Sir Thomas More – Act 4, Scene 4

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Gentlemen and Servants, as in his house at Chelsea.

Good morrow, good son Roper; sit, good madam,                    [Low stools.
Upon an humble seat; the time so craves.
Rest your good heart on earth, the roof of graves.
You see the floor of greatness is uneven,
The cricket and high throne alike near heaven.
Now daughters, you that like to branches spread
And give best shadow to a private house,
Be comforted, my girls, your hopes stand fair;
Virtue breeds gentry, she makes the best heir.

Good morrow to your honour.

Nay, good night rather.
You honour’s crestfall’n with your happy father.

O what formality, what sware observance
Lives in a little room!  Here, public care
Gags not the eyes of slumber, here fierce riot
Ruffles not proudly in a coat of trust,
Whilst like a pawn at chess he keeps in rank
With kings and mighty fellow, yet indeed
Those men that stand on tiptoe smile to see
Him pawn his fortunes.

True, son, {here’s not so.}
Nor does the wanton tongue here screw itself
Into the ear, that like a vice drinks up
The iron instrument.

We are here at peace.

Then peace, good wife.

For keeping still in compass, a strange point
In time’s new navigation, we have sailed
Beyond our course.

Have done.

We are exiled the court.

Still thou harpst on that.
‘Tis sin for to deserve that banishment,
But he that ne’er knew court courts sweet content.

O, but sweet husband—

I will not hear thee, wife.
The winding labyrinth of thy strange discourse
Will ne’er have end.  Sit still and, my good wife,
Entreat thy tongue be still, or credit me,
Thou shalt not understand a word we speak,
We’ll talk in Latin:
Humida vallis raros patitur fulminis ictus.
More rest enjoys the subject meanly bred
Than he that bears the kingdom in his head.
Great men are still musicians, else the world lies:
They learn low strains after the notes that rise.

Good sir, be still yourself, and but remember
How in this general court of short-liv’d pleasure
The world, creation is the ample food
That is digested in the maw of time.
If man himself be subject to such ruin,
How shall his garment then,  or the loose points
That tie respect unto his awful place
Avoid destruction?  Most honoured father-in-law,
The blood you have bequeathed these several hearts
To nourish your posterity, stands firm,
And as with joy you led us first to rise,
So with like hearts we’l lock preferment’s eyes.

Cut begins here>
Close them not then with tears, for that ostent
Gives a wet signal of your discontent.
If you will share my fortunes, comfort then;
An hundred smiles for one sigh; what, we are men.
Resign weak passion to these weaker eyes,
Which proves their sex, but grants {them} ne’er more wise.
Let’s now survey our state:  here sits my wife
And dear esteemed issue, yonder stand
My loving servants.  Now the difference
‘Twixt those and these.  Now you shall haer me speak
Like More in melancholy.  [Pause.] I conceive that Nature
Hath sundry metals, out of which she frames
Us mortals, each in valuation
Outprizing other.  Of the finest stuff
The finest features come, the rest of earth
Receive base fortune even before their birth.
Hence slaves have their creation, and I think
Nature provides content for the base mind;
Under the whip, the burden and the toil
Their low-wrought bodies drudge in patience;
As for the prince, in all his sweet-gorged maw
And his rank flesh that sinfully renews
The noon’s excess inthe night’s dangerous surfeits;
What means or misery from our birth doth flow
Nature entitles to us, that we owe.
But we, being subject to the rack of hate,
Falling from happy life to bondage state,
Having seen better days, now know the lack
Of glory, that once reared each high-fed back.
But {you} that in your age did ne’er view better
Challenge not fortune for you thriftless debtor.
<Cut ends here

Sir, we have seen far better days than these.

Cut begins here>
I was the patron of those days, and know
Those were but painted days, only for show;
Then grieve not you to fall with him that gave them:
Pro hæris generosis servis gloriosum mori.
Dear Gough, thou art my learned secretary,
You, Master Catesby, steward of my house,
The rest, like you, have had fair time to grow
In sunshine of my fortunes.  But I must tell ye,
Corruption is fled hence with each man’s office.
Bribes, that make open traffic ‘twixt the soul
And netherland of hell, deliver up
Their guilty homage to their second lords.
Then living thus untained, you are well:
Truth is no pilot for the land of hell.
<Cut ends here

Enter a Servant.

My lord, there are new-lighted at the gate
The Earls of Surrey {and} of Shrewsbury,
And they expect you in the inner court.

Entreat their lordships come into the hall.

O God, what news with them?

Why, how now, wife?
They are but come to visit their old friend.

O God, I fear, I fear!

What shouldst thou fear, fond woman?
Iustum, si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinæ.
Here let me live estranged from great men’s looks;
They are like golden flies on leaden hooks.

Enter the Earls of SURREY and SHREWSBURY, DOWNES with his mace, and Attendants.

Good morrow, good Sir Thomas.

Good day, good madam.                                                 [Kind salutations.

Welcome, my good lords.
What ails your lordships looks so melancholy?
O, I know you live in court, and the court diet
Is only friend to physic.

O, Sir Thomas,
Our words are now the king’s, and our sad looks
The interest of your love.  We are sent to you
From our mild sovereign, once more to demand
If you’ll subscribe unto those articles
He sent ye th’other day.  Be well advised,
For on mind honour, lord, brave Doctor Fisher
Bishop of Rochester, at the same instant
Attached with you, is sent unto the Tower
For the like obstinacy; his majesty
Hath only sent you prisoner to your house.
But if you now refust for to subscribe,
A stricter course will follow.

O dear husband!

Dear father!                                [Kneeling and weeping.

See, my lords,
This partner and these subjects to my flesh
Prove rebels to my conscience.  But, my good lords,
If I refuse, must I unto the Tower?

You must, my lord.  Here is an officer
Ready for to arrest you of high treason.

O God, O God!

Be patient, good madam.

Ay, Downes, is’t thou?  I once did save thy life,
When else by cruel riotous assault
Thou hadst been torn in pieces.  Thou art reserved
To by my summ’ner to yond spiritual court.
Give my thy hand, good fellow, smooth thy face;
The diet that thou drinkst is spiced with mace,
And I could ne’er abide it; ‘twill not digest,
‘Twill lie too heavy, man, on my weak breast.

Be brief, my lord, for we are limited
Unto an hour.

Unto an hour? ‘Tis well,
The bell, earth’s thunder, soon shall toll my knell.

[Kneeling.] Dear loving husband, if you respect not me,
Yet think upon your daughters.

Wife, stand up.
[Pondering to himself.] I have bethought me,
And I’ll now satisfy the king’s good pleasure.

O happy alteration!

Come the, subscribe, my lord.

I am right glad
Of this your fair conversion.

O pardon me,
I will subscribe to go unto the Tower
With all submissive willingness, and thereto add
My bones to strengthen the foundation
Of Julius Cæsar’s palace.  Now, my lord,
I’ll satisfy the king even with my blood,
Nor will I wrong your patience.  Friend, do thine office.

Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England,
I arrest you in the king’s name of high treason.

Gramercies, friend.
To a great prison to discharge the strife
Commenced ‘twixt conscience and my frailer life
More now must march.  Chelsea, adieu, adieu,
Strange farewell, thou shalt ne’er more see More true,
For I shall ne’er see thee more.  Servants, farewell.
Wife, mar not thine indifferent face, be wise;
More’s widow’s husband, he must make thee rise.
Daughters, {be virtuous,} what’s here, what’s here?
Mine eye had almost parted with a tear.
Dear son, possess my virtue, that I ne’er gave.
Grave More thus lightly walks to a quick grave.

Curæ leves loquuntur, ingentes, stupent.

You that way in, mind you my course in prayer;
By water I to prison, to heaven through air.                                [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene


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