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Henry V

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 Enter Chorus 
Chorus O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend 
 The brightest heaven of invention, 
 A kingdom for a stage, princes to act 
 And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! 5
 Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, 
 Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, 
 Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire 
 Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all, 
 The flat unraised spirits that have dared 10
 On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth 
 So great an object: can this cockpit hold 
 The vasty fields of France? or may we cram 
 Within this wooden O the very casques 
 That did affright the air at Agincourt? 15
 O, pardon! since a crooked figure may 
 Attest in little place a million; 
 And let us, ciphers to this great accompt, 
 On your imaginary forces work. 
 Suppose within the girdle of these walls 20
 Are now confined two mighty monarchies, 
 Whose high upreared and abutting fronts 
 The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder: 
 Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts; 
 Into a thousand parts divide on man, 25
 And make imaginary puissance; 
 Think when we talk of horses, that you see them 
 Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth; 
 For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, 
 Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times, 30
 Turning the accomplishment of many years 
 Into an hour-glass: for the which supply, 
 Admit me Chorus to this history; 
 Who prologue-like your humble patience pray, 
 Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play. 35
ACT I SCENE I London. An ante-chamber in the KING'S palace. 
CANTERBURY My lord, I'll tell you; that self bill is urged, 
 Which in the eleventh year of the last king's reign 
 Was like, and had indeed against us pass'd, 
 But that the scambling and unquiet time 40
 Did push it out of farther question. 
ELY But how, my lord, shall we resist it now? 
CANTERBURY It must be thought on. If it pass against us, 
 We lose the better half of our possession: 
 For all the temporal lands which men devout 45
 By testament have given to the church 
 Would they strip from us; being valued thus: 
 As much as would maintain, to the king's honour, 
 Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights, 
 Six thousand and two hundred good esquires; 50
 And, to relief of lazars and weak age, 
 Of indigent faint souls past corporal toil. 
 A hundred almshouses right well supplied; 
 And to the coffers of the king beside, 
 A thousand pounds by the year: thus runs the bill. 55
ELY This would drink deep. 
CANTERBURY 'Twould drink the cup and all. 
ELY But what prevention? 
CANTERBURY The king is full of grace and fair regard. 
ELY And a true lover of the holy church. 60
CANTERBURY The courses of his youth promised it not. 
 The breath no sooner left his father's body, 
 But that his wildness, mortified in him, 
 Seem'd to die too; yea, at that very moment 
 Consideration, like an angel, came 65
 And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him, 
 Leaving his body as a paradise, 
 To envelop and contain celestial spirits. 

Never was such a sudden scholar made;
 Never came reformation in a flood, 70
 With such a heady currance, scouring faults 
 Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness 
 So soon did lose his seat and all at once 
 As in this king. 
ELY We are blessed in the change. 75
CANTERBURY Hear him but reason in divinity, 
 And all-admiring with an inward wish 
 You would desire the king were made a prelate: 
 Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs, 
 You would say it hath been all in all his study: 80
 List his discourse of war, and you shall hear 
 A fearful battle render'd you in music: 
 Turn him to any cause of policy, 
 The Gordian knot of it he will unloose, 
 Familiar as his garter: that, when he speaks, 85
 The air, a charter'd libertine, is still, 
 And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears, 
 To steal his sweet and honey'd sentences; 
 So that the art and practic part of life 
 Must be the mistress to this theoric: 90
 Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it, 
 Since his addiction was to courses vain, 
 His companies unletter'd, rude and shallow, 
 His hours fill'd up with riots, banquets, sports, 
 And never noted in him any study, 95
 Any retirement, any sequestration 
 From open haunts and popularity. 
ELY The strawberry grows underneath the nettle 
 And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best 
 Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality: 100
 And so the prince obscured his contemplation 
 Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt, 
 Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night, 
 Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty. 
CANTERBURY It must be so; for miracles are ceased; 105
 And therefore we must needs admit the means 
 How things are perfected. 
ELY But, my good lord, 
 How now for mitigation of this bill 
 Urged by the commons? Doth his majesty 110
 Incline to it, or no? 
CANTERBURY He seems indifferent, 
 Or rather swaying more upon our part 
 Than cherishing the exhibiters against us; 
 For I have made an offer to his majesty, 115
 Upon our spiritual convocation 
 And in regard of causes now in hand, 
 Which I have open'd to his grace at large, 
 As touching France, to give a greater sum 
 Than ever at one time the clergy yet 120
 Did to his predecessors part withal. 
ELY How did this offer seem received, my lord? 
CANTERBURY With good acceptance of his majesty; 
 Save that there was not time enough to hear, 
 As I perceived his grace would fain have done, 125
 The severals and unhidden passages 
 Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms 
 And generally to the crown and seat of France 
 Derived from Edward, his great-grandfather. 
ELY What was the impediment that broke this off? 130
CANTERBURY The French ambassador upon that instant 
 Craved audience; and the hour, I think, is come 
 To give him hearing: is it four o'clock? 
ELY It is. 
CANTERBURY Then go we in, to know his embassy; 135
 Which I could with a ready guess declare, 
 Before the Frenchman speak a word of it. 
ELY I'll wait upon you, and I long to hear it. 

Henry V, Act 1, Scene 2


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