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Enter Chorus.

Chor. O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,

Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and

Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram

7. famine, sword and fire. This trio is probably suggested by a speech of Henry's, as reported by Holinshed, in which he replies to suppliant citizens, during his siege of Rouen (1419),

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Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;

And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.

Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,

And make imaginary puissance;

Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our

Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;

Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play. [Exit.

13. this wooden O; the narrow circular interior of the newly erected Globe Theatre on the Bankside, where the play was first performed. It was

'wooden,' being built of timber taken from the older 'theater'




on the opposite (city) side of the river.

13. the very (casques), the very same.

17. accompt, account.

25. puissance (three syllables).

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London. An ante-chamber in the
KING'S palace.


Cant. My lord, I'll tell you; that self bill is urged,

Which in the eleventh year of the last king's reign Was like, and had indeed against us pass'd,

But that the scambling and unquiet time

Did push it out of farther question.

Ely. But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?
Cant. It must be thought on. If it


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,

Sc. 1. Canterbury. This was Henrie Chichele. Shakespeare follows the chronicles in attributing to him the chief share in the clerical plot for diverting the VOL. VII



king's attention from his confiscation bill.

1. self, same.

4. scambling, turbulent.

A thousand pounds by the year: thus runs the bill.

Ely. This would drink deep.
"Twould drink the

Ely. But what prevention?

cup and all. 20

Cant. The king is full of grace and fair regard.
Ely. And a true lover of the holy church.
Cant. The courses of his youth promised it not.
The breath no sooner left his father's body,
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seem'd to die too; yea, at that very moment
Consideration, like an angel, came

And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him,
Leaving his body as a paradise,

To envelope 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.


We are blessed in the change.

Cant. 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 render'd 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,

19. A thousand pounds by the year. 'Hall and Holinshed the principal sum. "And the king to have clerely to his cofers twentie thousand poundes' (Hall). Shakespeare reckons




interest therefore at five per cent' (Wright).

28. Consideration, serious reflection.

34. currance, current,


The air, a charter'd libertine, is still,

And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honey'd 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 unletter'd, rude and shallow,
His hours fill'd 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
Neighbour'd 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.

Cant. It must be so; for miracles are ceased;
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected.

But, my good lord,




that Montaigne expresses this idea more explicitly in a passage (iii. 9) which Shakespeare perhaps knew in the original. Florio's translation (1603) it runs: 'Roses and Violets are ever the sweeter and more odoriferous, that grow neere under Garlike and Onions, forasmuch as they suck and draw all the ill savours of, the ground unto them.'

66. crescive in his faculty, increasing in virtue of its latent capacity.

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