David Bruce: THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY V: A Retelling — Scenes 2-3

— Scene 2 —

John Cobbler, Robin Pewterer, and Lawrence Costermonger were performing their civic duty by serving as watchmen over the city this night.

“All is well here,” John Cobbler said. “All is well, masters.”

“What do you say, neighbor John Cobbler?”Robin Pewterer asked. “What are your orders?”

“I think it best that my neighbor, Robin Pewterer, should go to the end of Pudding Lane, and we will watch here at Billingsgate Ward,” John Cobbler said. “What do you think, neighbor Robin? How do you like this?”

“Indeed, I like this well, neighbors,” Robin Pewterer said. “I don’t mind much if I go to the end of Pudding Lane. But, neighbors, if you hear any ado or trouble round about me, make haste and come to help me. And if I hear any ado or trouble about you, I will come and help you.”

Robin Pewterer exited.

“Neighbor, what news have you heard about the young Prince?” Lawrence Costermonger askedJohn Cobbler.

“Indeed, neighbor, I hear it said that he is a promising young Prince,” John Cobbler said, “because if he meets anyone along the highway, he will not hesitate to talk with him. I dare not call him a thief, but I am sure that he is one of these taking — thieving — fellows.”

“Indeed, neighbor, I hear it said that he is as lively a young Prince as ever was,” Lawrence Costermonger said.

“Yes, and I have heard it said that if he continues his lively ways, his father will cut him off from the crown,” John Cobbler said. “But, neighbor, say nothing about that.”

“No, no, neighbor, I promise you that I won’t,” Lawrence Costermonger replied.

“Neighbor, I think you are beginning to get sleepy,” John Cobbler said. “If you are willing, we will sit down, for I think it is about midnight.”

“Indeed, I am happy to do that, neighbor,” Lawrence Costermonger replied.“Let us sleep.”

John Cobblerand Lawrence Costermonger lay down and slept.

Derrick, a carrier who was roving the streets, arrived and shouted, “Whoa! Whoa there! Whoa there!”

Then he ran away.

Hearing the commotion, Robin Pewterer, as he had promised, came running.

Seeing his two friends sleeping, he said, “Oh, neighbors, what do you mean by sleeping when there is such an ado in the streets?”

“What is it, neighbor?” John Cobbler and Lawrence Costermonger asked. “What’s the matter?”

Derrick returned and shouted, “Whoa there! Whoa there! Whoa there!”

“Why, what ails you?” John Cobbler asked. “There are no horses here.”

“Oh, alas, man, I am robbed!” Derrick said. “Whoa there! Whoa there!”

“Hold him, neighbor Cobbler,” Robin Pewterer said.

John Cobbler seized Derrick.

“Why, I see that you are a plain clown,” Robin Pewterer said.

A clown is 1) a rustic countryman, 2) a professional Fool, or 3) a comic actor.

“Am I a clown?” Derrick said sarcastically. “By God’s wounds, masters, do clowns wear silk apparel? I am sure all we gentlemen clowns in Kent can scarcely dress so well. By God’s wounds, you know clowns very well.”

He then said to John Cobbler, “Listen here, are you the Head Constable? If you are, speak up, for I will not take being arrested at this man’shands.”

He pointed to Robin Pewterer.

“Indeed, I am not the Head Constable,” John Cobbler said, “but I am one of his appointed officers, for he is not here.”

“Isn’t the Head Constable here?” Derrick asked. “Well, it doesn’t matter. I’ll have the law at his hands.”

Derrick drew his sword.

“No, please,” John Cobbler said to Derrick. “Do not take the law from us. Do not resist our authority.”

“Well,” Derrick replied, “you are one of his beastly officers.”

“I am one of his appointed officers,” John Cobbler said.

“Why, then,” Derrick said, “I order you to do something about this man who tried to illegally arrest me.”

“Listen, sir,” John Cobbler said. “You seem to be an honest fellow, and we are poor men, and now it is night, and we would be loath to have any trouble. Therefore, I ask you to put away your sword.”

Derrick sheathed his sword and said, “First, you are saying the truth, I am an honest fellow — and a proper, handsome fellow, too —and you seem to be poor men. Therefore, I am not greatly concerned; indeed, I am quickly pacified. But, if you happen to see the thief, I ask that you lay hold of and arrest him.”

“Yes, that we will,” Robin Pewterer said. “I promise you that we will.”

Derrick thought, It is a wonderful thing to see how glad the knave is, now that I have forgiven him.

John Cobbler said to Lawrence Costermonger and Robin Pewterer, “Neighbors, look around. What is this? Who’s there?”

Cutbert Cutter — the thief — walked over to them.

He said about Derrick, “Hereis a good fellow,” and then he asked him, “Please, which is the way to the old tavern in Eastcheap?”

“Whoop! Hollo!” Derrick shouted. “Now, Gadshill, do you know me?”

Derrick didn’t know Cutbert Cutter’s name, so he gave him a nickname. Gad’s Hill was a notorious place because of the many robberies there.

“Iknow that you are an ass,” Cutbert Cutter replied.

“And I know that you are a taking fellow,a thief who works on Gad’s Hill in Kent,” Derrick said. “I hope that you get worms!”

“The whoreson villain wants a good knock in the head!” Cutbert Cutter said.

He drew his sword.

Derrick said to Cutbert Cutter, “Villain!”

Then he said to the watchmen, “Masters, if you are men, stand up to him and take his weapon from him. Don’t let him pass by you.”

“My friend,” John Cobbler said to Cutbert Cutter, “why are you awake and stirring now? It is too late to be out walking now.”

“It is not too late for true, honest men to be out walking,” Cutbert Cutter replied.

“We know that you are not a true, honest man,” Lawrence Costermonger said to him.

John Cobbler, RobinPewterer, and Lawrence Costermonger seized CutbertCutter.

“What do you mean to do with me?” CutbertCutter said. “By God’s wounds, I am one of the King’s liege people. I am one of his loyal subjects.”

“Listen here, sir,” Derrick said. “Are you really one of the King’s liege people?”

“Yes, indeed, I am, sir,” CutbertCutter said. “What do you say about that?”

“Indeed, sir,” Derrick said. “I say that you are one of the King’s filching people.”

“Come, come,” John Cobbler said. “Let’s take him away.”

“Why, what have I done?” CutbertCutter asked.

“You have robbed a poor fellow and taken away his goods from him,” RobinPewterer replied.

“I never saw him before,” CutbertCutter replied.

Derrick looked up and asked, “Misters, who is coming here?”

The vintner’s boy walked over to them. He was a young apprentice working in an inn that served wine.

“How are you now, Goodman Cobbler?” the vintner’s boy asked.

“Goodman” is a title of respect that is given to respectable men under the rank of gentleman.

“How are you, young Robert?” John Cobbler asked. “What makes you up and about at this time of night?”

“Indeed, I have been at the Counter,” the vintner’s boy replied.

The Counter is a prison.

He continued, “I can tell such news as you have never heard the like.”

“What news is that, Robert?” John Cobbler asked. “What is the matter?”

“Why, this night about two hours ago, there came the young Prince and three or four more of his companions and called for a good store of wine, and then they sent for a band of musicians and were very merry for the space of an hour,” the vintner’s boy said. “Then, whether their music displeased them or they had drunk too much wine, I cannot tell, but our drinking mugs flew against the walls, and then the men drew their swords and went into the street and fought, and some took one part and some took another, but for the space of half an hour there was such a bloody fight, and no one could part them until such time as the Mayor and Sheriff were sent for, and then at last with much trouble they took them, and so the young Prince was carried to the Counter. And then about one hour later, there came a messenger from the court in all haste from the King for my Lord Mayor and the Sheriff, but for what reason I don’t know.”

“This is news indeed, young Robert,” John Cobbler agreed.

“Indeed, neighbor,” Lawrence Costermonger said, “this news is strange indeed. I think it best, neighbor, to rid our hands of this fellow first.”

He pointed to Cutbert Cutter.

“What do you mean to do with me?” Cutbert Cutter asked.

“We mean to carry you to the prison,” John Cobbler said, “and there you willremain until the sessions day.”

Prisoners were formally indicted on the sessions day.

“Then, I ask you,” Cutbert Cutter said, “to let me go to the prison where my master is.”

“No, you must go to the country prison, to Newgate,” John Cobbler said. “Therefore, come with us.”

Cutbert Cutter said to Derrick, “I ask you to be good to me, honest fellow.”

Many thieves were hung for their offenses.

“Yes, indeed, I will,” Derrick said. “I’ll be very charitable to you, for I will never leave you until I see you on the gallows.”

— Scene 3 —

King Henry IV was talking with the Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Oxford.

“If it pleaseyour majesty,” the Earl of Oxford said, “here is my Lord Mayor and the Sheriff of London to speak with your majesty.”

“Admit them into our presence,” King Henry IV ordered.

The Lord Mayor of London and the Sheriff of London entered the room.

“Now, my good Lord Mayor of London,” King Henry IV said, “the reason for my sending for you at this time is to tell you of a matter that I have learned about from my council. I understand that you have committed my son to prison without our leave and license. Although he is a rude youth and likely to give reasons for arrest, yet you might have considered that he is a Prince, and my son, and he is not to be haled to prison by every subject under me.”

“May it please your majesty to give us permission to tell our tale?” the Lord Mayor asked.

“Yes, God forbid that you may not,” King Henry IV replied, “otherwise you might think me an unequal, unjust, and biased judge, due to my having more affection for my son than for any rightful judgment. The rightful judgment must come first.”

“Then I do not doubt that we shall deserve commendations at your majesty’s hands rather than any anger,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Go on,” King Henry IV said. “Say what you have to say.”

“Then, if it please your majesty,” the Lord Mayor said, “this night between two and three of the clock in the morning, my Lord the young Prince with a very disordered company came to the old tavern in Eastcheap, and whether it was that their music displeased them or whether they were overcome with wine, I don’t know, but they drew their swords, and into the street they went, and some took my Lord the young Prince’s part and some took the other side, but between them there was such a bloody fight for the space of half an hour that neither the watchmen nor any other men could stop them untilmy fellow official the Sheriff of London and I were sent for, and at last with much trouble we stopped them, but it took a long time, which was greatly disquieting to all your loving subjects thereabouts.

“And then, my good Lord, we didn’t know whether your grace had sent them to test us to see whether we would do the just thing, or whether they were fighting of their own voluntary will or not — we cannot tell. And therefore in such a case we didn’t know what to do, but for our own safeguard we sent him to prison, where he lacks nothing that is fit for his grace and your majesty’s son. And thus we most humbly beg your majesty to think about our answer.”

“Stand aside until we have further deliberated on your answer,” King Henry IV said.

The Lord Mayor and the Sheriff exited.

“Ah, Harry, Harry, now thrice-accursed Harry,” King Henry IV said, referring to himself as “Harry,” “you have begotten a son who with grief will end his father’s days.”

In 2 Samuel 18:33, another King grieved over a son’s misconduct. King David grieved over Absalom, his son (1599 Geneva Bible):

And the King was moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom: would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.

Impatient to become King, Absalom had rebelled against his father, King David.

King Henry IV continued, “Oh, my son, a Prince you are, yes, a Prince indeed — and to deserve imprisonment! And well have the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff enacted justice, and behaved like faithful subjects.”

He then ordered the Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Oxford, “Discharge them and let them go.”

“I begyour grace,” the Earl of Exeter said, “be good to my Lord the young Prince.”

“It doesn’t matter,” King Henry IV said. “Let him alone. Let the Prince stay in prison a while.”

“Perhaps the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff have been too scrupulous and too strict in this matter,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“No, they have behaved like faithful subjects,” King Henry IV said. “I will go myself to discharge them and let them go.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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This is an easy-to-retelling of The Famous Victories of Henry V, which is an important source for William Shakespeare’s Henry IVand Henry Vplays.





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