Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated

Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated

by Rhona Silverbush, Sami Plotkin

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The most comprehensive sourcebook of Shakespeare's monologues ever available in one volume.

A detailed guide to approaching Shakespearean text, Speak the Speech! contains everything an actor needs to select and prepare a Shakespeare monologue for classwork, auditions, or performance.

Included herein are over 150 monologues. Each one is placed in context with a brief introduction, is carefully punctuated in the manner that best illustrates its meaning, and is painstakingly and thoroughly annotated. Each is also accompanied by commentary that will spark the actor's imagination by exploring how the interrelationship of meter and the choice of words and sounds yields clues to character and performance. And throughout the book sidebars relate historical, topical, technical, and other useful and entertaining information relevant to the text. In addition, the authors include an overview of poetic and rhetorical elements, brief synopses of all the plays, and a comprehensive index along with other guidelines that will help readers locate the perfect monologue for their needs.

More than just an actor's toolkit, Speak the Speech! is also an entertaining resource that will help demystify Shakespeare's language for the student and theater lover alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780571211227
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/18/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 1092
Sales rank: 1,080,760
Product dimensions: 7.11(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.93(d)

About the Author

Rhona Silverbush studied theatre and psychology at Brandeis University and holds a law degree from Boston College Law School; she practiced asylum law before returning to her first loves, writing and the theatre. She has acted with regional theatre and Shakespeare companies, was adjunct faculty at Columbia University's Teachers College and currently teaches and coaches privately. She continues to write with Sami Plotkin and on her own and is also co-author with Carol Zeavin of the Terrific Toddlers series of picture books published by Magination Press, the children's book imprint of the American Psychological Association.

Sami Plotkin graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a double major in Theatre Arts and English Literature, and honed her stagecraft in London under the tutelage of Royal Shakespeare Company members. She later earned her M.F.A. at Columbia University's School of the Arts. Sami has performed Shakespeare in the United States and on tour in Europe and the former Soviet Union. Since then she has taught Working with Shakespeare’s Text at Michael Howard Studios, drama in New York City public schools, and guest workshops for middle and high school drama productions. She coaches privately and continues to write with Rhona Silverbush and on her own.

The authors were awarded a grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation for Speak the Speech! in 1999.

Read an Excerpt

Speak the Speech!







GENDER: M PROSE/VERSE: blank verse AGE RANGE: adult to mature adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1—5) : 2

Philip the Bastard has just come up in the world: he and his brother Robert sought King John's arbitration of their dispute over their father's inheritance. Dad left all the land to Robert, in a will that Philip, as the older son, naturally contested. Having realized that Philip is actually the bastard son of the late King Richard I, Queen Elinor has made her grandson an offer he can't refuse: she has just invited him to join her in fighting France, if he will relinquish his lands to Robert. Philip has jumped at the chance, and King John has knighted him, then and there, Sir Richard Plantagenet, after his father. The Bastard is delighted at his sudden social advancement. He gladly says goodbye to his brother and his lands, then muses over his new social status:

Brother, adieu. Good fortune come to thee, For thou wast got i' th' way of honesty. [Exeunt all but the Bastard] A foot of honor better than I was, But many a many foot of land the worse. Well, now can I make any Joan a lady. "Good den, Sir Richard!"—"God-a-mercy, fellow!"— And if his name be George, I'll call him Peter, For new-made honor doth forget men's names: 'Tis too respective and too sociable For your conversion. Now your traveler, He and his toothpick at my worship's mess, And when my knightly stomach is sufficed, Why then I suck my teeth and catechize My picked man of countries: "My dear Sir,"—Thus leaning on mine elbow I begin—"I shall beseech you"—that is Question now, And then comes Answer like an Absey book: "O Sir," says Answer, "at your best command, At your employment, at your service, Sir." "No, Sir," says Question, "I, sweet Sir, at yours." And so, ere Answer knows what Question would, Saving in dialogue of compliment, And talking of the Alps and Apennines, The Pyrenean and the River Po, It draws toward supper in conclusion so. But this is worshipful society, And fits the mounting spirit like myself; For he is but a bastard to the time That doth not smack of observation, And so am I, whether I smack or no: And not alone in habit and device, Exterior form, outward accoutrement, But from the inward motion to deliver Sweet, sweet, sweet poison for the age's tooth—Which, though I will not practice to deceive, Yet, to avoid deceit, I mean to learn, For it shall strew the footsteps of my rising. But who comes in such haste, in riding-robes? What woman-post is this? Hath she no husband That will take pains to blow a horn before her? O me, 'tis my mother. How now, good Lady—What brings you here to court so hastily?

180 adieu goodbye (French); Good fortune ... thee May good fortune come to you; 181 got begotten, fathered; way of honesty honest way [got ... honesty conceived within wedlock]; 182 A foot of honor better a foot higher in reputation and good name; 183 many a many foot a great many feet; 184 Joan peasant girl; lady common term for a woman of high social standing; 185 Good den good evening; God-a-mercy God have mercy; may God reward you (a way of saying thank you, used in response to a respectful greeting from an inferior); fellow a form of address to a servant or inferior; 188 respective respectful; 189 conversion change for the better (i.e., change from lower to higher social rank); 190 my worship's my (giving himself a title of honor); mess dining table (where they dine as befits the Bastard's high rank); 191 sufficed satisfied, full; 192 catechize teach by means of questions and answers; 193 pickèd (1) refined; (2) chosen; man of countries traveler [My pickèd ... countries (1) My refined traveler; (2) the traveler I chose (to invite to dinner)]; 195 I shall beseech you I ask you (he is being overly solicitious and polite); Question referring to the questioner (himself); 196 Answer referring to the answerer (the traveler); Absey book (AYB-see) ABC book, child's primer (which sometimes included a catechism); 197 at your best command I am at your best command; 200 ere before; would wants; 201 Saving except for; dialogue of compliment polite conversation, small talk; 202 Apennines (A'-puh-NINES) mountains in Italy; 203 Pyrenean (PEER-eh-NEE'-an) mountains between France and Spain; River Po a river in Italy; 204 It draws toward supper in conclusion so time passes between dinner and supper in this fashion; 205 worshipful society two meanings: (1) the honorable, respectable set (to which he now belongs); and/or (2) reverent, worshipping company (the company of flatterers such as the traveler); 206 fits (1) befits, is appropriate for; (2) is pleasing to; mounting rising (in social rank); 207 but nothing but, only; bastard to the time i.e., unfashionable, out-of-date person; 208 That who; smack of have a taste of, hint of; observation experience (knowledge gained by observing); 209 smack here, he puns on the word smoke; no not; 210 alone only; habit clothing; manner of dressing; device the cut and trim of a garment; 211 accoutrement accessories; 212 motion inclination, impulse; deliver speak, serve up; 213 Sweet, sweet, sweet poison i.e., extreme flattery; for the age's tooth i.e., pleasing to the tastes of this era; 215 Yet rather; to avoid deceit to avoid being deceived, to avoid being had [And not alone ... I mean to learn I intend to learn not only to dress fashionably and have the outward trappings of a nobleman, but also to develop the impulse to speak in the flattering manner of the time—not to deceive others, but to avoid being taken for a ride by them]; 216 strew the footsteps throw petals in the path of (sweeten the path of); my rising my advancement in society; 218 woman-post female messenger (it would be insulting for a gentlewoman to be mistaken as such); 219 blow a horn before her i.e., to announce her arrival, as would befit a woman of stature; 220 How now What are you doing here?


The conversation that has just taken place before King John, Elinor, and Robert leave the stage provides helpful clues to the opening of this piece: the Bastard has just been elevated to a social status superior to that of his brother. In addition, he has just agreed to join the attack on France. Thus, his Brother adieu may be used to pointedly get in a last jab at Robert, simply to say goodbye to him on equal terms, to rub it in that he is off to France on an important mission, or just to be schmancy now that he's a knight. This leads to interesting possibilities for the second line: Is Philip being sarcastic? Or is he simply reiterating a point he made earlier in the scene to his brother—his illegitimate father gave him honor, while Robert's legitimate father gave him land—i.e., that everything in life is a trade-off?

Another helpful hint from the preceding scene is that Philip has chosen to be the illegitimate son of Richard I rather than the landed son of Sir Robert. This is a good clue to where his priorities lie. Philip obviously has a lot more respect for his biological father than for the one who raised him. When he fantasizes about an inferior wishing him Good den, Sir Richard, he is not only relishing his newly bestowed title, but also the identification with his heroic royal father, Richard.

You will notice that if you try to break down the grammatical structure of this monologue, it is not particularly easy to follow: Philip is carried away with excitement over his new status, and uses many run-ons and fragments, which lend the piece a conversational tone. And though it may be impossible to parse in English class, when read aloud it flows beautifully.

The reason it flows so beautifully is that (as one can surmise from this speech) Philip is one smart cookie, and though he may not be familiar with courtly manners, he is witty, sharp, quick with a comeback, and adept at rhetoric: Philip personifies Question and Answer in the early part of the monologue, using them as characters that represent his and the traveler's roles in their dialogue. Later in the speech, he shifts to antithesis. Just as he earlier countered Question with Answer, he now compares thesis to antithesis: not alone in habit and device versus But from the inward motion; will not practice to deceive versus Yet, to avoid deceit.

Philip also employs rhyme to enhance his speech. The first two lines form a rhyming couplet (thee / honesty), which emphasize his farewell to his brother, and also wrap up the group scene, providing a clean transition into the soliloquy. He uses another such couplet at an important transition within the piece: the couplet The Pyrenean and the River Po, / It draws toward supper in conclusion so ends Philip's story-style description of the type of company he expects to bekeeping, and creates a fresh opening for his cogitations on how he's going to adapt to his new courtly life.

Notice the way sounds are used intermittently to enhance descriptions. In several places, short alliterative phrases punch the important points. For instance, the S sounds in stomach is sufficed suggest a stomach stuffed full. The use of two such alliterative phrases in a row (but a bastard to the time) draws the listener's attention to Philip's preoccupation with illegitimacy, a preoccupation that is revealed by his use of the word bastard in a metaphor for an unrelated concept. And at the end of the piece, the phrases riding-robes and what woman-post sets up his flippant attitude toward his mother.

The most striking use of sounds is the repetition of the word Sir, along with a string of other Servile Ss in Philip's example of worshipful society: Sir / beseech / Question / comes / Answer / Absey / Sir / says / Question / sweet Sir. The repetition of sweet achieves the same effect, subtly reminding the listener of what sort of sweet poison he's referring to. For information on exploiting the sound of the word O, see "O, No! An O!" on page xxxiii.

Philip's favorite linguistic trick seems to be the pun. Notice these: pickèd man = the man he picked to dine with him; also, the man who has just used his toothpick; worshipful = honorable, respectable; also, worshipping, respectful; knightly = knightly; also, nightly (i.e., a man of rank feasts every night, not just on special occasions); bastard to the time = out of step with the times (unfashionable); also, illegitimate, as frequently noted by his contemporaries; smack = hint, suggest; also, smoke (i.e., he's unfashionable whether he smokes or not); will = will; also, sexual desire; take pains = bother to; also, have sex; blow = blow (as into a musical instrument); also, thrust, during sex; horn = musical instrument; also, penis. If you put the last few sexual puns together, Philip is not only saying that his mother has no husband to appropriately accompany her to court, but also implying that her husband did not sexually satisfy her, and thus she has cuckolded him (horn is a triple pun: horns were the symbol of the cuckold).


Line 220 contains a silent half foot at the first caesura, a double ending before the second caesura, and another double ending at the end of the line:

Don't forget to elide: Exterior (Eks-TEER-yor) in line 211; ... to contract: i' th' (ith') in line 181 and many a (MEN-ya) in line 183; ... and to expand: pickèd (PICK-ehd) in line 193 and observation (OB-zer-VAY' -shee-UN) in line 208.


Shakespeare used not one but three historic sources for the Bastard: first, King Richard I's real-life illegitimate son Philip (hence, Philip the Bastard's first name), about whom very little is known; second, the French general Jean Dunois (known affectionately as the Bastard of Orléans), who is reputed to have said that he would rather be the bastard of a great man than the legitimate heir of a humble one; third, another illegitimate nobleman, William Neville, Lord Falconbridge, who lends to the character his surname and an additional dose of illegitimacy.


King Richard I, a.k.a. Richard Coeur de Lion, a.k.a. Richard Lion-Heart, has always been a big fave among the British. He was remembered through the centuries as a chivalrous and brave hero, and kept popping up as the protagonist of histories, plays, and romance novels. Perhaps this is because he spent almost his entire reign outside England's borders, fighting first in the crusades and then against King Philip I in France. During the ten years of his rule, Coeur de Lion spent only six months in Merry Old England. All his subjects knew of him was that he was out there fighting in the name of God (theirs), England (theirs), and St. George (also theirs), and that he was doing his country right proud. No wonder Philip is elated to be his son.



GENDER : M PROSE/VERSE: blank verse AGE RANGE : adult to mature adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1—5) : 3

Philip the Bastard has accompanied England's King John to France to fight against King Philip II, who has backed the claim of John's young nephew, Arthur, to the English throne. The Bastard, a newcomer to the world of international diplomacy, has just looked on as the two kings agreed to an eleventh-hour peace treaty, in which King Philip received some lands previously held by the English in return for dropping Arthur's cause. To cement the deal, John's niece, Blanch, is betrothed to King Philip's son and heir, Lewis. As everyone goes off to the wedding ceremony, the Bastard stays behind and reacts to the sudden agreement between the two kings.

Mad world, mad kings, mad composition! John, to stop Arthur's title in the whole, Hath willingly departed with a part; And France, whose armor conscience buckled on, Whom zeal and charity brought to the field As God's own soldier, rounded in the ear With that same purpose-changer, that sly devil, That broker, that still breaks the pate of faith, That daily break-vow, he that wins of all, Of kings, of beggars, old men, young men, maids, Who, having no external thing to lose But the word "maid," cheats the poor maid of that; That smooth-faced gentleman, tickling Commodity, Commodity, the bias of the world, The world, who of itself is peisèd well, Made to run even upon even ground Till this advantage, this vile-drawing bias, This sway of motion, this Commodity, Makes it take head from all indifferency, From all direction, purpose, course, intent. And this same bias, this Commodity, This bawd, this broker, this all-changing word, Clapped on the outward eye of fickle France, Hath drawn him from his own determined aid, From a resolved and honorable war, To a most base and vile-concluded peace. And why rail I on this Commodity? But for because he hath not wooed me yet. Not that I have the power to clutch my hand, When his fair angels would salute my palm, But for my hand, as unattempted yet, Like a poor beggar, raileth on the rich. Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail And say there is no sin but to be rich; And being rich, my virtue then shall be To say there is no vice but beggary. Since kings break faith upon Commodity, Gain, be my lord, for I will worship thee.

561 kings he refers to King John and King Philip; composition agreement; 562 the whole i.e., the whole kingdom of England; 563 departed with given up; 564 France i.e., King Philip (monarchs were often referred to by their countries' names); whose armor conscience buckled on i.e., who prepared to fight because he was guided by his conscience; field battlefield; 566 God's own soldier because he was fighting for Arthur's divine right to the English throne (see "Riding Shotgun with God," page 235); rounded whispered; 568 that still breaks he who still breaks; pate head; 569 break-vow vow breaker; wins of all conquers all; gets the better of everyone; 570 maids unmarried, virginal women; 573 smooth-faced having a mild, pleasing appearance; tickling flattering; seductive; Commodity profit; personal advantage; self-interest (here, personified as a smooth-faced gentleman); 574 bias natural inclination, tendency; 575 who which; peisèd poised, balanced; 577 vile-drawing luring or drawing into baseness or evil; 578 sway of motion influence on impulses and actions; 579 it i.e., the world; take head from flee from, rush away from; indifferency moderation; impartiality; 582 bawd pimp; procurer; 583 Clapped on hastily put on; outward eye the external view or perspective (as opposed to the "inward eye"—conscience); 584 drawn lured; his own determined aid assistance he had decided to give; 585 resolved decreed; 586 vile-concluded despicably settled or agreed upon; 587 rail I on do I rail about; do I scold, reproach; 588 But for because only because; wooed solicited; courted; 589 that because; power strength of character; clutch clench, close up (in refusal); 590 his i.e., Commodity's; fair (1) beautiful; (2) blond, golden-haired; (3) pale, golden; angels (1) celestial beings; (2) evil spirits, demons; (3) gold coins (nicknamed "angels" because they were stamped with the image of the archangel Michael); salute (1) greet; come in contact with; (2) a coin from the reign of Henry V; 591 for because; my hand, as unattempted yet my hand, which has not yet been "attempted" or "wooed" by Commodity (i.e., my actions, which have not yet been swayed by Commodity); 593 whiles while; 594 but except; 597 break faith break their vows; upon for the sake of.


The legitimacy of the Bastard's birth may have been questionable, but the results of his parents' illegtimate union are not. His native intelligence and insightfulness are unsurpassed by those of his "legitimate" friends and relatives, as this piece proves. The Bastard displays the ability to see both sides of an issue, even under the emotionally charged circumstances of war: despite the fact that he is solidly on King John's side, he understands that King Philip felt he had the moral high ground, and so the Bastard is disgusted rather than pleased to see his enemy abandon the fight. Later in the piece, the Bastard reveals his self-awareness when he admits that the reason for his rant against Commodity is a simple case of sour grapes. Finally, throughout the piece (and throughout the play), the Bastard displays a remarkable facility with language and rhetoric that makes his monologues a delight to explore.

The range of possible interpretations here is very wide. Is he a ranting poet? Is he a calmly logical philosopher? Or perhaps a little of both? Here are a couple of examples (among many) that demonstrate the variety of possible choices:

(1) Mad world, mad kings, mad composition! Most editors today punctuate the line thus: "Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!" which might lead one to a quite emphatic interpretation—angry, astonished, or even hysterical with laughter. On the other hand, the First Folio punctuation of this line is "Mad world, mad kings, mad composition:"—which might lead one to think that the Bastard is mulling over what he has just heard, musing at it, or perhaps tsk-tsking to himself. Of course, whatever you choose is valid—just don't miss out on the opportunity to consider the many options. Notice also that, rather than building from least to greatest in this short list of mad things, the Bastard is honing in from the general to the specific.

(2) And why rail I on this Commodity? At first glance, this might seem like an obvious tip-off that the Bastard is ranting and railing. But keep in mind that rail is different from rantrail simply means "scold" or "reproach." So perhaps the Bastard is not ranting at all. Or, perhaps he is! Or maybe he has just been building to a rant, but now laughs at himself for it. Again, enjoy exploring the range of choices to find your best fit.

Regardless of how you interpret the Bastard, you cannot escape the poet in him. Poetry thoroughly infiltrates his speech, most noticeably in his use of repetition. First, notice the repetition of key words, which has the effect not only of repeating sounds, but also of strengthening and tying together ideas (mad; maid; Commodity; world; vile; hand; rich). Next, check out the way in which some of these repetitions create a verbal path leading from one idea to the next: maids / Who, having no external thing to lose / But the word "maid," cheats the poormaid of that / That smooth faced gentleman, tickling Commodity / Commodity, the bias of the world / The world, who of itself is peisèd well; and whiles I am a beggar, I will rail / And say there is no sin but to be rich / And being rich, my virtue then shall be / To say there is no vice but beggary.

Notice that the Bastard also uses the repetition of words to develop his personification of Commodity. He uses the word that repeatedly to build up his introduction of Commodity and the word this repeatedly to flesh out his descriptions of "him." All of these repetitions cry out for the actor to pay close attention to the use of builds in the monologue. Finally, the repeated use of hyphenated words (purpose-changer; smooth-faced; vile-drawing; all-changing; vile-concluded) threads similar rhythmic patterns through the piece.

Another aspect of the Bastard's poetry is his delicate use of alliteration and assonance (departed / part; breaks / pate / faith; fickle / France; raileth / rich). The most important of these is the rhyming quatrain at the end (be / beggary / Commodity / thee) with which he wraps up his own intentions with regard to Commodity, and neatly ties up the soliloqouy, the scene, and the act.

The ease with which the Bastard formulates his arguments is further proof of his intelligence. He uses two types of antithesis. You'll find extended examples, such as comparing the two kings; comparing the poor maid's having nothing to lose with her having something to lose; and comparing King Philip's previous influence—his conscience—with his current one, his outward eye. You'll also find more concise, poetic examples of antithesis, each contained within a few lines: stop Arthur's title in the whole versus willingly departed with apart; From a resolved and honorable war versus To a most base and vile-concluded peace; whiles I am a beggar, I will rail / And say there is no sin but to be rich versus being rich, my virtue then shall be / To say there is no vice but beggary.

The Bastard's sharp wit can be seen in his use of puns, metaphor, and personification. The soliloquy is built around the personification of Commodity, who becomes a brawling, rakish, yet deceptively ingratiating character through the Bastard's use of metaphor (breaks the pate of faith; cheats the poor maid; smooth-faced gentleman). When he refers to Commodity as a bawd, is it possible he has in the back of his mind Blanch, who has just been as good as sold to King Philip (along with her dowry and some land) in return for peace? Personifying Commodity also provides the opportunity to pun on the meanings of hath not wooed me yet ... my hand, as unattempted yet and of fair angels ... salute my palm.

Another example of the Bastard's wit is the joke he plays on the audience, in which he draws his listeners in to his argument against Commodity, only to surprise them with the punch line in line 598, which reveals his own eagerness to embrace Commodity as soon as he gets the chance.


Scanning line 568 clues you in to the use of the word that:

Note that the second that falls on an accented syllable. This supports a common Shakespearean use of "that" to mean "he who" (rather than "that" in the sense of "who" or "which").

There are two ways to scan line 573. If you pronounce all the syllables, the line is hexameter (a six-footed line). Or, you could elide gentleman to give the line the usual five feet (note the double ending before and the inverted foot after the caesura):

Don't forget to elide: power (POWR) in line 589;

... and to expand: composition (COM-po-ZIH-shee-UN) in line 561 and peisèd (PAY-zehd) or (PEE-zehd) in line 575.


For information on the historical origins of Philip, see "Philip the Bastard: Three for the Price of One," page 10.



GENDER : F PROSE/VERSE : blank verse AGE RANGE : adult to mature adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1—5) : 2

Constance's son, Arthur, is the rightful heir to the English throne, since his father, the late Geoffrey IV, was King John's older brother. Geoffrey was the Duke of Brittany, which, along with other lands in France, is under English rule. When King Richard died and John immediately took the throne, Constance appealed for help to King Philip II of France, who promised to fight the English and put Arthur on the throne (recovering some of France's land in the bargain). Now, instead of fighting, King Philip has accepted a peace agreement with the English, in which he will receive much of the land he was aiming to seize by fighting on Arthur's behalf. The Earl of Salisbury has just told Constance the news of the peace agreement. At first, she can't believe it; then she berates him as if it were all his fault. Finally, little Arthur (who has been standing by quietly) asks his mother to calm down, to which she replies:

If thou that bidst me be content wert grim, Ugly, and slanderous to thy mother's womb, Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains, Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious, Patched with foul moles and eye-offending marks, I would not care, I then would be content; For then I would not love thee—no, nor thou Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown. But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy, Nature and Fortune joined to make thee great. Of Nature's gifts thou mayst with lillies boast And with the half-blown rose; but Fortune, O! She is corrupted, changed and won from thee; She adulterates hourly with thine Uncle John, And with her golden hand hath plucked on France To tread down fair respect of sovereignty, And made his majesty a bawd to theirs. France is a bawd to Fortune and King John—That strumpet Fortune, that usurping John! Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn? Envenom him with words, or get thee gone And leave those woes alone which I alone Am bound to under-bear. I will not go with thee; I will instruct my sorrows to be proud, For grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop. To me, and to the state of my great grief, Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great That no supporter but the huge firm earth Can hold it up. Here I and sorrows sit; Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.

43 that bidst who asks; content calm;grim shocking or distressing to look at; 44 slanderous disgraceful; 45 sightless unsightly; blots disfigurements; stains blotches; 46 crooked having a bent back; deformed; swart swarthy; prodigious (1) monstrous, deformed; and thus (2) portending evil; 47 Patched disfigured; 49 nor thou nor would you; 50 Become be suitable for, befit; great birth high-ranking noble status, due to lineage; 51 fair (1) handsome; and thus (2) auspicious, favorable; 52 Nature a personification (usually female) of the forces of nature, commonly used in Shakespeare's time; Fortune a personification (always female) of the power that decides one's fate, commonly used in Shakespeare's time; joined joined together (in partnership); 54 half-blown partly blossomed [Of Nature's ... rose You may boast that nature has given you a complexion as delicate and white as lillies, and cheeks as red and perfect as a blossoming rose]; 55 changed (1) of another mind or disposition; (2) capriciously fickle in affection or loyalty; won from thee lured away from you; 56 adulterates commits adultery; 57 golden (1) auspicious, favorable to success and happiness; (2) yielding wealth, profitable; hand (1) the symbol of power or action; (2) the palm of the hand [with her golden hand (1) with her power to bestow success and happiness; (2) with her palm lined with gold, i.e., with bribes]; plucked on incited; France i.e., King Philip II (monarchs were often referred to by their countries' names); 58 tread down trample on; fair honorable, just; of for; sovereignty (1) right to be the sovereign ruler; (2) royal dignity; 59 his majesty i.e., King Philip's royalty; bawd pimp, procurer; theirs i.e., King John's and Fortune's; 62 fellow male person or servant (often used contemptuously—Constance's use of it to Salisbury, a nobleman, is extremely insulting); forsworn perjured, guilty of breaking his vow; 63 Envenom Poison, destroy [Envenom ... words Say something nasty about him]; get thee gone get out of here; 65 bound destined, forced; under-bear endure; 69 stoop yield, submit; 70 state (1) condition (of grief); (2) greatness, majesty; (3) chair of state, a canopied chair or throne (Constance's grief has made her as proud as a monarch); 71 Let kings assemble i.e., let King Philip and King John assemble before Constance, as subjects do before their monarch when he or she sits in state.


Take the driving ambition of Lady Macbeth and combine it with the tender but fierce mothering style of a lioness, and what do you get? Constance. When Constance enters a room, everybody knows it—her sheer power and charisma come through in her speech. Notice that her favorite method of communication is grand metaphor.

First, Constance describes the current situation as a sordid love affair: Fortune at first loves Arthur, but is wooed away and won by King John. King Philip acts as a bawd for the strumpet Fortune in her adulterous affair with John. What more vulgar metaphor could be devised as an insult to not one, but two kings?

With regard to herself, Constance uses two metaphors. First, briefly, that of a falcon: rather than being owner of her grief, she is its servant. Grief is personified as her master, making her stoop, just as the owner trains its falcon to stoop (dive on command) for prey. Finally, Constance's grief becomes a royal presence—one so proud that kings must come bow to Constance's great state.

These metaphors are often conveyed with the help of antithesis. Using the hawking metaphor, she says grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop. The antithetical comparison of what is Ugly and prodigious with what is fair (and thus auspicious) is tied to the metaphor of a half blawn rose for her beautiful young son. (If you are working on several Constance pieces, you will find that this metaphor is revisited in III.iv, when she envisions her captured son as a bud eaten away by a cankerworm.)

The larger-than-life scope of her metaphors suggests that Constance is one of those people to whom Something Big is always happening. It is difficult to imagine her in a tranquil emotional state. With Constance, the intensity of the gamma ray is always on HIGH. This comes through in the way she uses words: she doesn't say "Here I and my sorrows sit" or "Here I and sorrow sit," she says Here I and sorrows sit, implying that she doesn't just sit there with her own sorrow, but with all the sorrows of the world.

The word sorrows, along with many others, appears more than once. Notice which words Constance uses again and again: fair (twice); birth (twice); Fortune (4 times); John (3 times); France (3 times); bawd (twice); alone (twice); grief (3 times); proud (twice); great (4 times); kings (twice); sorrows (twice). Many of Constance's issues stand out in bold relief in this list. Here are some of the things that jump out at us: (1) Fate—Constance is obsessed by the idea that her fate and Arthur's are controlled by an outside force. She rails at Fortune; she believes that Arthur's fair countenance is an auspicous sign; she feels she is bound to endure her hardships. (2) The importance of rank and power—Constance is infuriated by the injustice of Arthur's birth being ignored; she feels he will begreat; she intensely resents the power of the kings to usurp and betray. (3) Sorrow and solitude—Constance feels acutely the wrongs done to her and her child. Her grief and sorrows are of a grand scale; she feels alone, and she is alone—a widow without companionship or male protection in a patriarchal world.

The repetition of these words not only creates a sort of mantra of what's on Constance's mind, but also contributes to the repetition of sounds in the piece. The use of rhyme, alliteration, and assonance appear in strategic places: the repetition of contemptuous, hiSSing Ss in sightless stains is in stark contrast with the line immediately following it, which is made up of motley, disparate sounds (Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious). This contrast emphasizes the aural picture of the ugliness she paints. At other moments, little bursts of alliteration highlight important words or ideas in her sentences: moles / marks ; birth / boy; fellow / France / forsworn; bound / under-bear; great I grief / grief's / great; sorrows / sit. The assonance in the piece allows Constance to fully express her feelings through the use of moaning Os: boast / blown / rose / O; woes / alone / alone. (For more on the word O, see "O, No! An O!," page xxxiii.)

The most striking sound repetition in the piece is rhyme. There is, of course, the rhyming couplet at the end, in which the sharp, repeated sounds of sit and it wrap up the piece with spittingly defiant finality. Don't forget to heed the embedded stage direction, Here I and sorrows sit. Just before it there's a caesura, providing the perfect pause to do just that. (FYI: another embedded stage direction later in the scene indicates that she has seated herself not in a chair, but on the ground.)

A more unusual series of rhymes and half rhymes is found at the end of the first section: John / John / forsworn / gone / alone. Notice the strong associations that are formed here among King John, betrayal, and Constance's solitude. This string is followed by a surprisingly abrupt short line. Between the two sections, where Salisbury's half line and the half line of her reply to him have been omitted, there is an opportunity to use the combined four feet of pause to make your transition into the next section of the piece.

It is important to decide whom Constance is addressing with which lines. She is obviously speaking to Arthur at the beginning of the piece, and to Salisbury by the time she says Tell me, thou fellow. In between there are many decisions to make: When she speaks to Arthur, has she taken him aside so that they're speaking in semiprivacy? Or does she speak before Salisbury, so that her sentiments are also for his benefit? Or perhaps she thinks so little of Salisbury that she is indifferent to his presence at the beginning of the piece? You must also determine specifically when she shifts her focus, and whether there are transitional sections where she addresses them both. Your decisions will lead you to explore the many delicious ways to use the France is a bawd to Fortune and KingJohn metaphor—perhaps to pounce on Salisbury, to berate him, embarrass him, or shame him, etc.

One thing is sure, Constance is none too pleased with Salisbury, as is evidenced by her use of the familar thee and thou, which, though appropriate for her son, can be extremely insulting to an adult of equal rank. She also calls him fellow, a term applied to servants, and often used contemptuously to those of lower rank.


Line 46 is a little tricky to scan. Here's what we think works best: treat it as a headless line, with a silent half foot at the first caesura, and a double ending.

Line 50 is also unusual. The third foot (birth, nor) is a spondee, i.e., both syllables are accented:

Don't forget to elide: slanderous (SLAN-druss) in line 44 and hourly (OWR-LEE) in line 56;

... and to elide and contract: She adulterates (sha-DUL-trates) in line 56.


Shakespeare altered the facts of Constance's life to suit his fancy (i.e., his needs for the play). Constance was not lonely and miserable as a widow: in fact, she married twice after Geoffrey's death. Her son Arthur was not a little boy at the time of his capture, but a soldier of fifteen (an adult by medieval standards). She was not a helpless, dependent woman, but just the opposite, ruling Brittany for her young son for many years after Geoffrey's death. One thing Shakespeare retained, however, was this Frenchwoman's ambition to see her son on the throne of England.



GENDER : F PROSE/VERSE : blank verse AGE RANGE : adult to mature adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1—5) : 3

Constance's young son, Arthur, is the rightful heir to the English throne, which is now held by his usurping uncle, King John. Arthur's claim to the throne was backed by King Philip II of France, who then betrayed him by signing a peace treaty with John. Now the treaty has been broken and, in the fighting between the two countries, little Arthur has been captured by the English. Having just heard this news, Constance has come to King Philip's tent, where she rails at King Philip, his son, Lewis (the Dauphin), and Cardinal Pandulph, the Pope's legate, about her son's capture.

Lo, now! Now, see the issue of your peace!


[KING PHILIP: Patience, good lady! Comfort, gentle Constance!]


No, I defy all counsel, all redress But that which ends all counsel, true redress—Death! Death! O, amiable, lovely Death! Thou odoriferous stench! Sound rottenness! Arise forth from the couch of lasting night, Thou hate and terror to prosperity, And I will kiss thy detestable bones, And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows, And ring these fingers with thy household worms, And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust, And be a carrion monster like thyself. Come, grin on me, and I will think thou smilest And buss thee as thy wife. Misery's love, O, come to me!


[KING PHILIP: O fair affliction, peace!]


O, that my tongue were in the thunder's mouth! Then with a passion would I shake the world And rouse from sleep that fell anatomy, Which cannot hear a lady's feeble voice—Which scorns a modern invocation.


[PANDULPH: Lady, you utter madness and not sorrow.]


I am not mad: This hair I tear is mine; My name is Constance; I was Geoffrey's wife; Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost. I am not mad—I would to Heaven I were, For then 'tis like I should forget myself. O, if I could, what grief should I forget! Preach some philosophy to make me mad, And thou shalt be canonized, Cardinal—For, being not mad but sensible of grief, My reasonable part produces reason How I may be delivered of these woes, And teaches me to kill or hang myself. If I were mad I should forget my son, Or madly think a babe of clouts were he. I am not mad: Too well, too well I feel The different plague of each calamity.

21 Lo Look (used to draw someone's attention); issue result, consequence; your peace i.e., the peace treaty brokered between King Philip and King John, now broken; 23 defy reject; counsel advice; redress assistance; 24 But that Except for the one; counsel deliberation, reflection; odoriferous fragrant; 27 Arise forth from Come up out of; couch bed, place of rest; lasting everlasting [the couch of lasting night either (i) a tomb or (2) Hell]; 28 Thou hate ... success you who are hated and feared by those currently enjoying good fortune; 30 vaulty hollow, cavernous; 31 ring encircle, as with a ring; household under the same government [thy household worms the worms you govern]; 32 stop fill up; this gap of breath i.e., my mouth; fulsome physically disgusting, sickening; 33 carrion skeleton; 34 grin bear one's teeth to express malice, scorn or anguish (a skeleton's natural expression); 35 buss kiss; as as if I were; 38 that my tongue were in the thunder's mouth i.e., if only I could speak as loudly as thunder; 39 with a passion violently [with a passion ... the world I would violently shake the world (with my thunderous words)]; 40 that fell anatomy that deadly skeleton (i.e., death, which in Shakespeare's day, like today, was often personified as a skeleton); 42 modern ordinary; 46 Geoffrey Constance's husband, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, was King John's older brother and would have been next in line when King Richard I died had he still been alive at the time; 48 would wish; like likely; should would; forget myself forget who I am; forget who I have been; 51 philosophy mental exercise; 52 Cardinal she speaks to Cardinal Pandulph, the Pope's legate; 53 sensible of grief capable of feeling grief [being not mad ... grief not being insane (and therefore unaware of my circumstances), but, rather, being capable of feeling grief]; 54 reasonable part that part of me that is endowed with reason (i.e., the mind); 55 be delivered of give birth to, have taken out of me; produces reason / How ... woes thinks of a logical way that I might be relieved of these sorrows; 58 babe of clouts rag doll [think a babe of clouts were he (1) mistake a rag doll for my son; or (2) think he were merely a rag doll]; 59 too well I feel I feel too strongly; 60 The different plague of each calamity the distinct torment of each disaster.


Ironically, Constance the Ranter is a good listener. She wins all of her arguments because she listens to what is said to her and turns it around to prove her own point. She does so three times in this monologue, twice against King Philip and then against Pandulph the Papal legate. She does so because she wants to be heard herself ... and clearly understood. As emotional as she seems here, she has not relinquished control of herself or of the conversation. Sadly, it is her entire life that she has lost control of. In this scene, Constance has chosen to come meet with King Philip, Pandulph, and the rest (she was not sent for), and, when she has made her point, she will choose to leave. She blames them for Arthur's capture and has come to make them aware of their direct responsibility for his and her impending deaths, for it does seem likely that the little boy will be killed by his captors, if the abject conditions of his imprisonment don't kill him first, and Constance feels she cannot live without him.

Since Constance is wont to rave and rant, you must decide how much of her lamentation is about her own circumstances (she won't be the mother of a king) and how much is about her son's (he's in grave danger); to what extent this lamentation is an expression of pure grief and to what extent (if any) Constance is taking any of her usual delight in melodramatic expression of discontent. Note that Constance uses the word O four times in this one passage. (Please check out "O, No! An O!" page xxxiii.)

This monologue affords an actor a wonderful opportunity to have fun with varied material and to work on transitions. There are several complete transitions in the piece, from the lines where Constance defiantly answers King Philip to the lines wherein she propositions Death; from her seduction of Death to her wish for thunder's voice; from the thunder imagery to her powerful proof of her sanity and her right to feel grief. To create the monologue, short dialogue has been removed between these segments. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to find the thought connections that will smooth these transitions.

After "dissing" King Philip (a bold move—remember, this is the ruler of France! Or maybe not so bold—if she truly wishes to die, she has nothing to lose!), Constance employs horrifyingly sensuous imagery to express her desire to die, personifying Death and trying to rouse him from his dark bedchamber to be her lover/husband. Make the images specific: each builds on those that precede it, leading up to her most horrible image—that of her kissing Death as a wife would. Notice her use of the familiar, intimate thy when addressing Death. Constance employs oxymorons throughout this section (amiable, lovely death; odoriferous stench; sound rottenness; grin on me / I will think thou smilest) to showthat she welcomes those elements of death that frighten most people, since they are preferable to life without her beloved child.

In the final section, Constance asserts her sanity in a well-constructed argument (again using antithesis, contrasting Pandulph's notions of crazy versus sane behavior with her own, and contrasting her living child, worthy of lamentation, with a mere rag doll). She first runs through the same kind of checklist we use to test presence of mind today (I know who I am, who my husband was, who my child is, my home address, what day of the week it is, who the President of the United States is ...). She very effectively rebuts Pandulph's assertion that she is crazy by asserting that her reaction to her child's imprisonment proves quite the opposite: only one who has lost touch with reality could be tranquil and happy in her situation. Her answer is entirely reasonable—those among us who have had the misfortune of losing a child (or who can empathize with such a loss) can feel their chests constrict in pain as she claims her right to feel, and express, anguish. Constance wraps up this section in the last four lines with three patterns of sound that will reverberate in her listeners' ears—and minds. The first is her repetition of mad(ly). The second is the repetition of the phrase too well and its half-rhyme with the phrase I feel that follows. The third is the rhyme of the second and fourth of these lines: a babe of clouts were he / of each calamity.

Note: if you have the opportunity to present a longer monologue and wish to carry Constance's gorgeous lament to its conclusion, this monologue can be linked with the monologue she delivers next (see page 29).


Notice the remarkable evenness of both sections. There are only very occasional variations in meter. In the second section, the meter's nearly perfect unbroken regularity creates an evenness of tone that supports Constance's argument that she is rational and sane.

The line O, come to me! is only two feet long (when performed as a scene, the other three feet are spoken by King Philip). When performing this as a monologue, taking the three feet as silent feet gives you a chance to make a transition to the next section.

Notice the pronunciation of detestable (DEE-tess-TUH-ble) in line 29. Try it. See how it emphasizes the meaning of the word. Also notice that canonized is written to be pronounced ca-NON-ized. You may choose to pronounce it that way to preserve the line's perfect iambic pentameter, or you may prefer to sacrifice the meter in order to pronounce the word in a way more comprehensible to today's audience.

Line 25 is a bit tricky to scan. We suggest that you build in two pauses and then both elide amiable (A-mya-ble) and crowd the fourth foot, as follows:

Or, keeping the pauses, you could choose to pronounce amiable with four syllables and treat the line as hexameter:

In either case, note that the third foot is a spondee (i.e., both syllables are accented). Coupled with the marked repetition of Death, the variations in this line give the actor much to play with.

Don't forget to elide: odoriferous (O-duh-RIF'-russ) in line 26; carrion (CA-RYON) in line 33; smilest (SMILST) in line 34; Heaven (HEV'N) in line 48; and being (BEENG) in line 53;

... and to expand: invocation (IN-voh-CAY'-shee-UN) in line 42 and reasonable (REE'-zon-AH-ble) in line 54.


For info on the historical Constance, see "Revisionist History: Constance of Brittany, Victim of Poetic License," page 22.



GENDER: F PROSE/VERSE: blank verse AGE RANGE: adult to mature adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1-5): 3

Note that this monologue immediately follows the piece on page 23, within the same scene and context in the play (we urge you to read that introduction and monologue for full background). Having just heard the news of her son's imprisonment, Constance has entered King Philip's tent with her "hair about her ears," where she rails at King Philip, his son, Lewis (the Dauphin), and Cardinal Pandulph, the Pope's legate, whom she blames for her son's capture. She has just refused to be consoled, invited Death to be her lover, and vehemently defended her reaction as reasonable under the circumstances. When King Philip urges her to "bind up her hairs," she replies:

Yes, that I will; and wherefore will I do it? I tore them from their bonds and cried aloud, "O that these hands could so redeem my son, As they have given these hairs their liberty!" But now I envy at their liberty, And will again commit them to their bonds, Because my poor child is a prisoner. And, father Cardinal, I have heard you say That we shall see and know our friends in Heaven: If that be true, I shall see my boy again, For since the birth of Cain, the first male child, To him that did but yesterday suspire, There was not such a gracious creature born. But now will canker sorrow eat my bud And chase the native beauty from his cheek, And he will look as hollow as a ghost, As dim and meager as an ague's fit, And so he'll die; and rising so again, When I shall meet him in the court of Heaven I shall not know him. Therefore never, never Must I behold my pretty Arthur more.


Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me, Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, Remembers me of all his gracious parts, Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form: Then have I reason to be fond of grief! Fare you well. Had you such a loss as I, I could give better comfort than you do. I will not keep this form upon my head, When there is such disorder in my wit. O Lord! My boy, my Arthur, my fair son! My life, my joy, my food, my all the world! My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!

69 that I will I will do that (i.e., I will bind up my hairs); wherefore why; 70 them i.e., her hairs; bonds the cords or bands which held her hairdo in place; 71 that I wish that; if only; so thus; in the same manner; 73 envy at envy (i.e., she feels envy when she compares her hair's liberty with Arthur's captivity); 74 commit imprison [again commit ... bonds i.e., tie them (her hairs) up again]; 76 father Cardinal she speaks to Cardinal Pandulph; 77 friends loved ones; 79 Cain the first baby born on earth; 80 To Up until; but only, just; suspire draw breath [To him ... suspire up until the baby that drew its first breath (was born) just yesterday (i.e., the most recent baby born on earth)]; 81 gracious (1) lovely, beautiful; (2) righteous, virtuous; 82 canker cankerworm, a worm that eats blossoms; my bud referring to Arthur [will canker ... bud sorrow will eat away at my son like a cankerworm]; 83 native natural; 84 hollow sunken; 85 dim lusterless, dull; meager thin; ague's fit fit of chills and shivering caused by a severe fever; 86 so thus; in this condition; rising so again rising (to Heaven) in this condition; 88 know recognize; 89 never / Must I behold I will never be able to see; pretty pleasing, fine; more again; 93 Grief fills ... absent child (1) Grief fills the room with memories of my absent child; and (2) Grief (itself) fills up my absent child's empty room; 95 repeats calls to mind the sound of; 96 Remembers reminds; parts a person's good looks and good character; 97 Stuffs out fills; 98 Then have I reason therefore I have reason; 101 this form upon my head my hair bound up in this manner; 102 wit mind [disorder in my wit chaos in my mind (not insanity)]; 103 fair beautiful.


There's no doubt about it—the most difficult thing about this piece is jumping in: your very first line is the answer to a command the audience hasn't heard. Never fear! It is completely possible to use this wonderful piece and get your audience past that little difficulty. First of all, with the first line, don't worry that they don't know what you're agreeing to do in such a defiant manner. If you are invested in your reply, the audience will be lured in—eager to listen and find out what's going on. In the next few lines, Constance explains that she has taken her hair down. If you're still concerned, keep in mind Shakespeare's embedded stage directions: Constance says, I will again commit them to their bonds. Doing so will tip the audience off. No problem. Stay tuned for more stage directions later in the piece, when Constance says, I will not keep this form upon my head (whereupon she obviously takes her hair back down).

The physicality of putting the hair up and tearing it down allows Constance to act out the ideas she expresses in the monologue. It's a perfect complement to her characteristically melodramatic, overblown words. Constance has behaved in this manner throughout the play: perhaps she gets such a cold response because she is a bit like the boy who cried wolf. That fact, however, does not mitigate her loss one iota. Constance's pain and fear are very real, very intense. Part of the work to be done is discovering what exactly that pain is about. How much of it is true grief at losing her child, versus the grief of losing his birthright? After all, Constance is a woman who would herself have loved to rule: since she couldn't, seeing her son rule would have been the next best thing. How much of Constance's pain has to do with her loss of power? How much with her delight in melodrama? How much with fearing that her child might already be dead?

The power of these emotions makes it more important than ever to clarify your objectives in this scene. One thing that will help you will be to examine the piece and decide to whom Constance is speaking with every line. There are a lot of possible answers: King Philip, Pandulph, Lewis, Attendant, all of them, herself, God.

Constance's unusual mode of attack at the monologue's onset starts it off with intensity: notice that she uses King Philip's own suggestion to "bind up her hairs" against him, and then makes the odd choice to quote herself. Is this for added effect? Is she trying to relive for him the moment when she found out Arthur was gone? Is she driving home her point? Similar questions arise when Constance reminds the Cardinal of his own words to her, that we shall see and know our friends in Heaven. Is she being sarcastic with him, throwing his naive statement in his face? Or does she believe that what he has said is true, and fear what that might mean?

Being a drama queen, Constance is prone to using vivid imagery, often contrastingher images: all children ever born on earth versus her son; his gracious looks when he was with her versus the dim and meager look he'll have in prison; the freedom of her hairs versus her son's imprisonment. Constance also personifies Grief, who takes the place of her absent son and imitates him. The personification is another device that expresses her emotions as larger than life, so large that they are physically present.

Constance's dark words are made even darker by the double meanings layered between her lines: (1) commit them to their bonds—she will not simply tie up her hair, but will restrain and imprison it, just as her son is restrained and imprisoned; (2) canker sorrow will eat my bud—sorrow will eat away at her child, and worms will eat him in his grave; (3) I will not keep this form upon my head—Constance sees no reason to keep her hair or her mind in orderly form (this is especially significant if you are combining this piece with the previous monologue, in which Constance has argued that she is not mad, i.e., not crazy, but that she wishes she were). For help using the word O to its most dramatic effect, see "O, No! An O!," page xxxiii.

Finally, in the last three lines, Constance delivers a litany of the things Arthur was to her, and it's no mistake that she repeats my with every one. This is, after all, about Constance, and what she has lost in losing her son.

Note: if you have the opportunity to present a longer monologue, this piece can be linked with the previous one (see page 23).


Note the crowded foot (I shall see) in line 78 (or you may contract I shall to I'll):

You'll find another crowded foot (such a) in line 99, which is also headless:

And notice that line 75 has a dramatic-sounding spondee (a foot with two accented syllables) in it:

Don't forget to elide: given (GIV'N) in line 72.


For info on the historical Constance, see "Revisionist History: Constance of Brittany, Victim of Poetic License," page 22.


In reality, Arthur was fifteen years old and already leading forces in combat at the time he was captured, but Shakespeare made the character Arthur a young boy. Shakespeare's own son, Hamnet, died in August 1596, at the age of eleven. Is it a coincidence that Shakespeare made Arthur a boy close to Hamnet's age, or is Constance's expression of her loss based on Shakespeare's feelings about his own "absent child"?



GENDER: M PROSE/VERSE: blank verse AGE RANGE: young adult to adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1-5) : 3

Lewis, as the son of King Philip II of France, is the heir to the French throne. At the urging of Pandulph, the Pope's legate, he has gone to war against King John, hoping to claim the English throne through his marriage to John's niece, Blanch. Thus far the war is a great success: Lewis has already taken parts of England. Now John has given in to the Pope's demands, so Pandulph has arrived and told Lewis the war is off. Lewis is outraged, and replies:

Your Grace shall pardon me, I will not back. I am too highborn to be propertied, To be a secondary at control, Or useful servingman and instrument To any sovereign state throughout the world. Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars Between this chastised kingdom and myself, And brought in matter that should feed this fire; And now 'tis far too huge to be blown out With that same weak wind which enkindled it. You taught me how to know the face of right, Acquainted me with interest to this land, Yea, thrust this enterprise into my heart; And come ye now to tell me John hath made His peace with Rome? What is that peace to me? I, by the honor of my marriage bed, After young Arthur, claim this land for mine; And now it is half-conquered, must I back Because that John hath made his peace with Rome? Am I Rome's slave? What penny hath Rome borne, What men provided, what munition sent To underprop this action? Is't not I That undergo this charge? Who else but I, And such as to my claim are liable, Sweat in this business and maintain this war? Have I not heard these islanders shout out Vive le roi! as I have banked their towns? Have I not here the best cards for the game To win this easy match, played for a crown? And shall I now give o'er the yielded set? No, no, on my soul, it never shall be said.

78 Your Grace he speaks to Pandulph; shall must (as opposed to "will"); back go back; back down; 79 propertied used as someone else's property or tool; manipulated; 80 secondary at control subordinate or assistant, controlled by a higher authority; 84 this chastised kingdom i.e., England; 85 matter substance; that should feed to feed; 87 enkindled kindled; 88 know the face of right recognize what is just; recognize a just claim to title or inheritance; 89 interest to my interest in; my legal claim to; 90 enterprise undertaking; 92 Rome i.e., the Pope and the Catholic Church; 93 honor of rank that I hold through; 94 Arthur King John's nephew, son of John's deceased older brother Geoffrey; 95 now it is now that it is; 96 Because that because; 99 underprop support; action military enterprise; 100 undergo undertake; take on; endure; charge military attack; 101 liable (1) allied; (2) subject [such as to my claim are liable such people as are allied with or subject to my claim to the crown]; 103 islanders i.e., the English; 104 Vive le roi! Long live the King! (French); banked (1) landed on the banks of; (2) sailed past the banks of; (3) won [a pun: in card playing, to bank was to win]; 107 yielded set game that is as good as won.


Who does that Pope think he is, the most powerful man in Europe or something? Sending that bossy legate of his to order kings and princes around! Well, the future King of France will not be dictated to by some Vatican bureaucrat in an oversized hat.

Lewis is a young man, and everything about his speech reflects his youthful, masculine attitude, as well as his background: as the Dauphin, he's not used to being told what to do, and it doesn't suit him well at all. Lewis is a normal, red-blooded male, full of rash self-confidence and further endowed with a sense of royal self-righteousness. So even though the Pope wields enormous power, Lewis has no fear—or if he does, he ignores it and hides it well. Notice that Lewis does not hesitate for a second in his reply to Pandulph. He is polite on the surface (Your Grace shall pardon me) but absolutely stubborn and verging on rudeness from the very beginning. He uses hard consonants such as Bs, Ks, Ps, and Ts to forcefully rebuff Pandulph (back; propertied; control), ending each of the first few lines with a punch.

The build in this piece is neatly embedded in its rhythmic structure. The first lines flow along easily, following iambic pentameter with few outstanding variations, until Lewis hits the crux of the matter: The idea in And come ye now to tell me John hath made / His peace with Rome? continues past the end of one line and ends abruptly, halfway through the next one. This contrast highlights the first of a series of questions Lewis fires at Pandulph. As the questions begin to flow, fast and furious, they are enhanced by more frequent metric variations. The next question that ends mid-line is another important idea in Lewis's progression, and marks the moment when he starts to get more caustic: Am I Rome's slave? Two more questions end mid-line, each setting up a startling jumping-off point for Lewis to get at what's really important—his own sacrifice, and his own rights. He uses I many times in the piece, but it receives the most emphasis here, at the ends of these two successive lines, because of the structural setup.

Lewis uses noticeably few repeated sounds in this monologue, making line 87 particularly striking: it has both alliterative Ws (With / weak / wind / which) and assonant Is (With / wind / which / enkindled / it). What could be the reason for singling out this line? Is Lewis getting extra mileage out of his jab at Pandulph's weakness, especially by using those wimpy W/I combinations?

As we can gather from his avoidance of most poetic devices, Lewis is a pretty straightforward guy. We hate to stereotype, but the fact is, Lewis chooses three of the most stereotypical metaphors a young guy could possibly come up with. First, fire: Pandulph kindled the dead coal of wars between England and France; now the fire is raging so huge that the wind which enkindled it is too weak toblow it out. (Perhaps Lewis is not quite out of his pyromaniac stage.) Second, games: specifically, a card game. He has banked their towns; he has the best cards for the game; he's playing an easy match, and the prize is the crown; why should he give over the yielded set? Lewis's third metaphor is sex. Here's the double (and sometimes not so double) entendre: too highborn = two (testicles), borne high; best cards = best cods = best scrotum; the game = sexual intercourse; easy = readily available for sex; match = bout of love; played = amused oneself sexually; crown = genitals; yielded = sexually impotent.

The double entendre here is fun to know about, but a bit obscure. Feel free to ignore it or use it, as you choose.


For line 104, you must pronounce both syllables of Vive (noting the inverted first foot):

Line 108 is a little tricky. Just elide on my:

And don't forget to expand: liable (LIE-uh-BLE) in line 101.


The things native English-speakers do to the French language ... Poor Louis the Dauphin was immortalized by Shakespeare as "Lewis the Dolphin." The real Dauphin was encouraged to invade England not by the Pope but by the rebelling English lords, who invited him to invade and become their king. Invade he did, in 1216 at the age of twenty-nine, despite the disapproval of the Pope, who had reconciled with John earlier, and who excommunicated Louis for his action. Louis lost the support of the nobles with the death of John and the accession of Henry III; he withdrew from England shortly thereafter, in 1217. Louis did not succeed his father, King Philip II, until 1223; he reigned as Louis VIII of France until his death three years later.



GENDER: M PROSE/VERSE: blank verse AGE RANGE: adult to mature adult FREQUENCY OF USE (1-5): 3

The French, led by Prince Lewis, heir to the French throne, have invaded England with the support of the Pope, who has grievances against England's King John. Since King John has satisfied the Pope, the Pope's legate (ambassador), Pandulph, orders Prince Lewis to withdraw his troops from England. Lewis refuses, insisting that he will fight, whereupon the Bastard, speaking on behalf of King John, tells the Prince in no uncertain terms that King John plans to make the French sorry that they ever even attempted an invasion.

By all the blood that ever fury breathed, The youth says well. Now hear our English king, For thus his Royalty doth speak in me: He is prepared—and reason too he should; This apish and unmannerly approach, This harnessed masque and unadvised revel This unhaired sauciness and boyish troops The King doth smile at, and is well prepared To whip this dwarfish war, these pygmy arms, From out the circle of his territories. That hand which had the strength, even at your door, To cudgel you and make you take the hatch, To dive like buckets in concealèd wells, To crouch in litter of your stable planks, To lie like pawns locked up in chests and trunks, To hug with swine, to seek sweet safety out In vaults and prisons, and to thrill and shake Even at the crying of your nation's crow, Thinking this voice an armed Englishman— Shall that victorious hand be feebled here That in your chambers gave you chastisement? No! Know the gallant monarch is in arms And like an eagle o'er his aery towers, To souse annoyance that comes near his nest. And you degenerate, you ingrate revolts, You bloody Neroes, ripping up the womb Of your dear mother England, blush for shame; For your own ladies and pale-visaged maids Like Amazons come tripping after drums, Their thimbles into armèd gauntlets change, Their needles to lances, and their gentle hearts To fierce and bloody inclination.


Indeed, your drums, being beaten, will cry out; And so shall you, being beaten. Do but start An echo with the clamor of thy drum, And even at hand a drum is ready braced That shall reverberate all as loud as thine. Sound but another, and another shall, As loud as thine, rattle the welkin's ear And mock the deep-mouthed thunder; for at hand—Not trusting to this halting legate here, Whom he hath used rather for sport than need—Is warlike John; and in his forehead sits A bare-ribbed Death, whose office is this day To feast upon whole thousands of the French.

127 that ever fury breathed that was ever breathed by a storm of rage (i.e., that was ever spilled because of fury); 128 The youth i.e., Lewis; says well speaks well and to the purpose; 129 his Royalty his Majesty (i.e., King John); in me through me; 130 prepared i.e., prepared to fight; reason too he should he has good reason, too; 131 unmannerly rude, indecent; approach hostile advance, attack; 132 harnessed dressed in armor; masque elaborately costumed performance (Philip calls Lewis's advance a ridiculous performance of actors costumed as soldiers in armor); unadvisèd rash, unwise, imprudent; revel festivity, merrymaking; 133 unhaired beardless, immature; boyish childish, immature; 134 doth smile at smiles at (scornfully, indulgently, or with amusement); 135 whip drive out by whipping; these pygmy arms these tiny (and therefore insignificant) weapons; 136 From out out of; circle perimeter, boundary; 137 That hand i.e., King John's forces; at your door i.e., at your own border; 138 take the hatch retreat quickly (as if leaping through the hatch of a door); 139 dive like buckets in concealèd wells hide by diving down like buckets plunging into hidden wells; 140 litter an animal's bed of straw [crouch in litter ... planks crouch down in the straw on the floor of your stable (to hide)]; 141 pawns (1) objects taken as security for a loan; (2) chess pieces; 142 hug with swine be locked in an embrace with pigs (in order to conceal oneself while hiding in a pigpen); 143 to thrill to have a shiver run up the spine, to tremble; 144 the crying of your nation's crow (i.e., the sound of the rooster, the traditional symbol of France, contemptuously called a crow by Philip); 145 Thinking this voice an armèd Englishman mistaking the sound of the rooster for the sound of an English soldier; 147 the gallant monarch i.e., King John; in arms armed; 149 And like and is like; aery eagle's high nest (also, stronghold built on a height); towers flies directly upward before swooping [And like ... towers and soars like an eagle over his high nest before swooping to attack]; 150 To prepared to; souse swoop down on, pounce on; annoyance harm, injury; 151 ingrate (inGRATE) ungrateful; revolts deserters, rebels (the Bastard now turns to speak to the three English lords who have defected to the French); 152 Neroes Nero was the cruel Roman emperor who set Rome on fire and killed his own mother, ripping open her womb upon her death; 154 For because; pale-visaged pale-faced; maids unmarried, virginal women; 155 Amazons in Greek mythology, a nation of fierce female warriors; tripping after dancing along behind (also, stumbling morally, by adopting the men's enthusiasm for war); drums drums were used to lead troops to battle; 156 armèd gauntlets iron gloves used in armed combat [Their thimbles into armèd gauntlets change change their thimbles into iron gauntlets]; 158 inclination both (1) disposition and (2) the slanting angle of a lance during armed combat; 167 Do but start If you even start; 168 clamor the sound of the drum [Do but start ... drum If you even dare to begin making the slightest echo of sound with your drums (i.e., if you even begin to hint at making an attack)]; 169 And then; even (1) likewise; (2) at the same time; ready braced prepared and ready [even at hand ... braced our drum is right nearby, just as ready as yours (i.e., our troops are standing by, poised to attack)]; 170 all as loud as thine every bit as loudly as yours (by saying that the English drums will be every bit as loud as the French, the Bastard implies that the English troops will rush into battle as vigorously); 171 Sound but another If you strike another drum (to lead another battalion into battle); and another i.e., and another of our drums (leading another English battalion); 172 the welkin's the sky's; 173 deep-mouthed deep-voiced; 174 trusting to having confidence in, placing trust in; halting wavering, backsliding; legate ambassador of the Pope (here, referring to Pandulph); 175 hath used rather for sport than need has used for amusement, rather than out of need; 176 in his forehead i.e., in the expression on his face (giving insight into his mood and intention); 177 A bare-ribbed Death Death (personified as a skeleton); office assignment, task, job; in his forehead ... French i.e., the look on John's face bespeaks his intention to slaughter thousands of the French in battle today.


Do you think that the Bastard was sorry to hear Lewis declare that he would not withdraw from England? We don't. There are enough indications throughout the play that the Bastard is itching to fight the French, so he's probably pleased to tell Lewis just where the English will be sending him. Philip is a master of sarcasm, and no doubt enjoys putting it to good use here, in order to belittle Lewis and the French troops.

The Bastard's imagery can be quite menacing. He describes his ruler, King John, as an eagle, with sharp talons and beak, swooping at amazing speed to attack the French in order to protect his nest, England. Many of the Bastard's personifications (by all the blood that ever fury breathed; the deep-mouthed thunder; a bare-ribbed Death) are chilling to imagine.

The Bastard belittles Lewis and his silly little French soldiers, using sarcasm, imagery, punning, double entendre, repetition of ideas, and consonance and assonance in combination to achieve new heights of snide: he is scathing in his vivid descriptions of the cowardice of Lewis's soldiers (To dive like buckets in concealèd wells / To crouch in litter of your stable planks / To lie like pawns locked up in chests and trunks / To hug with swine, to seek sweet safety out / In vaults and prisons, and to thrill and shake / Even at the crying of your nation's crow / Thinking this voice an armèd Englishman). Notice that the Bastard, not content with only one depiction, offers six, each more ridiculous than the last, to emphasize his contempt for the French troops, and, possibly, to egg Lewis on. The Bastard enjoys repeating words or ideas to heighten their insult (your drums, being beaten / you, being beaten; you degenerate, you ingrate revolts / You bloody Neroes; No! Know).

In calling Lewis a boy and his attack a mere entertainment (the youth; boyish troops; unhaired sauciness; unadvised; dwarfish; pygmy; the King doth smile at), Philip implies that Lewis is not a man, with the secondary suggestion that he is effeminate. The following second meanings would have been familiar to an Elizabethan audience: masque also means "prostitute"; boy also refers to a male who takes the "female" role during homosexual intercourse; unmannerly not only means "rude," but also "unmanly," i.e., "effeminate"; unhaired not only implies prepubescent, but also, again, girlish; whip carries two sexual meanings: (1) castrate; (2) sodomize; dwarfish war puns on the word "whore"; pygmy arms implies that Lewis has a little penis, since everyone knows that weapons (like cars) are penis substitutes; swine also means "bugger" (one who sodomizes): hence, the Bastard's description of Lewis's soldiers embracing pigs to hide from the enemy has the secondary meaning that they are getting screwed. This meaning would not have been at all subtle to the audience in Shakespeare's day; drum also means "buttocks."

Note: it is important that you do not play these meanings overtly, since (1) they are not the intended primary meaning; and (2) most of these meanings are no longer in use. They can, however, subtly inform your performance.

The sounds of the piece assist the Bastard in presenting bravura and scathing sarcasm. He starts right off with Bold Bs (By all the blood that ever fury breathed), uses Cold Cs to describe the punishment King John will mete out to Lewis (cudgel you; make you take the hatch; buckets / concealed), uses deriSive Ss when describing the French soldiers' cowardice (swine / seek sweet safety / vaults / prisons; chambers / chastisement), and soaring vowels to describe the eagle (is in arms; like an eagle o'er his aery towers). He really goes on the offensive in the second section, where DominanT Ds and Ts emerge as the prevailing consonant sounds in the section, with Bs as a close runner-up (Indeed / drums / being beaten / cry out / Do but start / drum / at hand / drum / ready braced / that / reverberate / loud / sound / but / loud / rattle / deep-mouthed thunder / at hand / not trusting to / halting / legate / forehead / bare-ribbed Death / day / feast / thousands). He also uses onomatopoeia to underscore the violence he describes (whip; thrill; ripping; rattle).


Notice the remarkably calm and even meter. The Bastard almost never starts new sentences in the middle of lines; where he does (see lines 128 and 167), he wants Lewis to sit up and take notice. The lines are almost all perfectly smoothly iambic—again, the occasional exception is for emphasis. The meter's evenness lends a calmness to the delivery, which creates a far more menacing tone than if the Bastard were erratic and emotional.

Don't forget to elide: territories (TERR'-i-TREES) in line 136; even = e'en (EEN) in lines 137, 144, and 169; victorious (vic-TOR-yuss) in line 146; degenerate (dee-JEN-ret) in line 151; needles (NEEDLZ) in line 157; being (BEENG) in lines 166 and 167; and reverberate (re-VER-bret) in line 170;

... and to expand: inclination (IN-cli-NAY'-shee-UN) in line 158.


For information on the historical origins of Philip, see "Philip the Bastard: Three for the Price of One," page 10.

Copyright @ 2002 by Rhona Silverbush and Sami Plotkin

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