Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1
Enter the two Bishops of Canterbury and Ely
CANTERBURY My lord, I'll tell you: that self bill is urged,
Which in th'eleventh year of the last king's reign
Was like, and had indeed against us passed,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of further question.
ELY But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?
CANTERBURY It must be thought on: if it pass against us,
We lose the better half of our possession.
For all the temporal lands which men devout
By testament have given to the Church
Would they strip from us; being valued thus:
As much as would maintain, to the king's honour,
Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights,
Six thousand and two hundred good esquires,
And, to relief of lazars and weak age
Of indigent faint souls past corporal toil,
A hundred almshouses right well supplied,
And to the coffers of the king beside,
A thousand pounds by th'year. Thus runs the bill.
ELY This would drink deep.
CANTERBURY 'Twould drink the cup and all.
ELY But what prevention?
CANTERBURY The king is full of grace and fair regard.
ELY And a true lover of the holy church.
CANTERBURY The courses of his youth promised it not.
The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
Consideration like an angel came
And whipped th'offending Adam out of him,
Leaving his body as a paradise,
T'envelop and contain celestial spirits.
Never was such a sudden scholar made,
Never came reformation in a flood,
With such a heady currance, scouring faults,
Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
As in this king.
ELY We are blessèd in the change.
CANTERBURY Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire the king were made a prelate.
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say it hath been all in all his study.
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rendered you in music.
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter, that, when he speaks,
The air, a chartered libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences,
So that the art and practic part of life
Must be the mistress to this theoric:
Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain,
His companies unlettered, rude and shallow,
His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports,
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.
ELY The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighboured by fruit of baser quality.
And so the prince obscured his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness, which, no doubt,
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty.
CANTERBURY It must be so, for miracles are ceased.
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected.
ELY But, my good lord,
How now for mitigation of this bill
Urged by the commons? Doth his majesty
Incline to it, or no?
CANTERBURY He seems indifferent,
Or rather swaying more upon our part
Than cherishing th'exhibitors against us,
For I have made an offer to his majesty,
Upon our spiritual convocation
And in regard of causes now in hand,
Which I have opened to his grace at large,
As touching France, to give a greater sum
Than ever at one time the clergy yet
Did to his predecessors part withal.
ELY How did this offer seem received, my lord?
CANTERBURY With good acceptance of his majesty,
Save that there was not time enough to hear,
As I perceived his grace would fain have done,
The severals and unhidden passages
Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms
And generally to the crown and seat of France,
Derived from Edward, his great-grandfather.
ELY What was th'impediment that broke this off?
CANTERBURY The French ambassador upon that instant
Craved audience; and the hour I think is come
To give him hearing. Is it four o'clock?
ELY It is.
CANTERBURY Then go we in to know his embassy,
Which I could with a ready guess declare,
Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.
ELY I'll wait upon you and I long to hear it. Exeunt
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