Sir Thomas More – Act 2, Scene 3

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Peace, hear me; he that will not see a red herring at a Harry groat, butter at elevenpence a pound, meal at nine shillings a bushel, and beef at four nobles a stone, list to me.

It will come to that pass if strangers be suffered.  Mark him.

Our country is a great eating country, argo they eat more in our country then they do in their own.

By a halfpenny loaf a day troy weight.

They bring in strange roots, which is merely to the undoing of poor prentices, for what’s a sorry parsnip to a good heart?

Trash, trash!  They breed sore eyes and ‘tis enough to infect the city with the palsy.

Nay, it has infected it with the palsy, for these bastards of dung—as you know they grow in dung—have infected us, and it is our infection will make the city shake which partly comes through the eating of parsnips.

True, and pumpions together.

Enter Sergeant-at-arms.

What say you to the mercy of the king?  Do you refuse it?

You would have us upon th’hip, would you?  No, marry, do we not; we accept of the king’s mercy, but we will show no mercy upon the strangers.

You are the simplest things that ever stood in such a question.

How say you now?  Prentices simple?  Down with him!

Prentices simple!  Prentices simple!


Hold, in the king’s name, hold!

Friends, masters, countrymen—

Peace ho, peace!  I charge you keep the peace!

My masters, countrymen—

The noble Earl of Shrewsbury, let’s hear him.

We’ll hear the Earl of Surrey.

The Earl of Shrewsbury.

We’ll hear both.

 Both, both, both, both!

 Peace, I say, peace!  Are you men of wisdom, or what are you?

But what you will have them, but not men of wisdom.

We’ll not hear my lord of Surrey, no, no, no, no, no!  Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury!

Whiles they are o’er the bank of their obedience,
Thus will they bear down all things.

Shrieve More speaks!  Shall we hear Shrieve More speak?

Let’s hear him.  ‘A keeps a plentiful shrievalty, and ‘a made my brother Arthur Watchins sergeant Safe’s yeoman.  Let’s hear Shrieve More!

Shrieve More, More, More, Shrieve Moor!

Even by the rule you have among yourselves
Command still audience.

Surrey, Surrey!

More, More!

Peace, peace, silence, peace!

You that have voice and credit with the number,
Command them to a stillness.

A plague on them!  They will not hold their peace.  The devil cannot rule them.

Then what a rogue and riotous charge have you
To lead those that the devil cannot rule.
Good masters, hear me speak.

Ay, by th’mass will we, More.  Th’art a good housekeeper and I thank my good worship for my brother Arthur Watchins.

Peace, peace!

Look what you do offend you cry upon,
That is the peace not one of you here present,
Had there such fellow lived when you were babes,
That could have topped the peace, as now you would—
The peace wherein you have till now grown up
Had been ta’en from you, and the bloody times
Could not have brought you to the state of men.
Alas poor things, what is it you have got,
Although we grant you get the thing you seek?

Marry, the removing of the strangers, which cannot choose but much help advantage the poor handicrafts of the city.

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England.
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babes at their backs, and their poor luggage
Plodding to’th’ ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got?  I’ll tell you:  you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled, and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians as their fancies wrought
With selfsame hand, self reasons and self right
Would shark on you and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

Before God, that’s true as the gospel.

Nay, this a sound fellow, I tell you.  Let’s mark him.

Let me set before your thoughts, good friends,
One supposition, which if you will mark
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears.  First, ‘tis a sin
Which oft th’appostle did forewarn us of,
Urging obedience to authority,
And ‘twere no error if I told you all
You were in arms ‘gainst God.

Marry, God forbid that!

Nay, certainly you are,
For to the king God hath his office lent
Of dread of justice, power, and command,
Hath bid him rule, and willed you to obey;
And to add ampler majesty to this,
He hath not only lent the king his figure,
His throne, and sword, but given him his one name,
Calls him a God on earth.  What do you then,
Rising ‘gainst him that God himself installs
But rise ‘gainst God?  What do you to your souls
In doing this, O desperate as you are?
Wash your foul minds with tears and those same hands
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees
Make them your feet.  To kneel to be forgiven
Is safer wars then ever you can make
Whose discipline is riot.
In, in to your obedience: even your hurly
Cannot proceed but by obedience.
Tell me but this:  what rebel captain,
As mutinies are incident, by his name
Can still the rout?  Who will obey a traitor?
Or how can well that proclamation sound
When there is to addition but a rebel
To qualify a rebel?  You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam,
To slip him like a hound.  Alas! Alas!
Say now the king,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour?  Go you to France or Flanders
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers.  Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them?  What would you think
To be thus used?  This is the strangers’ case,
And this your mountanish inhumanity.

Faith, ‘a says true; let’s do as we may be done by.

We’ll be ruled by your, Master More, if you’ll stand our friend to procure our pardon.

Submit you to these noble gentlemen,
Entreat their mediation to the king,
Give up yourselves to form, obey the magistrate,
And there’s no doubt but mercy may be found
If you so seek it.

We yield, and desire his highness’ mercy.       [They lay by their weapons.

No doubt his majesty will grant it you.
But you must yield to go to several prisons,
Till that his highness’ will be further known.

Most willingly, whither you will have us.

Lord Mayor, let them be sent to several prisons,
And there in any case be well entreated.
My lord of Surrey, please you to take horse
And ride to Cheapside, where the aldermen
Are with their several companies in arms.
Will them to go unto their several wards,
Both for the stay of further mutiny,
And for the apprehending of such persons
As shall contend.

I go, my noble lord.                                                                 [Exit.

We’ll straight go tell his highness these good news.
Withal, Shrieve More, I’ll tell him how your breath
Hath ransomed many a subject from sad death. [Exit SHREWSBURY and CHOLMLEY.

Lincoln and Sherwin, you shall both to Newgate,
The rest unto the counters.

Go, guard them hence, a little breath well spent,
Cheats expectation in his fairest event.

Well, Sheriff More, thou hast don’t more with thy good words then all they could with their weapons.  Give me thy hand, keep thy promise now for the king’s pardon, or by the Lord, I’ll call thee a plain cony-catcher.

Farewell, Shrieve More, and as we yield by thee,
So make our peace, then thou dealst honestly.

Ay, and save us from the gallows, else ‘a deals double honestly.

[They are led away.

Master Shrieve More, you have preserved the city
From a most dangerous fierce commotion.
For if this limb of riot here in St. Martin’s
Had joined with other branches of the city
That did begin to kindle, ‘twould have bred
Great rage, that rage, much murder would have fed.

Not steel, but eloquence hath wrought this good.

You have redeemed us from much threatened blood.

My lord and brethren, what I here have spoke,
My country’s love, and next the city’s care,
Enjoined me to; which since it thus prevails,
Think, God hath made weak More his instrument
To thwart sedition’s violent intent.
I think ‘twere best, my lord, some two hours hence
We meet at the Guildhall, and there determine
That thorough every ward the watch be clad
In armour, but especially proud
That at the city gates selected men,
Substantial citizens, do ward tonight,
For fear of further mischief.

It shall be so.
But yond me thinks my lord of Shrewsbury.


My lord, his majesty sends loving thanks
To you, your brethren, and his faithful subjects,
Your careful citizens.  But Master More, to you
A rougher, yet as kind, a salutation:
A knight’s creation is this knightly steel.
Rise up, Sir Thomas More.

I thank his highness for thus honouring me.

This is but first taste of his princely favour,
For it hath pleased his high majesty,
Noting your wisdom and deserving merit,
To put this staff of honour in your hand,
For he hath chose you of his Privy Council.

My lord, for to deny my sovereign’s bounty
Were to drop precious stones into the heaps
Whence first they came, from whence they’d ne’er return,
To urge my imperfections in excuse
Were all as stale as custom.  No, my lord,
My service is my king’s, good reason why,
Since life or death hangs on our sovereign’s eye.

His majesty hath honoured much the city
In this his princely choice.

My lord and brethren,
Though I depart for {court} my love shall rest,
{With you, as heretofore, a faithful guest,}
I now must sleep in court, sound sleeps forbear,
The chamberlain to state is public care.
Yet in this rising of my private blood
My studious thoughts shall tend the city’s good.


How now, Crofts, what news?

My lord, his highness sends express command
That a record be entered of this riot,
And that the chief and capital offenders
Be thereon strait arraigned, for himself intends
To sit in person on the rest tomorrow
At Westminster.

Lord Mayor, you hear your charge.
Come, good Sir Thomas More, to court let’s hie.
You are th’appeaser of this mutiny.

My lord, farewell, new days begets new tides,
Life whirls ‘bout fate, then to a grave it slides.                             [Exeunt.


Proceed to the next scene


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