EXCERPT FROM KING JOHN IN PLAIN AND SIMPLE ENGLISH
SCENE 1 KING JOHN's palace
Enter KING JOHN, QUEEN ELINOR, PEMBROKE, ESSEX, SALISBURY, and
Now, say, Chatillon, what would France with us?
Now tell me, Chatillon, what does the King of France want from me?
Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of France
In my behaviour to the majesty,
The borrowed majesty, of England here.
After the greeting this is what the King of France
says, through me as his representative,
to the counterfeit royalty of England.
A strange beginning- 'borrowed majesty'!
This is a strange beginning–“counterfeit royalty"!
Silence, good mother; hear the embassy.
Quiet, good mother; listen to what it says.
Philip of France, in right and true behalf
Of thy deceased brother Geffrey's son,
Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim
To this fair island and the territories,
To Ireland, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
Desiring thee to lay aside the sword
Which sways usurpingly these several titles,
And put the same into young Arthur's hand,
Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.
Philip of France, rightly and acting faithfully on behalf
of the son of your dead brother Geoffrey,
Arthur Plantagenet, makes a legally justified claim
to this fair island and its dependencies,
Ireland, Poitiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
asking you to withdraw the forces
which falsely hold these titles,
and to hand them over into the hands of young Arthur,
your nephew and the true king.
What follows if we disallow of this?
What will happen if we disagree with this?
The proud control of fierce and bloody war,
To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld.
You will have to face a fierce and bloody war,
for the return of these rights which you withhold by force.
Here have we war for war, and blood for blood,
Controlment for controlment- so answer France.
We can answer with war for war, blood for blood,
force for force–tell France that.
Then take my king's defiance from my mouth-
The farthest limit of my embassy.
Then accept the defiance of the King from me–
that's as far as my remit allows me.
Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace;
Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
For ere thou canst report I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be heard.
So hence! Be thou the trumpet of our wrath
And sullen presage of your own decay.
An honourable conduct let him have-
Pembroke, look to 't. Farewell, Chatillon.
Take mine to him, and so leave peacefully;
you must be like lightning, warning France;
because before you can speak to him I will be there,
you shall hear the thunder of my cannons.
So go! You can be the warning of my anger
and the dismal announcer of your own downfall.
Make sure he has a good escort–
see to it, Pembroke. Farewell Chatillon.
Exeunt CHATILLON and PEMBROKE
What now, my son! Have I not ever said
How that ambitious Constance would not cease
Till she had kindled France and all the world
Upon the right and party of her son?
This might have been prevented and made whole
With very easy arguments of love,
Which now the manage of two kingdoms must
With fearful bloody issue arbitrate.
What about that, my son! Haven't I always said
that the ambitious Constance would not stop
until she had France and the whole world fighting
to support her son's rights and his followers?
This could have been avoided and put right
with very simple friendly behaviour,
and now the question of who rules two kingdoms
must be settled by terrible bloody war.
Our strong possession and our right for us!
We are in possession, and that means right is on our side!
Your strong possession much more than your right,
Or else it must go wrong with you and me;
So much my conscience whispers in your ear,
Which none but heaven and you and I shall hear.
The strong grip you have is much more important than your rights,
if it isn't, you and I will be in trouble;
this is what I think deep down,
but nobody but you and God will hear it.
Enter a SHERIFF
My liege, here is the strangest controversy
Come from the country to be judg'd by you
That e'er I heard. Shall I produce the men?
My lord, I have here the strangest disagreement
that I ever heard, with men come from the country
to have your judgement. Shall I bring them in?
Let them approach.
Our abbeys and our priories shall pay
This expedition's charge.
Yes, bring them in.
The abbeys and the priories will pay
for the cost of this war.
Enter ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE and PHILIP, his bastard brother
What men are you?
Who are you?
Your faithful subject I, a gentleman
Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son,
As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge-
A soldier by the honour-giving hand
Of Coeur-de-lion knighted in the field.
I am a faithful subject of yours, a gentleman
born in Northamptonshire, and the eldest son,
I believe, of Robert Faulconbridge–
a soldier who was knighted on the battlefield
by Richard the Lionheart.
What art thou?
And who are you?
The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.
I am the son and heir of that same Faulconbridge.
Is that the elder, and art thou the heir?
You came not of one mother then, it seems.
He's older than you, and you are the heir?
So it seems you don't have the same mother.
Most certain of one mother, mighty king-
That is well known- and, as I think, one father;
But for the certain knowledge of that truth
I put you o'er to heaven and to my mother.
Of that I doubt, as all men's children may.
We certainly share the same mother, mighty King–
that is well known–and, I think, the same father;
but to have that proved for certain
you would have to ask heaven and my mother.
I have doubts about that, as any person may.
Out on thee, rude man! Thou dost shame thy mother,
And wound her honour with this diffidence.
Damn you, rude man! You are shaming your mother,
and insulting her honour with these doubts.
I, madam? No, I have no reason for it-
That is my brother's plea, and none of mine;
The which if he can prove, 'a pops me out
At least from fair five hundred pound a year.
Heaven guard my mother's honour and my land!
Me, madam? No, I have no reason to do it;
that is what my brother says, not me;
if he can prove it he deprives me
of at least five hundred pounds a year.
May heaven protect the honour of my mother and my property!
A good blunt fellow. Why, being younger born,
Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance?
A good straightforward chap. Why, as he is the younger,
does he claim your inheritance?
I know not why, except to get the land.
But once he slander'd me with bastardy;
But whe'er I be as true begot or no,
That still I lay upon my mother's head;
But that I am as well begot, my liege-
Fair fall the bones that took the pains for me!-
Compare our faces and be judge yourself.
If old Sir Robert did beget us both
And were our father, and this son like him-
O old Sir Robert, father, on my knee
I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!
I don't know why, except that he wants the land.
He did once slander me by calling a bastard;
but whether I am legitimately born or not
I leave to the evidence of my mother;
but that I am nobly born, my lord–
may good come to those who created me!–
Compare our faces and judge for yourself.
If Sir Robert created us both
and was our father, and this son is like him,
oh old Sir Robert, father, I give heaven
thanks upon my knees that I don't look like you!
Why, what a madcap hath heaven lent us here!
Why, what a lunatic heaven has sent to us!
He hath a trick of Coeur-de-lion's face;
The accent of his tongue affecteth him.
Do you not read some tokens of my son
In the large composition of this man?
He looks rather like the Lionheart;
his voice also sounds like him.
Can't you see some elements of my son
in this man's make up?
Mine eye hath well examined his parts
And finds them perfect Richard. Sirrah, speak,
What doth move you to claim your brother's land?
I've had a good look over him
and I think he's just like Richard. Speak, sir,
what makes you claim your brother's property?
Because he hath a half-face, like my father.
With half that face would he have all my land:
A half-fac'd groat five hundred pound a year!
Because he has a profile like my father.
He thinks that profile should give him all my land:
that imperfect coin wants five hundred pounds a year!
My gracious liege, when that my father liv'd,
Your brother did employ my father much-
My good lord, when my father was alive,
your brother often employed my father–
Well, sir, by this you cannot get my land:
Your tale must be how he employ'd my mother.
Well, sir, you won't get my land like this:
you must explain how he employed my mother.
And once dispatch'd him in an embassy
To Germany, there with the Emperor
To treat of high affairs touching that time.
Th' advantage of his absence took the King,
And in the meantime sojourn'd at my father's;
Where how he did prevail I shame to speak-
But truth is truth: large lengths of seas and shores
Between my father and my mother lay,
As I have heard my father speak himself,
When this same lusty gentleman was got.
Upon his death-bed he by will bequeath'd
His lands to me, and took it on his death
That this my mother's son was none of his;
And if he were, he came into the world
Full fourteen weeks before the course of time.
Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine,
My father's land, as was my father's will.
And he once sent him as ambassador
to Germany, to discuss important matters
of the time with the Emperor.
The King took advantage of his absence,
staying at my father's place,
and I'm ashamed to say how he succeeded there;
but the truth is the truth: there were great swathes of land and sea
between my father and my mother
when this lively gentleman was conceived–
I've heard my father say that himself.
On his deathbed he left me his lands
in his will, and as he was dying he swore
that my mother's son was not his;
for if he were, he would've had to be born
fourteen weeks ahead of time.
So, my good Lord, let me have what is mine,
my father's land, as my father willed it.
Sirrah, your brother is legitimate:
Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him,
And if she did play false, the fault was hers;
Which fault lies on the hazards of all husbands
That marry wives. Tell me, how if my brother,
Who, as you say, took pains to get this son,
Had of your father claim'd this son for his?
In sooth, good friend, your father might have kept
This calf, bred from his cow, from all the world;
In sooth, he might; then, if he were my brother's,
My brother might not claim him; nor your father,
Being none of his, refuse him. This concludes:
My mother's son did get your father's heir;
Your father's heir must have your father's land.
Sir, your brother's legitimate:
your father's wife had him after they were married,
and if she cheated, that was her sin;
that's a sin all husbands who marry wives
have to risk. Tell me, what if my brother,
whom you claim made great efforts to father this son,
told your father this son was his?
Truly, good friend, your father would have kept
this calf, bred from his cow, hidden from the world;
he really might have; then, if he were my brother's,
my brother might not claim him; and your father,
as it had nothing to do with him, would refuse him. To conclude:
my mother's son fathered your father's heir,
so your father's heir must have your father's land.
Shall then my father's will be of no force
To dispossess that child which is not his?
So my father's will doesn't have the power
to disinherit the child which isn't his?
Of no more force to dispossess me, sir,
Than was his will to get me, as I think.
He's no more able to disinherit me, sir,
than he was able to conceive me, I think.
Whether hadst thou rather be a Faulconbridge,
And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land,
Or the reputed son of Coeur-de-lion,
Lord of thy presence and no land beside?
Would you rather be a Faulconbridge,
and have the land like your brother,
or be thought of as the son of the Lionheart,
with a lordly title but no land?
Madam, an if my brother had my shape
And I had his, Sir Robert's his, like him;
And if my legs were two such riding-rods,
My arms such eel-skins stuff'd, my face so thin
That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose
Lest men should say 'Look where three-farthings goes!'
And, to his shape, were heir to all this land-
Would I might never stir from off this place,
I would give it every foot to have this face!
I would not be Sir Nob in any case.
Madam, if my brother looked like me,
and I looked like him, like Sir Robert;
if my legs were two beanpoles like his,
my arms like such stuffed eelskins, my face so thin
that I wouldn't dare put a rose behind my ear,
in case men said, “look, there goes a queen!"
If having his body made me heir to the whole country
I would never leave this place,
I would give up every foot of it to keep my own face!
I wouldn't be Sir Robert for anything.
I like thee well. Wilt thou forsake thy fortune,
Bequeath thy land to him and follow me?
I am a soldier and now bound to France.
I like you. Will you give up your fortune,
leave your land to him and follow me?
I am a soldier and am now going to France.
Brother, take you my land, I'll take my chance.
Your face hath got five hundred pound a year,
Yet sell your face for fivepence and 'tis dear.
Madam, I'll follow you unto the death.
Brother, you take my land, I'll take my chances.
Your face has got you five hundred pounds a year,
but if you sold your face for fivepence that would be too much.
Madam, I'll follow you to the death.
Nay, I would have you go before me thither.
No, if were going there are sooner you were ahead of me.
Our country manners give our betters way.
In the country we always let our betters go first.
What is thy name?
What is your name?
Philip, my liege, so is my name begun:
Philip, good old Sir Robert's wife's eldest son.
Philip, my lord, is my first name:
Philip, the eldest son of the wife of good old Sir Robert.
From henceforth bear his name whose form thou
Kneel thou down Philip, but rise more great-
Arise Sir Richard and Plantagenet.
From now on carry the name of the one you resemble:
kneel down as Philip, but get up greater;
arise Sir Richard and Plantagenet.