them gull me, widgeon me, rook me, fop me,
I’faith, i’faith, they are too short for me.
Knaves and fools meet when purses go,
Wise men look to their purses well enough.

MORE
[Aside to LIFTER.] Lifter, is it done?

 LIFTER
[Aside to MORE.] Done, master shrieve, and there it is.

 MORE
[Aside to LIFTER.] Then build upon my word, I’ll save thy life.

 RECORDER
Lifter, stand to the bar.  The jury have returned thee guilty, thou must die.  According to the custom, look to it, master shrieve.

 MAYOR
Then, gentlemen, as you are wont to do,
Because as yet we have no burial place,
What charity your meanings to bestow
Toward burial of the prisoners now condemned,
Let it be given, there is first for me.

RECORDER
And there’s for me.

ANOTHER
And me.

SURESBY
Body of me, my purse is gone!

MORE
Gone, sir?  What, here?  How can that be?

MAYOR
Against all reason, sitting on the bench?

SURESBY
Lifter, I talked with you, you have not lifted me, ha?

LIFTER
Suspect ye me, sir?  Oh, what a world is this?

MORE
But hear ye, Master Suresby, are ye sure
Ye had a purse about ye?

SURESBY
Sure, master shrieve, as sure as you are there,
And in it seven pounds odd money on my faith.

MORE
Seven pounds odd money?  What, were you so mad,
Being a wise man and a magistrate,
To trust your purse with such a liberal sum?
Seven pounds odd money; ‘fore God, it is a shame,
With such a sum to tempt necessity.
I promise ye, a man that goes abroad
With an intent of truth, meeting such a booty,
May be provoked to that he never thought.
What makes so many pilferers and felons
But these fond baits that foolish people lay
To tempt the needy miserable wretch?
Should he be taken now that has your purse,
I’d stand to’t you are guilty of his death,
For questionless, he would be cast by law.
‘Twere a good deed to fine ye as much more
To the relief of the poor prisoners
To teach ye lock you money up at home.

SURESBY
Well, Master More, you are a merry man.
I find ye, sir, I find ye well enough.

MORE
Nay, ye shall see, sir, trusting thus your money,
And Lifter here in trial for like case,
But that the poor man is a prisoner,
It would be now suspected that he had it.
Thus may ye see what mischief often comes
By the fond carriage of such needless sums.

MAYOR
Believe me, Master Suresby, this is strange,
You being a man so settled in assurance,
Will fall in that which you condemned in other.

MORE
Well, Master Suresby, there’s your purse again,
And all your money; fear nothing of More.
Wisdom still {keeps the mean and locks} the door.                       [Exeunt.

 

Proceed to the next scene

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: