William Shakespeare: King Henry VI, Second Part

1. SCENE I. The Abbey at Bury St. Edmund's. (continued)

Well hath your highness seen into this duke;
And, had I first been put to speak my mind,
I think I should have told your grace's tale.
The duchess by his subornation,
Upon my life, began her devilish practices;
Or, if he were not privy to those faults,
Yet, by reputing of his high descent,
As next the king he was successive heir,
And such high vaunts of his nobility,
Did instigate the bedlam brain-sick duchess
By wicked means to frame our sovereign's fall.
Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep,
And in his simple show he harbours treason.
The fox barks not when he would steal the lamb.--
No, no, my sovereign; Gloster is a man
Unsounded yet and full of deep deceit.

Did he not, contrary to form of law,
Devise strange deaths for small offences done?

And did he not, in his protectorship,
Levy great sums of money through the realm
For soldiers' pay in France, and never sent it?
By means whereof the towns each day revolted.

Tut, these are petty faults to faults unknown,
Which time will bring to light in smooth Duke Humphrey.

My lords, at once: the care you have of us,
To mow down thorns that would annoy our foot,
Is worthy praise; but, shall I speak my conscience,
Our kinsman Gloster is as innocent
From meaning treason to our royal person
As is the sucking lamb or harmless dove.
The duke is virtuous, mild, and too well given
To dream on evil or to work my downfall.

Ah, what's more dangerous than this fond affiance!
Seems he a dove? his feathers are but borrow'd,
For he's disposed as the hateful raven;
Is he a lamb? his skin is surely lent him,
For he's inclin'd as is the ravenous wolf.
Who cannot steal a shape that means deceit?
Take heed, my lord; the welfare of us all
Hangs on the cutting short that fraudful man.


All health unto my gracious sovereign!

Welcome, Lord Somerset. What news from France?

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