David Bruce: THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY V: A Retelling — Scenes 4 and 5

— Scene 4 —

The Lord Chief Justice, the Clerk of the Office, the Jailor, several law officers, John Cobbler, Derrick, and Cutbert Cutter the thief were in a room together.

“Jailor, bring the prisoner to the bar,” the Lord Chief Justice ordered.

The bar is where the prisoner stood to be arraigned.

“Please, my Lord,” Derrick said, “I ask you to bring the bar to the prisoner.”

A bar was used in breaking criminals on the wheel. In this medieval punishment, the criminal was tied to a large wheel and then the prisoner’s bones were broken with an iron bar.

“Hold your hand up at the bar,” the Lord Chief Justice ordered.

“Here it is, my Lord,” Cutbert Cutter said.

“Clerk of the Office, read his indictment,”the Lord Chief Justice ordered.

“What is your name?” the Clerk of the Office asked.

“My name was known before I came here and shall be known when I am gone, I promise you,” Cutbert Cutter replied.

“Yes, I think so, but we will know it better before you go,” the Lord Chief Justice said.

“By God’s wounds, if you would only send to the next jail, we are sure to know his name,” Derrick said, “for this is not the first prison he has been in, I’ll promise you.”

“What is your name?” the Clerk of the Office repeated.

“Why do you need to ask, if you have it in writing?” Cutbert Cutter asked.

“Isn’t your name Cutbert Cutter?” the Clerk of the Office asked.

“Why the Devil do you need to ask,” Cutbert Cutter asked, “if you know it so well?”

“Why, Cutbert Cutter,” the Clerk of the Office said, “then I indict you by the name of Cutbert Cutter for robbing a poor carrier the twentieth day of May last past, in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign Lord King Henry the Fourth, for setting upon a poor carrier upon Gad’s Hill in Kent, and having beaten and wounded the said carrier, and taken his goods from him.”

The fourteenth year of King Henry IV’s reign was 1413.

“Oh, masters, wait a moment,” Derrick said. “No, let’s never slander the man, for he has not beaten and wounded me also, but he has beaten and wounded my pack and has taken the great root of ginger that bouncing Bess with the jolly buttocks should have had. That grieves me most.”

“Well, what do you say?” the Lord Chief Justice askedCutbert Cutter.“Are you guilty or not guilty?”

“Not guilty, my Lord,” Cutbert Cutter replied.

“By whom will you be tried?” the Lord Chief Justice asked.

By my Lord the young Prince or by myself, whichever you want,” Cutbert Cutter replied.

Prince Henry entered the courtroom with Ned and Tom.

“Come away, my lads,” Prince Henry said. “Let’s go.”

Seeing Cutbert Cutter, he said, “By God’s wounds, you villain, what are you doing here? Must I go about my business myself, and must you stand loitering here?”

“Why, my Lord,” Cutbert Cutter said, “they have arrested and bound me and will not let me go.”

“Have they really bound you, villain?” Prince Henry asked.

He then said to theLord Chief Justice, “Why, what is this, my Lord?”

“I am glad to see your grace in good health,” theLord Chief Justice replied.

“Why, my Lord, this is my man,” Prince Henry said. “He is my employee, and he serves me. It is a marvel you have not known who he is long before this. I tell you, he is a man of his hands.”

A man of his hands is a man who is capable with his hands. Usually, this means that the man can work well with his hands. In this case, Cutbert Cutter used his hands to rob people. Since he had the name Cutbert Cutter, we can wonder whether he was a cutpurse — what we would call a pickpocket today.

“Yes, by God’s wounds, that I am,” Cutbert Cutter said. “Try me, anyone who dares! Go ahead and test me!”

The Lord Chief Justicesaid to Prince Henry, “Your grace shall find small credit by acknowledging him to be your man. That is hardly a good recommendation.”

“Why, my Lord,” Prince Henry asked, “what has he done?”

“If it please your majesty,” the Lord Chief Justicereplied, “he has robbed a poor carrier.”

“Listen to me, sir,” Derrick said. “Indeed, he robbed a man named Derrick, who is the employee of Goodman Hobling of Kent.”

“What?” Prince Henry asked. “Was it you he robbed, button-breech?”

A man with a button-breech is a man with a small, skinny butt.

“I swear on my word, my Lord,” he said to the Lord Chief Justice, “he did it only in jest.”

“Listen, sir,” Derrick said. “Is it your man’s habit to rob folks in jest? Truly, he shall be hanged in earnest.”

“Well, my Lord,” Prince Henry said, “what do you mean to do with my man?”

“If it please your grace,” the Lord Chief Justice replied, “the law must pass sentence on him according to justice; and so he must be executed.”

“Why, then, it seems that you mean to hang my man?” Prince Henry said.

“I am sorry that it falls out so,” the Lord Chief Justice replied, “but yes, that is the case.”

“Why, my Lord,” Prince Henry said, “I must ask you: Who am I?”

“If it please your grace,” the Lord Chief Justice said politely, “you are my Lord the young Prince, our King who shall be after the decease of our sovereign Lord, King Henry the Fourth, whom may God grant long to reign.”

“You speak truly, my Lord,” Prince Henry said. “And you will hang my man?”

“If it please your grace,” the Lord Chief Justice said, “I must necessarily do justice.”

“Tell me, my Lord,” Prince Henry asked, “shall I have my man restored to me safe and sound?”

“I cannot do that, my Lord,” the Lord Chief Justice replied.

“But won’t you let him go?” Prince Henry asked.

“I am sorry that his case is so ill,” the Lord Chief Justice said. “The situation he is in is very bad.”

“Tush, case me no casings,” an angry Prince Henry said. “Shall I have my man?”

“I cannot, nor may I, give him to you, my Lord,” the Lord Chief Justice said.

“These are the wrong words,” Prince Henry said. “Say ‘I shall not,’ and then I have my answer! You can, you may, but you shall not.”

“No,” the Lord Chief Justice said.

“No?” Prince Henry said. “Then I will have him.”

Prince Henry hit the Lord Chief Justice on the ear — hard.

“By God’s wounds, my Lord, shall I cut off his head?” Ned asked Prince Henry.

Ned began to draw his sword.

“No, I order you not to draw your swords,” Prince Henry said to Ned and Tom. “Leave now — get a band of musicians. Away! Go now!”

Ned and Tom exited.

“Well, my Lord,” the Lord Chief Justice said, “I am happy to take a blow at your hands.”

“If you are not happy to do so,” Prince Henry said, “you shall have more.”

“Please, I ask you this, my Lord: Who am I?” the Lord Chief Justice asked.

“You?” Prince Henry said. “Who doesn’t know you? Why, man, you are the Lord Chief Justice of England.”

“Your grace has said the truth,” the Lord Chief Justice said. “Therefore, in striking me in this place you greatly abuse me, and not only me but also your father, whose living person here in this place I represent.”

Using the majestic plural, he added, “And therefore, to teach you what prerogatives mean, I commit you to the Fleet Prison until we have spoken with your father.”

The Prince had prerogatives, as did the Lord Chief Justice. The Prince’s prerogatives did not outweigh the Lord Chief Justice’s prerogatives, which were to uphold the King’s laws and justice.

“Why, then it seems that you mean to send me to the Fleet Prison?” Prince Henry asked.

The Fleet Prison housed people who were guilty of contempt of court, although mostly it housed debtors.

“Yes, indeed,” the Chief Lord Justice asked.

He ordered the law officers, “And therefore carry him away.”

The law officers escorted Prince Henry from the courtroom.

“Jailor,” the Chief Lord Justice ordered, “carry the prisoner Cutbert Cutter to Newgate Prison again until the next assizes.”

The assizes are court hearings.

“At your commandment, my Lord, it shall be done,” the jailor replied.

— Scene 5 —

Derrick and John Cobbler talked together.

“By God’s wounds, masters, here’s trouble when Princes must go to prison!” Derrick said. “Why, John, did you ever see the like?”

“Oh, Derrick,” John Cobbler said, “trust me, I never saw anything like it.”

“Why, John,” Derrick said, “now you may see what Princes are like when they are angry. He gave a judge a box on the ear! I’ll tell you, John, oh, John, I would not have done that for twenty shillings.”

To give someone a box on the ear means to hit that person on the side of the head.

“No, of course not,” JohnCobblersaid, “nor would I. There would have been no result except one with us, if we had done it:We would have been hanged.”

“Indeed, John, I’ll tell you what,” Derrick said. “Let’s act out what happened. You shall be theLord Chief Justice, and you shall sit in the chair,and I’ll be the young Prince and hit you a box on the ear,and then you shall say, ‘To teach you what prerogativesmean, I commit you to the Fleet Prison.’”

“Come on,” John Cobbler said, agreeing to take part in the pretend-play. “I’ll be your judge. But do you agree that you shall not hit me hard?”

“No, no,” Derrick said. “Of course not.”

Thinking that Derrick had agreed not to hit him hard, John Cobbler sat in the Lord Chief Justice’s chair.

Playing the part of the Lord Chief Justice, John Cobbler asked, “What has he done?”

“Indeed, he has robbed Derrick,” Derrick said, playing himself.

“Why, then, I cannot let him go,” John Cobbler said, playing the part of the Lord Chief Justice.

“I must necessarily have my man,” Derrick said, playing the part of Prince Henry.

“You shall not have him,” John Cobbler said, playing the part of the Lord Chief Justice.

“Shall I not have my man? Say ‘No’ if you dare!” Derrick said, playing the part of Prince Henry. “What do you say now: Shall I not have my man?”

“No, indeed, you shall not,” John Cobbler said, playing the part of the Lord Chief Justice.

“Shall I not, John?”

“No, you shall not, Derrick.”

“Why, then, take that until more blows come,” Derrick said, playing the part of Prince Henry.

Derrick hit John Cobbler on the side of the head.

“By God’s wounds, shall I not have my man?” Derrick added, playing the part of Prince Henry.

“Well, I am content to take this at your hand, but I ask you, who am I?” John Cobbler said, playing the part of the Lord Chief Justice.

“Who are you? By God’s wounds, don’t you know yourself?” Derrick said, playing the part of Prince Henry.


“Now leave, simple fellow!” Derrick said. “Why man, you are John the Cobbler.”

“No, I am the Lord Chief Justice of England,” John Cobbler said.

“Oh, John, by the mass, you say the truth,” Derrick said. “You are indeed.”

“Why, then, to teach you what prerogatives mean, I commit you to the Fleet Prison,” John Cobbler said, playing the part of the Lord Chief Justice.

“Well, I will go, but, indeed, you grey-bearded knave, I’ll beat you,” Derrick said, playing the part of Prince Henry.

He hit John Cobbler.

Derrick went a short distance away and immediately came back and said, “Oh, John, come, come out of your chair! Why, what a clown you were to let me give you a box on the ear, and now you see that they will not take me to the Fleet Prison! I think that you are one of these workaday clowns.”

“But I marvel what will become of you,” John Cobbler said.

“Indeed, I’ll be no more a carrier,” Derrick said.

“What will you do, then?” John Cobbler asked.

“I’ll dwell with you and be a cobbler,” Derrick said.

“With me?” John Cobbler said. “Alas, I am not able to afford to keep you.Why, you will eat me out of doors.”

“Oh, John,” Derrick said. “No, John, I am not one of those great slouching fellows who devour these huge pieces of beef andhuge bowls of broths. Alas, a trifle serves me.”

He was punning. A trifle is 1) a small (trifling) amount, and 2) a fancy dessert made of custard, fruit, and other sweet ingredients.

Derrick continued, “A woodcock, a chicken,or a capon’s leg, or any such little thing suits and serves me.”

Woodcocks are game birds, and capons are poultry.

“A capon!” John Cobbler said. “Why, man, I cannot get a capon even once a year, unless it is at Christmas at some other man’s house, for we cobblers have to be glad to have a dish of roots.”

Roots are root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and carrots.

“Roots?” Derrick said. “Why, are you so good at rooting?”

Pigs root in the ground to find things to eat.

The way Derrick pronounced “rooting” sounded a lot like “rutting,” which means to have sex.

He added, “No, cobbler, we’ll have you ringed.”

Rings were put in pigs’ noses to keep them from rooting.

Piercing and putting a large ring in the penis is a way to keep human males from rutting.

“But, Derrick,” John began, and then he made up a poem:

“Though we be so poor,

“Yet will we have in store

“A crab [crab apple] in the fire,

“With nut-brown ale,

“That is full stale [aged and strong; alternative meaning: not fresh],

“Which will a man quail [overpower, make drunk],

“And lay in the mire!”

“A bots on you!” Derrick joked. “And if only for your good ale,I’ll dwell with you. Come, let’s go away as fast as we can.”

A “bots” is a parasite.


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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