Sir Thomas More – Act 5, Scene 4

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Enter the Sheriffs of London and their Officers at one door, the Warders with their halberds at another.

Officers, what time of day is’t?

Almost eight o’clock.

We must make {haste} then, lest we stay too long.

Good morrow, master shrieves of London; master lieutenant
Wills ye repair to the limits of the Tower
There to receive your prisoner.

Go back, and tell his worship we are ready.

Go back, and tell the officers make clear the way,
There may be passage for the prisoner.

Enter LIEUTENANT and his Guard with MORE.

Yet God be thanked, here a fair day toward
To take our journey in.  Master Lieutenant,
If were fair walking on the Tower leads.

And so it might have liked my sovereign lord,
I would to God you might have walked there still.                    [He weeps.

Sir, we are walking to a better place.
O sir, your kind and loving tears
Are like sweet odours to enbalm your friend.
Thank you good lady, since I was your guest
She has made me a very wanton, in good sooth.

O, I had hoped we should not yet have parted.

But I must leave ye for a little while.
Within an hour or two you may look for me,
But there will be so many come to see me
That I shall be so proud I will not speak.
And sure my memory is grown so ill
I fear I shall forget my head behind me.

God and his belssed angels be about ye.
Here, master shrieves, receive your prisoner.

Good morrow, master shrieves of London, to ye both.
I thankye that ye will vouchsafe to meet me.
I see by this you have no quite forgot
That I was in times past as you are now:
A sheriff of London.

Sir, then you know our duty doth require it.

I know it well, sir, else I woul dhave been glad
You might have saved a labour at this time.
Ah, master sheriff, you and I have been of old acquaintance;
You were a patient auditor of mine
When I read the divinity lecture at Saint lawrence’s

Sir Thomas More, I have heard you oft, as many other did,
To our great comfort.

Pray God you may so now,
With all my heart.  And, as I call to mind,
When I studied the law in Lincoln’s Inn,
I was of cousel with ye in a cause.

I was about to say so, good Sir Thomas More.

O, is this the place?
I promise ye, it is a goodly scaffold.
In sooth, I am come about a headless errand,
For I have no much to say, now I am here.
Well, let’s ascend, a God’s name.
In troth, methinks your stair is somewhat weak;
I prithee, honest friend, lend me thy hand
To help me up.  As for my coming down,
Let me alone, I’ll look to that myself.

As he is going up the stairs, enters the EARLS OF SURREY and SHREWSBURY.

My lords of Surrey and Shrewsbury, give me your hands yet before we {part.}  Ye see, though it pleaseth the king to raise me thus high, yet I am not {proud,} for the higher I mount, the better I can see my friends about me.  I am now {on a} voyage, and this strange wooden horse must bear me thither; yet I perceive by your looks you like my bargain so ill, that there’s not one of ye all dare venture with me.  [Walking.] Truly, here’s a most sweet gallery, I like the air of it better than my garden at Clelsea.  By your patience, good people that have pressed thus into my bedchamber, if you’ll not trouble me, I’ll take a sound sleep here.

My lord, ‘twere good you’d publish it to the world
Your great offence unto his majesty.

My lord, I’ll bequeath this legacy to the hangman, and do it instantly.  [gives him the gown.] I confess his majesty hath been ever good to me, and my offence to his highness makes me of a state pleader a stage player, though I am old, and have a bad voice, to act this last scene of my tragedy.  I’ll send for my trespass a reverent head, somewhat bald, for it not not requisite any head should stand covered to so high majesty.  If that content him not, because Ithink my body will then do me small pleasure, let him but bury it, and take it.

My lord, my lord, hold conference with your soul;
You see, my lord, the time of life is short.

I see it, my good lord, I dispatched that business the last night.  I come hither only to be let blood; my doctor here tells me it is good for the headache.

I beseech ye, my lord, forgive me.

Forgive thee, honest fellow, why?

For your death, my lord.

O, my death?  I had rather it were in thy power to forgive me, for thou hast the sharpest action against me; the law, my honest friend, lies in thy hands now.  Here’s thy fee [his purse], and my good fellow, let my suit be dispatched presently, for ‘tis all one pain to die a lingering death and to live in the continual mill of a law-suit.  But I can tell thee, my neck is so short that if thou shouldst behead an hundred noblemen like myself, thou wouldst ne’er get credit by it.  Therefore look ye, sir, do it handsomely, of of my word thou shalt never deal with me hereafter.

I’ll take an order for that, my lord.

One thing more, take heed thou cutst not of my beard.  O, I forgot, execution{was} passed upon that last night and the body of it lies buried in the Tower. Stay, is’t not possible to make a scape from all this strong guard?  It is.
There is a thing within me, that will raise
And elevate my better part ‘bove sight
Of these same weaker eyes.  And, master shrieves,
For al this troop of steel that tends my death,
I shall break from you, and fly up to heaven.
Let’s seek the means for this.

My lord, I pray ye put off your doublet.

Speak not so coldly to me, I am hoarse already,
I would be loath, good fellow, to take more.
Point me the block, I ne’er was here before.

To the east side, my lord.

Then to the East,
We go to sigh, that o’er, to sleep in rest.
Here More forsakes all mirth, good reason why;
The fool of flesh must with her frail life die.
No eye salute my trunk with a sad tear;
Our birth to heaven should be thus:  void of fear.                            [Exit.

A very learned worthy gentleman
Seals error with his blood.  Come, we’ll to court.
Let’s sadly hence to perfect unknown fates,
Whilst he tends progress to the state of states.                            [Exeunt.

F I N I S.

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