Edmund Ironside – Acts 1 & 2

A true Chronicle History called
War hath made all friends

[Believed to have been performed circa 1590]

Persons Represented

Edmund Ironside, King of the Saxons, son of Ethelred the Unready
Alfric, his general
Archbishop of York
Emma, widow of Ethelred, Stepmother of Edmund
Her sons
Edward (later the Confessor)
Two hostages, Sons of Leofric and Turkillus
Edrick, a poor man
His Wife, mother of Edricus
Stitch, her son by Edrick

Canutus, Prince of Denmark, son of King Sveyn Forkbeard

English Renegades
Leofric, Earl of Chester
Turkillus, Duke of Norfolk
Earl of Southampton, ally of Canute
Egina, his daughter, later wife of Canute
Edricus, Earl of Mercia
Archbishop of Canterbury
Messengers, Herald, Danish and English Soldiers, Poor Danes, Bailiffs, Bluecoats

Scene: England, 1016


Edmund Ironside
Appendix I
Major Sources
Historical Background
Suggested Reading
Appendix II: Connections
References to Other Works, Writers
Appendix III: Vocabulary, Word Formation


Scene I.I: Southampton
[Enter Canutus, Archbishop of Canterbury, Earl of Southampton, Edricus, Leofric, Turkillus, Uskataulf and Swetho. They sit at a table.]

CANUTUS: Archbishop and you other English peers
I hear how Ethelredus late your king
my tributary, is departed life
and how his son prince Edmund wears the crown
without the notice of your free consent
or homage unto me, his sovereign.
Yourselves, lords spiritual and temporal,
besides the due my father’s conquest claims
have chosen me,
and by a universal sound decree … [I.1.10]
have solemnly throughout this little world
proclaimed me heir-apparent to the crown
when Ethelredus lived.
Then let not this young upstart prince of prates [He riseth.]
curb your proceedings with untutored words
but finish boldly what you have begun:
resist his private coronation
and put not up this vild dishonor done
unto you, chief commanders of the realm,
as though you were not worth the sending-for. … [I.1.20]

CANTERBURY: Indeed his rashness is unportable
and merely nothing but a proud contempt
against us of the clergy and the rest
that have for public profit of the realm
for peace, for quiet and utility
elected prince Canutus for our king,
whose valor we have proved unto our cost,
whose love unto the church we need not doubt,
whose care for all we may rely upon,
and whose true bounty is so notable … [I.1.30]
that even his foes admire and honor him,
when th’ other what he is I need not tell
’tis too well known. I would I could say well;
but this I say and swear — were I myself [He riseth.]
professed a soldier or a man at arms,
as I am one deprived from the world
and from my cradle called to serve the Lord,
I would with lance approve his title naught
and plead your coronation with my sword.

CANUTUS: Stout-hearted bishop, spoken like a man! … [I.1.40]
Would all the English lords were of thy mind.

SOUTHAMPTON: Am I not ready to defend your right
with force of arms as doth become a knight?

LEOFRIC: I ne’er was slack or hindmost of the rest,
but ever first and foremost with the best.

EDRICUS: Had I not been a help unto your father
whenas he first arrived in Albion,
you ne’er had stood in question for the crown
nor had your father’s wars so prospered.
‘Twas I that first did counsel Ethelred … [I.1.50]
to pay you tribute and to buy your league,
whereby we emptied all the treasury;
and had not gold failed, you had ne’er been king.
I had a navy once (the time when ’twas
in Ethelredus’ days, your father living),
with which I should have met you on the sea
within the straits of England, and Iwis
had then no little vantage on your ships;
yet I as favoring your party most,
gave way and let you land without resistance, … [I.1.60]
and for that fact rest foully scandalized.
Was it not I that gave intelligence
of all the councils of king Ethelred
unto your father? Did not I, I pray,
feign sickness, weakness, disadvantages
whenas the king sent me to fight with him?
Was I not causer of your good success
in all your actions since your father’s death,
as namely in that battle lately fought
between yourself and Edmund Ironside, … [I.1.70]
where I fled from him and did succor you?
Then since the only ladder upon which
your father climbed to get and you to hold
this gotten kingdom was my diligence,
I hope you will not [let] the least motion
of an ill thought creep in to hinder me,
nor do I think you used this speech by me.

CANUTUS: Why, what need all this repetition?
Good faith, I meant no harm in saying so.
Why should I doubt you? Wherefore should I fear? … [I.1.80]
You never yet deceived me.
I cannot speak, but some or other straight
misconsters me.
Why, by my troth, my lord, I meant not you,
but those that cleave to Edmund Ironside
and hang in part against my government.
Calm ye, therefore, and be not discontent.

SOUTHAMPTON: In token then, you mean as you have said:
honor my castle with the name of court
and take a subject’s welcome from his heart … [I.1.90]
to signify you love my town and me.
[Uskataulf whispereth in Canutus’ ear.]

USKATAULF: Why, that’s a trifle, mighty sovereign.
Yield unto him in this petition.
It will confirm the people’s hearts to you
and make him live and die to honor you.

CANUTUS: I willingly descend to your request
and will this night be with you at your place.

SOUTHAMPTON: I’ll go before, to countenance your grace.
[Exit Southampton. Enter a company of countrymen naking a noise.]

COUNTRYMEN: Where is the king, that he may right our wrong?

CANUTUS: The king is here; who is it calls the king? … [I.1.100]
I am your king. Speak, gentle countrymen,
what lawless hand hath done you injury?

1 COUNTRY: Renowned Canutus, we are all Danes by birth,
the remnant of thy needy followers,
who when thy father lived, lived here secure
and dwelt among the fattest of this land.
We then did yoke the Saxons and compelled
their stubborn necks to ear the fallow fields.
We then did force them honor us as lords
and be our slaves, our drudges and our dogs. … [I.1.110]
But now (I know not what the cause should be
unless the instigation of their prince,
young Ironside, or else their stubborn nature)
they all rebel and with conjoined force
assault us manly, and from every part
of this perturbed island banish us.
We are not able to resist their powers,
but fall like leaves before the northern wind.
Huge heaps of us lie dead in every place,
and we unless you help, shall all be slain. … [I.1.120]

ALL: Help, help, Canutus, help and succor us!

CANUTUS: Good countrymen, Canutus will not see you wronged,
for yet the spirit of my father Sveyn
runs in these veins, which I will shed,
even drop by drop, ere I will see you harmed.
Go in, good friends, and pacify yourselves.
Be confident in me, and if I live,
I plant you in your former quiet states.
Swetho, look to them; they shall be your care.
[Exit Swetho with the poor Danes.]
Now lords, let not this sudden rumor daunt … [I.1.130]
Your manly hearts. Though Edmund be so strong,
we are as strong, and stronger far than he.
Then tell me, shall we now assail him?
Say, Uskataulf, what is to be done?

USKATAULF: You may, my lord, yet be remembered now
against what nation you are bound to war,
a generation like the chosen Jews:
stubborn, unwieldy, fierce and wild to tame,
scorning to be compelled against their wills,
abhorring servitude as having felt … [I.1.140]
the overloading burden of the same.

EDRICUS: Indeed my countrymen are factious
and must be reined with a marking-stall.
Curb them, my lord, and bridle but their wills
and you shall find them mild and tractable.
If that you use them as your father did,
they dare not, nay they will not look awry,
but serve you as your slaves by conquest due.
But if you lay the team upon their necks
and let them have but any scope to run, … [I.1.150]
why then be sure they’ll gad as they were galled
and neither know themselves nor yet your grace,
for lenity doth cause them to rebel
’cause they are ignorant of living well.

USKATAULF: List how this flattering mate soothes up the king
and doth abuse his gracious sufferance.
Base, vild, insinuating sycophant,
degenerate bastard, falsely bred,
foul mother-killing Viper, traitor, slave,
the scum of vices, all the ill that may be. … [I.1.160]
Who would excite the king to tyranny
against his countrymen but only he?
I am a Dane, renowned sovereign:
you have experience of my loyalty
and that my counsel is not mercenary.
If I were wise enough to give advice,
you should not prove a tyrant but a king.
A tyrant is abhorred of God and man,
whenas a king loved and honored.
Accomptest thou, Edricus, the Saxons fools … [I.1.170]
or rather hardy, wise and valorous?
Their names discover what their natures are,
more hard than stones, and yet not stones indeed.
In fight, more than stones detesting flight;
in peace, as soft as wax, wise, provident.
Witness the many combats they have fought
Denmark, our country’s loss by them and theirs
with many other witnesses of worth.
How often they have driven us to our shifts
and made us take the sea for our defense … [I.1.180]
when we in number have been three to one.
Oh you deceive yourself and eke the king
in wishing him so much against himself.
Recall the former perils we have passed,
whose dear-bought times are freshly yet in mind,
the tyranny your father Sveynus used
in tithing people, killing 9 of 10.
What did ensue? Why loss of many holds,
bloodshed and war, rebellion, sword and fire;
for they are Englishmen, easy to rule … [I.1.190]
with lenity, so they be used like men:
patient of right, impatient of wrong,
brooking no tyranny in any sort,
but hating and revenging it with death;
therefore I counsel you, if it might stand,
to win their hearts, not by severity
but by your favor, love and lenity.

CANUTUS: Good Uskataulf, I allow your speech
and praise your counsel by my own consent.
I will endeavor to suppress my rage … [I.1.200]
and quench the burning choler of my heart,
which sometimes so inflames my inward parts
as I fall out with my best-loved friends.
I will therefore so moderate myself
as Englishmen shall think me English-born.
I will be mild and gentle to my foes
if gentleness can win their stubborn hearts.
But let us hence, my lords, by this the earl
expects us at Southampton; there we’ll rest
till we consult if peace or war be best. … [I.1.210]
[Exit omnes. Leofric pulls Turkillus by the sleeve as he is going and stays him.]

LEOFRIC: A word, my lord.

TURKILLUS: ~~~ So you use no blows.

LEOFRIC: I think you noble, virtuous, secret, wise;
else would I not have opened my intent,
which doth so much concern our private good,
to you in private. So it is, my lord.
I have oft noted your discontented gait,
which measured by my own do well declare
the mind that rules your body is not pleased;
and since so sweet a symphony appears … [I.1.220]
betwixt our bodies’ discontent, I judge
our mind’s disturbance to be only one
caused from the sad neglect of these strange days.
Oh what a grief is it to noble bloods
to see each base-born groom promoted up,
each dunghill brat arreared to dignity,
each flatterer esteemed virtuous,
when the true, noble, virtuous gentlemen
are scorned, disgraced and held in obloquy.
Base Edricus, a traitor to his king, … [I.1.230]
is held in honor: we two trusty subjects
are feared, suspected, and have liberty
only to live, yet not in liberty;
for what is it but prisonment or worse
whenas our children, blood of our own blood,
are kept close prisoners, pledges for our faiths?
King Edmund, who indeed is our true king,
for good regard of merit and desert,
for honor, fame and true nobility,
is rightly termed mirror of majesty. … [I.1.240]
Canutus is a prudent, noble prince
and loves to hear him called so, too, too much
but I will tell you this: as long as we
take part against our sovereign Ironside,
we are but traitors, therefore —

TURKILLUS: Stay, noble Chester, for I spy your drift.
To heap as many titles on your head
as you have poured on mine, were but your due;
yet to cut off such troiting thieves of time,
I say ‘Amen’ to your intention, … [I.1.250]
which is to leave Canutus and his court
and fly to Edmund, our true, lawful king;
but lest you should suspect my secrecy
by being won so soon to your device,
I here assure you that this very plot
hath long been hammering in my troubled brain;
and had you not prevented my intent,
I should ere long have moved you herein;
but what shall then become of our two boys,
who are our pledges? They shall surely die. … [I.1.260]

LEOFRIC: Tut, ’tis no matter: if they die, they die.
They cannot suffer in a better time,
nor for a better cause, their country’s good.
We gave them life; for us they shed their blood.

TURKILLUS: He that sent them can send us more again.
Then let us hence, delay of time is vain. [Exeunt.]

Scene I.2
[Enter Edricus solus.]

EDRICUS: What shall I think of him that means to beg
and can thus finely live upon his wit?
I was as mean as any basely born.
Fie, say not so, it will discredit thee.
Tut, no man hears me. Aye, but think not so,
for it will make thy peacock’s plumes fall down
if one such abject thought possess thy mind.
‘Tis strange to see how I am favored,
possess my dukedom and Canutus’ grace
and am the chief of all his counselors; … [I.2.10]
whenas my betters are exiled the court,
being discountenanced and out of grace.
They cannot dissemble as I can:
cloak, cozencog and flatter with the king;
crouch and seem courteous; promise and protest;
say much, do naught, in all things use deceit;
tell troth to no man; carry tales abroad;
whisper close secrets in the giddy air;
be a news monger; feed the king with sooths;
please all men’s humors with humility … [I.2.20]
which he must do that is a courtier
and minds to keep in favor with the king.
He that had heard my story from the end:
how many treasons I have practiced,
how many vild things I have brought to pass
and what great wonders have been compassed
by this deep-reaching pate, would think Iwis
I had been bound apprentice to deceit
and from my birthday studied villainy.
I understand Prince Edmund’s up in arms, … [I.2.30]
lays hold upon occasion’s sluggy lock;
and whilst Canutus here securely sleeps,
he wins with ease what we with pain have got.
Mass, if he do, and fortune favor him,
I will so work as I’ll be in his grace
and keep my living and myself unhurt;
but if Canutus chance to gain again,
then I am his, for I can gloze with all,
and yet indeed, to say the very troth,
rather of both I love Canutus best, … [I.2.40]
for Edmund’s father first did raise me up
and from a plowman’s son promoted me
to be a duke for all my villainy,
and so as often as I look on him,
I must remember what he did for me
and whence I did descend and what I am,
which thoughts abase my state most abjectly.
Therefore I hate him and desire his death
and will procure his end in what I can;
but for Canutus, he doth honor me … [I.2.50]
because he knows not whence I did descend.
Therefore of the two I love Canutus best;
yet I can play an Ambodexter’s part and
swear I love, yet hate him with my heart. [Exit.]

Scene I.3
[Enter Edmund and Alfric the general under the king.]

EDMUND: Yet are ye sure, my lord, that all is fit?
Are all my soldiers furnished for this war?
What, have they meat and drink to their content?
Do not the captains pince them of their pay?

ALFRIC: Assure your majesty, my care is such
as I do daily oversee them all
and cause the meanest soldier to be served
and have his fill of meat and drink that’s good
without controlment, check or menaces;
for th’only means to mar a soldier’s fight — … [I.3.10]
pinch him of meat and pay and pinch his might.

EDMUND: Then do ye well, for I am of this mind —
he that for private base commodity
will starve his soldiers or keep back their pay;
he that to deck himself in gorgeous ‘tire
will see his men go naked, die for cold,
is a plain cutthroat to the commonwealth.
A worthy captain, seeing a tall soldier
march barefoot, halting, plucked off his own shoes
and gave them to the soldier, saying ‘Fellow, … [I.3.20]
when I want shoes, then give me these again.’
But captains nowadays
pluck off their soldiers’ shoes, nay sell their lives
to make them rich and gallant to the eye.
[Enter Turkillus and Leofric.]
But soft, what are yon two strangers?

TURKILLUS: We are rebellious traitors to your grace, [They kneel.]
born Englishmen but strangers to ourselves,
who in remorse of conscience, knowing well
we have in taking part with Danish Canutus
deserved death, come of our own free wills … [I.3.30]
either to suffer for our heinous facts [acts ?]
or else embrace our pardons, which we crave
even as hereafter we shall merit it.

EDMUND: Rise up, Turkillus; Leofric, arise.
Give me your hands and with your hands your hearts.
I more esteem the life of one true subject
than the destruction of a thousand foes.
One sheep that was lost I more rejoice to find
than twenty other which I never missed.
A friend of whose return I stood in doubt … [I.3.40]
is more welcome to me than forty other.
Oh that when strangers cannot conquer us,
we should conspire with them against ourselves!
England, if ever war thy face doth spoil,
thank not thy outward foe but inward friend;
for thou shalt never perish till that day
when thy right hand shall make thy heart away.
Go in, brave lords: your sight doth me more joy
than Agamemnon when he conquered Troy. [Exeunt omnes.]


Scene II.1
[Drum and trumpets sound. Enter a banquet. Then enter Canutus,
Southampton, Archbishop, Uskataulf and Swetho, Edricus

CANUTUS: My lord, my lord, you are too bountiful.
Half this expense would well have satisfied
the homely stomachs of our soldiers
and entertained ourself right royally.
Where is your daughter?

SOUTHAMPTON: ~~~ She shall give attendance
to wait upon your grace at dinner time.

CANUTUS: Nay, good my lord, unless you give
her leave to sit at board and find me table talk,
I shall not think myself a welcome guest. … [II.1.10]

SOUTHAMPTON: May I crave pardon of your majesty.
My daughter, being young in years and manners,
is far unfit to keep a Queen’s estate.

CANUTUS: I’faith, my lord, you are too scrupulous,
too unadvised, too fearful without cause,
to stand upon such nice excuses.
I love to see a table furnished,
and sure I will not sit till she comes in.

SOUTHAMPTON: Egina, daughter, come away, sweet girl.
[Enter Egina.]
The king will have thee dine with him today. … [II.1.20]
Be not too coy, nor yet too flexible.
If chance he proffer any courtesy,
behave yourself in honorable sort
and answer him with modesty and mirth.
A means may be to make thee Queen.

CANUTUS: What, is your daughter come? Welcome, fair lady.
Your presence is as welcome as the day
after a long and weary watchful night.
Sit down, fair lady. Sit down, noble lord.
Fill me a cup of wine. Here’s to the health … [II.1.30
of Ironside and all his followers.
Who will pledge me?

EGINA: Pardon your handmaid, and Egina will.

CANUTUS: Wilt pledge me to the health of Ironside?
What reason moves you so to fancy him?

EGINA: The good regard I bear your majesty,
for should he die before these wars were done
and you have finished strife though victory,
some other CADMUS bird worse than himself
might hap to broach some new commotion
and trouble all the state with mutinies, … [II.1.40]
where if he lives till you have conquered him,
none after him dares renovate the wars.

CANUTUS: Sweetly and wisely answered, noble queen,
for by that name if heaven and thou consent,
by sunset all the camp shall wish thee health.
My lord, what say you to this motion?

SOUTHAMPTON: As it shall please your royal majesty,
dispose of me and whatsoe’er is mine.

CANUTUS: Madam, pleaseth it you to be a queen? … [II.1.50]

EGINA: What my dread sovereign and my father wills
I dare not, nay I will not, contradict.

CANUTUS: Then for a manual seal receive this kiss,
[He kisseth her.]
the chief dumb utterer of the heart’s intent;
and noble father — now I’ll call you so —
if this rash-seeming match do like you well,
deliver me possession presently
of this fair lady, your beloved child,
and we will straight to church and celebrate
the duties which belong to marriages. … [II.1.60]
Bishop of Canterbury, you will marry us
without the sibert-asking, will ye not?

CANTERBURY: I am prepared if every part be pleased.

CANUTUS: Faith, I am pleased.

ARCHBISHOP: ~~~ But what say you?

EGINA: I say a woman’s silence is consent.

CANUTUS: Why, here’s a match extempore, small ado
about a weighty matter. Some perhaps
would have consumed millions to effect
what I by some spent breath have compassed. … [II.1.70]
Lords, let us in, for I intend to be
espoused tonight with all solemnity.
After our marriage we do mean to go
to meet in open field our open foe. [Exeunt omnes.]

Scene II.2
[Enter Edrick, a poor man, his wife, and Stitch.]

EDRICK: Nay, Stitch, and you once see my son you’ll swear he is
a bouncer, all in silks and gold, vengeable rich.

STITCH: How say you that?

WIFE: I can tell you, you may bless the day that ever you
happed into his service, he is a man every hairs-breadth,
a most vild brave man i’ faith.

STITCH: Then we shall be well met, for I love bravery and
cleanliness out of all cry, and indeed of all things I
cannot brook an ill-favored face, hang him that wants
a good face. … [II.2.10]

EDRICK: You are of my mind, we may say ‘a pox of all good
faces’ and never hurt our own.

STITCH: We may indeed, God be praised. But what house is this?
How far off are we from Southampton?

WIFE: Why, we are in the town. Th’ king Canutus lies here
now, and my son is here, and all our neighbors will be
here today at the bridal for alms. [Enter Edricus.]

EDRICUS: Whoso desires to mount a lofty pitch
must bear himself against the stubborn wind
and shun base common popularity. … [II.2.20]

STITCH: Who is this?

WIFE: Oh ’tis my son. Make ye handsome, tie your garters for
shame, wipe your shoes, mend your shirt-band.

EDRICK: Oh let me go to him first. God save ye, son.

EDRICUS: A pox upon him, ’tis the knave my father.
Good fellow, hast thou any suit to us?
Deliver up thy supplication.

EDRICK: Oh sir, ye know me well enough:
I am goodman Edrick, your father.

EDRICUS: My father, grout-head? Sir knave, I say you lie, … [II.2.30]
you whoreson cuckold, you base vagabond,
you slave, you mongrel peasant, dolt and fool,
can’st thou not know a duke from common men?

WIFE: By my troth, I learned him all these names to call his father
when he was a child, and see if he can forget them yet.
Oh he is a wise man, for in faith my husband is none
of his father, for indeed a soldier begot him of me
as I went once to a fair. But son, know ye me?

EDRICUS: Thee, old hag, witch, quean, slut, drab, whore and thief:
how should I know thee, black Egyptian? … [II.2.40]

WIFE: This is his old tricks, husband. Come, come, son:
I am sure ye know me.

EDRICUS: Aye, if not too well.
Wherefore comes yon sheep-biter? You, sir knave,
you are my brother, are ye not I pray?

STITCH: No sir, and it like ye.

EDRICUS: It likes me very well. What is your name?
Wherefore came ye hither?

WIFE: His name is Stitch, my son, we came with him
to help him to your service. … [II.2.50]

EDRICUS: You answer for him, gossip — wants he tongue?

STITCH: No sir, I have tongue enough if that be good.
[He shows his tongue.]

EDRICUS: What can ye do?

STITCH: Anything, dress a horse, scour a chamber pot, go to
plow, thrash, dick and indeed what not.

EDRICUS: Canst make clean shoes?

STITCH: Who, I? It is part of my occupation; you win my heart.
I am a cobbler for need, I can piece a shoe as well as the
best. Wipe a shoe? Look you here else — give me your foot.

EDRICUS: Stay, not so hasty. … [II.2.60]
We that by sly devices mean to mount
and creep into opinion by deceit
must not of all things have a scholar know
our practices; we must suppress good wits
and keep them under; we must favor fools
and with promotions win their shallow pates.
A ready wit would quickly wind us out
and pry into our secret treacheries
and wade as deep in policy as we.
But such loose-brained windy-headed slaves; … [II.2.70]
such block-heads, dolts, fools, dunces, idiots,
such logger-headed rogues are best for us;
for we may work their wills to what we will
and win their hearts with gold to anything.
Come hither, Stitch. This villain and quean
that brought thee hither claim an interest
in my nobility, whenas God knows
my noble father died long since in wars,
being Duke of Mercia then as I am now.
Therefore — but first to cut off long delays, … [II.2.80]
I entertain thee for my chamberlain;
and as thou shalt prove secret, trusty, true,
I will reward thee with some higher place.
But first, to try thee, fetch the constable.
Yet stay awhile. They would suspect the truth.
I’ll have thee, when thou seest me gone away,
beat these two beggars hence and teach them how
they shall hereafter choose a meaner son.
Wilt thou be trusty, wilt thou cudgel them?

STITCH: Never take care for that; I’ll beat them, they … [II.2.90]
were never better beaten since they were born.

EDRICUS: Aye, do so, Stitch, I prithee beat them well,
hark ye, and see them whipped out of the town,
and if they speak or prattle, curse or rave,
for every word give them ten blows, sweet slave.

EDRICK: Oh son, son, stay!

STITCH: Son, son, with a pestilence. You are much like to be his
father and you his mother. You brought me hither —


STITCH: — and I must beat you hence, and if you desire … [II.2.100]
to know why, you must hereafter learn to find
a meaner man for your son than my lord is.
[He beats them about the stage.]

WIFE: He is my son. Oh! Oh! Oh good Stitch, hold thy hand!. [Exeunt.]

Scene II.3
[Enter Canutus, Archbishop, Edricus, Uskataulf, Swetho.]

CANUTUS: Then are they gone, ’tis certain they are fled?
Turkillus and Leofric: who would have thought it?
Did I not use them well, gave them good words,
rewarded their endeavors, and besides
graced them as much as any person here?

EDRICUS: You used them but too well, and let me say
your lenity did cause them run away.

CANUTUS: Have we not pledges of their loyalty?

EDRICUS: Ye have, my lord.

CANUTUS: ~~~ Their eldest sons, I think? … [II.3.10]

EDRICUS: True, but they know you are too merciful.

CANUTUS: They are deceived, for since they have disturbed
the settled solace of our marriage day
and daunted our determined merriments
with causeless flight, to plague their fathers’ fact,
I’ll lay the treason on their children’s back
and make their guiltless shoulders bear the burthen.
Fetch me the pledges, Swetho, and with them
some bloody varlet from the Danish host,
and let him bring an axe, a block and knife … [II.3.20]
along with him, but do it quickly, Swetho,
and come again as fast.

EDRICUS: What doth your grace intend to do with them?

CANUTUS: I’ll cut their hands and noses off.

EDRICUS: Your judgment doth not far enough extend
unto the height of runaways’ desert.
Death is too light a punishment for traitors,
and loss of hands and nose is less than death.

USKATAULF: If an honest man had said so, I would
have liked it never the worse. … [II.3.30]

CANUTUS: This punishment is worse than loss of life,
for it is a stinging corsive to their souls
as often as they do behold themselves
lopped and bereft of those two ornaments
which necessary use doth daily crave.
Again, it giveth others daily cause
to think how traitors should be handled,
whereas the memory of present death
is quickly buried in oblivion,
doing no good but whilst it is in doing. … [II.3.40]
A traitor may be likened to a tree,
which being shred and topped when it is green,
doth for one twig which from the same was cut
yield twenty arms, yea twenty arms for one,
but being hacked and mangled with an axe,
the root dies and piecemeal rots away.
Even so with traitors. Cut me off their heads,
still more out of the self-same stock will sprout,
but plague them with the loss of needful members
as eyes, nose, hands, ears, feet or any such; … [II.3.50]
oh these are cutting cards unto their souls,
earmark to know a traitorous villain by,
even as a brand is to descry a thief.
These desperate persons for example’s sake,
these ruffians, these all-daring lusty bloods,
these court appendixes, these madcap lads,
these nothing-fearing hotspurs that attend
our royal court — tell them of hanging cheer,
they’ll say it is a trick or two above ground;
tell them of quartering or the heading axe, … [II.3.60]
they’ll swear beheading is a gallant death,
and he is a dastard that doth fear to die;
but say to them, you shall be branded
or your hands cut off, or your nostrils slit;
then shallow fear makes their quivering tongues
to speak abruptly — ‘rather let us die
than we should suffer this vild ignominy’.
A valiant heart esteemeth light of death,
but honorable minds are jealous of
honorable names, then to be marked, … [II.3.70]
which robs them of their honors, likewise robs
their hearts of joy; and like to irksome owls,
they will be bashful to be seen abroad.

USKATAULF: Alas, poor souls, it was against their wills
that their hard-hearted fathers broke the league.

EDRICUS: Alas, poor souls, it is against their wills
that they must lose their noses and their hands.
[Enter Swetho, the two pledges, and Stitch with an axe.]

CANUTUS: Come on, gentlemen, ’cause I have found
your fathers trusty as they promised
unto my father and to me; … [II.3.80]
therefore I mean to make you worthy men
such as the world shall afterward report
did suffer torments for their country’s good.
Come on, I say, prepare your visages
to bear the tokens of eternity; prepare
your noses, bid your hands adieu,
because your sires have proved themselves so true.

1 PLEDGE: Rather than this, oh kill us presently;
these being gone, we do abhor our lives,
and having these we loathe to live accursed, … [II.3.90]
accompted traitors to our native soil.
Suffer us first to try our stripling force
with any giant of your Cyclops’ size,
and let our arms fight once before our deaths
to wreak their malice on their masters’ foes,
so let us perish like to gentlemen,
like to ourselves, and like to Englishmen.

CANUTUS: Look how cold water cast on burning coals
doth make the fire more fervently to flame;
even so your tears doth add unto my rage … [II.3.100]
and makes it hotter when it ‘gins to cool.
‘Tis not my pleasure you should suffer death,
’cause I believe ‘twould ease your fathers’ griefs;
’tis not my pleasure you should try your powers
so I should give you honors undeserved
and you perchance might so redeem yourselves;
but you shall see our judgments straight performed.
Do execution on them presently!
I’ll teach your fathers if they do not know
what ’tis to violate a lawful oath. … [II.3.110]
I’ll teach them what it is to play with kings,
presuming on their mercy: come I say,
what trifle ye? Delay no more the time,
for you must suffer for your fathers’ crime.

2 PLEDGE: What sir, must you cut off my hands?

STITCH: Aye, and your noses too, ’twere pity in faith to mar two
such faces. Boys, will you change beards with me?

1 PLEDGE: You shall not touch my nose with those base hands:
by heaven, I’ll sooner cut it off myself!

STITCH: You will think a worse pair than these a good … [II.3.120]
pair ere night. How they’ll look when their noses be off!
Everyone will take them for Frenchmen.

CANUTUS: Dispatch, I say, I must not stay so long:
the more you delay the time, the worse you speed.

1 PLEDGE: Give me the axe, I’ll quickly execute
this direful judgment on my guiltless hands.

STITCH: With all my heart, you save me a labor.

CANUTUS: Stay, unadvised villain, hold thy hand,
or I will hack thee piecemeal with thy axe.
Why, art thou mad, to give thy enemy … [II.3.130]
an instrument to kill thyself and me?
Cut off his hands first, then deliver it him. [He cuts off one hand.]
So, cut off th’other. [He cuts off the other hand.]
Now sir, fight your fill.

1 PLEDGE: Let these my stumps crave vengeance at thy hands,
thou judge of judges and thou king of kings!

CANUTUS: Cut off his nose, then let him pray again:
perchance his praying mitigates his pain. [He cuts off his nose.]

1 PLEDGE: Pour thy vengeance on this bloody Dane,
and let him die some unheard monstrous death! … [II.3.140]

CANUTUS: Make quick dispatch to execute the other.
I am sure you will not now be pardoned?

2 PLEDGE: Not I, thou murthering stony-hearted Dane.
I am resolved to suffer this and more
to do my father or my country good;
they gave me life; for them I’ll shed my blood.
[He cuts off his hands and nose.]

1 PLEDGE: Now thou hast spit thy venom, bloody king,
we do return defiance in thy face.

CANUTUS: Sirs, temper well your tongues and be advised
if not, I’ll cut them shorter by an inch. … [II.3.150]
Remember that you both have lost your hands
because your father did abuse their tongues
in perjury; go quickly away
and tell your traitorous fathers what I say.

2 PLEDGE: We go but to thy cost, proud Danish Canute,
throughout this isle thy tyranny to bruit.

1 PLEDGE: We go thy cruel butchery to ring.
Oh England, never trust a foreign king. [Exit pledges.]

EDRICUS: Ha, ha, ha.

CANUTUS: ~~~ Why laughest thou, Edricus? … [II.3.160]

EDRICUS: I cannot choose, to see the villains rave.

STITCH: And I must needs laugh to bear my master company.
[Enter a messenger running.]

CANUTUS: What news with thee?

MESSENGER: Renowned Canutus, thy forces in the north,
which thou did’st send ‘gainst Edmund Ironside,
are clean dispersed and piecemeal overthrown
by him, as these letters signify.
[Canutus reads and then sayeth]

CANUTUS: ‘Tis wonderful, what, twenty thousand slain
of common soldiers? This unwelcome news
nips like a hoary frost our springing hopes … [II.3.170]
and makes my fearful soldiers hang their heads.
Come hither, Edricus, void the company
that you and I may talk in secrecy. [Exit omnes.]
Ah Edricus, what had I best to do
to raze out this dishonorable blot
out of the brass-leaved book of living fame?
Shall it be said hereafter when report
shall celebrate my noble father’s acts
that Canutus did lose what noble Sveynus got?
Shall it be said that Edmund Ironside, … [II.3.180]
unfriended, poor, forsaken, desolate,
did overthrow the power of mighty Canutus,
whose wealth was great, friends more, but forces most?
Never since Edmund was of force to bear
a massy helmet and a curtle-axe
could I return a victor from the field
unless, as I remember, thou betrayedst
the gallant stripling once into our hands.
Then had not valor hewed him through our troops,
that day had made an end of all our griefs; … [II.3.190]
but now, what now? Oh tell me if thou knowest
how shall I extribute my stock and name
that after-age may not report my shame?

EDRICUS: Despair not, noble king, time comes in time.
Know ye not ’tis a deed of policy
in fickle Chance to cross your mightiness,
for else in time you might dismount the queen
and throw her headlong from her rolling stone
and take her whirling wheel into your hand.
I tell your grace, Chance ever envies wise men … [II.3.200]
and favors fools, promoting them aloft.
But as for this flea-spot of dishonor,
the greatest monarchs have endured more,
even blinking Philip’s son, and many more
whose repetition were needless to recite.

CANUTUS: I prithee flatter still, on, on, what more?
Speak we of Fortune, honest sycophant?
Chance favoreth not a fool in favoring thee;
thy flattery is gracious in her eye.
Come hither, Edricus. Oh strange miracle: … [II.3.210]
see you not in the heavens prodigious signs?
Look how the sun looks pale, the moon shines red,
the stars appear in the perturbed heaven
like little comets, and not twelve o’clock.
What is the cause then, that the stars are seen?

EDRICUS: I see them well, my lord, yet know no cause,
unless it shows the fall of Ironside.

CANUTUS: Surely it doth. Look now, they are all gone.
‘Tis night, ’tis dark, beware ye stumble not;
lend me your hand, but first go fetch a torch [Exit Edricus.] … [II.3.220]
to light me to my tent — make haste I pray.
He’s gone to fetch a torch to light the day! [Enter Edricus.]

EDRICUS: My lord, the misty vapors were so thick
they almost quenched the torch.

CANUTUS: True as all the rest. I say thy wit is thick.
Gross flattery, all-soothing sycophant,
doth blind thy eyes and will not let thee see
that others see thou art a flatterer.
Amend, amend thy life; learn to speak truth.
For shame do not, in thy declining age — … [II.3.230]
Children may see thy lies, they are so plain.
Oh whilst ye live, from flattery refrain.

EDRICUS: It stands not with my zeal and plighted faith
otherwise to say than as your highness saith:
your grace is able to give all their due
to make truth lie and likewise make lies true.

CANUTUS: I would it lay in me to make thee true,
but who can change the Ethiopian’s hue? [Exeunt.]