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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > Art & Literature > Play 2 > Act 2, scene 3

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Scene 2.3. Near the palace

Alarums[1] and skirmish. Enter Vortiger and Gentleman.

My lord, these Saxons bring a fortune with 'em
Stains any Roman success.

On, speak forward;
I will not take a moment from thy tidings.

The main supporters of this insurrection
They have taken prisoners, and the rest so tame
They stoop to the least grace that flows from mercy.

Never came power guided by better stars
Than these men's fortitudes, yet [th'are] misbelievers;
'Tis to my reason wondrous.

Enter Hengist, Horsus, with drum, colours, soldiers leading prisoners.

Y'have given me such a first taste of your worth,
'Twill never from my love; sure when life's gone
The memory sure will follow, my soul still
Participating immortality with it.
And here's the misery of earth's limited glory:
There's not a way reveal'd to give you honour
Above the sum which your own praises give you.

Indeed, my lord, we hold, when all's summ'd up
That can be made for worth to be express'd,
The fame that a [man wins] himself is best;
That he may call his own: honours put to him
Make him no more a man than his clothes do,
And as soon taken off, for as in warmth
The heat comes from the body, not the weeds,
So man's true fame must strike from his own deeds.
And since by this event which fortune speaks
[3] us
This land appears the fair predestin'd soil
Ordain'd for our good hap, we crave, my lord,
A little earth to thrive on, what you please,
Where we'll but keep a nursery of good spirits
To fight for you and yours.

Sir, for our treasure,
'Tis open to your merits as our love,
But for y'are strangers in religion chiefly,
Which is the greatest alienation can be
And breeds most factions in the bloods of men,
I must not grant you that.

Enter Simon with a hide.

[Aside] 'S precious!
[4]--My lord,
I see a pattern, be it but so little
As yon poor hide will compass.

How! The hide?

Rather than nothing, sir.

Since y'are so reasonable,
Take so much in the best part of our kingdom.

We thank your grace.

[Exit Vortiger.]

Rivers from [bubbling] springs
Have rise at first, and great from abject things.
Stay yonder fellow. He came luckily,
And he shall fare well for't, whate'er he be;
We'll thank our fortune in rewarding him.

Stay, fellow.

How, fellow!
[5] 'Tis more than you know
Whether I be your fellow or no, for I am sure
You see me not.

Come, what's the price of your hide?

[Aside] Oh, unreasonable villain! He would buy the house o'er a man's head. I'll be sure now to make my bargain wisely; they may buy me out of my skin else.--Whose hide would you have, mine or the beast's? There's little difference in their complexions; I think mine [be] th' better o' th' twain: you shall see for your love and buy for your money. [Aside] A pestilence on you all, how have you gull'd me! You buy an ox hide! You buy a good calf's gather!
[6] They are all hungry soldiers and I took 'em for shoemakers.

Hold fellow, prithee hold. Right a fool wordling
That kicks at all good fortune! Whose man art thou?

I am a servant, yet I am a masterless man, sir.

How! Prithee how's that now?

Very nimbly, sir: my master's dead, and I serve my mistress. I am a masterless man, sir; she's now a widow, and I am the foreman of her tan-pit.

[Giving him money] Hold you and thank your fortune, not your wit.

Faith, and I thank your bounty and not your wisdom; you are not troubled greatly with wit neither it seems. [Aside] Now by this light, a nest of yellowhammers!
[8] What will become of me? If I can keep all these without hanging of myself, I am happier than a hundred of my neighbours.--You shall have my skin into the bargain too, willingly, sir, then if I chance to die like a dog, the labour will be saved of fleaing. I'll undertake, sir, you shall have all the skins[9] of our parish at this rate, man and woman's.

Sirrah, give ear to me: now take your hide
And cut it all into the slenderest thongs
That can bear strength to hold.

That were a jest indeed! Go and spoil all the leather? Sin and pity, why, 'twould shoe half your army!

Do't, I bid you.

What, cut it all in thongs? Hunch,
[10] [this] is like the vanity of your Roman gallants, that cannot wear good suits but they must have 'em cut and slash'd[11] into giggets,[12] that the very crimson taffety sits blushing at their follies. I would I might persuade you, sir, from the humour[13] of cutting;[14] 'tis but a kind of swaggering condition and nothing profitable. What an't were but well pinked?[15] 'Twould last longer for a summer suit.

What a gross lump of ignorance have I lighted on!
I must be forc'd to beat my drift into him.
Look you, to make you wiser than your parents,
I have so much ground given me as this hide will compass,
Which, as it is, is nothing.

Nothing, quoth 'a!
Why, 'twill not keep a hog!

Now with the vantage
Cut into several parcels, 'twill stretch [far]
And make a liberal circuit.

A shame on your crafty hide! Is this your cunning?
[17] I have learn'd more knavery now than ever I shall shake off while I live. I'll go purchase lands by cows' tails and undo the parish; three good bulls' pizzles[18] would set up a man forever. This is like a pin a day doubled to set up a haberdasher of small wares.[19]

Thus men as mean to thrive as we must learn, captain,
Set in a foot at first.

A foot do you call it?
The devil's in that foot, it takes up all
This leather.

Dispatch, away, and cut it carefully
With all the advantage, sirrah.

You could never have lighted upon such a fellow, captain, to serve your turn. I have such a trick of stretching too--I learnt it of a tanner's man that was hang'd last sessions
[20]--that I'll warrant you I'll get you in a mile and a half more than y'are aware of.

Pray serve me so as oft as you will, sir.

I'm casting about for nine acres to make you a garden plot out of one of the buttocks.

'Twill be a good soil for nosegays.

'Twill be a good soil for cabbages to stuff out the guts of your fellows there.

Exit Simon.

You, sirs, go see it carefully perform'd;
It is the first foundations of our fortunes
On Britain's earth and ought to be embrac'd
With a respect near-link'd to adoration.

[Exeunt soldiers.]

Methinks it sounds to me a fair assurance
Of large honours and hopes, does't not, captain?

How many have begun with less at first
That have departed emperors from their bodies,
And left their carcasses as much in monument
As would erect a college?

There's the fruits
Of their religious shows too, to lie rotting
Under a million spent in gold and marble,
When thousands left behind dies without shelter,
Having nor house nor food.

A precious charity.
But where shall we make choice of our ground, captain?

About the fruitful banks of [uberous] Kent,
A fat and olive soil; there we came in.
Oh, captain, h'as given [he knows] not what!

Long may he give so.

I tell thee, sirrah, he that begg'd a field
Of fourscore acres for a garden plot,
'Twas pretty well, but he came short of this.

Send over for more Saxons.

With all speed, captain.

Especially for Roxena.

Who, my daughter?

That star of Germany, forget not her, sir,
She is a fair, fortunate maid--[aside] I shall betray myself--
Fair is she, and most fortunate may she be.
[Aside] But in maid lost forever: my desire
Has been the close
[22] confusion of that name.
A treasure 'tis, able to make more thieves
Than cabinets set open to entice,
Which learns one theft that never knew the vice.

Some I'll dispatch with speed.

Do you forget not.

Marry, pray help my memory if I should.

Roxena, you remember?

What more dear, sir?

I see you need no help; your memory's clear, sir.

Shout and flourish.

Those shouts leapt from our army.

They were too cheerful
To voice a bad event.

Enter Gentleman Saxon.

Now, sir, your news?

Roxena the fair.

True, she shall be sent for.

She's here.

What sayst?

She's come, sir.

[Aside] A new youth
Begins me o'er again!

Followed you close, sir,
With such a zeal as daughter never equall'd,
Expos'd herself to all the merciless dangers
Set in mankind or fortune, not regarding
Aught but your sight.

Her love is infinite to me.

[Aside] Most charitably censor'd! 'Tis her cunning,
The love of her own lust, which makes a woman
Gallop down hill as fearless as a drunkard;
There's no true lodestone i' th' world but that.
It draws 'em through all storms by sea or shame:
Life's loss is thought too small to pay that game.

What follows more of her will take you strongly.


Nay, 'tis worth your wonder.

I thirst for't.

Her heart joy-ravish'd at your late success,
Being the early morning of your fortunes
So prosperously new-opening at her coming,
She takes a cup of gold and midst the army,
Teaching her knee a current cheerfulness
Which well became her, drank a liberal health
To the king's joys and yours, the king in presence,
Who with her sight, but her [behaviour] chiefly--
Or chief I know not which, but one or both--
But he's so far 'bove my expression caught,
'Twere art enough for [one] man's time and portion
To speak
[24] him and miss nothing.

This is astonishing!

[Aside] Oh, this ends bitter now! Our close hid flame
Will break out of my heart: I cannot keep it.

Gave you attention to this, captain? How now, man?

A kind of grief about these times o' th' moon
[25] still;
I feel a pain like a convulsion,
A cramp at heart, I know not what name fits it.

Nor never seek [one] for't; let it go
Without a name. Would all griefs were serv'd so;
Our using of 'em mannerly makes 'em grow.

Flourish. Enter Vortiger, Roxena, attendants.

[Aside] A love knot already, arm in arm!

What's he lays claim here?

In right of fatherhood
I challenge an obedient part, my lord.

Take 't, and send back the rest.

What means your grace?

You'll keep no more than what belongs to you, will you?

That's all, my lord, it all belongs to me; yet
I keep a husband's interest till he come.
Yet out of duty and respect of majesty,
I send her back your servant.

My mistress, sir, or nothing.

Come again;
I [never] thought to have heard so ill of thee.

How, sir! So ill?

So beyond detestable,
To be an honest vassal is some calling;
Poor is the worst of that, shame comes not to't.
But mistress: that's the only common bait
Fortune sets at all hours, catching whore[s] with it,
And plucks 'em up by clusters. There's my sword, my lord,
And if your strong desires aim at my blood,
Which runs too purely there, a nobler way
Quench it in mine.

I ne'er took sword in vain.
Hengist, we here create thee Earl of Kent.

[Aside, and falling down] Oh, that will do't, 'twill do't!

What ails our friend? Look to him.

Oh, 'tis his epilepsy, I know it well;
I [holp] him once in Germany. Com'st again?
A virgin's right hand strok'd upon his heart
Gives him ease straight,
[26] but 't must be a pure virgin,
Or else it brings no comfort.

[Aside] What a task
She puts upon herself! Unurg'd-for purity!
The proof of this will bring love's rage upon me.

[Roxena kneels by Horsus, and they talk aside.]

Oh, this would mad a woman! There's no plague
In love to indiscretion.

Pish, this cures not.

Dost think I'll ever wrong thee?

Oh, most feelingly!
But I'll prevent it now and break thy neck
With thy own cunning; thou hast undertook
To give me help, to bring in royal credit,
Thy crack'd virginity, but I'll spoil all:
I will not stand on purpose, though I could,
But fall still, to disgrace thee.

What, you will not?

I have no other way to help myself,
For when thou't known to be a whore impost'rous,
I shall be sure to keep thee.

Oh, sir, shame me not!
Y'have had what's precious; try my faith yet once more:
Undo me not at first in chaste opinion.

All this art shall not make me find my legs.

I prithee wilt thou wilfully confound me?

Well, I'm content for this time to recover
To save thy credit and bite in my pain,
But if thou ever fail'st me, I will fall
And thou shalt never get me up again.

Agreed 'twixt you and I, sir.--[Raising him] See, my lord,
A poor maid's work: the man may pass for health now
Among the clearest bloods and whose are nicest.

I have heard of women bring men on their knees,
But few that [e'er restor'd] 'em. How now, captain?

My lord, methinks I could do things past man,
I'm so renew'd in vigour; I long most
For violent exercise to take me down:
My joy's so high in blood I am above [frailty].

My Lord of Kent?

Your love's unworthy creature.

Seest thou this fair [chain]? Think upon the means
To keep it link'd forever.

Oh, my lord,
'Tis many degrees sund'red from that hope!
Besides your grace has a young, virtuous queen.

I say think on't, think on't.

[Aside] And this wind hold
I shall even fall to my old disease again.

[To Roxena] There's no fault in thee but to come so late;
All else is excellent, I chide none but fate.

Flourish, cornets. Exeunt.


[1] Alarums: alarms
[2] misbelievers: pagans and not Christians
[3] speaks: sends
[4] 'S precious: by God's precious blood (or body), an oath
[5] fellow: Simon thinks Hengist is calling him a thief.
[6] gather: the pluck (heart, liver and lungs) of an animal
[7] wordling: worldling (obs.)
[8] yellowhammers: 1) a species of bunting, 2) slang for goldsmiths, 3) a fools.
[9] skins: with the bawdy innuendo
[10] Hunch: an exclamation
[11] cut and slash'd: Cutwork was embroidery used mainly for trimming cloths. The slash was a vertical slit in a garment that exposed the lining or the garment underneath in order to contrast the colors.
[12] giggets: Originally a leg or haunch of mutton, later a small slice of it; here it refers to the small stripes or panes in clothing.
[13] humour: whim
[14] cutting: A "cutter" was a cant term for a bully or sharper.
[15] pinked: Pinking was the cutting of very small (less than one inch) slits or holes in clothing.
[16] with the vantage: i.e., being more than it was.
[17] Is this your cunning?: Hengist wasn't the first to try this trick.
[18] pizzles: bulls' penises, from which whips were made.
[19] a pin a day doubled...small wares: alluding to a numerical puzzle of geometric progression, in which a sum is doubled, then doubled again, and so on until a very small amount has quickly turned into a very large one .
[20] sessions: i.e., of the legal courts .
[21] There's the fruits...nor food: "The sentiment of these lines is a modern, not an Elizabethan, one, and, as far as I know, this expression of it is unique in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. It would be interesting to know for certain whether the omission in Q of [these lines] was originally due to the censor" (Bald).
[22] close: hidden
[23] so far 'bove my expression caught: Apparently Roxena's seductive behavior and Vortiger's lustful reaction are so extreme that the modest Gentleman Saxon becomes tongue-tied!
[24] speak: describe
[25] times o' th' moon: i.e., monthly, believed to be the source of various maladies, including lunacy, (being made mad by Luna, the moon).
[26] A virgin's right hand...ease straight: cf. the test of virginity in The Changeling IV.i, IV.ii. Bald is probably correct that of the two, the scenes in The Changeling are more farcical, but the practice that Horsus has adopted merely to periodically confirm Roxena's chastity is pitiably ludicrous.
[27] chaste opinion: i.e., the general opinion that I am chaste

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