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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > Art & Literature > Play 2 > Act 3, scene 4

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Scene 3.4 A chamber in a castle near Quinborough

Enter Hengist.

A fair and fortunate constellation reign'd
When we set footing here: from his first gift,
Which to a king's unbounded eyes seem'd nothing,
The compass of a hide, I have erected
A strong and spacious castle, yet contain'd myself
Within my limits, without check or censure.
Thither, with all the observance of a subject,
The liveliest witness of a grateful mind,
I purpose to invite him and his queen
And feast 'em nobly.

A noise. Barber and Tailor within.

[Within] We will enter, sir;
'Tis a state business of a twelvemonth long,
The choosing of a mayor.

What noise is that?

[Within] Sir, we must speak with the good Earl of Kent;
Though we were ne'er brought up to keep a door,
We are as honest, sir, as some that do.

Enter Gentleman [Saxon].

Now what's the occasion of their clamours, sir?

Please you, my lord, a company of townsmen
Are bent against all denials and resistance
To have speech with your lordship, and that you
Must end a difference, which none else can do.

Why, then there's reason in their violence,
Which I never look'd for: let in first but one,
And as we relish him the rest comes on.

Exit Gentleman [Saxon].

'Twere no safe wisdom in a rising man
To slight off such as these; nay, rather these
Are the foundation of a lofty work:
We cannot build without them and stand sure;
He that ascends up to a mountain's top
Must first begin at foot.

Enter Gentleman [Saxon].

Now, sir, who comes?

They cannot yet agree, my lord, of that.


They say 'tis worse now for 'em than ever 'twas before,
For where the difference stood but between two,
Upon this coming first [they are] at odds;
One says, sir, he shall lose his place at church by't,
Another he'll not do his wife that wrong,
And by their good wills they would come all at first.
The strife continues in most heat, my lord,
Between a country barber and a tailor
Of the same [town], and which your lordship names
'Tis yielded by consent that one shall enter.

Here's no sweet [coil]! I'm glad they're so reasonable.
Call in the barber: if the tale be long
He'll cut it short, I trust; that's all the hope on't.

Enter Barber.

Now, sir, are [you] the barber?

Oh, most barbarous! A corrector of enormities in hair, my lord, a promoter
[2] of upper lips, or what your lordship, in the neatness of your discretion, shall vouchsafe call it.

Very good, I see this you have without book.
But what's your business now?

Your lordship comes
To a high point indeed; the business, sir,
Lies all about the head.

That['s] work for you.

No, my good lord, there is a corporation, a kind of body, a body.

The barber's out at body, let in the tailor.
This 'tis to reach beyond your own profession:
When you let go your head, you lose your memory;
You have no business with the body.

Yes, sir, I am a barber-surgeon
[4]: I have had something to do with't in my time, my lord, and I was never so out o' th' body as I have been here of late; send me good luck, I'll go marry some whore or other but I'll get in again.[5]

Enter Tailor.

Now, sir, a good discovery come from you
That we may know the inwards of the business.

I will rip [up] the linings to your lordship,
And show what stuff 'tis made on; for the body,
Or corporation--

There the barber left indeed.

'Tis piec'd up of two factions.

A patch'd
[6] town the whilst.

Nor can [we] go through stitch
[7], my noble lord,
The choler is so great in the one party.
And as in linsey-woolsey
[8] wove together
One piece makes several suits, so, upright earl,
Our linsey-woolsey hearts makes all this coil.

What's all this now?
Call in the rest; I'm ne'er the wiser yet.
I should commend my wit could I but guess
What this would come to.

Enter Glover, Buttonmonger, Brazier [and the other tradesmen].

Now, sirs, what are you?

[9] on your lordship, I am a glover.

What needs that then?

Sometimes I deal with dog's-leather,
Sir-reverence all that while.

Well, to the purpose, if there be any towards.

I were an ass else, saving your lordship's presence; we have a body, but our town wants a hand, a hand of justice, a worshipful master mayor.

This is well-handed yet,
A man may take some hold on't. You want a mayor?

Right, but there's two at fisticuffs about it, sir,
As I may say, at daggers drawing, sir,
But that I cannot say, because they have none;
And you being Earl of Kent, the town does say
Your lordship's voice shall choose and part the fray.

This is strange work for me. Well, sir, what be they?

The one is a tanner.

Fie, I shall be too partial;
I owe too much affection to that trade
To put it to my voice. [What is] his name?

Simon, sir.

How! Simon, too?

Nay, 'tis but Simon one, sir, the very same Simon
That sold your lordship the hide.

What sayst thou?

That's all his glory, sir: he got his master's widow by't presently after, a rich tanner's wife. She has set him up; he was her foreman a long time in her other husband's days.

Now let me perish in my first aspiring
If the pretty [simplicity] of his fortune
Do not most highly take me; 'tis a presage, methinks,
Of bright, succeeding happiness to mine
When my fate's glowworm casts forth such a shine.
And what's the other that contends with him?

Marry, my noble lord, a fustian weaver.

How! Will he offer to compare with Simon?
He a fit match for him!

Enter Simon and Oliver.

Hark, hark, my lord!
Here they come both now in a pelting chafe
From the town-house.

[How]! Before me? I scorn thee,
Thou wattle-[fac'd], sing'd pig!

Pig? I defy thee!
My uncle was a Jew and scorn'd the motion.

I list not brook thy vaunts. Compare with me?
Thou spindle of concupiscence, 'tis well known
Thy first wife was a flax-wench.

But such a flax-wench
Would I might never want at my most need,
Nor any friend of mine. My neighbours knew her;
Thy wife was but a hampen halter
[11] to her.

Use better words; I'll hang thee in my year
Let whose will choose thee afterwards.

Peace! For shame!
Quench your great spirits. Do not you see his lordship?

What, Master Simonides

Simonides? What a fine name he has made of Simon! Then he's an ass that calls me Simon again; I'm quite out of love with't.

Give me thy hand. I love thee and thy fortunes;
I like a man that thrives.

I took a widow, my lord, to be the best piece of ground to thrive on, and by my faith, there's a young Simonides, like a green onion, peeping up already.

Th'ast a good, lucky hand.

I have somewhat, sir.

But why to me is this election offer'd?
The choosing of a mayor goes by most voices.

True, sir, but most of our townsmen are so hoarse with drinking, there's ne'er a good voice amongst 'em all that are now here in this company.

Are you content both to put all to these then,
To whom I liberally resign my interest
To prevent censure?

I speak first, my lord.

Though I speak last, I hope I am not least.
[they] will cast away a town-born child,
They may; 'tis but dying some forty years or so
Before my time.

I'll leave you to your choice awhile.

Your good lordship.

Exit Hengist.

Look you, neighbours, view us both well ere you be too hasty; let Oliver the fustian weaver stand as fair as I do, and the devil give him good out

I do, thou upstart [callymoocher]
[15], I do. 'Tis well known to thee I have been twice alecunner[16], thou mushrump[17] that shot up in one night with lying with thy mistress.

Faith, thou art such a spiny bald-rib
[18], all the mistresses in the town would never get thee up.

I scorn to rise by a woman, as thou didst; my wife shall rise by me.

The better for some of thy neighbours when you are asleep.

I pray cease of your communication; we can do nothing else.

[The tradesmen retire and talk amongst themselves.]

[Aside] I gave that barber a fustian suit, and twice redeem'd
[19] his cittern[20]; he may remember me.

[Aside] I fear no false measure but in that tailor;
The glover and the button-maker are both cocksure;
That collier's eye I like not.
Now they consult, the matter is a-brewing.
Poor Gill my wife lies longing for this news;
'Twill make her a glad mother.

A Simon, a Simon, a Simon, a Simon!

My good people, I thank you all.

Wretch that I am, tanner, thou hast curry'd favour.

I curry? I defy thy fustian fume!

But I will prove a rebel all thy year
And raise up the seven deadly sins against thee.


The deadly sins will scorn to rise by thee, and they have any breeding, as commonly they are well brought up
[21]; 'tis not for every scab to be acquainted with 'em. But leaving scabs, to you good neighbours [now] I bend my speech. First, to say more than a man can say, I hold it not so fit to be spoken, but to say what man ought to say, there I leave you also. I must confess your loves have chosen a weak and unlearn'd man--that I can neither write nor read you all can witness--yet not altogether so unlearn'd but I could set my mark to a bond[22], if I would be so simple, an excellent token of government. Cheer you then, my hearts, you have done you know not what. There's a full point[23]; you must all cough and hem now.

Hum, hum, hum, cough!

Now touching our common adversary, the fustian weaver, who threateneth he will raise the deadly sins amongst us, which as I take it are seven in number, let 'em come: our town's big enough to hold 'em, we will not much disgrace it; besides, you know a deadly sin will lie in a narrow hole
[24]. But when they think themselves safest and the web of their iniquity woven, with the horse-strength of my justice I'll break the looms of their concupiscence, and let the weaver go seek his shuttle. Here you may hem again, if you'll do me the favour.

Cough and hem!

Why, I thank you all, and it shall not go unrewarded. Now for the seven deadly sins: first, for pride, which always sits uppermost and will be plac'd without a churchwarden
[25]; being a sin that is not like to be chargeable to the parish, I slip it over and think it not worthy of punishment. Now you all know that sloth does not anything; this place, you see, requires wisdom. How can a man in conscience punish that which does nothing? Envy, a poor, lean creature that eats raw liver, perhaps it pines to see me chosen, and that makes me the fatter with laughing; if I punish envy then I punish mine own carcass, a great sin against authority. For wrath, the less we say, the better 'tis; a scurvy, desperate thing it is, that commonly hangs itself and saves justice many a halter by't. Now for covetousness and gluttony, I'll tell you more when I come out of mine office; I shall have time to try what they are, I'll prove 'em soundly, and if I find gluttony and covetousness to be directly sins, I'll bury one i' th' bottom of a chest, and th'other i' th' end of my garden. But, sirs, for lechery, I mean to tickle that home[26], nay, I'm resolv'd upon't: I will not leave one whore in all the town.

Some of your neighbours may go seek their wives i' th' country then.

Barber, be silent; I will cut thy comb
[27] else. To conclude, I will learn the villainies of all trades, mine own I know already: if there be any knavery in the baker, I will bolt it out[28]; if in the brewer, I will taste him throughly, and then piss out his iniquity in his own sinkhole. In a word, I will knock out all enormities like a bullock, and send the hide to my fellow tanners.

A Simonides, a true Simonides indeed!

Enter Hengist and Roxena.

How now, how goes your choice?

Here's he, my lord.

You may prove I am the man: I am bold to take the upper hand of your lordship a little; I'll not lose an inch of my honour.

Hold, sirs, there's some few crowns to mend your feast,
Because I like your choice. [Gives them money.]

Joy bless your lordship!
We'll drink your health with trumpets.

Ay, with sackbutts
That's the more solemn drinking for my state;
No malt this year shall fume into my pate.

Exeunt [all but Hengist and Roxena].

Continues still that fervour in his love?

Nay, with increase, my lord, the flames grows greater,
Though [he] has learn'd a better art of late
[To set a screen before it.]

Enter Vortiger and Horsus.

[Canst] speak low?

[Hengist and Roxena retire to one side, Hengist pretending to have fallen asleep reading a book.][30]

Heard every word, my lord.


The course I took was dangerous, but not failing,
For I convey'd [myself] behind the [hangings]
Even first before [her] entrance.

'Twas well ventur'd.

I had such a woman's first and second longing in me
To hear her how she would bear her mock'd abuse
After she was half return'd to privacy,
I could have fasted out an ember week
And never thought of hunger, to have heard her;
She fetch'd
[33] three short turns, I shall ne'er forget 'em,
Like an imprison'd lark that offers still
Her wing at liberty and returns check'd:
So would her soul fain have been gone, and even hung
Flittering upon the bars of poor mortality,
Which ever as it offer'd, drove her back again.
Then came your holy Lupus and Germanus.

Oh, two holy confessors.

At whose sight
I could perceive her fall upon her breast
And cruelly afflict herself with sorrow;
I never heard a sigh till I heard hers,
Who after her confession, pitying her,
Put her into a way of patience,
Which now she holds, to keep it hid from you.
There's all the pleasure that I took in't now,
When I heard that my pains was well rememb'red.
So with applying comforts and relief,
They have brought it low now to an easy grief,
But yet the taste is not quite gone.

Still fortune
Sits bettering our [invention].

Enter Castiza.

Here she comes.

[Aside] Yonder's my lord. Oh, I'll return again;
Methinks I should not dare to look on him.

She's gone again.

It works the kindlier, sir;
[now] and call her back. She winds herself
Into the snare so prettily, 'tis a pleasure
To set toils for her.

[Horsus brings Castiza back to Vortiger.]

[Aside] He may read my shame
Now in my blush.

Come, y'are so link'd to holiness,
So taken up with contemplative desires,
That the world has you yet enjoys you not;
You have been weeping too.

Not I, my lord.

Trust me, I fear you have; y'are much to blame
And you should yield so to passion without cause.
Is not [there] time enough for meditation?
Must it lay title to your health and beauty,
And draw them into time's consumption too?
'Tis too exacting for a holy faculty.
[Noticing Hengist] My Lord of Kent? I pray [wake] him, captain;
He reads himself asleep sure.

My lord?

Your pardon, sir.

Nay, I'll take away your book and bestow 't here.
Lady, you that delight in virgin[s'] stories
And all chaste works, here's excellent reading for you;
Make of that book as rais'd men make of favour,
Which they grow sick to part from. And now, my lord,
You that have so conceitedly
[34] gone beyond me
And made such large use of a slender gift,
Which we never minded
[35]: I commend your thrift,
And for your building's name shall to all ages
Carry the stamp and impress of your wit,
It shall be call'd Thong Castle.

How, my lord!
Thong Castle! There your highness quits me kindly.

'Tis fit art should be known by her right name;
You that can spread my gift, I'll spread your fame.

I thank your grace for that, sir.

And, lov'd lord,
So well we do accept your invitation,
With all speed we'll set forward.

Your love honours me.

Music. Exeunt omnes.


[1] keep a door: with the innuendo of to pimp or pander.
[2] promoter: one who prosecutes, informs on, or denounces law-breakers. The Barber is saying he will address the wrongs done by the upper lip, i.e., its growing hair.
[3] without book: i.e., memorized.
[4] barber-surgeon: Barbering and surgery, as well as other services such as dentistry and blood-letting, were all performed by the same man; medical practices were quite barbarous by today's standards, and barber-surgeons were not looked on kindly.
[5] get in again: with the bawdy pun.
[6] patch'd: put together roughly, insecurely, or out of odds and ends, with the possible allusion to a fool's motley patchwork.
[7] through stitch: "To go through stitch" is tailors' jargon for finishing work already begun.
[8] linsey-woolsey: 1) a material woven from wool and flax, 2) "a strange mixture in talk and action," "neither one thing nor another" (OED)
[9] Sir-reverence: 1) apologies (a corruption of "save your reverence"), 2) excrement (not immediately relevant, but the audience would have laughed at the implication).
[10] chafe: rage, passion.
[11] halter: noose.
[12] my year: i.e., as mayor
[13] Simonides: a common stock name of a noble character .
[14] give him good out: speak well of him
[15] [callymoocher]: (Q); Callimoother (L,P). "This is apparently a nonce word; at any rate, no other example of its use was known to the compilers of the N.E.D. There it is defined as 'a raw cadger, a greenhorn,' and a possible relationship with 'moucher,' a loafer, is suggested. Halliwell, in his Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, is still more vague, and writes: 'A term of reproach. It is probably connected with micher'" (Bald).
[16] alecunner: aleconner, an inspector of ale.
[17] mushrump: mushroom.
[18] bald-rib: a joint of pork cut from nearer the rump than the spare-rib, where the bones are bald, or bare of flesh .
[19] redeem'd: paid for, i.e., gotten out of hock.
[20] cittern: an instrument somewhat like the guitar, with a flat soundbox, strung with wire strings, and played with a pick or quill .
[21] they have any breeding, as commonly they are well brought up: "The devil is a gentleman" was proverbial. "Various phrases in Simon's speech on the Seven Deadly Sins suggest a conventional visual representation of them. For example, they were doubtless to be found portrayed in old wall paintings in churches. They were also used as a tapestry design..." (Bald).
[22] bond: financial obligation, IOU. An excellent token of government indeed!
[23] full point: period, end of sentence
[24] narrow hole: with the sexual innuendo
[25] churchwarden: businessmen appointed to fine those who had not paid their religious obligations and to collect the poor tax, among other duties.
[26] tickle that home: whip, the common punishment for prostitution and solicitation.
[27] cut thy comb: lower your pride; cutting a cock's comb usually accompanied gelding.
[28] bolt it out: separate it out by sifting .
[29] sackbutts: 1) a bass trumpet with a slide for altering the pitch, 2) casks of sherry.
[30] [Hengist and Roxena...book.]: What Middleton intended to happen at this point is difficult to say, although it is clear that 1) Hengist and Roxena continue to talk inaudibly on stage (overhearing and commenting to one another about Vortiger's scheme, I assume), 2) Vortiger and Horsus do not realize they are there, and 3) Hengist at some point positions himself to appear to have fallen asleep over a book. Bald asserts that Roxena would have exited shortly after the entrance of Vortiger and Horsus, and in general s.d.'s indicating exits are often omitted, but there is no reason for her not to overhear the rest of the scene.
[31] mock'd abuse: supposed rape
[32] ember week: Weeks which contain days of fasting and prayer, called "ember days," are the Wednesday/Friday/Saturday following the first Sunday in Lent, Whitsunday, Holy Cross Day (September 14), and St. Lucia's Day (December 13).
[33] fetch'd: walked.
[34] conceitedly: ingeniously
[35] minded: intended

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