Arthurian and Grail Plays
THE BIRTH OF MERLIN
[Enter Clown and his sister great with childe.]
CLOWN. Away, follow me no further, I am none of thy brother. What, with childe? great with childe, and knows not whose the father on't! I am asham'd to call thee sister.
JOAN. Believe me, brother, he was a gentleman.
CLOWN. Nay, I believe that; he gives arms, and legs too, and has made you the herald to blaze 'em: but, Joan, Joan, sister Joan, can you tell me his name that did it? how shall we call my cousin, your bastard, when we have it?
JOAN. Alas, I know not the gentlemans name, brother.
I met him in these woods the last great hunting;
He was so kinde and proffer'd me so much,
As I had not the heart to ask him more.
CLOWN. Not his name? why, this showes your country breeding now; had you been brought up i'th' city, you'd have got a father first, and the childe afterwards: hast thou no markes to know him by?
JOAN. He had a most rich attire, a fair hat and feather, a gilt sword, and most excellent hangers.
CLOWN. Pox on his hangers, would he had bin gelt for his labor.
JOAN. Had you but heard him swear, you would have thought--
CLOWN. I, as you did; swearing and lying goes together still. Did his oathes get you with childe? we shall have a roaring boy then, yfaith. Well, sister, I must leave you.
JOAN. Dear brother, stay, help me to finde him out,
I'le ask no further.
CLOWN. 'Sfoot, who should I finde? who should I ask for?
JOAN. Alas, I know not, he uses in these woods,
And these are witness of his oathes and promise.
CLOWN. We are like to have a hot suit on't, when our best witness's but a knight a'th' post.
JOAN. Do but enquire this forrest, I'le go with you;
Some happy fate may guide us till we meet him.
CLOWN. Meet him? and what name shall we have for him, when we meet him? 'Sfoot, thou neither knowst him nor canst tell what to call him. Was ever man tyr'd with such a business, to have a sister got with childe, and know not who did it? Well, you shall see him, I'le do my best for you, Ile make proclamation; if these woods and trees, as you say, will bear any witness, let them answer. Oh yes: If there be any man that wants a name will come in for conscience sake, and acknowledge himself to be a whore-master, he shal have that laid to his charge in an hour, he shall not be rid on in an age; if he have lands, he shall have an heir; if he have patience, he shall have a wife; if he have neither lands nor patience, he shall have a whore. So ho, boy, so ho, so, so.
[Within.] PRINCE UTER. So ho, boy, so ho, illo ho, illo ho.
CLOWN. Hark, hark, sister, there's one hollows to us; what a wicked world's this! a man cannot so soon name a whore, but a knave comes presently: and see where he is; stand close a while, sister.
[Enter Prince Uter.]
PRINCE. How like a voice that Eccho spake, but oh,
My thoughts are lost for ever in amazement.
Could I but meet a man to tell her beauties,
These trees would bend their tops to kiss the air
That from my lips should give her praises up.
CLOWN. He talks of a woman, sister.
JOAN. This may be he, brother.
CLOWN. View him well; you see, he has a fair sword, but his hangers are faln.
PRINCE. Here did I see her first, here view her beauty:
Oh, had I known her name, I had been happy.
CLOWN. Sister, this is he, sure; he knows not thy name neither. A couple of wise fools yfaith, to get children, and know not one another.
PRINCE. You weeping leaves, upon whose tender cheeks
Doth stand a flood of tears at my complaint,
Who heard my vows and oathes--
CLOWN. Law, Law, he has been a great swearer too; tis he, sister.
PRINCE. For having overtook her;
As I have seen a forward blood-hound strip
The swifter of the cry, ready to seize
His wished hopes, upon the sudden view,
Struck with astonishment, at his arriv'd prey,
Instead of seizure stands at fearful bay;
Or like to Marius soldiers, who, o'retook,
The eye sight killing Gorgon at one look
Made everlasting stand: so fear'd my power,
Whose cloud aspir'd the sun, dissolv'd a shower.
Pigmalion, then I tasted thy sad fate,
Whose ivory picture and my fair were one:
Our dotage past imagination.
I saw and felt desire--
CLOWN. Pox a your fingering! did he feel, sister?
PRINCE. But enjoy'd not.
Oh fate, thou hadst thy days and nights to feed
On calm affection; one poor sight was all,
Converts my pleasure to perpetual thrall:
Imbracing thine, thou lostest breath and desire,
So I, relating mine, will here expire.
For here I vow to you mournful plants,
Who were the first made happy by her fame,
Never to part hence, till I know her name.
CLOWN. Give me thy hand, sister, the childe has found his father. This is he, sure; as I am a man, had I been a woman, these kinde words would have won me, I should have had a great belly too, that's certain. Well, I'le speak to him.--Most honest and fleshly minded gentleman, give me your hand, sir.
PRINCE. Ha, what art thou, that thus rude and boldly darest
Take notice of a wretch so much ally'd
To misery as I am?
CLOWN. Nay, sir, for our aliance, I shall be found to be a poor brother in law of your worships: the gentlewoman you spake on is my sister: you see what a clew she spreads; her name is Joan Go-too't. I am her elder, but she has been at it before me; 'tis a womans fault.--Pox a this bashfulness! come forward, jug, prethee, speak to him.
PRINCE. Have you e're seen me, lady?
CLOWN. Seen ye? ha, ha! It seems she has felt you too: here's a yong Go-too't a coming, sir; she is my sister; we all love to Go-too't, as well as your worship. She's a maid yet, but you may make her a wife, when you please, sir.
PRINCE. I am amaz'd with wonder: tell me, woman,
What sin have you committed worthy this?
JOAN. Do you not know me, sir?
PRINCE. Know thee! as I do thunder, hell, and mischief;
Witch, scullion, hag!
CLOWN. I see he will marry her; he speaks so like a husband.
PRINCE. Death! I will cut their tongues out for this blasphemy.
Strumpet, villain, where have you ever seen me?
CLOWN. Speak for your self, with a pox to ye.
PRINCE. Slaves, Ile make you curse your selves for this temptation.
JOAN. Oh, sir, if ever you did speak to me,
It was in smoother phrase, in fairer language.
PRINCE. Lightning consume me, if I ever saw thee.
My rage o'reflowes my blood, all patience flies me. [Beats her.
CLOWN. Hold, I beseech you, sir, I have nothing to say to you.
JOAN. Help, help! murder, murder!
[Enter Toclio and Oswold.]
TOCLIO. Make haste, sir, this way the sound came, it was a wood.
OSWOLD. See where she is, and the prince, the price of all our wishes.
CLOWN. The prince, say ye? ha's made a poor subject of me, I am sure.
TOCLIO. Sweet prince, noble Uter, speak, how fare you, sir?
OSWOLD. Dear sir, recal your self; your fearful absence
Hath won too much already on the grief
Of our sad king, from whom our laboring search
Hath had this fair success in meeting you.
TOCLIO. His silence and his looks argue distraction.
CLOWN. Nay, he's mad, sure, he will not acknowledge my sister, nor the childe neither.
OSWOLD. Let us entreat your grace along with us;
Your sight will bring new life to the king your brother.
TOCLIO. Will you go, sir?
PRINCE. Yes, any whether; guide me, all's hell I see;
Man may change air, but not his misery. [Exit Prince, Toclio.]
JOAN. Lend me one word with you, sir.
CLOWN. Well said, sister, he has a feather, and fair hangers too, this may be he.
OSWOLD. What would you, fair one?
JOAN. Sure, I have seen you in these woods e're this.
OSWOLD. Trust me, never; I never saw this place,
Till at this time my friend conducted me.
JOAN. The more's my sorrow then.
OSWOLD. Would I could comfort you.
I am a bachelor, but it seems you have
A husband, you have been fouly o'reshot else.
CLOWN. A womans fault, we are all subject to go to't, sir.
TOCLIO. Oswold, away; the prince will not stir a foot without you.
OSWOLD. I am coming. Farewel, woman.
TOCLIO. Prithee, make haste. [Exit Oswold.]
JOAN. Good sir, but one word with you, e're you leave us.
TOCLIO. With me, fair soul?
CLOWN. Shee'l have a fling at him too; the childe must have a father.
JOAN. Have you ne'er seen me, sir?
TOCLIO. Seen thee? 'Sfoot, I have seen many fair faces in my time: prithee, look up, and do not weep so. Sure, pretty wanton, I have seen this face before.
JOAN. It is enough, though you ne're see me more. [Sinks down.]
TOCLIO. 'Sfoot, she's faln: this place is inchanted, sure; look to the woman, fellow. [Exit.]
CLOWN. Oh, she's dead, she's dead! As you are a man, stay and help, sir.--Joan, Joan, sister Joan, why, Joan Go-too't, I say; will you cast away your self, and your childe, and me too? what do you mean, sister?
JOAN. Oh, give me pardon, sir; 'twas too much joy
Opprest my loving thoughts; I know you were
Too noble to deny me--ha! Where is he?
CLOWN. Who, the gentleman? he's gone, sister.
JOAN. Oh! I am undone, then! Run, tell him I did
But faint for joy; dear brother, haste; why dost thou stay?
Oh, never cease, till he give answer to thee.
CLOWN. He: which he? what do you call him, tro?
JOAN. Unnatural brother,
Shew me the path he took; why dost thou dally?
Speak, oh, which way went he?
CLOWN. This way, that way, through the bushes there.
JOAN. Were it through fire,
The journey's easie, winged with sweet desire. [Exit.]
CLOWN. Hey day, there's some hope of this yet. Ile follow her for kindreds sake; if she miss of her purpose now, she'l challenge all she findes, I see; for if ever we meet with a two-leg'd creature in the whole kingdom, the childe shall have a father, that's certain. [Exit.]
[Loud musick. Enter two with the sword and mace, Cador, Edwin, two Bishops, Aurelius, Ostorius, leading Artesia crown'd, Constancia, Modestia, Octa, Proximus a Magician, Donobert, Gloster, Oswold, Toclio; all pass over the stage. Manet Donobert, Gloster, Edwin, Cador.]
DONOBERT. Come, Gloster, I do not like this hasty marriage.
GLOSTER. She was quickly wooed and won: not six days since
Arrived an enemy to sue for peace,
And now crown'd Queen of Brittain; this is strange.
DONOBERT. Her brother too made as quick speed in coming,
Leaving his Saxons and his starved troops,
To take the advantage, whilst 'twas offer'd.
'Fore heaven I fear the king's too credulous;
Our Army is discharg'd too.
GLOSTER. Yes, and our general commanded home.
Son Edwin, have you seen him since?
EDWIN. He's come to court, but will not view the presence,
Nor speak unto the king; he's so discontent
At this so strange aliance with the Saxon,
As nothing can perswade his patience.
CADOR. You know his humor will indure no check,
No, if the king oppose it:
All crosses feeds both his spleen and his impatience;
Those affections are in him like powder,
Apt to inflame with every little spark,
And blow up all his reason.
GLOSTER. Edol of Chester is a noble soldier.
DONOBERT. So is he, by the Rood, ever most faithful
To the king and kingdom, how e're his passions guide him.
[Enter Edol with Captains.]
CADOR. See where he comes, my lord.
OMNES. Welcome to court, brave earl.
EDOL. Do not deceive me by your flatteries:
Is not the Saxon here? the league confirm'd?
The marriage ratifi'd? the court divided
With pagan infidels, the least part Christians,
At least in their commands? Oh, the gods!
It is a thought that takes away my sleep,
And dulls my senses so I scarcely know you:
Prepare my horses, Ile away to Chester.
CAPTAIN. What shall we do with our companies, my lord?
EDOL. Keep them at home to increase cuckolds,
And get some cases for your captainships;
Smooth up your brows, the wars has spoil'd your faces,
And few will now regard you.
DONOBERT. Preserve your patience, sir.
EDOL. Preserve your honors, lords, your countries safety,
Your lives and lands from strangers. What black devil
Could so bewitch the king, so to discharge
A royal army in the height of conquest,
Nay, even already made victorious,
To give such credit to an enemy,
A starved foe, a stragling fugitive,
Beaten beneath our feet, so low dejected,
So servile, and so base, as hope of life
Had won them all to leave the land for ever?
DONOBERT. It was the kings will.
EDOL. It was your want of wisdom,
that should have laid before his tender youth
The dangers of a state, where forain powers
Bandy for soveraignty with lawful kings;
Who being setled once, to assure themselves,
Will never fail to seek the blood and life
Of all competitors.
DONOBERT. Your words sound well, my lord, and point at safety,
Both for the realm and us; but why did you,
Within whose power it lay, as general,
With full commission to dispose the war,
Lend ear to parly with the weakned foe?
EDOL. Oh the good gods!
CADOR. And on that parly came this embassie.
EDOL. You will hear me?
EDWIN. Your letters did declare it to the king,
Both of the peace, and all conditions
Brought by this Saxon lady, whose fond love
Has thus bewitched him.
EDOL. I will curse you all as black as hell,
Unless you hear me; your gross mistake would make
Wisdom her self run madding through the streets,
And quarrel with her shadow. Death!
Why kill'd ye not that woman?
DONOBERT. GLOSTER. Oh, my lord!
EDOL. The great devil take me quick, had I been by,
And all the women of the world were barren,
She should have died, e're he had married her
On these conditions.
CADOR. It is not reason that directs you thus.
EDOL. Then have I none, for all I have directs me.
Never was man so palpably abus'd,
So basely marted, bought and sold to scorn.
My honor, fame, and hopeful victories,
The loss of time, expences, blood, and fortunes,
All vanisht into nothing.
EDWIN. This rage is vain, my lord:
What the king does nor they nor you can help.
EDOL. My sword must fail me then.
CADOR. 'Gainst whom will you expose it?
EDOL. What's that to you? 'gainst all the devils in hell,
To guard my country.
EDWIN. These are airy words.
EDOL. Sir, you tread too hard upon my patience.
EDWIN. I speak the duty of a subjects faith,
And say agen, had you been here in presence,
What the king did, you had not dar'd to cross it.
EDOL. I will trample on his life and soul that says it.
CADOR. My lord!
EDWIN. Come, come.
EDOL. Now, before heaven--
CADOR. Dear sir!
EDOL. Not dare? thou liest beneath thy lungs.
GLOSTER. No more, son Edwin.
EDWIN. I have done, sir; I take my leave.
EDOL. But thou shalt not, you shall take no leave of me, sir.
DONOBERT. For wisdoms sake, my lord--
EDOL. Sir, I'le leave him, and you, and all of you,
The court and king, and let my sword and friends
Shuffle for Edols safety: stay you here,
And hug the Saxons, till they cut your throats,
Or bring the land to servile slavery.
Such yokes of baseness Chester must not suffer.
Go, and repent betimes these foul misdeeds,
For in this league all our whole kingdom bleeds,
Which Ile prevent, or perish. [Exit Edol, Captains.]
GLOSTER. See how his rage transports him!
CADOR. These passions set apart, a braver soldier
Breathes not i'th' world this day.
DONOBERT. I wish his own worth do not court his ruine.
The king must rule, and we must learn to obay,
True vertue still directs the noble way.
[Loud musick. Enter Aurelius, Artesia, Ostorius, Octa, Proximus, Toclio, Oswold, Hermit.]
AURELIUS. Why is the court so dull? me thinks, each room
And angle of our palace should appear
Stuck full of objects fit for mirth and triumphs,
To show our high content. Oswold, fill wine!
Must we begin the revels? Be it so, then!
Reach me the cup: Ile now begin a health
To our lov'd queen, the bright Artesia,
The royal Saxon king, our warlike brother.
Go and command all the whole court to pledge it.
Fill to the hermit there! Most reverent Anselme,
Wee'l do thee honor first, to pledge my queen.
HERMIT. I drink no healths, great king, and if I did,
I would be loath to part with health to those
That have no power to give it back agen.
AURELIUS. Mistake not, it is the argument of love
And duty to our queen and us.
ARTESIA. But he ows none, it seems.
HERMIT. I do to vertue, madam: temperate minds
Covets that health to drink, which nature gives
In every spring to man; he that doth hold
His body but a tenement at will,
Bestows no cost, but to repair what's ill:
Yet if your healths or heat of wine, fair princes,
Could this old frame or these cras'd limbes restore,
Or keep out death or sickness, then fill more,
I'le make fresh way for appetite; if no,
On such a prodigal who would wealth bestow?
OSTORIUS. He speaks not like a guest to grace a wedding.
ARTESIA. No, sir, but like an envious imposter.
OCTA. A Christian slave, a cinick.
OSTORIUS. What vertue could decline your kingly spirit
To such respect of him whose magick spells
Met with your vanquisht troops, and turn'd your arms
To that necessity of fight, which, thro dispair
Of any hope to stand but by his charms,
Had been defeated in a bloody conquest?
OCTA. 'Twas magick, hellbred magick did it, sir,
And that's a course, my lord, which we esteem
In all our Saxon wars unto the last
And lowest ebbe of servile treachery.
AURELIUS. Sure, you are deceiv'd, it was the hand of heaven
That in his vertue gave us victory.
Is there a power in man that can strike fear
Thorough a general camp, or create spirits
In recreant bosoms above present sense?
OSTORIUS. To blind the sense there may, with apparition
Of well arm'd troops within themselves are air,
Form'd into humane shapes, and such that day
Were by that sorcerer rais'd to cross our fortunes.
AURELIUS. There is a law tells us that words want force
To make deeds void; examples must be shown
By instances alike, e're I believe it.
OSTORIUS. 'Tis easily perform'd, believe me, sir:
Propose your own desires, and give but way
To what our magick here shall straight perform,
And then let his or our deserts be censur'd.
AURELIUS. We could not wish a greater happiness
Then what this satisfaction brings with it.
Let him proceed, fair brother.
OSTORIUS. He shall, sir.
Come, learned Proximus, this task be thine:
Let thy great charms confound the opinion
This Christian by his spells hath falsly won.
PROXIMUS. Great king, propound your wishes, then:
What persons, of what state, what numbers, or how arm'd,
Please your own thoughts; they shall appear before you.
AURELIUS. Strange art! What thinkst thou, reverent hermit?
HERMIT. Let him go on, sir.
AURELIUS. Wilt thou behold his cunning?
HERMIT. Right gladly, sir; it will be my joy to tell,
That I was here to laugh at him and hell.
AURELIUS. I like thy confidence.
ARTESIA. His sawcy impudence! Proceed to th'trial.
PROXIMUS. Speak your desires, my lord, and be it place't
In any angle underneath the moon,
The center of the earth, the sea, the air,
The region of the fire, nay, hell it self,
And I'le present it.
AURELIUS. Wee'l have no sight so fearful, onely this:
If all thy art can reach it, show me here
The two great champions of the Trojan War,
Achilles and brave Hector, our great ancestor,
Both in their warlike habits, armor, shields,
And weapons then in use for fight.
PROXIMUS. 'Tis done, my lord, command a halt and silence,
As each man will respect his life or danger.
SPIRITS. Quid vis?
PROXIMUS. Attend me.
AURELIUS. The apparition comes; on our displeasure,
Let all keep place and silence. [Within drums beat marches.]
[Enter Proximus, bringing in Hector, attir'd and arm'd after the Trojan manner, with target, sword, and battel-ax, a trumpet before him, and a spirit in flame colours with a torch; at the other door Achilles with his spear and falchon, a trumpet, and a spirit in black before him; trumpets sound alarm, and they manage their weapons to begin the fight: and after some charges, the hermit steps between them, at which seeming amaz'd the spirits tremble. Thunder within.]
PROXIMUS. What means this stay, bright Armel, Plesgeth?
Why fear you and fall back?
Renew the alarms, and enforce the combat,
Or hell or darkness circles you for ever.
ARMEL. We dare not.
PLESGETH. Our charms are all dissolv'd: Armel, away!
'Tis worse then hell to us, whilest here we stay. [Exit all.]
HERMIT. What! at a non-plus, sir? command them back, for shame.
PROXIMUS. What power o're-aws my spells? Return, you hell-hounds!
Armel, Plesgeth, double damnation seize you!
By all the infernal powers, the prince of devils
Is in this hermits habit: what else could force
My spirits quake or tremble thus?
HERMIT. Weak argument to hide your want of skill:
Does the devil fear the devil, or war with hell?
They have not been acquainted long, it seems.
Know, mis-believing pagan, even that power,
That overthrew your forces, still lets you see,
He onely can controul both hell and thee.
PROXIMUS. Disgrace and mischief! Ile enforce new charms,
New spells, and spirits rais'd from the low abyss
Of hells unbottom'd depths.
AURELIUS. We have enough, sir;
Give o're your charms, wee'l finde some other time
To praise your art. I dare not but acknowledge
That heavenly power my heart stands witness to:
Be not dismaid, my lords, at this disaster,
Nor thou, my fairest queen: we'l change the scene
To some more pleasing sports. Lead to your chamber.
How'ere in this thy pleasures finde a cross,
Our joy's too fixed here to suffer loss.
TOCLIO. Which I shall adde to, sir, with news I bring:
The prince, your brother, lives.
TOCLIO. And comes to grace this high and heaven-knit marriage.
AURELIUS. Why dost thou flatter me, to make me think
Such happiness attends me?
[Enter Prince Uter and Oswold.]
TOCLIO. His presence speaks my truth, sir.
DONOBERT. Force me, 'tis he: look, Gloster.
GLOSTER. A blessing beyond hope, sir.
AURELIUS. Ha! 'tis he: welcome, my second comfort.
Artesia, dearest love, it is my brother,
My princely brother, all my kingdoms hope:
Oh, give him welcome, as thou lov'st my health.
ARTESIA. You have so free a welcome, sir, from me,
As this your presence has such power, I swear,
O're me, a stranger, that I must forget
My countrey, name, and friends, and count this place
My joy and birth-right.
PRINCE. 'Tis she! 'tis she, I swear! oh, ye good gods, 'tis she!
That face within those woods where first I saw her,
Captived my senses, and thus many moneths
Bar'd me from all society of men.
How came she to this place,
Brother Aurelius? Speak that angels name,
Her heaven-blest name, oh, speak it quickly, sir.
AURELIUS. It is Artesia, the royal Saxon princess.
PRINCE. A woman, and no deity, no feigned shape,
To mock the reason of admiring sense,
On whom a hope as low as mine may live,
Love, and enjoy, dear brother, may it not?
AURELIUS. She is all the good or vertue thou canst name,
My wife, my queen.
PRINCE. Ha! your wife!
ARTESIA. Which you shall finde, sir, if that time and fortune
May make my love but worthy of your tryal.
AURELIUS. What troubles you, dear brother?
Why with so strange and fixt an eye dost thou
Behold my joys?
ARTESIA. You are not well, sir.
PRINCE. Yes, yes.--Oh, you immortal powers,
Why has poor man so many entrances
For sorrow to creep in at, when our sense
Is much too weak to hold his happiness?
Oh, say, I was born deaf: and let your silence
Confirm in me the knowing my defect;
At least be charitable to conceal my sin,
For hearing is no less in me, dear brother.
AURELIUS. No more!
I see thou art a rival in the joys
Of my high bliss. Come, my Artesia;
The day's most prais'd when 'tis ecclipst by night,
Great good must have as great ill opposite.
PRINCE. Stay, hear but a word; yet now I think on't,
This is your wedding-night, and were it mine,
I should be angry with least loss of time.
ARTESIA. Envy speaks no such words, has no such looks.
PRINCE. Sweet rest unto you both.
AURELIUS. Lights to our nuptial chamber.
ARTESIA. Could you speak so,
I would not fear how much my grief did grow.
AURELIUS. Lights to our chamber; on, on, set on! [Exeunt. Manet Prince.]
PRINCE. `Could you speak so,
I would not fear how much my griefs did grow.'
Those were her very words; sure, I am waking:
She wrung me by the hand, and spake them to me
With a most passionate affection.
Perhaps she loves, and now repents her choice,
In marriage with my brother. Oh, fond man,
How darest thou trust thy traitors thoughts, thus to
Betray thy self? 'twas but a waking dream
Wherein thou madest thy wishes speak, not her,
In which thy foolish hopes strives to prolong
A wretched being. So sickly children play
With health lov'd toys, which for a time delay,
But do not cure the fit. Be, then, a man,
Meet that destruction which thou canst not flie.
From not to live, make it thy best to die,
And call her now, whom thou didst hope to wed,
Thy brothers wife: thou art too nere a kin,
And such an act above all name's a sin
Not to be blotted out; heaven pardon me!
She's banisht from my bosom now for ever.
To lowest ebbes men justly hope a flood;
When vice grows barren, all desires are good.
[Enter Waiting Gentlewoman with a jewel.]
GENTLEWOMAN. The noble prince, I take it, sir?
PRINCE. You speak me what I should be, lady.
GENTLEWOMAN. Know, by that name, sir, Queen Artesia greets you.
PRINCE. Alas, good vertue, how is she mistaken!
GENTLEWOMAN. Commending her affection in this jewel, sir.
PRINCE. She binds my service to her: ha! a jewel; 'tis
A fair one, trust me, and methinks, it much
Resembles something I have seen with her.
GENTLEWOMAN. It is an artificial crab, sir.
PRINCE. A creature that goes backward.
GENTLEWOMAN. True, from the way it looks.
PRINCE. There is no moral in it alludes to her self?
GENTLEWOMAN. 'Tis your construction gives you that, sir;
She's a woman.
PRINCE. And, like this, may use her legs and eyes
Two several ways.
GENTLEWOMAN. Just like the sea-crab,
Which on the mussel prayes, whilst he bills at a stone.
PRINCE. Pretty in troth. Prithee, tell me, art thou honest?
GENTLEWOMAN. I hope I seem no other, sir.
PRINCE. And those that seem so are sometimes bad enough.
GENTLEWOMAN. If they will accuse themselves for want of witness,
Let them, I am not so foolish.
PRINCE. I see th'art wise.
Come, speak me truly: what is the greatest sin?
GENTLEWOMAN. That which man never acted; what has been done
Is as the least, common to all as one.
PRINCE. Dost think thy lady is of thy opinion?
GENTLEWOMAN. She's a bad scholar else; I have brought her up,
And she dares owe me still.
PRINCE. I, 'tis a fault in greatness, they dare owe
Many, e're they pay one. But darest thou
Expose thy scholar to my examining?
GENTLEWOMAN. Yes, in good troth, sir, and pray put her to't too;
'Tis a hard lesson, if she answer it not.
PRINCE. Thou know'st the hardest?
GENTLEWOMAN. As far as a woman may, sir.
PRINCE. I commend thy plainness.
When wilt thou bring me to thy lady?
GENTLEWOMAN. Next opportunity I attend you, sir.
PRINCE. Thanks, take this, and commend me to her.
GENTLEWOMAN. Think of your sea-crab, sir, I pray. [Exit.]
PRINCE. Oh, by any means, lady.--
What should all this tend to?
If it be love or lust that thus incites her,
The sin is horrid and incestuous;
If to betray my life, what hopes she by it?
Yes, it may be a practice 'twixt themselves,
To expel the Brittains and ensure the state
Through our destructions; all this may be
Valid, with a deeper reach in villany
Then all my thoughts can guess at;--however,
I will confer with her, and if I finde
Lust hath given life to envy in her minde,
I may prevent the danger: so men wise
By the same step by which they fell, may rise.
Vices are vertues, if so thought and seen,
And trees with foulest roots branch soonest green. [Exit.]