Sir Thomas More – Act 2, Scene 4

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Enter Sheriff and meet a Messenger.

Messenger, what news?

Is execution yet performed?

Not yet, the carts stand ready at the stairs,
And they shall presently away to Tyburn.

Stay, master shrieve, it is the council’s pleasure
For more example in so bad a case,
A gibbet be erected in Cheapside,
Hard by the Standard, whither you must bring
Lincoln, and those that were the chief with him,
To suffer death, and that immediately.

Enter Officers.

It shall be done, sir.                                                        [Exit Messenger.
Officers, be speedy,
Call for a gibbet, see it be erected;
Others make hast to Newgate, bid them bring
The prisoners hither, for they here must die.
Away, I say, and see no time be slacked.

We go, sir.                       [Exeunt some severally, others set up the gibbet.

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That’s well said, fellows.  Now you do your duty.
God for his pity help these troublous times.
The street’s stopped up with gazing multitudes.
Command our armed officers with halberds,
Make way for entrance of the prisoners.
Let proclamation once again be made,
That every householder, on pain of death,
Keep in his prentices, and every man
Stand with a weapon ready at his door,
As he will answer to the contrary.

I’ll see it done, sir.                                                          [Exit.

Enter another Officer.

Bring them away to execution,
The writ is come above two hours since,
The city will be fined for this neglect.
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There’s such a press and multitude at Newgate,
They cannot bring the cards unto the stairs
To take the prisoners in.

Then let them come on foot,
We may not dally time with great command.

Some of the Bench, sir, think it very fit
That stay be made, and five it out abroad
The execution is deferred till morning,
And when the streets shall be a little cleared,
To chain them up, and suddenly dispatch it.

The Prisoners are brought in well guarded.

Stay, in meantime methinks they come along.
See, they are coming, so, ‘tis very well.
Bring Lincoln there, the first unto the tree.

Ay, for I cry lag, sir.

I knew the first, sir, did belong to me.
This the old proverb now complete doth make,
That Lincoln should be hanged for London’s sake.
‘A God’s name, let’s to work; fellow, dispatch.     [He goes up.
I was the foremost man in this rebellion
And I the foremost that must die for it.

Bravely, John Lincoln, let thy death express,
That as thou livedst a man, thou diedst no less.

Doll Williamson, thine eyes shall witness it.
Then to all you that come to view mine end,
I must confess, I had no ill intent,
But against such as wronged us overmuch.
And now I can perceive, it was not fit,
That private men should carve out their redress,
Which way they list.  No, learn it now by me,
Obedience is the best in each degree.
And asking mercy meekly of my king,
I patiently submit me to the law.
But God forgive them that were cause of it.
And as a Christian truly from my heart
I likewise crave they would forgive me too.
{As freely as I do forgive their wrong}
That others by example of the same
Henceforth be warned to attempt the like
‘Gainst any alien that repaireth hither.
Fare ye well, all, the next time
I trust in Heaven we shall each other greet.                          [He leaps off.

Farewell, John Lincoln, say all what they can,
Thou livedst a good fellow, and diedst an honest man.

Would I were so far on my journey; the first stretch is the worst, methinks.

Bring Williamson there forward.

Good master shrieve, I have an earnest suit,
And as you are a man, deny’t me not.

Woman, what is it?  Be it in my power,
Thou shalt obtain it.

Let me die next, sir, that is all I crave.
You know not what a comfort you shall bring
To my poor heart to die before my husband.

Bring her to death, she shall have her desire.

Sir, and I have a suit to you too.

What is it?

That as you have hanged Lincoln first and will hang her next, so that you will not hang me at all.

Nay, you set ope the Counter gates and you must hang chiefly.

Well, then so much for that.

Sir, your free bounty must contents my mind,
Comment me to that good shrieve Master More,
And tell him had’t not been for his persuasion
John Lincoln had not hung here as he does.
We would first have locked up in Leaden Hall
And there been burned to ashes with the roof.

Woman, what Master More did was a subject’s duty,
And hath so pleased our gracious lord the king
That he hence remove to higher place,
And made of council to his majesty.

Well is he worthy of it, by my troth,
An honest, wise, well spoken gentleman,
Yet would I praise his honesty much more
If he had kept his word and saved our lives.
But let that pass, men are but men, and so
Words are but words, and pays not what men owe.
Now, husband, since perhaps the world may say
That through my means thou comest thus to thy end,
Here I begin this cup of death to thee,
Because thou shalt be sure to taste no worse
Than I have taken, that must go before thee.
What though I be a woman, that’s no matter,
I do owe God a death, and I must pay him.
Husband, give me thy hand, be not dismayed,
This char being charred, then all out debt is paid.
Only two little babies we leave  behind us,
And all I can bequeath them at this time
Is but the love of some good honest friend
To bring them up in charitable sort.
What, masters, he goes upright that never halts,
And they may live to mend their parents’ faults.

Why, well said, wife, i’faith thou cheerst my heart.
Give me thy hand, let’s kiss and so let’s part. [He kisses her on the ladder.

The next time, Williamson, shall be in Heaven.
Now, cheerly lads, George Betts, a hand with thee,
And thine too, Ralph, and thine good honest Sherwin.
Now let me tell the women of this town,
No stranger yet brought Doll to lying down.
So long as I an Englishman can see,
Not French nor Dutch shall get a kiss of me.
And when that I am dead, for me yet say
I died in scorn to be a stranger’s prey.                 [A great shout and noise.

[Within.] Pardon, pardon, pardon, pardon!
Room for the Earl of Surrey, room there, room!


Save the man’s life, if it be possible.

It is too late, my lord, he’s dead already.

I tell ye, master sheriff, you are too forward
To make such haste with men unto their death.
I think your pains will merit little thanks
Since that his highness is so merciful
As not to spill the blood of any subject.

My noble lord, would we so much had known,
The council’s warrant hastened our dispatch;
It had not else been done so suddenly.

Sir Thomas More humbly upon his knee
Did beg the lives of all, since on his word
They did so gently yield.  The king hath granted it
And made him Lord High Chancellor of England,
According as he worthily deserves.
Since Lincoln’s life cannot be had again,
Then for the rest, from my dread sovereign’s lips,
I hear pronounce free pardon for them all.

[Flinging up caps.] God save the King, God save the King!
My good lord chancellor and the Earl of Surrey.

And Doll desires it from her very heart
More’s name may life for this right noble part.
And whenso’er we talk of ill May day
Praise More whose {word did sin and judgement stay.}

In hope his highness clemency and mercy,
Which in the arms of mild and meek compassion
Would rather clip you, as the loving nurse
Oft doth the wayward infant, then to leave you
To the sharp rod of justice—so to draw you
To shun such lewd assemblies as beget
Unlawful riots, and such traitorous arts
That striking with the hand of private hate
Maim your dear country with a public wound.
Oh God, that Mercy, whose majestic brow
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Should be unwrinkled, and that awful justice,
Which looketh through a veil of sufferance
Upon the frailty of the multitude,
Should with the clamours of outrageous wrongs
Be stirred and wakened thus to punishment.
<cut ends here
But your deserved death he doth forgive;
Who gives you life, pray all he long may live.

God save the king, God save the king,
My good lord chancellor, and the Earl of Surrey.                         [Exeunt.


Proceed to the next scene

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