[Renascence Editions]

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Renascence Editions


Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville.

Note: this Renascence Editions text was transcribed and annotated by Leah Allen, Joanne Holland, Gillian Jewison, Elona McGifford, Sharlee Reimer, and Sharanpal Ruprai in June 2003 for a course at the University of Winnipeg called Shakespeare's Rivals, taught by Dr. Mark Morton. The source used was a reproduction of a photostat of the 1565 edition by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville located in the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. Any errors that have crept into the transcription are the fault of the Publisher. The text is in the public domain. The annotations are copyright © 2003 to the aforementioned transcribers. For nonprofit and educational uses only. Send comments and corrections to the Publisher.



    Whereof three Acts were written by

    Thomas Nortone[1], and the two last by

    Thomas Sackuyle[2].

    Set forth as the same was shown before the
    Queen's most excellent Majesty, in her highness'
    Court of Whitehall, the xviii day of January,
    Anno Domini[3]. 1561. By the Gentlemen
    Of Thynner[4] Temple in London.




    Imprinted at London

    in Fletestreet[5], at the sign of the
    Falcon by William Griffith: And are
    to be sold at his Shop in Saint
    Dunstones Churchyard
    The West of London.

    Anno[6], 1565. Septemb. 22. Q 3


The Argument of the Tragedy.

Gorboduc, king of Britain, divided his Realm in his lifetime to his Sons, Ferrex and Porrex. The Sons fell to division and dissention. The younger killed the elder. The Mother that more dearly loved the elder, for revenge killed the younger. The people moved with the Cruelty of the fact, rose in Rebellion and slew both father and mother. The Nobility assembled and most terribly destroyed the Rebels. And afterwards for want of Issue of the Prince whereby the Succession of the Crown became uncertain. They fell to Civil war in which both they and many of their Issues were slain, and the Land for a long time almost desolate and miserably wasted.

The names of the Speakers.

Gorboduc, king of great Britain.
Videna, Queen and wife to king Gorboduc.
Ferrex, Elder son to king Gorboduc.
Porrex, Younger son to king Gorboduc.
Clotyn, Duke of Cornwall.
Fergus, Duke of Albany.
Mandud, Duke of Leagre.
Gwenard, Duke of Cumperland.
Eubulus, Secretary to the king Gorboduc.
Arostus, A Councilor to king Gorboduc.
Dordan, A Councilor assigned by the king to his Eldest Son Ferrex.
Philander, A Councilor assigned by the king to his younger Son Porrex.
(Both being of the old king's Counsel before.)
Hermon, A Parasite remaining with Ferrex.
Tyndar, A Parasite remaining with Porrex.
Nuntius, A Messenger of the elder Brother's death.
Nuntius, A Messenger of Duke Fergus rising in Arms.
Marcella, A Lady of the Queen's privy Chamber.
Chorus, Four ancient and Sage men of Britain.

The Order of the dumb show[7] before the
first Act, and the Signification thereof.

First the Music of Violins began to play, during which came in upon the Stage six wild men

clothed in leaves. Of whom the first bore in his neck a fagot[8] of small sticks, which they all both severally and together assayed[9] with all their strengths to break, but it could not be broken by them. At the length one of them plucked out one of the sticks and broke it: And the rest plucking out all the other sticks one after another did easily break, the same being severed: which being conjoined they had before attempted in vain. After they had this done, they departed the Stage, and the Music ceased Hereby was signified, that a state knit in unity doth continue strong against all force. But being divided, is easily destroyed. As befell upon Duke Gorboduc dividing his Land to his two sons which he before held in Monarchy. And upon the dissention of the Brethren to whom it was divided.



 Viden[11], Ferrex. 


      The silent night that brings the quiet pause,

        From painful travails[12] of the weary Day:

        Prolongs my careful thoughts and makes me blame

        The slow Aurore[13] that so for love or shame

5      Doth long delay to show her blushing face,

        And now the Day renews my griefull[14] plaint[15]


        My gracious Lady and mother dear,

        Pardon my grief, for your so grieved mind

        To ask what cause so tormenteth your heart.



10    So great a wrong and so unjust despite,

        Without all cause against all course of kind.


        Such causeless wrong and so unjust despite,

        May have redress, or at the least revenge.


        Neither my Son, such is the froward[16] will,

15    The person such, such my mishap and thine.



        Mine know I none, but grief for your distresses.



        Yes: mine for thine my son: A father? no:

        In kind a father, but not in kindliness.      


        My father: why? I know nothing at all;

20    Wherein I have misdone[17] unto his Grace.        


        Therefore, the more unkind to thee and me.

        For knowing well (my son) the tender love

        That I have ever born and bear to thee,

        He grieved thereat[18], is not content alone,

25    To spoil thee of my sight my chiefest Joys,

        But thee, of thy birth, right and Heritage

        Causeless, unkindly and in wrongful wise[19],

        Against all Law and right he will bereave,

        Half of his kingdom he will give away.      


30    To whom?


         Even to Porrex his younger son

        Whose growing pride I do so sore suspect,

        That being raised to equal Rule with thee,

        Me thinks I see his envious heart to swell

        Filled with Disdain and with ambitious Pride

35    The end the Gods do know, whose Alters I

        Full oft have made in vain of Cattle slain,

        To send the sacred smoke to Heaven’s Throne[20],

        For thee my son if things so succeed,

        As now my Jealous mind misdeemeth[21] sore.    


40    Madam leave care and careful plaint for me;

        Just hath my Father been to every wight[22],

        His first injustice he will not extend

        To me I trust, that give no cause thereof,

        My brother’s pride shall hurt himself, not me.          


45    So grant the Gods: but yet thy father so

        Hath firmly fixed his unmoved mind

        That plaints and prayers can no whit[23] avail,

        For those have I assayed, but even this day,

        He will endeavor to procure assent

50    Of all his Council to his fond device.      



        Their Ancestors from race to race have borne

        True faith to my forefathers and their seed,

        I trust they eke[24] will bear the like to me.       



        There resteth all, but if they fail thereof,

55    And if the end bring forth an evil success

        On them and theirs the mischief shall befall,

        And so I pray the Gods requite[25] it them,

        And so they will, for so is wont[26] to be

        When Lords and trusted Rulers under kings

60    To please the present fancy of the Prince,

        With wrong transpose the course of governance

        Murders, mischief, or civil sword at length,

        Or mutual treason, or a just revenge,

        When right succeeding Line returns again

65    By Jove’s[27] just Judgment and deserved wrath

        Brings them to civil and reproachful death,

        And roots[28] their names and kindred’s from the earth.      



        Mother content you, you shall see the end.


        The end? thy end I fear, Jove end me first.

Actus primus. Scena Secunda.[29] 

Gorboduc, Arostus, Philander, Eubulus. 


1      My lords whose grave advice and faithful aid

        Have long upheld my honour and my Realm

        And brought me from this age from tender years,

        Guiding so great estate with great renown;

5     Now more importeth[30] me the erst[31] to use

        Your faith and wisdom whereby yet I reign,

        That when by death my life and rule shall cease,

        The kingdom yet may with unbroken course,

        Have certain Prince, by whose undoubted right,

10    Your wealth and peace, may stand in quiet stay[32],

        And eke that they whom nature hath prepared,

        In time to take my place in Princely Seat,

        While in their Father’s time their pliant youth

        Yields to the frame of skilful governance

15    May so be taught and trained in noble Arts,

        As what their father’s which have reigned before

        Have with great fame derived down to them

        With honour they may leave unto[33] their seed:

        And not be taught for their unworthy life,

20    And for their Lawless swarving[34] out of kind,

        Worthy to lose what law and kind them gave

        But that they may preserve the common peace,

        The cause that first began and still maintains

        The Lineal course of King’s inheritance,

25    For me, for mine, for you, and for the state

        Whereof both I and you have charge and care.

        Thus do I mean to use your wonted faith

        To me and mine, and to your native Land,

        My Lords be plain without all wry[35] respect

30    Or poisonous craft to speak in pleasing wise,

        Lest as the blame of ill succeeding things

        Shall light on you, so light the harms also.


        Your good acceptance so (most noble king)

        Of such your faithfulness as heretofore[36]

35    We have employed in duties to your Grace,

        And to this Realm whole worthy head you are,

        Well proves that neither you mistrust at all,

        Nor we shall need no boasting to wise to show,

        Our truth to you, nor yet our wakeful[37] care

40    For you, for yours, and for our native Land,

        Wherefore[38] (O King) I speak for one as all,

        Sith[39] all as one do bare you equal faith:

        Doubt not to use their Councils and their aids

        Whose honours, goods and lives are whole avowed

45    To serve, to aid, and to defend your Grace.


        My lords I thank you all. This is the case

        Ye know, the Gods, who have the sovereign care

        For kings, for kingdoms, and for common weals[40],

        Gave me two sons in my more lusty[41] Age,

50    Who now in my deceiving years are grown

        Well towards riper state of mind and strength,

        To take in hand some greater Princely charge,

        As yet they live and spend their hopeful days,

        With me and with their Mother here in Court

55    Their age now asketh other place and trade,

        And mine also doth ask another change,

        Theirs to more travail, mine to greater ease:

        When fatal death shall end my mortal life,

        My purpose is to leave unto them twaine[42]

60    The Realm divided into two sundry[43] parts;

        The one Ferrex mine elder son shall have,

        The other shall the other Porrex rule

        That both my purpose may more firmly stand,

        And eke that they may better rule their charge,

65    I mean forthwith to place them in the same:

        That in my life they may both learn to rule,

        And I may Joy to see their ruling well.

        This is in the sum, what I would have ye weigh[44]:

        First whether you allow my whole device,

70    And think it good for me, for them, for you,

        And for our Country, mother of us all:

        And if ye like it and allow it well,

        Then for their guiding and their governance?

        Show forth such means of circumstance,

75    As ye think meet to be both known and kept:

        Lo, this is all, now tell me your advice.



        And this is much, and asketh great advice,

        But for my part my Sovereign Lord and king

        This do I think your Majesty doth know,

80    How under your Justice and in peace,

        Great wealth and Honour, long we have enjoyed

        So as we cannot seem with greedy minds

        To wish for change of Prince and governance,

        But if ye like your purpose and device,

85    Our liking must be deemed to proceed,

        Of rightful reason, and of heedful care,

        Not for ourselves, but for our common state:

        Sith our own state doth need no better change

        I think in all as erst your Grace has said:

90    First when you shall unload your aged mind,

        Of heavy care and troubles manifold[45],

        And lay the same upon my Lords your sons

        Whose growing years may bear the burden long

        And long I pray the Gods grant it so:

95    And in your life while you shall so behold

        Their rule, their virtues and their noble deeds,

        Such as their kind behighteth[46] to us all,

        Great be the profits that shall grow thereof,

        Your age in quiet shall the longer last

100  Your lasting age shall be their longer stay,

        For cares of kings, that rule as you have ruled

        For public wealth and not for private joy,

        Do waste man’s life and hasten crooked age,

        With furrowed face and with enfeebled limbs,

105  To draw on creeping Death a swifter pace.

        They two yet young shall bear the party reign

        With greater ease, than one now old alone

        Can wield the whole, for whom much harder is

        With lessened strength and double weight to bear

110  Your eye, your Council, and the grave regard

        Of Fathers, yea of such as father’s name,

        Now at beginning of their sundered reign,

        When it is hazard of their whole success

        Shall bridle so their force of youthful heats,

115  And so restrain the rage of insolence[47],

        Which most assails the young and noble minds,

        And so shall guide and train in tempered stay

        Their yet green bending wits with reverent awe.

        As now inured[48] with virtues at the first.

120  Custom, O king, shall bring delightfulness

        By use of Virtue, Vice shall grow in hate,

        But if you so dispose it, that the day

        Which ends your life shall first begin their reign,

        Great is the peril, what will be the end,

125  When such beginning of such liberties

        Void of such stays as in your life do lie,

        Shall leave them free to randon of their will[49].

        An open prey to traitorous flattery,

        The greatest pestilence of noble youth:

130  Which peril shall be past, if in your life,

        Their tempered youth with aged father’s awe

        Be brought in ure[50] of skillful staidness.

        And in your life, their lives disposed so,

        Shall lengthen your noble life in joyfulness.

135  Thus think I ý[51] your grace hath wisely thought

        And that your tender care of common weal,

        Hath bred this thought, so to divide your Land

        And plant your sons to bear the present rule

        While you yet live to see their ruling well,

140  That you may longer live by joy therein.

        What further means behooveful[52] are and meet

        At greater leisure may your Grace devise

        When see have said, and when we be agreed

        If this be best, to part the realm in twain,

145  And place your sons in present government;

        Whereof, as I have plainly said my mind,

        So would I hear the rest of all my Lords.



        In part I think as hath been said before,

        In part again my mind is otherwise.

150  As for dividing of this Realm in twain

        And lotting out the same in egal[53] parts,

        To either of my Lords, your Grace’s sons,

        That think I best for this your Realm’s behoof[54],

        For profit and advancement of your sons,

155  And for your comfort and your honour eke:

        But so to place them while your life do last,

        To yield to them your Royal governance,

        To be above them only in the name

        Of father, not in kingly state also,

160  I think not good for you, for them, nor us.

        This kingdom since the bloody civil field

        Where Morgan[55] slain did yield his conquered part

        Unto his Cousin’s sword in Camberland

        Containeth all that whilom[56] did suffice,

165  Three noble sons of your forefather Brute;[57]

        So your two sons, it may also suffice,

        The moe[58] the stronger, if they agree in one:

        The smaller compass that the realm doth hold

        The easier is the sway thereof to weld,

170  The nearer Justice to the wronged poor,

        The smaller charge, and yet enough for one.

        And when the Region is divided so

        That Brethren be the Lords of either part,

        Such strength doth nature knit between the both,

175  In sundry bodies by conjoined love

        That not as two, but one of doubled force,

        Each is to other as a sure defense,

        The Nobleness and glory of the one

        Doth sharp the courage of the other’s mind

180  With virtuous envy to contend for praise,

        And such an egalness[59] hath nature made,

        Between the Brethren of one Father’s seed,

        As an unkind wrong it seems to be,

        To throw the other Subject under feet

185  Of him, whose Peer he is by course of kind,

        And nature that did make this egalness,

        Oft so repineth at so great a wrong,

        That oft she raiseth by a grudging grief,

        In younger Brethren at the elder’s state:

190  Whereby both towns and kingdoms have been razed

        And famous stocks of Royal blood destroyed:

        The Brother that should be the Brother’s aid

        And have a wakeful care for his defense,

        Gapes for his death, and blames the lingering years

195  That brings not forth his end with faster course

        And oft impatient of so long delays,

        With hateful slaughter he prevents[60] the fates

        And heaps a just reward for Brother’s blood,

        With endless vengeance on his stock for aye:

200  Such mischiefs here are wisely met withall:

        If egal state may nourish egal love,

        Where none has cause to grudge the other’s good,

        But now the head to stoop beneath them both,

        Ne[61] kind, ne reason, ne good order bears.

205  And oft it hath been seen, that where Nature

        Hath been perverted in disordered wise

        When Fathers cease to know that they should rule

        And Children cease to know they should obey,

        And often our unkindly[62] tenderness,

210  Is Mother of unkindly Stubbornness:

        I speak not this in envy or reproach,

        As if I grudged the glory of your sons,

        Whose honour I beseech the Gods to increase:

        Nor yet as if I thought there did remain,

215  So filthy Cankers in their noble breasts,

        Whom I esteem (which is their greatest praise)

        Undoubted children of so good a king.

        Only I mean to show my certain Rules,

        Which kind hath graft within the mind of man

220  That Nature hath her order and her course,

        Which (being broken) both corrupt the state

        Of minds and things even in the best of all.

        My Lords, your sons, may learn to rule of you

        Your own example in your noble Court

225  Is fittest guider of their youthful years,

        If you desire to seek some present Joy

        By sight of their well ruling in your life,

        See them obey, so shall you see them rule,

        Who so obeyeth not with humbleness

230  Will rule with outrage and insolence

        Long may they rule I do beseech the Gods,

        But long may they learn ere[63] they begin to rule.

        If kind and fates would suffer, I would wish

        Them aged Princes and immortal kings:

235  Wherefore, most noble king, I well assent,

        Between your sons ý you divide your Realm.

        And as in kind, so match them in degree

        But while the Gods prolong your Royal life

        Prolong your reign, for thereto live you here,

240  And therefore have the Gods so long forborne

        To join you to themselves, that still you might

        Be Prince and father of our common weal:

        They, when they see your children ripe to rule,

        Will make them room, and will remove you hence,

245  That yours in right ensuing of your life

        May rightly honour your mortal[64] name.



        Your wonted true regard of faithful hearts,

        Makes me (O king) the bolder to presume

        To speak what I conceive within my breast,

250  Although the same do not agree at all

        With that which other here my Lords have said

        Nor which yourself have seemed best to like,

        Pardon I crave and that my words be deemed

        To flow from hearty zeal unto your Grace,

255  And to the safety of your common weal:

        To part your Realm unto my Lords your sons

        I think not good for you, ne yet for them,

        But worst of all, for this our Native Land:

        For with[65] one Land, one single rule is best:

260  Divided Reigns do make divided hearts,

        But Peace preserves the Country and the Prince.

        Such is in man the greedy mind to reign,

        So great is his desire to climb aloft,

        In worldly Stage the stateliest parts to bear,

265  That faith and Justice and all kindly love,

        Do yield unto desire of Sovereignty:

        Where egal state doth raise an egal hope

        To win the thing that either would attain

        Your grace remembreth how in past years

270  The mighty Brute, first prince of all this Land

        Possessed the same and ruled it well in one,

        He thinking that the compass[66] did suffice

        For his three sons, three kingdoms eke to make

        Cut it in three, as you would now in twain:

275  But how much British blood hath sithence[67] been spilt

        To join again the sundered[68] unity?

        What Princes slain before their timely hour?

        What waste of towns and people in the Land?

        What Treasons heaped on murders and spoils?

280  Whose just revenge even yet is scarcely ceased,

        Ruthful[69] remembrance is yet had in mind:

        The Gods forbid the like to chance again

        And you (O king) give not the cause thereof:

        My Lord Ferrex your elder son, perhaps,

285  Whom kind and custom gives a rightful hope

        To be your Heir and to succeed your Reign,

        Shall think that he doth suffer greater wrong

        Than he perchance will bear, if power serve.

        Porrex the younger so upraised in state,

290  Perhaps in courage will be raised also,

        If Flattery then which fails not to assail

        The tender minds of yet unskillful youth,

        In one shall kindle and increase distain[70]:

        And Envy in the other’s heart enflame,

295  This fire shall waste their love, their lives, their land,

        And ruthful ruin shall destroy them both,

        I wish not this (O King) so to befall,

        But fear the thing, that I do most abhor

        Give no beginning to so dreadful end,

300  Keep them in order and obedience:

        And let them both by now obeying you

        Learn such behavior as beseems[71] their state.

        The Older, mildness in his governance,

        The younger, a yielding contentedness:

305  And keep them near unto your presence still,

        That they, restrained by the awe of you,

        May live in compass of well-tempered stay,

        And pass the perils of their youthful years.

        Your aged life draws on to feebler time,

310  Wherein you shall less able be to bear

        The travails that in youth you have sustained

        Both in your person’s and your Realm’s defense

        If planting now your sons in further parts,

        You send them further from your present reach

315  Less shall you know how they themselves demean.

         Traitorous corrupters of their pliant youth

        Shall have, unspied, a much more free access,

        And if ambition and inflamed distain

        Shall arm the one, the other, or them both

320  To civil war, or to usurping pride.

        Late shall you rue that you ne recked[72] before:

        Good is, I grant, of all to hope the best,

        But not to live still dreadless of the worst,

        So trust the one, that the other be forseen,

325  Arm not unskilfulness with princely power

        But you that long have wisely ruled the reins

        Of royalty within your noble Realm

        So hold them, while the Gods for our avails

        Shall stretch the thread of your prolonged days.

330  Too soon he climbed into the flaming Cart,

        Whose want of skill did set the earth on fire.[73]

        Time and example of your noble Grace,

        Shall teach your sons both to obey and rule:

        When time hath taught them, time shall make them

335  The place that now is full: and so I pray

        Long it remain, to comfort of us all.



        I take your faithful hearts in thankful part

        But sith I see no cause to draw[74] my mind,

        To fear the nature of my loving sons,

340  Or to misdeem that Envy or distain,

        Can there work hate, where nature planteth love

        In one self[75] purpose do I still abide,

        My love extendeth egally to both,

        My Land sufficeth for them both also:

345  Humber[76] shall part the Marches[77] of their Realms:

        The Southern part the elder shall possess,

        The Northern shall Porrex the younger rule,

        In quiet I will pass mine aged days.

        Free from the travail and the painful cares

350  That hasten age upon the worthiest kings.

        But lest the fraud that ye do seem to fear

        Of flattering tongues, corrupt their tender youth

        And writhe[78] them to the ways of youthful lust[79],

        To climbing pride, or to revenging hate

355  Or to neglecting of their careful charge

        Lewdly[80] to live in wanton recklessness

        Or to oppressing of the rightful cause

        Or not to wreak[81] the wrongs done to the poor

        To tread down truth, or favor false deceit

360  I mean to join either of my sons

        Some one of those whose long approved faith

        And wisdom tried may well assure my heart:

        That mining[82] fraud shall find no way to creep

        Into their fenced ears with grave advise[83]:

365  This is the end, and so I pray you all

        To bear my sons the love and loyalty

        That I have found within your faithful breasts.



        You, nor your sons, our sovereign Lord, shall want

        Our faith and service while our lives do last.



370  When settled stay doth hold the royal throne

        In steadfast place by known and doubtless right:

        And chiefly when descent on one alone

        Make single and unparted reign to light.

        Each change of course unjoints the whole estate

375  And yields it thrall to ruin by debate.  

        The strength that knit by fast accord in one

        Against all foreign power of mighty foes,

        Could of itself defend itself alone,

        Disjoined once, the former force doth lose

380  The sticks, that sundered brake so soon in twain

        In fagot bound attempted were in vain.[84]  

        Oft tender mind that leads the partial eye

        Of erring parents in their children’s love

        Destroys the wrongly loved child thereby:

385  This doth the proud son of Apollo prove

        Who, rashly set in the chariot of his sire,

        Inflamed the parched earth with heaven’s fire.[85]

        And this great king, that doth divide his land

        And change the course of his descending crown

390  And yields the reign into his children’s hand,

        From blissful state of joy and great renown,

        A Mirror[86] shall become to Princes all

        To learn to shun the cause of such a fall.


The Order and signification of 
the dumb show before the second Act.

First, the Music of Cornets began to play, during which came in upon the Stage a king accompanied with a number of his Nobility and Gentlemen. And after he had placed himself in a Chair of estate prepared for him: there came and kneeled before him a grave and aged Gentleman and offered up a Cup unto him of Wine in a glass, which the king refused. After him comes a brave and lusty young Gentleman and presents the king with a Cup of Gold[87] filled with potion[88], which the king accepted, and drinking the same, immediately fell down dead upon ý stage, and so was carried thence away by his Lords and Gentlemen, and then the Musick ceased. Hereby was signified, that as Glass by nature holdeth no poison, but is clear and may easily be seen through, ne boweth[89] by any Art: So a faithful Counsellor holdeth no treason, but is plain and open, ne yieldeth to any undiscreet[90] affection, but giveth wholesome Counsel, which the ill-advised Prince refuseth. The delightful gold filled with poison betokeneth Flattery, which under fair seeming of pleasant words beareth deadly poison, which destroyeth the prince ý receiveth it. As befell in the two brethren Ferrex and Porrex who, refusing the wholesome advise of grave Court fellows, credited these young Parasites and brought to themselves death and destruction thereby.


Actus secundus. Scena prima.[91]


Ferrex, Hermon, Dordan.




     I Marvel much what reason led the king

        My father thus without all desert,

        To reave me[92] half ý kingdom which by course

        Of law and nature should remain to me.




     If you with stubborn and untamed pride

        Had stood against him in rebelling wise,

        Or if with grudging mind you had envied

        So slow a sliding of his aging years,

        Or fought before your time to haste the course


  Of fatal death upon his Royal head,

        Or stained your Stock with murder of your kin:

        Some face of reason might perhaps have seemed

        To yield some likely cause to spoil ye thus.



        The wreakful[93] Gods pour on my cursed head,


   Eternal plagues and never dying woes,

        The Hellish Prince[94], adjudge my damned ghost

        To Tantalus’ thirst[95] or proud Ixion’s wheel[96]

        Or cruel Gripe to gnaw my growing heart[97]

        To during torments and unquenched flames


   If ever I concerned so foul a thought,

        To wish his end of life, or yet of reign.



        Ne yet your father (O most noble Prince)

        Did ever think so foul a thing of you

        For he with more than father’s tender love


   While yet the fates do lend him life to rule,

        (Who long might live to see your ruling well)

        To you my Lord, and to his other son

        Lo he resigns his Realm and Royalty

        Which never would so wise a Prince have done


   If he had once misdeemed that in your heart

        There ever lodged so unkind a thought.

        But tender love (my Lord) and settled trust

        Of your good nature, and your noble mind

        Made him to place you thus in Royal throne


   And now to give you half his realm to guide

        Yea and that half within abounding store

        Of things that serve to make a wealthy Realm

        In stately Cities and in fruitful soil,

        In temperate breathing of the milder heaven,


   In things of needful use, which friendly Sea

        Transports by traffic from the foreign Ports.

        In flowing wealth, in honour and in force,

        Doth pass the double value of part

        That Porrex hath allotted to his reign,


   Such is your case, such is your father’s love.



        Ah love, my friends, love wrongs not whom he loves.



        Ne yet wrongeth you, that giveth you

        So large a reign ere that the course of time

        Bring you to kingdom by descended right,


   Which time perhaps might end your time before.



        Is this no wrong, say you, to reave from me

        My native right of half so great a realm,

        And thus to match his younger son with me

        In equal power, and in as great a degree?


   Yea[98] and what son? The son whose swelling pride

        Would never yield one point of reverence,

        When I the Elder and apparent heir

        Stood in the likelihood to possess the whole

        Yea and that son which from his childish age


   Envieth my honour, and doth hate my life,

        What will he now do? When his pride, his rage,

        The mindful malice of his grudging heart

        Is armed with force, with wealth and kingly state?



        Was this not wrong? Yea ill advised wrong


   To give so mad a man so sharp a sword,

        To so great peril of so great mishap,

        Wide open thus to set so large a way.


        Alas my lord, what grieful thing is this?

        That of your brother you can think so ill


   I never saw him utter likely sign

        Whereby a man might see or once misdeem

        Such hate of you, ne such unyielding pride

        Ill is their council, shameful be their end,

        That raising such mistrustful fear in you,


   Sowing the seed of such unkindly hate,

        Travail by reason to destroy you both.

        Wise is your brother and of noble hope,

        Worthy to wield a large and mighty Realm,

        So much a stronger friend have you thereby,


   Whose strength is your strength, if you gree[99] in one.



        If nature and the Gods had pinched so

        Their flowing bounty and their noble gifts

        Of Princely qualities from you my Lord

        And poured them all at once in wasteful wise


   Upon your father’s younger son alone:

        Perhaps there be that in your prejudice

        Would say that birth should yield to worthiness:

        But sith in each good gift and Princely Act,

        Ye are his match, and in the chief of all


   In mildness and in sober governance

        Ye far surmount: And sith there is in you

        Sufficing skill and hopeful towardness[100]

        To wield the whole, and match your Elders praise

        I see no cause why ye should lose the half,


   Ne would I with you yield to such a loss:

        Lest your mild sufferance of so great a wrong

        Be deemed cowardice and simple dread:

        Which shall give courage to the fiery head

        Of your young Brother to invade the whole,


 Whiles yet therefore sticks in the peoples’ mind

        The loathed wrong of your disheritance,

        And ere your Brother have by settled power,

        By guileful[101] cloak of an alluring show,

        Got him some force and favour in this Realm


 And while the noble Queen your mother lives,

        To work and practice all for your avail

        Attempt redress by Arms, and wreak yourselves

        Upon his life, that gaineth by your loss,

        Who now to shame of you, and grieve of us


 In your own kingdom triumphs over you:

        Show now your courage meet for kingly estate

        That they which have avowed to spend their goods

        Their lands, their lives and honours in your cause,

        May be the bolder to maintain your part


 When they do see that coward fear in you,

        Shall not betray ne fail their faithful hearts.

        If once the death of Porrex end the strife,

        And pay the price of his usurped Reign,

        Your Mother shall persuade the angry king,


 The Lords your friends eke shall appeal his rage

        For they be wise, and well they can foresee,

        That ere long time your aged father’s death

        Will bring a time when you shall well requite

        Their friendly favour, or their hateful spite,


 Yea, or their slackness to advance your cause

        Wise men do not so hang on passing state

        Of present Princes, chiefly in their age.

        But they will further cast their reaching eye

        To view and weigh the times and reigns to come


 Ne is it likely though the king be wroth

        That he yet will, or that the Realm will bear

        Extreme revenge upon his only son:

        Or if he would, what one is he that dare

        Be minister to such an enterprise.


 And here you be now placed in your own

        Amid your friends, your vassals[102] and your strength

        We shall defend and keep your person safe

        Till either counsel turn his tender mind

        Or age, or sorrow end his weary days


 But if the fear of Gods and secret grudge

        Of Nature’s Law, repining at the fact,

        Withhold your courage from so great attempt:

        Know ye that lust of kingdoms hath no Law

        The Gods do bear and well allow in kings


 The things they abhor in rascal routs,[103]

        When kings on slender quarrels run to wars

        And then in cruel and unkindly wise,

        Command thefts, rapes, murder of Innocents

        To spoil of towns, and reigns of mighty realms


 Think you such Princes do suppress themselves

        Subject to Laws of kind and fear of Gods,

        Yet none offence, but decked with glorious name

        Of noble Conquests in the hands of kings,

        Murders and violent thefts in private men


 Are heinous crimes and full of foul reproach:

        But if you like not yet so hot devise,

        Ne list to take such vantage of the time.

        But though with great peril of your state

        You will not be the first that shall invade,


 Assemble yet your force for your defense,

        And for your safety stand upon your guard.



        O heaven was there ever heard or known,

        So wicked council to a noble prince?

        Let me (my Lord) disclose unto your grace


 This heinous tale, what mischief it contains:

        Your father’s death, your brothers and your own

        Your present murder and eternal shame:

        Hear me (O king) and suffer not to sink

        So high a treason in your Princely breast.



 The mighty Gods forbid that ever I

        Should once conceive such mischief in my heart

        Although my Brother has bereft[104] my Realm

        And bear perhaps to me an hateful mind

        Shall I revenge it, with his death therefore?


 Or shall I so destroy my father’s life

        That gave me life? The Gods forbid I say,

        Cease you to speak so anymore to me

        Ne you my friend with Answer once repeat

        So foul a tale, in silence let it die:


 What Lord or Subject shall have hope at all

        That under me they safely shall enjoy

        Their goods, their honours, lands and liberties,

        With whom, neither one only brother bears

        Ne father dearer, could enjoy their lives?


 But sith, I fear my younger brother’s rage,

        And sith perhaps some other man may give

        Some like advice, to move his grudging head

        At mine estate, which council may perchance

        Take greater force with him, than this with me,


 I will in secret so prepare myself,

        As if his malice of his lust to reign

        Break forth with arms or sudden violence

        I may withstand his rage and keep mine own.



        I fear the fatal time now draweth on


 When civil hate shall end the noble line

        Of famous Brute and of his Royal seed

        Great Jove defend the mischief’s now at hand

        O that the Secretary’s wise advice

        Had erst been heard when he besought the king


 Not to divide his land, nor send his sons

        To further parts from presence of his Court

        Ne yet to yield to them his governance

        Lo such are they now in the Royal throne

        As was rash Phaeton[105] in Phoebus’[106] Car


 Ne then the fiery steeds did draw the flame

        With wilder random thought the kindled skies

        Then traitorous counsel now will whirl about

        The youthful heads of these unskillful kings,

        But I hereof their father will inform


 The reverence of him perhaps shall stay

        The growing mischiefs, while they yet are green[107]

        If this help not, then woe unto themselves,

        The Prince, the people, the divided land.


 Actus secundus. Scena secunda.[108] 


 Porrex, Tyndar, Philander. 



     And is it thus? And doth he so prepare

        Against his Brother as his mortal foe?

        And now while yet his aged father lives:

        Neither regards he him, nor fears he me?


     War would he have? And he shall have it so.


        I saw myself the great prepared store

        Of Horse, of Armour and of weapons there,

        To bring I to my Lord reported tales

        Without the ground of seen and searched truth


   Lo secret quarrels run about his Court

        To bring the name of you my Lord in hate

        Each man almost can now debate the cause

        And ask a reason of so great a wrong,

        Why he so noble and so wise a Prince,


   Is as unworthy reft[109] his Heritage.

        And why the king misled by crafty means

        Divided thus his land from course of right.

        The wiser sort hold down their griefull heads

        Each man withdraws from talk and company,


   Of those that have been known to favour you,

        To hide the mischief of their meaning there,

        Rumours are spread of your preparing here.

        The Rascal numbers of the unskillful sorts

        Are filled with monstrous tales of you and yours


   In secret I was counseled by my friends

        To haste me thence, and brought you as you know

        Letters from those, that both can truly tell

        And would not write unless they knew it well.



        My Lord, yet ere you move unkindly war,


   Send to your Brother to demand the cause.

        Perhaps some traitorous tales have filled his ears

        With false reports against your noble grace:

        Which once disclosed shall end the growing strife

        That else not stayed with wise foresight in time


   Shall hazard both your kingdoms and your lives:

        Send to your father eke, he shall appease

        Your kindled minds, and rid you of this fear.



        Rid me of fear? I fear him not at all:

        Ne will to him, ne to my father send


   If danger were for one to tarry there

        Think ye if safety to return again.

        In mischiefs such as Ferrex now intends

        The wonted courteous laws to messengers

        Are not observed, which in just war they use.


   Shall I so hazard any one of mine?

        Shall I betray my trusty friend to him?

        That hath disclosed his treason unto me?

        Let him entreat that fears, I fear him not:

        Or shall I to the king my father send?


   Yea and send now while such a mother lives

        That loves my Brother and that hateth me?

        Shall I give leisure by my fond delays

        To Ferrex to oppress me all unware?

        I will not, but I will invade his Realm


   And seek the Traitor Prince within his Court

        Mischief for mischief is a due reward.

        His wretched head shall pay the worthy price

        Of this his Treason and his hate to me

        Shall I abide, entreat and send and pray?


   And hold my yielden[110] throat to Traitor’s knife?

        While I with valiant mind and conquering force

        Might rid my self of foes and win a Realm,

        Yet rather when I have the wretch’s head,

        Than to the king my father will I send,


   The bootless[111] case may yet appeal his wrath:

        If not I will defend me as I may.



        Lo here to the end of these two youthful kings

        The father’s death, the reign of their two realms

        Do most unhappy state of Counselors

70    That light on so unhappy Lords and times

        That neither can their good advice be heard,

        Yet must they bear the blames of ill success

        But I will to the king their father haste

        Ere this mischief come to that likely end,

75    That if the mindful wrath of wreakful Gods

        Since mighty Ilion’s[112] fall not yet appeased

        With these poor remnants of the Trojan[113] name

        Have not determinedly unmoved fate

        Out of this realm to raze the British Line

80    By good advice, by awe of father’s name

        By force of wiser Lords, this kindled hate

        May yet be quenched, ere it consume us all.



        When youth not bridled with a guiding stay

         Is left to randon[114] of their own delight

85    And welds whole Realms, by force Sovereign sway

        Great is the danger of unmastered might

        Lest skills rage throw down with headlong fall

        Their lands, their states, their lives, themselves and all.

        When growing pride doth fill the swelling breast

90    And greedy lust doth raise the climbing mind

        Oh hardly may the peril be repressed

        Ne fear of angry Gods, ne Laws kind,

        Ne country care can fired hearts restrain

        When force hath armed Envy and disdain.  

95    When kings of foreset[115] wills neglect the rede,[116]

        Of best advise, and yield to pleasing tales

        That do their fancies noisome[117] humour feed

        Ne reason, nor regard of right avails

        Succeeding heaps of plagues shall teach too late

100  To learn the mischiefs of misguiding state. 

        Foul fall the Traitor false that undermines

        The love of Brethren to destroy them both

        Woe to the Prince, that pliant care inclines,

        And yields his mind to poisonous tale, and floweth

105  From flattering mouth, and woe to wretched land

        That wastes it self with civil sword in hand.

        Lo, thus it is poison in gold to take,

        And wholesome drink in homely cup forsake.



The Order and signification of 
the dumb show before the third Act.


First the Music of Flutes began to play during which came in upon the stage a company of Mourners all clad in black betokening Death and sorrow to ensue upon the ill-advised misgovernment and dissension of brethren, as befell upon the murder of Ferrex by his younger Brother. After the Mourners had passed thrice about the stage, they departed, and then the Music ceased.


Actus tertius. Scena prima.[118]


 Gorboduc, Eubulus, Arostus, Philander, Nuntius.



1      O Cruel fates, O mindful wrath of Gods

        Whose vengeance neither Simois’[119] strained streams

        Flowing with blood of Trojan Princes slain

        Nor Phrygian[120] fields made rank with Corpses dead

5      Of Asian kings and Lords can yet appease,

        Ne Slaughter of unhappy Priam's[121] race

        Nor Ilion's fall made level with the soil,

        Can yet suffice: but still continued rage,

        Pursue our lives, and from the farthest Seas

10    Doth chase the issues of destroyed Troy:

        Oh no man happy, till his end be seen

        If any flowing wealth and seeming joy

        In present years might make a happy wight,

        Happy was Hecuba[122] the woefullest wretch

15    That ever lived to make a Mirror of

        And happy Priam with his noble sons

        And happy I till now, alas I see

        And feel my most unhappy wretchedness:

        Behold my lords, read you this letter here

20    Lo! It contains the ruin of our Realm

        If timely speed provide not half the help

        Yet (O ye Gods) if ever woeful king

        Might move you kings of kings, wreak it on me

        And on my sons, not on this guiltless Realm.

25    Send down your wasting flames from wrathful skies

        To reave me and my sons the hateful breath

        Read, read my Lords: this is the matter why

        I called you now to have your good advice.


 The Letter from Dordan the

 Counselor of the elder Prince


 Eubulus reads the Letter

        My sovereign Lord, what I am loath to write

30    But loathe I am see, that I am forced

        By letters now to make you understand

        My lord Ferrex, your eldest son, mislead

        By traitorous fraud of young untempered wits

        Assembleth forces against your younger son,

35    Ne can my Counsel yet withdraw the heat

        And furious pangs of his enflamed head:

        Disdain (sayeth he) of his inheritance

        Arms him to wreak the great pretended wrong

        With civil sword upon his brother's life,

40    If present help does not restrain this rage

        This flame will waste your sons, your land, and you


         Your Majesties faithful and most

                 humble subject Dordan



45    O King, appeal your grief and stay your plaint

        Great is the matter and a woeful case

        But timely knowledge may bring timely help

        Send for them both unto your presence here

        The reverence of your honour age and state

50    Your grave advice, the awe of father’s name

        Shall quickly knit again this broken peace

        And if in either of my Lords your sons

        Be such untamed and unyielding pride

        As will not bend unto your noble Hests[123]

55    If Ferrex the elder son can bear no peace,

        Or Porrex not content, aspires to more

        Than you him gave, above his Native right:

        Join with the juster side, so shall you force

        Them to agree: and hold the Land in stay



60    What meaneth this: Lo yonder comes is haste

        Philander from my Lord your younger son.



        The Gods send joyful news.



         The mighty Jove

         Preserve your Majesty, O noble king.



        Philander, welcome: But how doth my son?



65    Your son, sir, lives and healthy I him left:

        But yet (O King) this want of lustful health

        Could not be half so griefull to your Grace,

        As these most wretched tidings that I bring.



        O heavens yet more no end of woes to me.



70    Tyndar, O King, came lately from the Court

        Of Ferrex, to my Lord your younger son,

        And made report of great prepared store

        Of war, and says that it is wholly meant

        Against Porrex for high disdain that he

75    Lives now a king and equal in degree

        With him, that claims to succeed the whole

        As by due title of descending right

        Porrex is now so set on flaming fire,

        Partly with kindled rage of cruel wrath,

80    Partly with hope to gain a Realm thereby,

        That he in haste prepares to invade

        His Brother’s Land, and with unkind war

        Threatens the murder of your elder son

        Ne could I him persuade that first he should

85    Send to his Brother to demand the cause

        Nor yet to you to stay his hateful strife

        Wherefore sith there no more I can be heard

        I come my self now to inform your Grace

        And to beseech you, as you love the life

90    And safety of your Children and your Realm,

        Now to employ your wisdom and your force

        To stay this mischief ere it be too late.



        Are they in Arms? would he not send for me?

        Is this the honour of a Father’s name?

95    In vain we travail to assuage[124] their minds

        As if their hearts whom neither Brother’s love

        Nor Father’s awe, nor kingdom’s care can move

        Our Councils could withdraw from raging heat

        Jove slay them both, and end the cursed Line

100  For though perhaps fear of such mighty force

        As I my Lords, joined with your noble Aides

        May yet raise, shall repent their present heat

        The secret grudge and malice will remain

        The fire not quenched, but kept in close restraint

105  Fed still within, breaks forth with double flame

        Their death and mine must pease[125] the angry gods.



        Yield not, O king, so much to weak despair

        Your sons yet live, and long I trust, they shall:

        If fates had taken you from earthly life

110  Before beginning of this civil strife

        Perhaps your sons in their unmastered youth

        Loose from regard of any living wight

        Would run on headlong, with unbridled Race

        To their own death and ruin of this Realm

115  But sith the Gods that have the care for kings,

        Of things and times dispose the order so

        That in your life this kindled flame breaks forth

        While yet your life, your wisdom and your power

        May stay the growing mischief and repress

120  The fiery blaze of their enkindled heat

        It seems, and so ye ought to deem thereof

        That loving Jove has tempered so the time

        Of this debate to happen in your days

        That you yet living may the same appease

125  And add it to the glory of your latter age

        And they your sons may learn to live in peace

        Beware (O king) the greatest harm of all

        Lest by your wailful plaints your hastened death

        Yield larger room unto their growing rage:

130  Preserve your life, the only hope of state:

        And if your highness herein list[126] to use

        Wisdom or force, Council or knightly aid:

        Lo we our persons, powers and lives are yours

        Use us till death, O King, we are your own.



135  Lo here the peril that was erst foreseen

        When you, (O king) did first divide your land

        And yield your present reign unto your sons,

        But now (O noble Prince) now is no time

        To wail and plain, and waste your woeful life,

140  Now is the time for present good advice

        Sorrow doth dark the Judgement of the wit

        The Heart unbroken and the courage free

        From feeble faintness of bootless despair

        Doth either rise to safety or renown

145  By noble valour of an unvanquished mind

        Or yet doth perish in more happy sort

        Your grace may send to either of your sons

        Someone both wise and noble personage

        Which with good counsel and with weighty name

150  Of father shall present before their eyes

        Your hest, your life, your safety, and their own

        The present mischief of their deadly strife

        And in the while, assemble you the force

        Which your Commandment and the speedy haste

155  Of all my Lords here present can prepare:

        The terror of your mighty power shall stay

        The rage of both, or yet of one least.



        O King the greatest grief that ever Prince did hear

        That ever woeful Messenger did tell,

160  That ever wretched land hath seen before

        I bring to you. Porrex your younger son

        With sudden force, invaded hath the land

        That you to Ferrex did allot to rule:

        And with his own most bloody hand he hath

165  His brother slain, and doth possess his Realm.



        O Heavens send down the flames of your revenge,

        Destroy I say with flash of wreakful fire

        The Traitor son, and then the wretched sire

        But let us go, that yet perhaps I may

170  Die with revenge, and pease the hateful gods



        The lust of the kingdoms knows no sacred faith

        No rule of Reason, no regard of right

        No kindly love, no fear of heaven’s wrath:

        But with contempt of Gods, and man’s despite

175  Through bloody slaughter doth prepare the ways

        To fatal Scepter and accursed reign

        The son so loathes the father’s lingering days

        Ne dreads his hand in Brother’s blood to stain

        O wretched Prince, ne dost thou yet record

180  The yet fresh Murders done within the Lands

        Of thy forefathers, when the cruel sword

        Bereft Morgan his life with cousin’s hands?

        Thus fatal plagues pursue the guilty race

        Whose murderous hand imbrued[127] with guiltless blood.

185  Asks vengeance before the heaven’s face,

        With endless mischiefs on the cursed brood

        The wicked child this brings to woeful Sire

        The mournful plight to waft his weary life:

        Thus do the cruel flames of Civil fire

190  Destroys the parted reign with hateful strife

        And hence doth spring the well from which doth flow:

        The dead black streams of mournings, plaints and woe.



The Order and signification of 
the dumb show before the fourth Act.


First the Music of Hautboys[128] began to play during which there came forth from under the Stage, as though out of Hell three furies Alecto, Megera and Cisiphone[129] and in black garments sprinkled with blood and flames. Their bodies girt with snakes, their heads spread with Serpents instead of hair, the one bearing in her hand a Snake, the other a whip, & the third a burning Firebrand: each driving before them a king and a Queen, which moved by Furies unnaturally had slain their own Children. The names of kings & Queens were these. Tantalus, Medea[130] Athamas, Ino[131], Cambises[132], Althea[133]. After that the Furies and these had passed about the Stage thrice, they departed and then the Music ceased: hereby was signified the unnatural murders to follow, that is to say. Porrex slain by his own Mother. And king Gorboduc and Queen Viden, killed by their own Subjects.


Actus quartus. Scena prima.[134]


 Viden sola[135].



1      Why should I live and linger forth my time

        In longer life to double my distress?

        O me most woeful wight whom no mishap

        Long ere this day could have bereaved hence.

5      Mought not these hands by fortune or by fate,

        Have pierced this breast and life with iron reft

        Or in this Palace here where I so long

        Have spent my days, could not that happy hour

        Once, once have hapt[136] in which these hugy[137] framed

10    With death by fall might have oppressed me

        Or should not this most hard and cruel soil

        So oft where I have pressed my wretched steps

        Sometime had ruth[138] of mine accursed life

        To rend in twain and swallow me therein

15    So had my bones possessed now in peace

        Their happy grave within the closed ground

        And greedy worms had gnawed this pined[139] heart

        Without my feeling pain. So should not now

        This living breast remain the ruthful tomb

20    Wherein my heart yielded to death is graved:

        Nor dreary thoughts with pangs of pining grief

        My doleful mind had not afflicted thus,

        O my beloved son: O my sweet child,

        My dear Ferrex, my joy, my life’s delight.

25    Is my well beloved son, is my sweet child,

        My dear Ferrex, my joy, my life’s delight

        Murdered with cruel death? O hateful wretch,

        O heinous Traitor both to heaven and earth,

        Thou Porrex, thou this damned deed hast wrought

30    Thou Porrex, thou shall dearly abye[140] the same

        Traitor to kin and kind, to Sire and me,

        To thine own flesh, and Traitor to thyself

        The Gods on thee in hell shall wreak their wrath

        And here in earth this hand shall take revenge

35    On thee Porrex, thou false and caitiff[141] wight

        If after blood, so eager were thy thirst

        And murderous mind had so possessed thee,

        If such hard heart of Rock and stony Flint

        Lived in thy breast, that nothing else could like

40    Thy cruel tyrant’s thought but death and blood

        Wild savage beasts mought not (your) slaughter serve

        To feed thy greedy will, and in the midst

        Of their entrails to stain thy deadly hands

        With blood deserved, and drink thereof thy fill?

45    Or if nought else but death and blood of man

        Mought please thy lust, could none in Britain land

        Whose heart he torn out of his loving breast

        With thine own hand, or work what death thou wouldest

        Suffice to make a Sacrifice pease

50    That deadly mind and murderous thought in thee?

        But he who in the self-same womb was wrapped

        Where thou in dismal hour received life?

        Or if needs, needs this hand must slaughter make

        Moughtest thou not have reached a mortal wound

55    And with thy sword have pierced this cursed womb?

        That thee accursed Porrex brought to light

        And given me a just reward therefore.

        So Ferrex, yet sweet life might have enjoyed

        And to his aged father comfort brought,

60    With some young son in whom they both might live

        But whereunto waste I this ruthful speech

        To thee that hast thy brother’s blood thus shed

        Shall I still think that from this womb thou sprung

        That I thee bear or take thee for my son

65    No traitor, no; I thee refuse for mine,

        Murderer I thee renounce, thou are not mine:

        Never, O wretch, this womb conceived thee,

        Nor never bode I painful throes for thee:

        Changeling to me thou art, and not my child

70    Nor to no wight, that spark of pity knew,

        Ruthless, unkind, Monster of Nature’s work.

        Thou never sucked the milk of woman’s breast

        But from thy birth the cruel Tiger’s teats

        Have nursed, nor yet of flesh and blood

75    Formed is thy heart, but of hard Iron wrought[142].

        And wild and desert woods bred thee to life:

        But canst thou hope to scrape my just revenge?

        Or that these hands will not be wroke[143] on thee

        Doest thou not know that Ferrex’s mother lives

80    That loved him more dearly then herself?

        And doth she live, and is not venged on thee?


 Actus quartus. Scena secunda.[144]


 Gorboduc, Arostus, Eubulus, Porrex, Marcella. 


1      We marvel much whereto this lingering stay

        Falls out so long: Porrex unto our Court

        By order of our Letters is returned

        And Eubulus received from us behest[145]

5      At his arrival here to give him charge

        Before our presence straight to make repair

        And yet we have no word whereof he stays.


Lo where he comes and Eubulus with him.



        According to your highness’ hest to me

10    Here have I Porrex brought even in such sort

        As from his wearied Horse he did alight,

        For that your Grace did will such haste therein.  



        We like and praise this speedy will in you

        To work the thing that to your charge we gave

15    Porrex, if we so far should swerve from kind,

        And from those bounds which law of Nature sets

        As thou hast done by vile and wretched deed

        In cruel murder of thy Brother’s life,

        Our present hand could stay no longer time,

20    But straight should bathe this blade in blood of thee

        As just revenge of thy detested crime.

        No we should not offend the law of kind,

        If now this sword of ours did slay thee here:

        For thou hast murdered him whose heinous death

25    Even Nature’s force doth move us to revenge

        By blood again: But Justice forceth us

        To measure Death for Death, thy due desert,

        Yet sithens[146] thou art our childe, and sith as yet

        In this hard case what word thou canst allege

30    For thy defense, by us hath not been heard

        We are content to say our will for that

        Which justice bids us presently to work:

        And give thee leave to use thy speech at full

        If ought thou have to lay for thine excuse.


   Neither O king, I can or will deny

        But that this hand from Ferrex life hath reft:

        Which fact how much my doleful heart doth wail

        Oh would it might as full appear to sight

        As inward grief doth pour it forth to me,

40    So yet perhaps if ever ruthful heart

        Melting in tears within a manly breast

        Through deep repentance of his bloody fact

        If ever grief, if ever woeful man

        Might move regret with sorrow of his fault,

45    I think the torment of my mournful case

        Known to your grace, as I do feel the same,

        Would force even wrath her self to pity me.

        But as the water troubled with the mud

        Shows not the face which else the eye should see,

50    Even so your Ireful[147] mind with stirred thought,

        Can not so perfectly discern my cause.

        But this unhap[148], amongst so many heaps

        I must content me with, most wretched man,

        That to myself I must reserve my woe

55    In pining thoughts of mine accursed[149] fact

        Since I may not show here my smallest grief

        Such as it is, and as my breast endures,

        Which I esteem the great misery

        Of all mishaps that Fortune now can send,

60    Not that I rest in hope with plaints and tears

        Should purchase life: for the Gods I clepe[150]

        For true record of this faithful speech,

        Never this heart shall have the thoughtful dread

        To die the death that by your Grace’s doom

65    By just desert, shall be pronounced to me:

        Nor never shall this tongue once spend this speech

        Pardon to crave, or seek by suit to live:

        I mean not this as though I were not touched

        With care of dreadful death, or that I held

70    Life in contempt: but that I know, the mind

        Stoops to no dread, although the flesh be frail,

        And for my guilt, I yield the same so great

        As in myself I find a fear so sue

        For grant of life.

   In vain, O wretch thou showest

        A woeful heart, Ferrex now lies in grave,

        Slain by thy hand.

       Yet this, O Father, hear:

        And then I end: your Majesty well knows,

        That when my Brother Ferrex and myself

        By your own hest were joined in governance

80    Of this your Grace’s Realm of Britain Land

        I never sought nor travailed for the same,

        Nor by my self, nor by no friend I wrought.

        But from your highness’ will alone it sprung,

        Of your most gracious goodness bent to me,

85    But how my Brother’s heart even than repined[151]

        With swollen disdain against mine equal rule

        Seeing that realm, which by descent should grow

        Wholly to him, allotted half to me;

        Even in your highness’ Court he now remains,

90    And with my Brother then in nearest place

        Who can record, what proof thereof was showed

        And how my brother’s envious heart appeared

        Yet I that judged it my part to seek

        His favor and good will, and loath to make

95    Your highness know, the thing which should have brought

        Grief to your grace, and your offence to him

        Hoping my earnest suit should soon have won

        A loving heart within a Brother’s breast

        Wrought in that sort that for a pledge of love

100  And faithful heart, he gave to me his hand.

        This made me think, that he had banished quite

        All rancour[152] from his thought and bear to me

        Such hearty love, as I did owe to him:

        But after once we left your Grace’s Court

105  And from your highness’ presence lived apart

        This equal rule still, still did grudge him so

        That now those Envious sparks which erst lay raked

        In living cinders of dissembling breast,

        Kindled so far within his heart’s distain

110  That longer could he not refrain from proof

        Of secret practice to deprive me life

        By Poison’s force, and had bereft me so.

        If mine own servant hired to this fact

        And moved by truth with hate to work the same,

115  In time had not betrayed it unto me:

        When thus I saw the knot of love unknit

        All honest League and faithful promise broke

        The Law of kind and truth thus rent[153] in twain

        His heart on mischief set, and in his breast

120  Black treason hid then, then did I despair

        That ever time could win him friend to me

        Then saw I how he smiled with slaying knife

        Wrapped under cloak, then saw I deep deceit

        Lurk in his face and death prepared for me:

125  Even nature moved me then to hold my life

        More dear to me than his, and bade this hand

        Since by his life my death must needs ensue,

        And by his death my life to be preserved:

        To shed his blood, and seek my safety so,

130  And wisdom willed me without protract[154]

        In speedy wise to put the same in ure.

        Thus have I told the cause that moved me

        To work my Brother’s death and so I yield

        My life, my death to judgment of your grace.   

 Oh cruel wight, should any cause prevail

        To make thee stain they hands with brother’s blood

        But what of thee we will resolve to do

        Shall yet remain unknown: Thou in the mean

        Shalt from our royal presence banished be

140  Until our Princely pleasure further shall

        To thee be showed, depart therefore our sight

        Accursed[155] child. What cruel destiny

        What forward fate hath sorted us this chance

        That even in those, where we should comfort find

145  Where our delight now in our aged days

        Should rest and be, even there our only grief

        And deepest sorrows to abridge our life,

        Most pining cares and deadly thoughts do grow?



        Your Grace should now in these grave years of yours

150  Have found ere this the price of mortal Joys,

        How short they be, how fading here in earth

        How full of change, how Brittle our estate,

        Of nothing sure, save only of the Death,

        To whom both man and all the world doth owe

155  Their end at last, neither shall nature’s power

        In other sort against your heart prevail,

        Than as the naked hand whose stroke assays

        The Armed breast where force doth light in vain.


        Many can yield right grave and sage advice

160  Of patient spirit to others wrapped in woe,

        And can in speech both rule and conquer kind,

        Who if by proof, they might feel nature’s force,

        Would show themselves men as they are indeed,

        Which now will needs be gods: but what doth mean

165  The sorry cheer of her that here doth come?

        Oh where is ruth? Or where is pity now?

        Whether is gentle heart and mercy fled?

        Are they exiled out of our stony breasts

        Never to make return? Is all the world

170  Drowned in blood and sunk in cruelty?

        If not in women mercy may be found

        If not (alas) within the mother’s breast

        To her own child, to her own flesh and blood

        If ruth be banished thence, if pity there

175  May have no place, if there no gentle heart

        Do live and dwell where should we seek it then?

        Madame (alas) what means your woeful tale?



        O silly women I, why to this hour,

        Have kind and fortune thus deferred my breath

180  That I should live to see this doleful[156] day

        Will every wight believe that such hard heart

        Could rest within the cruel mother’s breast,

        With her own hand to slay her only son

        But out (alas) these eyes beheld the same,

185  They saw the dreary sight, and are become

        Most ruthful records of the bloody fact.

        Porrex, (alas) is by his mother slain,

        And with her hand a woeful thing to tell,

        While slumbering on his careful bed he rests

190  His heart stabbed in with knife is bereft of life.



        O Eubulus, oh draw this sword of ours,

        And pierce this heart with speed. O hateful light,

        O loathsome life, O sweet and welcome Death,

        Dear Eubulus work this we thee beseech.



195  Patience your Grace, perhaps he liveth yet.

        With wound received, but not of certain death.



        O let us then repair, unto the place,

        And see if Porrex, live or thus be slain.



        Alas he liveth not, it is too true,

200  That with these eyes of him a peerless[157] Prince,

        Son to a king, and in the flower of youth;

        Even with a twink[158] a senseless stock[159] I saw.

        O damned deed.

        But here this ruthful end.

        The noble Prince pierced with the sudden wound

205  Out of his wretched slumber hastily start

        Whose strength now failing straight he overthrew

        When in the fall his eyes even new unclosed

        Beheld the Queen and cried to her for help

        We then, alas, the Ladies which that time

210  Did there attend, seeing that heinous deed

        And hearing him oft call the wretched name

        Of mother, and to cry to her for Aid

        Whose direful[160] hand gave him the mortal wound

        Pitting, (alas, for naught else could we do)

215  His ruthful end, ran to the woeful bed

        Dispoiled[161] straight his breast, and all we might

        Wiped in vain with napkins next at hand,

        The sudden streams of blood that flushed fast

        Out of the gaping wound: O what a look,

220  O what a ruthful steadfast eye me thought

        He fixed upon my face, which to my death

        Will never part from me, when with a braid[162]

        A deep felt sigh he gave and therewithal

        Clasping his hands, to heaven he cast his sight.

225  And straight pale death pressing within his face

        The flying ghost his mortal corpse forsook.

        Never did age bring so vile a fate.

        O, hard and cruel hap[163], that thus assigned

        Unto so worthy a wight so wretched end

230  But most hard cruel heart, that could consent

        To lend the hateful destinies that hand

        By which, alas, so heinous crime was wrought,

        O Queen of Adamant, O marble breast

        If not the favor of his comely[164] face,

235  If not his Princely cheer and countenance,

        His valiant Active Arms, his manly breast.

        If not his fair and seemly personage

        His noble Limbs in such proportion cast

        As would have rapt a silly woman’s thought

240  If this might not have moved the bloody heart

        And that most cruel hand the wretched weapon

        Even to let fall, and kissed him in the face.

        With tears for ruth to reave such one by death

        Should nature yet consent to slay her son

245  O mother, thou to murder thus thy child

        Even Jove with Justice must with lightening flames

        From heaven send down some strange revenge on thee.

        Ah noble Prince, how oft have I beheld

        Thee mounted on thy fierce and trampling steed

250  Shining in Armor bright before the tilt[165]

        And with thy Mistress Sleeve tied on thy Healm

        And change thy staff to please thy Lady’s eye

        That bowed the head piece of thy friendly foe,

        How oft in Arms on horse to bend the mace

255  How oft in Arms on foot to break the sword,

        Which never now these eyes may see again.

        Madame, alas, in vain these plaints are shed,

        Rather with me depart and help to assuage,

        The thoughtful griefs that in the aged king

260  Must needs by nature grow by death of this

        His only son, whom he did hold so dear.



        What wight is that which saw that I did see

        And could refrain to wail with plaint and tears

        Not I, alas, that heart is not in me,

265  But let us go, for I am grieved anew,

        To call to mind the wretched father’s woe.



        When greedy lust in Royal seat to reign

        Hath reft all care of gods and eke of men,

        And cruel heart, wrath, Treason and disdain

270  Within the ambitious breast are lodged then

        Behold how mischief wide herself displays

        And with the brother’s hand the brother slays.

        When blood thus shed, doth stain this heaven’s face

        Crying to Jove for vengeance of the deed.

275  The mighty God even moveth from his place

        With wrath to wreak, then sends he forth with speed

        The dreadful furies, daughters of the night

        With Serpents girt[166], carrying the whip of Ire[167],

        With hair of stinging snakes and shinning bright

280  With flames and blood, and with a brand of fire:

        These for revenge of wretched Murder done

        Do make the Mother kill her only son

        Blood asketh blood[168], and death must death require

        Jove by his just and everlasting doom

285  Justly hath ever so required it

        These times before record, and times to come,

        Shall find it true, and so doth present proof,

        Present before our eyes for our behoof.

        O happy wight that suffers not the snare

290  Of murderous mind to tangle him in blood:

        And happy he that can in time beware

        By others harms and turn it to his good

        But woe to him that fearing not to offend

        Doth serve his lust, and will not see the end.



The Order and signification of 
the dumb show before the fifth Act.


First the Drums and Flutes, began to sound, during which there came forth upon the Stage a company of Harquebusiers[169] and of Armed men all in order of Battle. These after their Pieces discharged, and that the Armed men had three times marched about the Stage, departed, and then the Drums and Flutes did cease. Hereby was signified tumults[170], rebellions, Arms, and civil wars to follow, as fell in the Realm of great Britain, which by the space of fifty years and more continued in civil war between the Nobility after the Death of king Gorboduc, and of his Issues, for want of certain limitation in the Succession of the Crown, till the time of Dunwallo Molmutius[171], who reduced[172] the Land to Monarchy.


Actus quintus. Scena prima.[173] 


 Clotyn, Mandud, Gwenard, Fergus, Eubulus. 


     Did ever age bring forth such Tyrant’s hearts?

        The Brother hath bereft the Brother’s life;

        The mother she hath died her cruel hands

        In blood of her own son, and now at last

5      The people lo forgetting trouble and love,

        Contemning quite both Law and loyal heart

        Even they have slain their sovereign Lord and Queen.


        Shall this their traitorous crime be unpunished rest?

        Even yet they cease not, carried out with rage,

10    In their rebellious routes, to threaten still

        A new bloodshed unto the prince’s kin

        To slain them all, and to uproot the race

        Both the king and Queen, so are they moved

        With Porrex’s death, wherein they falsely charge

15    The guiltless king without desert at all

        And traitorously have murdered him therefore,

        And eke the Queen.

       Shall Subjects dare with force

        To invoke revenge upon their Prince’s fact?

        Admit the worst that may; as sure in this

20    The deed was foul, the Queen to slay her son

        Shall yet the Subject seek to take the sword

        Arise against his Lord, and slay his king?

        O wretched state, where those rebellious hearts

        Are not rent out even from their lying breasts

25    And with the body thrown onto the fowls

        As Carrion[174] food, for terror of the rest. 

        There can no punishment be thought too great

        For this so grievous crime: let speed therefore

        Be used therein for it behooveth[175] so.

   Ye all my Lords I see consent in one

        And I as one consent with ye in all:

        I hold it more than need with the sharpest Law

        To punish the tumultuous bloody rage.

        For nothing more may shake the common sate

35    Than sufferance of Uproars without redress

        Whereby how soon kingdoms of mighty power,

        After great Conquests made, and flourishing

        In fame and wealth have been to ruin brought

        I pray to Jove, that we may rather wail

40    Such hap in them than witness in ourselves

        Eke fully with the Duke my mind agrees

        That no cause serves, whereby the Subject may,

        Call to account the doings of his Prince,

        Much less in blood by sword to work revenge

45    No more then may the hand cut off the head,

        In act nor speech, no: not in secret thought

        The Subject may rebel against his Lord

        Or Judge of him that sits in Ceasar’s Seat.

        With grudging mind be damn those he mislikes.

50    Though kings forget to govern as they ought,

        Yet Subjects must obey as they are bound:

        But now my Lords before ye farder[176] wade

        Or spend your speech, what sharp revenge shall fall

        By justice plague on these rebellious weights

55    Methinks ye rather should first search the ways

        By which in time the rage of this uproar

        Might be repressed, and these great tumults ceased

        Even yet the life of Britain Land doth hang,

        In Traitors Balance of unequal weight.

60    Think not my Lords the death of Gorbuduc

        Nor yet Videna's blood will cease their rage:

        Even our own lives, our wives and children,

        Our Country dearest of all in danger stands,

        Now to be spoiled, now, now made desolate

65    And by ourselves a conquest to ensue:

        Forgive once sway unto the peoples’ lusts,

        To rush forth on, and stay them not in time,

        And as the Stream that rolleth down the hill,

        So will the headlong run with raging thoughts.

70    From blood to blood, from mischief unto moe,

        To ruin of the Realm, themselves and all

        So giddy are the common people's minds,

        So glad of change, more wavering than the Sea.

        Ye see (my Lords) what Strength these Rebels have,

75    What huge number is assembled still,

        For though the traitorous fact, for which their rose

        Be wrought and done, yet lodge they Still in fields

        So that how far their furies yet will stretch

        Great cause we have to dread, that we may seek

80    By present Battle to repress their power.

        Speed must we use to levy force therefore

        For either they forthwith will mischief work

        Or their rebellious roars forthwith will cease:

        These violent things may have no lasting long

85    Let us therefore use this for present help

        Persuade by gentle speech, and offer grace

        With gift of pardon save unto the chief,

        And that upon condition that forthwith

        They yield the Captains of their enterprise

90    To bear such guerdon[177] of their traitorous fact

        As may be both due vengeance to themselves,

        And wholesome terror to posterity.

        This shall I think: scatter the greatest part

        That now are holden[178] with desire of home,

95    Wearied in field with cold of Winter's nights,

        And some (no doubt) stricken with dread of Law

        When this is once proclaimed, it shall make

        The Captains to mistrust the multitude

        Whose safety bids them to betray their heads

100  And so much more because the rascal routes.

        In things of great and perilous[179] attempts,

        Are never trusty to the noble race.

        And while we treat and stand on terms of grace,

        We that both stay their furies rage the while,

105  And eke gain time, whose only help sufficeth

        Without war to vanquish Rebel's power

        In the meanwhile, make you in readiness

        Such band of Horsemen as ye may prepare:

        Horsemen (you know) are not the Common's strength

110  But are the force and store of noble men

        Whereby the unchosen and unarmed sort

        Of skilless Rebels, whom none other power

        But number makes to be of dreadful force

        With sudden brunt may quickly be oppressed

115  And if this gentle means of proffered grace

        With stubborn hearts cannot so far avail

        As to assuage their desperate courages.

        Than do I wish such slaughter to be made.

        As present age and eke posterity

120  May be adrad[180] with horror of revenge

        That justly than shall on these rebels fall

        This is my Lords the sum of mine advice.

        Neither this case admits debate at large,

        And though it did: this speech that hath been said

125  Hath well abridged the tale I would have told:

        Fully with Eubulus do I consent

        In all that he hath said: and if the same

        To you my Lord, may seem for best advice,

        I wish that it should straight be put in ure.

 My Lords than let us presently depart

        And follow this that liketh us so well.

        If ever time to gain a kingdom here

        Were offered man, now it is offered me:

        The realm is reft both of their king & Queen

135  The offspring of the Prince is slain and dead

        No issue now remains, the Heir unknown,

        The people are in Arms and mutinies

        The Nobles they are busied how to cease

        These great rebellious tumults and uproars

140  And Britain Land now deserted left alone

        Amid these broils uncertain where to rest

        Offers herself unto that noble heart

        That will or dare pursue to bear her Crown:

        Shall I that am the Duke of Albany

145  Descended from that Line of noble blood,

        Which hath so long flourished in worthy fame

        Of valiant hearts, such as in noble Breasts

        Of right should rest above the baser sort,

        Refuse to adventure life to win a Crown

150  Whom Shall I find enemies that will withstand

        My fact herein, if I attempt by Arms

        To seek the Same now in these times of broil

        These Dukes poor power can hardly well appease

        The people that already are in Arms.

155  But if perhaps my force be once in field

        Is not my strength in power above the best

        Of all these Lords now left in Britain Land?

        And though they should match me with power of men

        Yet doubtful is the chance of Battles joined

160  If Victors of the field we may depart,

        Ours is the Scepter than of great Britain,

        If slain amid the plain this body be

        Mine enemies yet shall not deny me this,

        But that I died giving the noble charge

165  To hazard life for conquest of a Crown.

        Forthwith therefore will I in post depart

        To Albany and raise in Armour there

        All power I can: and here my secret friends,

        By secret practice shall solicit[181] still,

170  To seek to win to me the peoples hearts. 


 Actus quintus. Scena secunda.[182] 

 Eubulus, Clotyn, Mandud, Gwenard, Arostus, Nuntius.



1      O Jove, How are these peoples hearts abused

        What blind fury, thus headlong carries them?

        That though so many books, so many rolls

        Of Ancient time record what grievous plagues,

5      Light on these Rebels aye and though so often

        Their ears have heard their aged fathers tell

        What just reward these Traitors still receive.

        Yea though themselves have seen deep death and blood

        By strangling cord and slaughter of the sword

10    To such assigned, yet can they not beware:

        Yet cannot stay their lewd[183] rebellious hands,

        But suffering to foul treason to distain

        Their wretched minds, forget their loyal heart,

        Reject all truth and rise against their Prince,

15    A ruthful case that those, whom duties bond

        Whom grafted Law by nature truth and faith

        Bound to preserve their Country and their king

        Born to defend their Commonwealth and Prince,

        Even they should give consent thus to subvert

20    The Britain Land, and from the womb should spring

        (O native soil) those, that will needs destroy

        And ruin thee and eke themselves in fine:

        For lo, when ones the Duke had offered Grace

        Of pardon sweet (the multitude mislead

25    By traitorous fraud of their ungracious heads)

        One sort that saw the dangerous success

        Of stubborn standing in rebellious war

        And knew the difference of Prince’s power

        From headless number of tumultuous routes,

30    Whom common Countries care and private fear

        Taught to repent the terror of their rage

        Laid hands upon the Captains of their band,

        And brought them bound unto the mighty Dukes

        Another sort not trusting yet so well

35    The truth of Pardon or mistrusting more

        Their own offense than that they could conceive

        Such hope of pardon for so foul misdeed:

        Or for that they their captains could not yield

        Who fearing to be yielded, fled before,

40    Stole[184] home by silence of the secret night,

        The third unhappy and enraged sort

        Of desperate hearts, who stained in Prince’s blood

        From traitorous furor could not be withdrawn

        By love, by law, by grace, nay yet by fear,

45    By proffered life, nay yet by threatened Death,

        With minds hopeless of life, dreadless of Death,

        Careless of Country and aweless of God:

        Stood bent as to fight as furies did them move

        With violent death to close their traitorous life:

50    These all by power of Horsemen were oppressed

        And with revenging sword slain in the field,

        Or with the strangling Cord hanged on the trees

        Where yet the carrion Carcasses do preach

        The fruits that Rebels reap of their uproars,

55    And of the murder of their sacred Prince,

        But lo, where do approach the noble Dukes,

        By whom these tumults have been thus appeased.



        I think the world will now at length beware

        And fear to put on arms against their Prince.



60    If not: those treacherous hearts that dare rebel

        Let them behold the wide and huge fields

        With blood and body spread with rebels slain,

        The lofty tress clothed with corpses dead

        That strangled with the cord do hang thereon.



65    A just reward such as all times before

        Have ever lotted to those wretched folks.



        But what means he that cometh here so fast.



        My Lords, as duty and my truth doth move

        And of my Country work and care in me

70    That if the spending of my breath avail

        To do the Service that my heart desires,

        I would not shun to embrace a present death,

        So have I now in that wherein I thought

        My travail might perform some good effects

75    Ventured my life to bring these tidings here,

        Fergus, the mighty Duke of Albany

        Is now in arms and lodgeth in the fields

        With twenty thousand men, hither he bends

        His speedy march, and minds to invade the Crown

80    Daily he gathereth strength and spreads abroad

        That to this Realm no certain Heir remains,

        That Britain Land is left without a guide,

        That be the scepter seeks for nothing else

        But to preserve the people and the Land

85    Which now remains as ship without a Stern

        Lo, this is that which I have here to say.

        Is this his faith? and shall he falsely thus

        Abuse the vantage of unhappy times?

        O wretched Land, if his outrageous pride,

90    His cruel and untempered wilfulness

        His deep dissembling shows of false pretence

        Should once attain the Crown of Britain land

        Let us my Lords, with timely force resist

        The news attempt of this our common foe

95    As we would quench the flames of common fire.

        Though we remain without a certain Prince

        To weld the Realm or guide the wandering rule

        Yet now the common Mother of us all,

        Our Native Land, our Country that contains

100  Our wives, children, kindred, ourselves and all

        That ever is or may be dear to man

        Cries unto us to help ourselves and her:

        Let us advance our powers to repress

        This growing foe of all our liberties.


 Yea let us to my Lord's with hasty speed,

        And ye (O Gods) send us the welcome death,

        To shed our blood in fields and leave us not,

        In loathsome life to linger out our lives

        To see the hugy heaps of these unhaps,

110  That now roll down upon the wretched Land

        Where empty place of Princely Governance

        No certain stay now left of doubtless heir,

        Thus leave this guideless Realm an open prey.

        Thus endless storms and waste of civil war.



115  That ye (my Lords) do so agree in one

        To save your Country from the violent reign

        And wrongfully usurped Tyranny

        Of him that threatens conquest of you all

        To save your realm, and in this realm yourselves

120  From foreign thraldom[185] of so proud a Prince,

        Much do I praise and I beseech the Gods,

        With happy honour to requite it you.

        But (O my Lords) sith now the Heaven’s wrath

        Hath reft this land the issue of their Prince:

125  Sith of the body of our late Sovereign Lord

        Remains no more since the young kings be slain

        And of the Title of descended Crown,

        Uncertainly the diverse minds do think

        Even of the learned sort and more uncertainly

130  Will partial fancy and affection deem:

        But most uncertainly will climbing pride

        And hope of reign withdraw to sundry parts

        The doubtful right and hopeful lust to reign

        When once this noble service is achieved

135  For Britain land the Mother of ye all,

        When once ye have with armed force repressed,

        The proud attempts of this Albanian[186] Prince

        That threatens thraldom to your Native Land

        When ye shall vanquishers return from field

140  And find the Princely state an open prey.

        To greedy lust and to usurping power,

        Then, then (my Lords) if ever kindly care

        Of ancient honour of your ancestors,

        Of present wealth and noblest of your stocks

145  Yea of the lives and safety yet to come

        Of your dear wives your children and yourselves,

        Might move your noble hearts with gentle ruth,

        Then, then, have pity on the torn estate,

        Then help to salve the well-near hopeless sore

150  Which ye shall do, if ye yourselves withhold

        The slaying knife from your own mother’s throat

        Her shall you save, and you, and yours in her

        If ye shall all with one assent forbear

        Once to lay hand or take unto yourselves

155  The Crown by colour of pretended right,

        Or by what other means so ever it be

        Till first by common counsel of you all

        In Parliament the Regal Diadem[187].

        Be set in certain place in governance,

160  In which your Parliament and in your choice,

        Prefer the right (my Lords) without respect

        Of strength or friends, or whatsoever cause

        That may set forward, any other’s part,

        For right will last, and wrong cannot endure,

165  Right mean I his or hers, upon whose name

        The people rest by mean of Native line,

        Or by the virtue of some former Law,

        Already made their title to advance:

        Such one (my Lords) let be your chosen king

170  Such one so born within your Native Land

        Such one prefer and in no wise admit

        The heavy yoke of foreign governance,

        Let foreign Titles yield to Public wealth,

        And with that heart wherewith[188] ye now prepare

175  Thus to withstand the proud invading foe,

        With that same heart (my Lords) keep out also

        Unnatural thralldom of stranger’s reign,

        Ne suffer you against the rules of kind

        Your Mother Land to serve a Foreign Prince.



180  Lo here the end of Brutus’ royal Line,

        And lo the entry to the woeful wreck

        And utter ruin of this noble Realm.

        The royal king, and eke his sons are slain,

        No ruler rests within the Regal Seat:

185  The Heir, to whom the Scepter longs[189], unknown

        That to each force of Foreign Prince’s power

        Whom vantage of your wretched state

        By sudden Arms to gain so rich a Realm

        And to the proud and greedy mind at home

190  Whom blinded lust to reign leads to aspire.

        Lo Britain Realm is left an open prey,

        A present spoil by Conquest to ensue,

        Who seeth not now how many rising minds

        Do feed their thoughts, with hope to reach a Realm

195  And who will not by force attempt to win

        So great a gain that hope persuades to have

        A simple colour shall for title serve.

        Who wins the Royal crown will want no right

        Nor such as shall display by long descent

200  A lineal race to prove himself a king,

        In the meanwhile these civil arms shall rage,

        And thus a thousand mischiefs shall unfold

        And far and near spread thee (O Britain Land)

        All right and Law shall cease, and he that had

205  Nothing today, tomorrow shall enjoy

        Great heaps of good, and he that flowed in wealth

        Lo he shall be reft of life and all,

        And happiest he that than possesseth least.

        The wives shall suffer rape, the maids deflowered

210  And children fatherless shall weep and wail:

        With fire and sword thy Native folk shall perish.

        One kinsman shall bereave another life,

        The father shall unwitting slay the son

        The son shall slay the sire and know it not:

215  Women and maids the cruel Soldier’s sword

        Shall pierce to death, and silly[190] children lo

        That playing in the streets and fields are found

        By violent hand shall close their latter day.

        Whom shall the fierce and bloody Soldier

220  Reserve to life, whom shall he spare from death

        Even thou (O wretched mother) half alive

        Thou shall behold thy dear and only child

        Slain with the sword while he yet sucks thy breast:

        Lo, guiltless blood shall thus everywhere be shed:

225  Thus shall the wasted soil yield forth no fruit

        But derth[191] and famine shall possess the Land.

        The Towns shall be consumed and burnt with fire,

        The peopled Cities shall wax[192] desolate,

        And thou (O Britain Land) whilom in renown

230  Whilom in wealth and fame shalt thus be torn.

        Dismembered thus, and thus be rent in twain,

        Thus wasted and defaced, spoiled and destroyed:

        These be the fruits: your civil wars will bring.

        Hereto it comes when kings will not consent,

235  To grave advice, but follow willful will:

        This is the end, when in young Princes’ hearts

        Flattery prevails, and sage[193] rede hath no place:

        These are the plagues when murder is the mean

        To make new Heirs unto the Royal Crown.

240  Thus wreak the Gods, when the mother’s wrath

        Nought[194] but blood of her own child may ‘suage[195].

        These mischiefs springs with Rebels will arise,

        To work revenge and judge their Prince’s fact:

        This, this ensues when noble men do fail

245  In loyal truth, and subjects will be kings.

        And this doth grow when lo unto the Prince,

        Whom death or sudden hap of life bereaves,

        No certain Heir remains, such certainty

        As not all only is the rightful Heir,

250  But to the Realm is so made unknown to be

        And truth thereby vested in Subjects hearts,

        To owe faith there, where right is known to rest

        Alas, in Parliament what hope can be,

        When is of Parliament no hope at all,

255  Which though it be assembled by consent,

        Yet is it not likely with consent to end:

        While each one for himself, or for his friend

        Against his foe, shall travail what he may,

        While now the state left open to the man,

260  That shall with greatest force invade the same,

        Shall fill ambitious minds with gaping hope:

        When will they ones with yielding hearts agree?

        Or in the while, how shall the Realm be used?

        No, no: then Parliament should have been holden[196]

265  And certain Heirs appointed to the Crown

        To stay their title of established right:

        And plant the people in obedience

        While yet the Prince did live, whose name and power

        By lawful Summons and authority

270  Might make a Parliament to be of force,

        And might have set the state in quiet stay:

        But now (O happy man) whom speedy death

        Deprives of life, ne is enforced to see

        These hugy mischiefs and these miseries,

        These civil wars, these murders and these wrongs

        Of Justice, yet must Jove in fine restore

        This noble Crown unto the lawful Heir:

        For right will always live, and rise at length,

        But wrong can never take deep root to last. 

The end of the Tragedy of King Gorboduc

[1] Nortone: Norton
[2] Sackuyle :Sackville
[3] Anno Domini: Latin phrase meaning “The year of the Lord”
[4] Thynner: abbreviation for “The Inner”
[5] Fletestreet: Fleet Street
[6] Anno: year (Latin)
[7] dumb show: a mimed show, usually prior to each act, which demonstrates the main actions of that act
[8] fagot: bundle
[9] assayed: tried
[10] Actus primus, Scena Prima: Act I, Scene I
[11] Viden: shortened form of Videna
[12] travails: work or tasks
[13] Aurore: Roman Goddess Aurora, who is the personification of dawn. Her siblings are the sun and the moon. Four of her sons are the winds coming from the four directions and she causes dew when she weeps for a dead son. She is not very well-known.
[14] griefull: grievous
[15] plaint: verbal expression of sorrow, or a lament

[16] froward: contrary

[17] misdone: done wrong to or harmed

[18] thereat: at that

[19] wise: way

[20] send the sacred smoke to Heaven’s Throne: reference to a sacrifice

[21] misdeemeth: falsely judging

[22] wight: person (pronounced “white”)

[23] whit: none at all

[24] eke: also

[25] requite: repay

[26] wont: habitual

[27] Jove: the poetic equivalent of Jupiter, the highest deity of the ancient Romans

[28] roots: uproots

[29] Actus primus, Scena Secunda: Act I, Scene II

[30] importeth: communicate

[31] erst: first or before

[32] stay: stability

[33] unto: to

[34] swarving: to repay or avenge

[35] wry: distorted

[36] heretofore: previously

[37] wakeful: vigilant

[38] Wherefore: because (also used as “why?” depending on the context)

[39] Sith: equivalent to our “since”; also spelled “sithe” and “sithen”

[40] weals: common wealth, welfare

[41] lusty: vigorous, energetic (unlike the present day meaning)

[42] twaine: two

[43] sundry: separate

[44] This is… ye weigh: as in advice

[45] troubles manifold: many troubles

[46] behighteth: promise

[47] rage of insolence: outbreak of arrogance or disrespect for authority

[48] inured: trained, accustomed

[49] to randon of their will: to go wildly astray

[50] ure: use

[51] ý: that

[52] behooveful: necessary

[53] egal: equal

[54] behoof: benefit, advantage

[55] Morgan: Morgan and his cousin Cunedag mounted a successful rebellion to take Britain from their aunt Cordelia, but when Morgan, the elder, tried to gain control of the full island, he was killed and his cousin reigned

[56] whilhom: at some past time; once upon a time

[57] Brute: Trojan Brutus, mythical first king of Britain, who divided the kingdom among his three sons

[58] moe: more

[59] egalness: equality

[60] prevents: anticipates

[61] Ne: neither, nor

[62] unkindly: overkindly (in this instance)

[63] ere: before

[64] mortal: immortal

[65] with: within

[66] compass: extent

[67] sithence: since then

[68] sundered: divided into parts, severed

[69] ruthful: compassionate

[70] distain: stain, sully, or dishonour

[71] beseems: is fitting to

[72] ne recked: did not take heed

[73] Too soon... on fire: a reference to Phaeton, son of Apollo the sun god. Phaeton convinced his unwilling father to let him drive the sun-chariot for one day, but due to his inexperience, the sun nearly burnt the earth

[74] draw: influence, change

[75] self: sole, single

[76] Humber: the modern county of Humbria; divides Northern and Southern England

[77] Marches: boundaries

[78] writhe: divert, twist

[79] lust: ambition

[80] Lewdly: basely, wickedly

[81] wreak: avenge, put right

[82] mining: undermining

[83] advise: advice

[84] The sticks... in vain: a direct reference to the dumb show of the first act

[85] This doth... heaven’s fire: another reference to Phaeton (see note 77)

[86] mirror: show, be an example

[87] Cup of Gold: in legend, poison was commonly administered from golden cups rather than glasses

[88] potion: poison

[89] boweth: yields, submits

[90] undiscreet: indiscreet

[91] Actus secundus. Scena prima: Act II, Scene I

[92] reave me: violently rob me of

[93] wreakful: vengeful

[94] The Hellish Prince: Hades, prince of Hell

[95] Tantalus’ thirst: In mythology, Tantalus was the son of Zeus who, in turn, fed his son Pelops to the gods. Tantalus was sentenced to an eternity of standing up to his neck in water that receded every time he tried to take a drink, and to stand below succulent fruit trees that were blown out of his grasp whenever he tried to reach them

[96] proud Ixion’s wheel: Another mythological reference, wherein Ixion was banished to Hades and strapped to a fiery wheel that turned endlessly

[97] Gripe to gnaw my growing heart: Allusion to the punishment of Tityus: vultures (gripes) eternally ate his liver, which constantly grew back, only to be eaten again

[98] Yea: expresses agreement, “yes”

[99] gree: agree, come to terms with

[100] towardness: forwardness, forward-thinking

[101] guileful: sly, crafty

[102] vassals: servants

[103] routs: a common or vulgar person

[104] bereft: stolen, robbed

[105] Phaeton: in Greek mythology, Phaeton, son of the sun-god Helios, persuaded his father to allow him to drive the sun-chariot, but swerved out of control, coming close to burning the earth. Seeing this, Zeus sent a thunderbolt to kill Phaeton instantly.

[106] Phoebus: in Greek mythology, the sun is also known as “the lamp of Phoebus,” whose name literally means “the radiant one”

[107] green: inexperienced or not sullied by battle

[108] Actus Secundus, Scena Secunda: Act II, Scene II

[109] reft: divided, cleft, split

[110] yielden: submissive

[111] bootless: without help or remedy; incurable, remediless, helpless

[112] Illion: the citadel of Troy, used as name of city

[113] Trojans: inhabitants of the city of Troy, who were conquered after a ten-year siege when a Greek army entered the walls of their city concealed inside an ostensible peace offering of a giant wooden horse   

[114] randon: to fly at random.

[115] foreset: predetermined

[116] rede: counsel, advice

[117] noisome: noxious, foul

[118] Actus tertius, Scena prima: Act III, Scene I

[119] Simois: river god of Greek mythology

[120] Phrygian: pertaining to Phrygia, an ancient country of Asia Minor, or its inhabitants who were known for their war-like behavior

[121] Priam: King of Troy during the Trojan war, father of Hector, Paris, Troilus and Cassandra

[122] Hecuba: wife of Priam, Queen of Troy

[123] Hests: requests (noun)

[124] assuage: to calm or appease

[125] pease: to make peace or reconcile with

[126] list: desire, choose 

[127] imbrued: stained

[128] Hautboys: A wooden double-reed wind instrument of high pitch.

[129] Alecto, Megera, Cisiphone: three Furies in Greek mythology; Alecto symbolized constant anger, Megaera, jealousy, and Tisiphone was the avenger of murder

[130] Medea: daughter of King Aeetes, Medea aided Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece: after she was betrayed by her lover, Medusa extracted revenge by killing their two children

[131] Athama, Ino: Athamas and Ino married and in order to save their country from drought they attempted to sacrifice Athamas’s two children from his previous marriage. Though they were thwarted, Athamas went mad and killed one their children. Ino fled with their other son but both drowned

[132] Cambises: a Persian king who murdered first his brother, and then his cousin, who he had married, before he accidentally fell on his own sword

[133] Athea: mother of Meleager, Althea preserved a brand that was linked to her son’s life. When he killed her two brothers she threw the brand in the fire and Meleager instantly died

[134] Actus quartus, Scena prims: Act IV, Scene I

[135] sola: alone; therefore, Videna, alone

[136] hapt: happened

[137] hugy: huge

[138] ruth: compassion, pity

[139] pined: exhausted by suffering

[140] abye: purchase, buy

[141] caitiff: wretched, wicked, miserable

[142] wrought: formed, twisted

[143] wroke: to drive, press, force to move

[144] Actus quartus, Scena secunda: Act IV, Scene II

[145] behest: a vow, a promise

[146] sithens: since

[147] Ireful: full of ire; angry, wrathful

[148] unhap: misfortune, mishap

[149] accursed: lying under a curse or anathema; anathematized; doomed to perdition or misery

[150] clepe: to proclaim, to cry , to call

[151] repined: to feel or manifest discontent or dissatisfaction; to fret, murmur, or complain

[152] rancour: inveterate and bitter ill-feeling, grudge, or animosity; malignant hatred or spitefulness

[153] rent: a separation of parts produced by tearing or similar violence

[154] without protract: to extend in duration; to prolong to cause to continue or last longer

[155] accursed: worthy of the curse, or bringing a curse along with it; execrable, damnable; detestable, hateful

[156] doleful: fraught with, accompanied by, or causing grief, sorrow; distressful, gloomy, dreary, dismal

[157] peerless: without peer; unequalled, matchless

[158] twink: a winking of the eye

[159] senseless stock: senseless or stupid person

[160] direful: dreadful

[161] dispoiled: stripped

[162] braid: a sudden movement

[163] hap: chance or fortune                  

[164] comely: handsome

[165] tilt: a combat or encounter (for exercise or sport) between two armed men on horseback, with lances or similar weapons, the aim of each being to throw his opponent from the saddle

[166] girt: saddle

[167] ire: anger; wrath

[168] Blood asketh blood: a reference to the Biblical saying “an eye for an eye”

[169] Harquebusiers: a soldier armed with a harquebus, an early type of portable gun, which was supported upon a tripod or trestle in the field, and afterwards upon a forked ‘rest’. The name literally means “hook-gun” in German and Finnish. See Harquebusiers of St. George

[170] tumults: commotion of a multitude, usually with confused speech or uproar; public disturbance; disorderly or riotous proceeding

[171] Mulmutius: son of Cloten, King of Cornwall, who reduced Great Britain to a single monarchy.

[172] Reduced: Recall, bring back

[173] Actus quintus, Scena prima: Act V Scene I

[174] Carrion: dead purtrefying flesh of human or beast; flesh unfit for food.

[175] behooveth: a contract by deed

[176] farder: farther

[177] guerdon: reward for

[178] holden: possessed

[179] perilous: full of risk and danger

[180] adrad: frightened

[181] solicit: persuade                 

[182] Actus quintus, Scenda secundus: Act V, Scene II

[183] lewd: ignorant

[184] stole: secretly made their way

[185] thralldom: captivity

[186] Albanian: Scottish

[187] Regal Diadem: A distinction or adornment conferring glory or dignity; symbolic of a crown

[188] werewith: with which

[189] longs: wants

[190] silly: innocent

[191] derth: scarcity of food

[192] wax: become increasingly

[193] sage: wise, sound judgment

[194] nought: nothing

[195] ‘suage: assuage (to calm or appease)

[196] should have been holden: should have ruled

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