The First Part of the True and Honorable Historie of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle/Act 1

Life of Sir John Oldcastle Pt 1 (1600) - head block 2.jpg

The true and honorable Historie, of
the life of Sir Iohn Oldcastle, the

good Lord Cobham.

In the fight, enter the Sheriffe and two of his men.


MY Lords, I charge ye in his Highnesse name,
To keepe the peace, you, and your followers.

Herb.Good M. Sheriffe, look vnto your self.

Pow.Do so, for we haue other businesse.

Proffer to fight againe

Sher.Will ye disturbe the Iudges, and the Assise?

Heare the Kings proclamation ye were best.

Pow.Hold then, lets heare it.

Herb.But be briefe, ye were best.

Bayl.O yes.

DauyCossone, make shorter O, or shall marre your Yes.

Bay.O yes.

OwenWhat, has her nothing to say but O yes?

Bay.O yes.

Da.O nay, pye Cosse plut downe with her, down with her,
A Pawesse a Pawesse.

GoughA Herbert a Herbert, and downe with Powesse.

Helter skelter againe.

Sher.Hold, in the Kings name, hold.

OwenDowne e tha ka naues name, downe.

In this fight, the Bailiffe is knocked downe, and the Sheriffe and the other runne away.

Herb.Powesse, I thinke thy Welsh and thou do smart.

Pow.Herbert, I thinke my sword came neere thy heart.

Herb.Thy hearts best bloud shall pay the losse of mine.

GoughA Herbert a Herbert.

DauyA Pawesse a Pawesse.

As they are lifting their weapons, enter the Maior of Hereford, and his Officers and Townes-men with clubbes.

MaiorMy Lords, as you are liege men to the Crowne,
True noblemen, and subiects to the King,
Attend his Highnesse proclamation,
Commaunded by the Iudges of Assise,
For keeping peace at this assemblie.

Herb.Good M. Maior of Hereford be briefe.

MaiSerieant, without the ceremonie of O yes.
Pronounce alowd the proclamation.

Ser.The Kings Iustices, peerceiuing what publique mischiefe may ensue this priuate quarrel: in his maiesties name do straightly charge and commaund all persons, of what degree soeuer, to depart this cittie of Hereford, except such as are bound to giue attendance at this Assise, and that no man presume to weare any weapon, especially welsh-hookes, forrest billes.

Owen.Haw, no pill nor wells hoog? ha?

Ma.Peace, and heare the proclamation.

Ser.And that the Lord Powesse do presently disperse and discharge his retinue, and depart the cittie in the Kings peace, he and his followers, on paine of imprisonment.

DauyHaw? pud her Lord Pawesse in prison, A Pawes
A Pawesse, cossone liue and tie with her Lord.

GoughA Herbert a Herbert.

In this fight the Lord Herbert is wounded, and fals to the ground, the Maior and his company goe away crying clubbes, Powesse runnes away, Gough and other of Herberts faction busie themselues about Herbert: enters the two Iudges in their roabes,

the Sheriffe and his Baileffes afore them, &c.

1. Iud.Where's the Lord Herbert? is he hurt or slaine?

Sher.Hee's here my Lord.

2. Iud.How fares hid Lordshippe, friends?

GoughMortally wounded, speechlesse, he cannot liue.

1. Iud.Conuay him hence, let not his wounds take ayre,
And get him dress'd with expedition, Ex. Herb. & Gough
M. Maior of Hereford M Shriue o'th shire,
Commit Lord Powesse to safe custodie,
To answer the disturbance of the peace,
Lord Herberts perill, and his high contempt
Of vs, and you the Kings commissioners,
See it be done with care and diligence.

Sher.Please it your Lordship, my Lord Powesse is gone,
Past all recouery.

2. Iud.Yet let search be made,
To apprehend his followers that are left.

Sher.There are some of them, sirs, lay hold on them,

OwenOf vs, and why? what has her done I pray you?

Sher.Disarme them Bailiffes.

Ma.Officers assist.

DauyHeare you Lor shudge, what resson is for this?

OwenCosson pe puse for fighting for our Lord?

1. IudgeAway with them.

DauyHarg you my Lord.

Both at
once al

OwenGough my Lorde Herberts man's a shitten ka naue,

DauyIse liue and die in good quarrell.

OwenPray you do shustice, let awl be preson.

DauyPrison no,
Lord shudge I wooll giue you pale, good suerty.

2. IudgeWhat Bale? what suerties?

DauyHer coozin ap Ries, ap Euan, ap Morrice, ap Morgan, ap Lluellyn, ap Madoc, ap Meredith, ap Griffen, ap Dauy, ap Owen ap Shinken Shones.

2. IudgeTwo of the most, sufficient are ynow,

Sher.And't please your Lordship these are al but one.

1. IudgeTo Iayle with them, and the Lord Herberts men,
Weele talke with them, when the Assise is done,Exeunt.
Riotous, audacious, and vnruly Groomes,
Must we be forced to come from the Bench,
To quiet brawles, which euery Constable
In other ciuill places can suppresse?

2. IudgeWhat was the quarrel that causde all this stirre?

Sher.About religion (as I heard) my Lord.
Lord Powesse detracted from the power of Rome,
Affirming Wickliffes doctrine to be true,
And Romes erroneous: hot reply was made
By the lord Herbert, they were traytors all
That would maintaine it: Powesse answered,
They were as true, as noble, and as wise
As he, that would defend it with their liues,
He namde for instance sir Iohn Old-castle
The Lord Cobham: Herbert replide againe,
He, thou, and all are traitors that so hold.
The he was giuen, the seuerall factions drawne,
And so enragde, that we could not appease it.

1. IudgeThis case concernes the Kings prerogatiue,
And's dangerous to the State and common wealth.
Gentlemen, Iustices, master Maior, and master Shrieue,
It doth behoue vs all, and each of vs
In generall and particular, to haue care
For the suppressing of all mutinies,
And all assemblies, except souldiers musters
For the Kings preparation into France.
We heare of secret conuenticles made,
And there is doubt of some conspiracies,
Which may breake out into rebellious armes
When the King's gone, perchance before he go:
Note as an instance, this one perillous fray,
What factions might haue growne on either part,
To the destruction of the King and Realme,
Yet, in my conscience, sir Iohn Old-castle

Innocent of it, onely his name was vsde.
We therefore from his Highnesse giue this charge.
You maister Maior, looke to your citizens,
You maister Sherife vnto your shire, and you
As Iustices in euery ones precinct
There be no meetings. When the vulgar sort
Sit on their Ale-bench, with their cups and kannes,
Matters of state be not their common talke,
Nor pure religion by their lips prophande.
Let vs returne vnto the Bench againe,
And there examine further of this fray.

Enter a Baily and a Serieant

Sher.Sirs, haue ye taken the lord Powesse yet?

Ba.No, nor heard of him.

Ser.No, hee's gone farre enough.

2. Iu.They that are left behind, shall answer all.Exeunt.

Enter Suffolke, Bishop of Rochester, Butler, parson of Wrotham.

Suffolke.Now my lord Bishop, take free liberty
To speake your minde: what is your sute to vs?

Bishop.My noble Lord, no more than what you know,
And haue bin oftentimes inuested with:
Grieuous complaints haue past betweene the lippes
Of enuious persons to vpbraide the Cleargy,
Some carping at the liuings which we haue,
And others spurning at the ceremonies
That are of auncient custome in the church.
Amongst the which, Lord Cobham is a chiefe:
What inconuenience may proceede hereof,
Both to the King and to the common wealth,
May easily be discernd, when like a frensie
This innouation shall possesse their mindes.
These vpstarts will haue followers to vphold
Their damnd opinion, more than Harry shall
To vndergoe his quarrell gainst the French.

Suffolke.What proofe is there against them to be had,
That what you say the law may iustifie?

Bishop.They giue themselues the name of Protestants,

And meete in fields and solitary groues.

sir IhonWas euer heard (my Lord) the like til now?
That theeues and rebells, s bloud heretikes,
Playne heretikes, Ile stand toote to their teeth,
Should haue to colour, their vile practises,
A title of such worth, as Protestant? enter one wyth a letter.

Suf.O but you must not sweare, it ill becomes
One of your coate, to rappe out bloudy oathes.

Bish.Pardon him good my Lord, it is his zeale,
An honest country prelate, who laments
To see such foule disorder in the church.

Sir IohnTheres one they call him Sir Iohn Old-castle,
He has not his name for naught: for like a castle
Doth he encompasse them within his walls,
But till that castle be subuerted quite,
We ne're shall be at quiet in the realme.

Bish.That is our sute, my Lord, that he be tane,
And brought in question for his heresie,
Beside, two letters brought me out of Wales,
Wherin my Lord Herford writes to me,
What tumult and sedition was begun,
About the Lord Cobham, at the Sises there,
For they had much ado to calme the rage,
And that the valiant Herbert is there slaine.

Suf.A fire that must be quencht; wel, say no more,
The King anon goes to the counsell chamber,
There to debate of matters touching France:
As he doth passe by, Ile informe his grace
Concerning your petition: Master Butler,
If I forget, do you remember me,

But.I will my Lord. Offer him a purse.

Bish.Not for a recompence,
But as a token of our loue to you,
By me my Lords of the cleargie do present
This purse, and in it full a thousand Angells,
Praying your Lordship to accept their gift.

Suf.I thanke them, my Lord Bishop, for their loue,
But will not take their mony, if you please
To giue it to this gentleman, you may.

Bish.Sir, then we craue your furtherance herein.

But.The best I can my Lord of Rochester.

Bish.Nay, pray ye take it, trust me but you shal,

sir IohnWere ye all three vpon New Market heath,
You should not neede straine curtsie who should ha'te,
Sir Iohn would quickely rid ye of that care.

SufThe King is comming, feare ye not my Lord,
The very first thing I will breake with him,
Shal be about your matter.

Enter K. Harry and Huntington in talke.

Har.My Lord of Suffolke,
Was it not saide the Cleargy did refuse
To lend vs mony toward our warres in France?

Suf.It was my Lord, but very wrongfully.

Har.I know it was, for Huntington here tells me,
They haue bin very bountifull of late.

Suf.And still they vow my gracious Lord to be so,
Hoping your maiestie will thinke of them,
As of your louing subiects, and suppresse
All such malitious errors as begin
To spot their calling, and disturb the church.

Har.God else forbid: why Suffolke, is there
Any new rupture to disquiet them?

Suf.No new my Lord, the old is great enough,
And so increasing as if not cut downe,
Will breede a scandale to your royall state,
And set your Kingdome quickely in an vproare,
The Kentish knight Lord Cobham, in despight
Of any law, or spirituall discipline,
Maintaines this vpstart new religion still,
And diuers great assemblies by his meanes
And priuate quarrells, are commenst abroad,
As by this letter more at large my liege,
Is made apparant.

Har.We do find it here,
There was in Wales a certaine fray of late,
Betweene two noblemen, but what of this?
Followes it straight Lord Cobham must be he
Did cause the same? I dare be sworne (good knight)
He neuer dreampt of any such contention.

Bish.But in his name the quarrell did begin,
About the opinion which he held (my liege.)

Har.How if it did? was either he in place,
To take part with them, or abette them in it?
If brabling fellowes, whose in kindled bloud,
Seethes in their fiery vaines, will needes go fight,
Making their quarrells of some words that passt,
Either of you, or you, amongst their cuppes,
Is the fault yours, or are they guiltie of it?

Suffolke.With pardon of your Highnesse (my dread lord)
Such little sparkes neglected, may in time
Grow to a mighty flame: but thats not all,
He doth beside maintaine a strange religion,
And will not be compelld to come to masse.

Bish.We do beseech you therefore gracious prince,
Without offence vnto your maiesty
We may be bold to vse authoritie.

HarryAs how?

BishopTo summon him vnto the Arches,
Where such offences haue their punishment.

HarryTo answere personally, is that your meaning?

Bishop.It is, my lord.

HarryHow if he appeale?

BishopHe cannot (my Lord) in such a case as this.

Suffolke.Not where Religion is the plea, my lord.

HarryI tooke it alwayes, that our selfe stoode out,
As a sufficient refuge, vnto whome
Not any but might lawfully appeale.
But weele not argue now vpon that poynt:
For sir Iohn Old-castle whom you accuse,

Let me intreate you to dispence awhile
With your high title of preheminence. in scorne.
Report did neuer yet condemne him so,
But he hath alwayes beene reputed loyall:
And in my knowledge I can say thus much,
That he is vertuous, wise, and honourable:
If any way his conscience be seduc'de,
To wauer in his faith: Ile send for him,
And schoole him priuately, if that serue not,
Then afterward you may proceede against him.
Butler, be you the messenger for vs,
And will him presently repaire to court. exeunt.

sir IohnHow now my lord, why stand you discontent?
In sooth, me thinkes the King hath well decreed.

BishopYea, yea, sir Iohn, if he would keepe his word,
But I perceiue he fauours him so much,
As this will be to small effect, I feare.

sir IohnWhy then Ile tell you what y'are best to do:
If you suspect the King will be but cold
In reprehending him, send you a processe too
To serue vpon him: so you may be sure
To make him answer't, howsoere it fall.

BishopAnd well remembred, I will haue it so,
A Sumner shall be sent about it strait Exit.

sir IohnYea, doe so, in the meane space this remaines
For kinde sir Iohn of Wrotham honest Iacke.
Me thinkes the purse of gold the Bishop gaue,
Made a good shew, it had a tempting looke,
Beshrew me, but my fingers ends do itch
To be vpon those rudduks: well, tis thus:
I am not as the worlde does take me for:
If euer woolfe were cloathed in sheepes coate,
Then I am he, olde huddle and twang, yfaith,
A priest in shew, but in plaine termes, a theefe,
Yet let me tell you too, an honest theefe.
One that will take it where it may besp.

And spend it freely in good fellowship.
I haue as many shapes as Proteus had,
That still when any villany is done,
There may be none suspect it was sir Iohn.
Besides, to comfort me, for whats this life,
Except the crabbed bitternes thereof
Be sweetened now and then with lechery?
I haue my Doll, my concubine as t'were,
To frollicke with, a lusty bounsing gerle.
But whilst I loyter here the gold, may scape,
And that must not be so, it is mine owne,
Therefore Ile meete him on his way to court,
And shriue him of it: there will be the sport. Exit.

Enter three or foure poore people, some souldiers, some old men.

1God help, God help, there's law for punishing,
But theres no law for our necessity:
There be more stockes to set poore soldiers in,
Than there be houses to releeue them at.

Old manFaith, housekeeping decayes in euery place,
Euen as Saint Peter writ, still worse and worse

4Maister maior of Rochester has giuen commaundement, that none shall goe abroade out of the parish, and they haue set an order downe forsooth, what euery poore houshol∣der must giue towards our reliefe: where there be some ceased I may say to you, had almost as much neede to beg as we.

1It is a hard world the while.

Old manIf a poore man come to a doore to aske for Gods sake, they aske him for a licence, or a certificate from a Iustice.

2Faith we haue none, but what we beare vppon our bodies, our maimed limbs, God help vs.

4And yet, as lame as I am, Ile with the king into France, if I can crawle but a ship-boorde, I hadde rather be slaine in France, than starue in England.

Olde manHa, were I but as lusty as I was at the battell of Shrewsbury, I would not doe as I do: but we are now come to the good lord Cobhams, to the best man to the poore that

is in all Kent.

4God blesse him, there be but few such.

Enter Lord Cobham with Harpoole.

Cob.Thou peeuish froward man, what wouldst thou haue?

Harp.This pride, this pride, brings all to beggarie,
I seru'de your father, and your grandfather,
Shew me such two men now: no, no,
Your backes, your backes, the diuell and pride,
Has cut the throate of all good housekeeping,
They were the best Yeomens masters, that
Euer were in England.

Cob.Yea, except thou haue a crue of seely knaues,
And sturdy rogues, still feeding at my gate,
There is no hospitalitie with thee.

They may sit at the gate well enough, but the diuell of any thing you giue them, except they will eate stones.

Cob.Tis long then of such hungry knaues as you,pointing to the beggars
Yea sir, heres your retinue, your guests be come,
They know their howers I warrant you.

Old.God blesse your honour, God saue the good Lord Cobham, and all his house,

Soul.Good your honour, bestow your blessed almes,
Vpon poore men.

Cob.Now sir, here be your Almes knights.
Now are you as safe as the Emperour.

Harp.My Almes knights: nay, th'are yours,
It is a shame for you, and Ile stand too't,
Your foolish almes maintaines more vagabonds,
Then all the noblemen in Kent beside.
Out you rogues, you knaues, worke for your liuings,
Alas poore men, O Lord, they may beg their hearts out,
Theres no more charitie amongst men,
Then amongst so many mastiffe dogges,
What make you here, you needy knaues?
Away, away, you villaines.

2.soul.I beseech you sit, be good to vs.

CobhamNay, nay, they know thee well enough, I thinke that all the beggars in this land are thy acquaintance, goe bestowe your almes, none will controule you sir.

Harp.What should I giue them? you are growne so beggarly, you haue scarce a bitte of breade to giue at your doore: you talke of your religion so long, that you haue banished charitie from amongst you, a man may make a flaxe shop in your kitchin chimnies, for any fire there is stirring.

CobhamIf thou wilt giue them nothing, send them hence, let them not stand here staruing in the colde.

Harp.Who I driue them hence? if I driue poore men from your doore, Ile be hangd, I know not what I may come to my selfe: yea, God help you poore knaues, ye see the world yfaith, well, you had a mother: well, God be with thee good Lady, thy soule's at rest: she gaue more in shirts and smocks to poore children, then you spend in your house, & yet you liue a beggar too.

CobhamEuen the worst deede that ere my mother did, was in releeuing such a foole as thou.

HarpooleYea, yea, I am a foole still, with all your wit you will die a beggar, go too.

CobhamGo you olde foole, giue the poore people something, go in poore men into the inner court, and take such alms as there is to be had.

SouldierGod blesse your honor.

HarpooleHang you roags, hang you, theres nothing but misery amongst you, you feare no law you. Exit.

Olde manGod blesse you good maister Rafe, God saue your life, you are good to the poore still.

Enter the Lord Powes disguised, and shrowde himselfe.

CobhamWhat fellow's yonder comes along the groue?
Few passengers there be that know this way:
Me thinkes he stops as though he stayd for me,
And meant to shrowd himselfe amongst the bushes.
I know the Cleargie hate me to the death,
And my religion gets me many foes:

And this may be some desperate rogue,
Subornd to worke me mischiefe: As it
Pleaseth God, if he come toward me, sure
Ile stay his comming, be he but one man,
What soere he be: The Lord Powis comes on.
I haue beene well acquainted with that face.

PowisWell met my honorable lord and friend.

CobhamYou are welcome sir, what ere you be,
But of this sodaine sir, I do not know you.

PowisI am one that wisheth well vnto your honor,
My name is Powes, an olde friend of yours.

CobhamMy honorable lord, and worthy friend,
What makes your lordship thus alone in Kent,
And thus disguised in this strange attire?

PowisMy Lord, an vnexpected accident,
Hath at this time inforc'de me to these parts:
And thus it hapt, not yet ful fiue dayes since,
Now at the last Assise at Hereford,
It chanst that the lord Herbert and my selfe,
Mongst other things, discoursing at the table,
To fall in speech about some certaine points
Of Wickcliffes doctrine, gainst the papacie,
And the religion catholique, maintaind
Through the most part of Europe at this day.
This wilfull teasty lord stucke not to say,
That Wickcliffe was a knaue, a schismatike,
His doctrine diuelish and hereticall,
And what soere he was maintaind the same,
was traitor both to God and to his country.
Being moued at his peremptory speech,
I told him, some maintained those opinions,
Men, and truer subiects then lord Herbert was:
And he replying in comparisons:
Your name was vrgde, my lord, gainst his chalenge,
To be a perfect fauourer of the trueth.
And to be short, from words we fell to blowes,

Our seruants, and our tenants taking parts,
Many on both sides hurt: and for an houre
The broyle by no meanes could be pacified,
Vntill the Iudges rising from the bench,
Were in their persons forc'de to part the fray.

CobhamI hope no man was violently slaine.

PowisFaith none I trust, but the lord Herberts selfe,
Who is in truth so dangerously hurt,
As it is doubted he can hardly scape.

CobhamI am sory, my good lord, of these ill newes.

PowisThis is the cause that driues me into Kent,
To shrowd my selfe with you so good a friend,
Vntill I heare how things do speed at home.

CobhamYour lordship is most welcome vnto Cobham,
But I am very sory, my good lord,
My name was brought in question in this matter,
Considering I haue many enemies,
That threaten malice, and do lie in waite
To take aduantange of the smallest thing.
But you are welcome, and repose your lordship,
And keepe your selfe here secret in my house,
Vntill we heare how the lord Herbert speedes:
Here comes my man. Enter Harpoole.
Sirra, what newes?

HarpooleYonders one maister Butler of the priuie chamber, is sent vnto you from the King.

PowisI pray God the lord Herbert be not dead, and the King hearing whither I am gone, hath sent for me.

Cob.Comfort your selfe my lord, I warrant you.

HarpooleFellow, what ailes thee? doost thou quake? dost thou shake? dost thou tremble? ha?

Cob.Peace you old foole, sirra, conuey this gentleman in the backe way, and bring the other into the walke.

HarpooleCome sir. you are welcome, if you loue my lorde.

PowisGod haue mercy gentle friend. exeunt.

Cob.I thought as much, that it would not be long before I

heard of something from the King, about this matter.

Enter Harpoole with Maister Butler.

HarpooleSir, yonder my lord walkes, you see him,
Ile haue your men into the Celler the while.

Cobh.welcome good maister Butler.

ButlerThankes, my good lord: his Maiestie dooth commend his loue vnto your lordship, and wils you to repaire vnto the court.

Cobh.God blesse his Highnesse, and confound his ennemies, I hope his Maiestie is well.

ButlerIn health, my lord.

Cobh.God long continue it: mee thinkes you looke as though you were not well, what ailes you sir?

ButlerFaith I haue had a foolish odde mischance, that angers mee: comming ouer Shooters hill, there came a fellow to me like a Sailer, and asked me money, and whilst I staide my horse to draw my purse, he takes th'aduantage of a little banck and leapes behind me, whippes my purse away, and with a sodaine ierke I know not how, threw me at least three yards out of my saddle. I neuer was so robbed in all my life.

Cobh.I am very sorie sir for your mischance, wee will send our warrant foorth, to stay such suspitious persons as shal be found, then maister Butler, we wil attend you.

ButlerI humbly thanke your lordship, I will attend you.