Charlemagne – Act One, Scene One

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Thou look for dignity?  Yes, thou mayst look,
But pray thee fellow, see thine eyes be good
Or thou mayst look and never find the way.

How can mine eyes fail when so fair a mark
As honour lies before me?

Thou sayst well:
The thought of honour is a perfect green,
And green is good for th’eye sight.  Silly man,
Art grown fantastic in thy latter days?
Trust me, I thought thou rather couldst have wish’d
To feel thine eyes burnt out into their socket
Than thus to live and see the black disgrace
That will approach and soon if thou darst live.
And that you look for dignity.  Oh madness!
What, having first been cheated of thy wealth,
Darst thou again be cheated of thy wit
And think so poor a lord as is my father,
The most despised forsaken Ganelon,
Can prop thy mind?  Fortune’s shame upon thee!
Wait with a trencher. Go, learn policy.
A servingman at dinner time will teach thee
To give attendance on the full fed guest
Not on the hungry shark, and that you think
To feed on lark by serving my poor father.

Nothing but lark, La Busse, yes, mighty sirloins.

Your lord and master would be glad of half.
Pitied companion, spare thy feeble eyes;
Look not for honour lest thou lose thy sight;
Such followers as thou that would repair
A broken state by service; may be liken’d
To shipwrack’d merchant, that will rather seek
To catch a rotten board or to be cast
Upon some frozen isle than fish quickly;
But thou perhaps seekst voluntary penance,
Meaning to fish in a frosty clime
Because thou hast abus’d thy summer blessing;
Thy gaming humour hath become a fire.

Why, because my money burnt in my purse till I lost it.

No, but because it taught the furious way
To blaspheme and curses, which have kindled
A desperate fire in thee to play and lose;
So that although thou purchase letters patent
To beg in all the provinces of France
Pretending that thy state was lost by fire,
Yet thou wouldst die a beggar.

If I die,
Before my letters patent be expir’d,
How can I choose, though I repair my state,
But leaving this and your to the poor hope
Of other men’s, and perhaps my cast clothes?
I tell thee, silly creature, I am now
Spreading my wings and mounting to a height
From whence I will with scorn behold such things
As all th’ambition thou art master of
Can never make thee hope or wish to be,
And for my fortunes past, which you so much
Esteem and present wouldst do reverence to,
I value them at this, and for the like
Would not bestow the labour of amen
To any good man’s wishes.  The labouring cloud
Instead of vapors have exhail’d from earth
A blessing for me and about this time,
By the full revolution of my stars,
Should rain it down upon me.


Observe, first hear me; know the means and when y’ave done
Fall down and worship.  This same very day,
Nay, this most fortunate minute, the emperor
The great, th’unconquered mighty Charlemagne,
Is married to the sister of my lord,
To your most fair-eyed aunt, rare Theodora.                                  [Flourish.

God save Theodora, the empress!

You hear this?

And wish mine ears had to you pillory
Paid tribute rather than let in this sound.
Unfortunate Orlando, thy fairest hopes,
Like to a blaze of artificial fire,
No sooner have a being but expire.

What passionate in rhyme; I must be taught
To give attendance on the full fed guest
<Not on the hungry sh>ark.

You may be damn’d
For using sorcery upon the king
That natural beat which is the cause and nurse
Of young desires, his palsy hath shook off
And all the able faculties of man
Are fled his frost of age to that extreme
There’s not enough to cherish a desire
Left in his sapless nerves.

In this your worship
Gives my hopes illustration; age must dote
To a judgement dearth that may be cheated on
Yet that cheat rest unquestioned.  Do you hear?
The king in being married to your aunt
Hath bound his fortunes to my lord, and he
Will, like a river that so long retains
The ocean’s bounty, that at last it seems
To be itself a sea, receive and keep
The common treasure, and in such a flood
Whose thickness would keep up what naturally
Covets the center.  Can you hope I’ll sink?

Hell take thy hopes and thee!

But I would have
You understand that I may rise again
Without that catching of a rotten board
To keep bare life and misery together
To fright each other.

Furies fright thy soul!
Is a good man’s ill fate thy nourishment?
Noble Orlando, what ominous fatal star
Rul’d thy nativity that fire must be
Strook out of ice to ruin all thy hopes.
This marriage is their grave.

Sir, I may raise
A broken state by service.

Yes, of the devil,
To whom thou art a factor.  Slave, ‘tis thou
That hast undone my father and increas’d
His evil inclinations.  I have seen
You conference with witches, night-spell knaves,
Conniving mountebanks and the damned fire
Of cheating mathematics.  And is this
The issue of your close conspiracies?
If in this promis’d throng of future ill
There may be found a way to any good
Of brave Orlando, the great palladine,
My constant industry shall tire the day
And outwatch night, but I will find it for him
And if to do him good.

Enter LA FUE.

Where’s Didier?

Here, thou contemptable thing that never wert
So free as to put on thine own ill hat;
Thou that hast worn thyself and a blue coat
To equal third bareness and never hadst
Virtue enough to make thee preferr’d
Before aught but a cloak-bag.  What to me?

The wish of pox enough to make thee all one entire scab.  Dost thou abuse thy elders?

I cry your reverence mercy.  I confess
You are more antique.

Antique in thy face.  My lord shall know.

But pray thee let me first
Know what my lord would have me know by thee.

I scorn to tell thee or to talk with thee and yet a’ would speak with thee and yet I will not tell thee and thou shalt shortly know thou hadst been better. I say no more, though my deserts be hid, My age is not, for I ne’er wear a hat and that shall be ballast to my complaint to make it go more steady to thy ruin. It shall, dost hear?  It shall.                                                                       [Exit.

Hence choleric fool.
Thy threats to me are like the king’s desire:
As uneffectual as the glow worm’s fire.


This music is too dull to mix itself
With the full joy I taste.  Oh, Ganelon,
Teach me a means to’express the gratitude
I owe thy virtues for this royal match,
Whereby methinks my ice is turn’d to fire,
My earth to air, those two base elements
Can challenge nothing in my composition,
As thou and Theodora now have made me,
For which be thou our lord great constable.

[Aside to LA BUSSE.] Observe.

[Aside to DIDIER.] Matters to make me mourn eternal.

Your bounty speaks you, sir, a god on earth,
For you reward a service thats so mean
It scarce speaks duty, for you are my emperor.

‘Tis <t>hou hast made me greate<r tha>n my name
<Charlm>agne, I<l>or<d.>
How miserable so ere, our nature makes
Us think a happiness was a great burden
But now ‘tis all the heaven I wish to know,
For time, whose end like his original
Is most inscrutable, hath now paid back
The sap of forty winters to these veins,
Which he had borrowed to maintain his course
From these late dead now manly faculties.
Kiss me, Theodora.  Gods, carouse your fill.
I envy not your nectar; from this lap
Purer Nepanthe flows.  Some trumpets, lords,
I challenge all of you at barriers.

[Aside.] Alas, good man,
A gauntlets weight will press him into cinders.

I am so rapt with pleasure and delight
I scarce think I am mortal.  All the joys
Wherewith heaven’s goodness can enrich a man
Not only greet, but dwell upon my sense,
And whiles I see thee cannot stray from thence,
Most excellent Theodora!

‘Tis only your acceptance makes me so,
For beauty’s like a stone of unknown worth,
The estimation makes it precious,
For which the gem’s beholden to the owner.

Did you ere hear a voice more musical?
The Thracian Orpheus, whose admired skill
Is said to have had power over ravenous beasts
To make them lay their natural fierceness by
When he but touch’d his harp, that on the flood
Had power above their regent, the pale moon,
To make them turn or stay their violent course
When he was pleas’d to ravish them with sound,
Ne’er had ability with all his art,
To match the natural music of thy voice;
And were I on the axletree of heaven
To note the zodiac’s annual change and course,
The sun’s bright progress and the planets’ motions
To play with Luna or new lamp the stars,
To note Orion or the Pleiades,
Or with the sun guide the Antipodes,
Yet all the glory in exchange for thee
Would be my torment and heaven’s cruelty.


Was ere man thus o’erjoyed with man’s own curse?

Thou only art happiness.

Not great, lord, for I bring news that doth include—

Cousin, your blame
And ‘tis a diligence of too much pride
That interrupts mine admiration.

My news when known will raze out that belief
And be as welcome as a gentle calm
To a long danger’d seaman in a storm,
Such as Æneas straggling fleet
At Juno’s will by Æolus was rais’d,
When in his flight from horror he saw more
Than Troy afforded, for the news I bring
Is victory, which crowns the crowns of kings.

Cousin Reinaldo, if you’ll sit and praise
The fair ears of my fair love, I will hear
Till you be tired with talking.

What’s this?  Is this the voice of mighty Charlemagne?
Sir, from your worthy nephew I am come,
The ever-fear’d Orlando, who in Spain
Hath with his own fame mix’d your happiness
By a bless’d victory.

We have no leisure
To hear, nor are we able to contain
Another happiness, nor is there other’
Success in war is but a pleasing dream
From whence a drum may fright us.  Here doth rest
My happiness, which cannot be express’d.


Princely Reinaldo, do not let amaze
Struggle within you; you but yet survey
The outside of our wonder.

Brother, ‘tis more
Than can be written in a chronicle.

But must not be without my reprehension.
Come, I will follow him.  When Charles doth fly
From honour, where shall goodness hope to lie?

 [Exit all but GANELON and RICHARD.

Stay, worthy friend, and let me plainly know
How you affect this humour in the king?

Faith, generally as a good subject should,
Delighted with the joy his king receives
And which I hope and wish may still continue
But in particular, because the cause
Of his joy cannot choose but work to you,
Effects worthy your virtues, for my old love
‘Tis nothing lodg’d in a desperate memory.

But dost not seem a most gross dott<age?>

Though certainly desire’s the only thing
Of strength about him, and that strength’s his joy
With a conceit that puts desire in act.

And is not that a dotage at the least?

I dare not tax the action of a king
By giving it an ill name in my thought.

Y’are modest, sir, not I; but yet, if I
Felt not a stranger love within myself
In this my strength of memory and eyars
Ability of body and of brain
More dotage on a man then he on her
A’ could not scape my censure.

I believe,
To which belief a long experience
Of your known worth most steadylike directs,
That if such an affection manage you,
‘Tis not the man or sex that causes it,
But the still growing virtues that inhabit
The object of your love.

‘Tis oracle most happy, princely Richard,
Thou youngest and thou fairest branch of Aimon,
And thy still-growing virtues have made thee
The object of that love; when first I saw thee,
Though but with a mere cursory aspect,
My soul did prompt me that so fair a form
Could not but be the mine of many virtues;
Then, miser-like, I sought to ope the mine
And find the treasure, whereupon I won
Your inmost friendship which with joy attain’d
In seeking for a spark, I found a flame
Whose riches made me admiration’s slave
And stagger’d me with wonder.

Good sweet lord,
Forbear this courtship; our acquaintance is
Too old, and as i hope friendship too firm
To be now cemented.

True, my best friend,
And though I want arithmetic to count
My treasure in thee, pray thee, give me leave
To joy in my possession of such bliss
To which all honours in our France compared
Were as a rush ‘mongst many millions shared.

Sir, though I know there is nothing in me
Able to give a flattery hope to thrive
In the most abject slave to it and court,
And therefore cannot doubt it in yourself,
Yet I beseech you talk of something else
Or I shall grow unmannerly and leave you;
Mine own praise is my torture.

Heaven forbid,
That I should torture him I love so much
Beyond expression, and since this offends thee,
I’ll speak of that shall please my noblest Richard.

You pleasure and your honourable end
Are bounds beyond which I have no delight.

If from this marriage there might spring a son,
Which is mine end, my honours would know none
But like a river that receives his name
Or first original from some mountain’s foot
Begins a single stream, but as last grows
To have no bound but what it could o’erflow,
But ‘tis impossible.

For snow and fire can hardly generate.

But while the snow lies on a mountain top,
Consuming with the heat which comforts all
Except itself, the fire may be blown
Into a second flame.

I grant you that.

Position and request, or else I perish.

What means my Ganelon?

Faith, to be plain,
And not to wrong the love which I have found
Ever in thee, with any further doubt,
My love would have thee call a king thy son
And get him of my sister.  Startst thou back?
Come, I do know thou lovest her with thy soul
And hast sight for her often; now enjoy
And do not stand amaz’d; if thou refuse
Then my hopes like the flower of flax receive
Their birth and grave together, for by heaven
To be made monarch of the universe
And lord of all clasp’d in the sea god’s arms,
I would not have her touch’d unless by thee,
And if the thought of men were scrutable
To man, and ‘mongst men might be known to me,
The fool that would attempt her but in thoughts
W<ould> be<tter hand-bound wrastle with the sea
<…> a<…>s join<…>
But yet my love doth offer her to thee
And this rejected.

You mistake me, sweet,
I am all yours and what you shall think fit
I’ll cease to question; yet my conscience calls
It a disloyal and a monstrous fact.

Tut, a prosperous sin is now a virtuous act.
Let not that start you.

I am confirmed.  But yet the empress—

Why, know not I how dear she values you,
And but for this hope would not live an hour
Come her consent shall fly to meet your wishes
And lock you up in safety.  I’th’next room
Stay me a little.                                                                         [Exit RICHARD.
Now, my projects go
Upright and steady; let me style myself,
And proudly too, the minion of the fates.
The emperor knits new honours to my house
Whilst to my blood I seek to bind his crown
And cheat his lawful heir, and since the law
Make all legitimate in wedlock born
By whomsoe’er begot, the way is even
Unto my future bliss and earthly heaven
And see how luckily this fellow comes!
Happiness court me!


My most honour’d lord.

O, Didier, the famous nephew unto Charles,
The only heir and hope of fruitful France,
Famous Orlando is returning home.

So ‘tis given out.

But might there not be something given the prince
To stay his journey?  I’ll be plain with thee,
For thy known love is worthy all my trust,
He is an envious torrent interpos’d
Twixt me and many honours, Didier;
And since unpassable must be chok’d with earth,
Thou understandst me.

Yes, sir, a’ must die.

And in his journey homeward.  A small dream
Will purge his soul away and twill be thought
Some of these rebels in those frontier towns
By him reduc’d to false obedience
Have in revenge o’th’servitude, wherein
His sword hath fix’d them, done’t so not so much
As bare suspicion ever will attach thee.

I’m glad y’ave named me in’t; I was afraid
I should have been left out in that brave act
Whereto my proper hate unto Orlando
And love to you entice me equally.

O, by no means!  Whom should I trust but thee?
‘Tis thou and I must make each other happy.
Repair thee with this gold and for thy pains
Be equal sharer in my present means
And future blessings.

No more, sir, I’ll do’t.
I speak it with a confidence, whereby
I’d have you say unto yourself ‘tis done.

Thanks, my most honest Didier.
Other affairs of serious consequence
Call me; the empress must be solicited
Unto an act for which I’d loath her, but
My ends have glorious aims.                                                          [Exit.

About them, sir, and dote not thus.
Yet methinks it were not fir in policy
To venture all in one poor shallow boat,
The sea of state going so rough and high.
Factions in court are like to suit in law
Where gold and grace keep equity in awe,
And but this marriage rule the emperor,
Who should protect me in so many ways
Leading to several and confus’d ends?
I will keep no direct one, but even wander
And mine own proper safety shall direct me
And though I wish my lord may raise his blood
Yes, that wish should give way to mine own good.


Save, Monsieur Didier.

Monsieur La Busse, my lord’s worst loved son,
Your company is fair.                                                                [Exit

The fellow mocks us.

Had a’ said good toe, then you might have doubted,
But fair’s an epithet you both may challenge.

And why not good?

A courtier might have spar’d it,
And, as he is a courtier, been excused
Though hit were false; for he whose tongue and heart
Run oneself course shall seldom find the way
To a preferment.  Now the court is grown
As strange a beast as the throng’d multitude
Differs not from the rabble, only ‘tis
The upper house.

Why will you be a limb of such a beast?

Faith, only for sport’s sake.

I rather think to make it more deform’d.

Be not so bitter, lady; how can I,
Though I should only study vanity
Be seen amongst so many that out-gloss me
In every several folly.

Yet little Richard, Aimon’s youngest son,
Is such a man your envy cannot tax him.

Malace with all her poisons cannot wound
His fair deserved reputation.

Sits the wind there?

Yes, sir, and blows me hence
In quest of him I do so much affect.                                                    [Exit.

Stay, I’ll go with you.

Oh, by no means, madam.
Methinks your long attendance at the court
Should make you not so apt to spoil good sport.

‘Sdeath, sport?  Pray, let me go.

Not yet, by Venus;
You first shall know my soul hath deeply vowed
My love and service to your excellent self.

Very good, sir; I know y’are son unto the minion
But yet I know your father loves you not
And that’s good too.

If truth at court be good
For any thing, then madam, you say true,
For ‘tis most true that I—

Pray, let me go.

Shun not his sight that doth adore your sight.
How faires the empress?  Like to a blowing rose
Nipp’d with a cold frost.  Will she still keep in
Crickl’d with ice?

I know not, nor I care not.

But you can guess, or in the frost’s despite
Will she blow out.

Sir, y’are unmannerly
To stay and question me.  I must be gone.

Take my heart with you.

He whose heart and tongue
Run oneself course shall seldom find the way
To a preferment.

‘Sfoot, do you think you lone
Such a preferment?  Nay then, fare you well.

Villainous man!                                                                                      [Exit.

Well, now unto my father whom I know
Hates me but for my goodness, and although
I cannot blame the empress; yet on him
I’ll vent mine honest spleen, and he shall know
Virtue at poorest hath yet one advocate,
Thought much too mean to help her.  See, a’comes.


The empress and young Richard are in league
Arm knit, and hart knit with the fervency
That no joy can exceed.  Heaven bless the mixture!
But stay, whose this?  O, my curious son.
What news with you, sir?

Sir, though your eminence may guild your vice
And greatness make your ills seem glorious
To some too far beneath you, that ne’er look
Into the chink and crannies of the state,
Yet, sir, with reverence, know you have done ill
To cross Orlando’s fair succession
By this unequal marriage.

Art grown mad?
Though I ne’er knew thee much oppress’d with wit,
I did not think thee such a foe to sense
To speak with such a daring impudence.

How’s that?

Thus, and observe me:  as you love the cupboard
Wherein your calves’ brains are lock’d up for breakfast,
Whene’er again thou shalt but dare to play
The dog and open thus where I am present
Without my special licence and command,
I’ll vex thee so with punishment and shame
That life shall be thy torment.  Hence, thou slave
Of no more shirts than souls, and they consisting
Of equal foulness!  Hence, I say!  Ignorance
Shall not excuse thee thus again offending.

Preposterous I walk for want of spirit.                                            [Exit.

Pity of folly!  Wherefore should this boy,
This thing of too nice countenance, nay my son
Trouble himself with any act of mine
As if they held proportion with his state,
Wit or condition? Such things are sway’d by chance
And naughts more arrogant than ignorance.


But here comes he that hath both brain to plot
And spirit to act.  How is it, Didier?

As you commended, sir.

Hast done it then?

And without suspicion.

Half my soul
Let me embrace thee all my cares and fears.
Thou hast disperc’d for ever from his death
My future honours take a glorious birth.

Enter LA FUE.

[Aside.] He’s never from him.  Nay, I must be gone.
Past service is forgot.  Do you hear, my lord,
Beggars must be no choosers; I am one;
The proverb proves it, an old servingman.
At your choice therefore be it; whether I
Or that knave shall stay with you, for both must not;
Your house, though large, cannot contain us both.

Why, what’s the matter, Fue?

Matter of wrong.
Full two and twenty several livery coats
Made and composed all for several years
Have I run through in your most faithful service.
O’th’scullery I was three years before
So black and blue I make account I’ve served
Your lordship five and twenty.

What means this?

My service notwithstanding, this proud Jack
Abuses me in words I understand not,
And therefore in plain terms, if you keep him,
I am no longer for you.

Patience, man.
If this be all, I’ll see it remedied.
He shall be sorry for the wrong that’s past
And promise thee to second it with other.

Shall he?  Why, let him then, and I will be content to die in peace.

I both repent and promise no amends.

Well, that shall pacify.  We will be friends and live in peace together.

On condition that hence you take no license to deprave my good endeavours.

In my conscience, he wrongs me now again.

Nor on this grow saucy and insolent.

Hay da! Can aught
Proceeding from my gravity to thee
Be esteemed sauciness?  You hear, my lord;
Can flesh and blood endure this?  I do know
My service is more pretious then to be
Thus toss’d and sullied by his envious breath
And though in policy, I will not leave
Your lordship’s service; yet if policy
Or brain of man may study a revenge,
This wit of mine that’s seldom shown in vain
Shall fashion out a rare one.                                                    [Exit.

Silly fool!
Come, Didier, mind not his peevish hate;
I’ll make thee yet obscur’d an envied state.                           [Exeunt.


Proceed to the next scene


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