Charlemagne – Act Three, Scene One

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…> it is not possible
The smooth face of the wanton lovely Richard
Should promise more true fortitude in love
Than torture a recreant by persuasions.

Why, mother, you have seen the course of things,
The small assurance and the certain death,
The mere deceitful scope and shadowed ruins
That are most cunningly knit up in pleasures.;
And are you still to learn, or will you trust
A lovely face with all your good belief?
My duty checks mine anger, for I should—

What should you?

Give your taste a bitterness.

I pray thee, do.  Bitter things expel poison.
See if my follies may be purg’d a little.

Spleen shall not taint my goodness
So much as to account your errors follies;
But I protest were you another woman
I should be boldly serious and tell you
That all the wits of Christendom are spent
In stripping the corrupting heart of smoothness;
And yet you think a smooth persuading boy
Bears all his danger in his cheek and eye.
Shall women trust a sweet and courtly face
When they themselves deceive most by the face?
Why serves out own dissembling art if we
Cannot suspect when others do dissemble.

True, daughter.  Love is like the weasel that went into the meal-chamber.  It comes in at a little chink no bigger than our eyesight, but having a while fed on imagination, dreams sonnets to the tune of sighs and heigh-hos; it grows so plump and full of humours it asks a cranny as big as a cony borrow to get out again.

And wherefore then should I trust in the face?
Mother, ‘tis true your son, my cruel brother,
The too much wise, too subtle Ganelon
Only withdraws Richard’s affection.
Even to myself a’ swore a’ should not love me
And who that knows him knows he is not led
By the charm of his voice only.

Trust me, wench,
‘Twas tyranny to speak so, but in this
Where lieth out prevention.

Only thus:
You must by all means stir dissention
Twixt Richard and my brother; turn their loves
To mortal hate and emulation
Which but effected, Richard will sure will love
Be’t but alone to cross his enemy.

Content thyself, girl.  There is not that malicious creature now living, no not a venomous and crafty stepdame, nor a tale-carrying truth-preventing gossip can make their seeds of enmity poison that love of parents, husband, neighbours or good fellowship sooner of more effectual than I will cross their friendship.  But to better purpose—

Peace, no more.  Here comes the aged bishop,
The king’s enamoured darling.


Best lady, well encountered.  How runs chance
With your dear son, my good lord Ganelon?

Better than envy wishes, gracious sir.
Lost from the court he left behind him there
All cares and all vexations.  Now he sleeps,
Eats, drinks, and laughs, and but when he doth sweat
Moves not his hat till bedtime; doth not fawn,
Nor crouch, nor cringe, nor starch his countenance;
Is not ta’en up with other men’s affairs,
But only looks to’s own commodity.

His change was passing happy then it seems.

Both for himself and his; for, great sir, now
He only waits a country commonwealth to raise
All his to country fortunes, which they say
Is safest, surest, and least envied.

Why, pretty lady, you’ll not leave the court.

Yes, gracious lord.  I’m sent to bring her thence
Our poor retired family must plant
Their branches in the broad air, not be plash’d
Or propp’d against the walls of palaces.

I do commend your temper, but, madam, ‘tis
His higness’ pleasure, for some special ends
Only to him conceal’d, that instantly
Your son repair to’th’court which I entreat
You will impart unto him.

Most willingly;
Yet, sir, I know his heart settl’d there
Which to the court is a contrary sphere.  [Exeunt ELDEGRAD and GABRIELLA.

How prettily these women can dissemble!
<…>s this ring hi<s…>
O, ‘tis a foul and damned sorcery
And makes the best of wisdom and of men
Of fame and fortitude more loose than air,
Foolish as idiots, base as cowardice;
Why, I am even rack’d with compliment
And tortures past all suff’rance; age nor sex
Holds difference in this incantation.
But I will try it further.  Hark, a’ comes.
Now must I pass the pikes of lunacy.


Come, come, my dearest, wherefore do you starve
My quick desires with your so cruel absence.
I pray thee, tender my declining age.
Stand always near that I may never faint
For thou inspirst in my more strength and life
Than mighty nature when she made me young.

Sir, I have always been your humblest servant.

O, you dissemble finally.

I protest, sir—

Nay, then, I believe you flatter me;
But say thou dost, and seem to love me dearly,
Although thy heart denies it.  I forgive thee,
For I confess as freely as I love,
One little spark of the out-buys my kingdom
And when my kingdom’s gone, pray what am I?
A poor decrepit miserable thing
That needs no greater plague than age and wrinkles.

Indeed, your passion is too violent.
I do adore you next to deity
And will lay down my life for you to tread on.
Begin cut, possibly by censor >

Oh, now religion, teach me to believe
Another god, or I must forfeit heaven
And worship what I see; this happy creature
Now courtiers flattery cannot keep my sense
From knowing what I feel, for I am weak.
< End cut
‘Tis all my comfort  now, to think on thee
Who brings my captur’d soul to liberty.
Choose then a fit reward; examine all,
All my dominions and authorities;
Think what may please thee, make a full request
Or I shall grow a burhen to thy favours.

What shall I ask that in your favours have
All that I can desire?

Nay, ask me something; come, tell’t in mine ear.

What think you, lord?
Has any favourite all he can desire?

Yes, and a’ be contented.

Right, sir, that’s the question.  But can a favourite be so easily contented?

Most easily, being such a worthy reverent prelate.

‘Sfoot, man!  Let him be ten thousand reverend prelates  + priests a’ will still want something; five him but time and a wager with thee, Richard, he asks somewhat. See, see, the emperor instructs him; a good old loving soul he is and a good old love he has chosen.  I do not now blame his doting on my sister.

<Note:  In the previous speech, “reverend prelates” is crossed out by the censor in the manuscript and replaced by “priests” as shown.  As well, he has added the words “Read priests” in the margin to emphasize the change – BF>

No more, no more.  ‘Tis dangerous jesting with edge tools much more with princes.

If princes have edge tools I grant it; but does his grave majesty look like a lord of that metal?  Come, come, be not so severe.  Let us prate whilst they whisper.

Is that good manners?

Shall not we do as the king does?  Manners give place to policy and I am surer great formal outsides think it an aspiring policy to do or seem to do as the king doth.

Come, thou art wanton.

As the Bishop is costive in his begging, ‘twere a miracle should he ask nothing.  Let me see, does no body stand in his way to be removed, thanks to haven my father’s shrunk already, or does not somebody stand too far of that a’ would draw nearer.  Somewhat there must be.

How now, cousin!  What says La Busse?

Marry, my lord, I say if you should give half that liberty of begging to a courtier of mine acquaintance that you gave to the bishop, you would be begg’d out of your whole kingdom in a couple of minutes.

Like enough, for thy acquaintance are foul beggarly companions,
Yet would thy father had thy virtue.  But, sweet friend,
Assure thyself, th’ast fix’d my resolution
As firm as destiny, and I will give
All satisfaction to the Palladine.

It will be royal in you.


Kiss me, sweet.  Oh, you are welcome; stand up.
And how does this retir’d life agree
With Ganelon?

As Ganelon with it,
Most desolately, sir.  I have endur’d
Subjection to my fate since last I saw you.
In all which hapless bondage I have gain’d
<Not one h>our’s comfort till ‘twas doub<l>y <e>arn’d
Since first I knew what sleep and waking meant
I never slept in quiet, nor awak’d
But with a hearty wish to sleep my last.
Not a poor simple jest hath made me smile
Till I had paid the tribute of my cares
Over and over.  Fortune has oppos’d
My natural blessings and my wisest ends.
These very honours which my birthright claims
Have cost me more vexation to preserve
Than all the numerous titles of a king
Purchas’d with plague and famine; yet in all
My days of sorrow I was still to learn
A suff’ring of that impious account
Which now afflicts me.

O, you are cunning.

Yes, and may teach the world to counterfeit.


But here comes the Earl of Angiers.

Nephew, y’are discontented and I would
Give all right to your honour which did cause
Me lately thus to send for you.

‘Tis true;
You sent unto me, sir, and I obeyed
And came; but then, sir, what became of me?
You sent me presently away for Spain.
Nay, never frown; I do remember this
As well methinks, as if it happen’d now.

Your memories to blame, you do mistake.

O, that I could mistake, or never think
Upon this daily terror to my sense.
Sir, ‘tis a thing I labour to mistake,
But cannot for my stars will have it thus.

You wrong your fortunes and convert their good
Into a strong disease.

So pray you, turn me then unto an hospital.
I have a strange disease, But, gracious sir,
Little thought I when I departed hence
And conquered you all Spain, to turn diseas’d.

Be patient and I’ll undertake the cure.

O, I should shame  your physic, though indeed
‘Tis the king’s evil I am troubled with,
But such a rare king’s evil that I fear
My children’s children will be tainted with’t.

A’ touches him most boldly.

Even to the quick of his last marriage.

Believe’t, my sickness is like the disease
Which runs still in a blood, nay, more extreme,
For friends and kindred both must feel my curse;
But what good man can well escape a curse
When emperors that should be absolute, will take
Advice from every shifting sycophant.

Malace and faction could have said no more.

Are you then guilty of advice, my lord?

Sir, if the king accuse me, I submit.

I must accuse you both, but punish one;
You, Ganelon, I mean.  There doth belong
Unto your fault much more than banishment.
I here discharge you of all offices,
Honours and titles or what ere exceeds
The slender name of a poor gentleman.
Besides, I fine you out of your estate
At forty thousand crowns and never hence
To see the court, but live thence banash’d.
Nephew, this may suffice you; if’t be light,
I’ll lay more burthens on him.  Come, best friend.

Sir, I desire no man’s misery.  [Exeunt CHARLEMAGNE and BISHOP TURPIN.

Then welcome once again my liberty!
Now my sweet friend may I discourse with thee
And utter my distraction; only now
Can I retain thee fully in my bosom
Before I was divided in myself.
The emperor  and the state did claim a part
But all my friendship now is undisturb’d
And only thou shalt have what many had,
My best employments and my whole desires.

You are a jewel fitter for the state
And I fear what will follow.  Sure the emperor
Has loosen’d every pearl about his crown
In losing you, the glory of his kingdom.

No, no, he shall complain that wanting me
He wants his refuge, and my glory then
Shall be to scorn his favours, whilst my thoughts
Only take pleasure in a perfect friend
Which is yourself, that only <seem> to me
<…> enough to caper to <…>

What means he by these fantastic signs of mirth?
Cousin Reinaldo, Cousin Oliver,
Why does he grow thus giddy?

What says the emperor’s nephew?  Does he grudge
That I should take a poor content in shame?
Your envy will discredit you, my lord.
Gentlemen, have you not heard of Æsop’s dog
That once lay snarling in the ox’s manger?

What then?

He was an arrant peevish cur,
Nothing but so and I protest sincerely,
I would have hang’d that dog, had he been mine,
Although a lioness had been his dame.

You dog’s comparison’s a saucy fool.

Sir, I am just of your opinion, I;
For what extreme beast but a foolish cur
Would envy that which he himself dispises?
Be not offended, Sir, though simply I
Can live in peace at home with hungry leeks
And never curse my planets.  I can leap
With more actuality than yesterday.                                                              [Capers.
Does this offend you?


Were you thus nimble ever from a boy?

No, in good faith, it takes me of the sudden.

Your heart is lighter than it needs, I doubt.

Yes, and your head is lighter than your heels.

It is the honour of his gravity
Not to be shaken with ridiculous winds
Of envy or of scandal.  Good sir, think
His resolutions now his champions.

Sirrah, no more.  You shall go home with me
And learn to laugh at fortune.  I have there
A worthy match and virtuous wife for thee
And she shall pile up all your flattery;
The court hath no use for it.  Sir, methought
You talk’d of lightness, did you not?

Yes, yet your head is lighter than your heels.

It is, I thank my stars; how can it choose,
Being disburden’d of so many fears,
So much attendance and so many sins
By loss of my late offices?  I am bound,
My countenance knows it well, to bless your lordship.
If you or others moved the emperor
To my displacing, I am now unloaded
Of all the weighty cares that did oppress me
And shall I not discover what I am?
A nimble and a new born quiet man.                                                           [Capers.
Does this offend you?


Where is Lord Richard?

Here, reverend sir.

His majesty commands you on pain
Of life and your allegiance, that from hence
You never more converse with Ganelon,
Either by letter, speech or compliment;
No, not so much as see him, and withal,
You must immediately attend his highness.

I am his servant.                                         [Exeunt BISHIP TURPIN and RICHARD.

Till now I ne’er felt thunder.  I am struck
To death with man’s soft language.  Come, away.
Till now I ne’er saw truly a sad day.                   [Exeunt GANELON and LA BUSSE.

Wherefore did the antry emperor
Degrade this merry lord?  To pleasure me,
Did he not, cousin?

Yes, to satisfy
The wrong he did in plotting of your death.

He did so, right, but ‘tis as fruitless all
As catching of the moon. ‘Tis past man’s power
To take away my curse of destiny.
Begin cut by reviser>

‘Tis that opinion multiplies your curse.

Had any man but such a slave as I
Look’d to have triumphed in his base dejection,
And he should have been glutted with his fortunes,
Whilst I and all the projects I can make
Cannot, with Fortune’s leave, get a good dream.

Do not so blame your fortune, worthy cousin.
You have in many actions prosper’d well.

Good, do not study how to flatter me.
I am in all things most unfortunate.
<Witness> my first love to Angelica,
<…> my curse <…>
My many shipwracks, my half combating,
Charms or enchantments or whatever else
Can break the heart of resolution.

What say you to your conquest?

Tut, in those
Fortune did never meddle; honour there
Served in her person, not by substitute.
Instead of which poor blessing not a day
Hath happen’d since without some misery.
Where’s now my hope of birthright?  Where all France?
Drown’d in the cradle of a chamber groom.
And now, just now, resolving to afflict
That miserable lord, he doth despise
Me and his shame, because in me it lies.
<End cut by reviser
By heaven, I will release him!

Nothing so.
Pray, leave this angry mood and follow me.
I’ll add a torment to his misery.                     [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene


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